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Monday, September 30, 2013

Prayer for Rain, Jews, Stay Focused

The two main Holiday seasons on the Jewish Calendar coincide with the two major seasonal and climate changes from our dry summers to wet winters, Succot/Simchat Torah  and the reverse during Passover, rainy winters to dry summers.

At the end of Succot we say the Prayer for Rain and on Passover the Prayer for Dew.  The "we" is supposed to be all Jews, wherever one lives or is visiting.  Inevitably there are questions by Jews who reside abroad, in galut, exile or more precisely chutz la'Aretz, outside of the Land of Israel aka Chu"L.  They ask why they must pray for rain or dew when they personally don't need it.


There's a very simple answer to this, and it may bother or offend them.  The answer is that the only location and weather a Jew must be concerned about is when it affects the Land of Israel, the HolyLand.  The weather in Chu"L is spiritually irrelevant; it's not included in Jewish Prayers. We are the Jewish People, and we are supposed to be primarily concerned with our Land.

The Jewish Calendar, the timing of the Holidays and many of the Mitzvot, Commandments G-d gave us to observe concern and are connected to the Land of Israel, not any other.

Sorry, but there's no equality between various lands/locations.  It's the HolyLand versus all others.  In Creation, G-d separates, light and dark,  water and dry land, and then a bit later on He gives instructions to Abram (as Abraham had been called earlier) to go לך לך lech lecha to the Land I (G-d) will show you:
Genesis Chapter 12 בְּרֵאשִׁית
א  וַיֹּאמֶר יְהוָה אֶל-אַבְרָם, לֶךְ-לְךָ מֵאַרְצְךָ וּמִמּוֹלַדְתְּךָ וּמִבֵּית אָבִיךָ, אֶל-הָאָרֶץ, אֲשֶׁר אַרְאֶךָּ. 1 Now the LORD said unto Abram: 'Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto the land that I will show thee.
ב  וְאֶעֶשְׂךָ, לְגוֹי גָּדוֹל, וַאֲבָרֶכְךָ, וַאֲגַדְּלָה שְׁמֶךָ; וֶהְיֵה, בְּרָכָה. 2 And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and be thou a blessing.
ג  וַאֲבָרְכָה, מְבָרְכֶיךָ, וּמְקַלֶּלְךָ, אָאֹר; וְנִבְרְכוּ בְךָ, כֹּל מִשְׁפְּחֹת הָאֲדָמָה. 3 And I will bless them that bless thee, and him that curseth thee will I curse; and in thee shall all the families of the earth be blessed.'
ד  וַיֵּלֶךְ אַבְרָם, כַּאֲשֶׁר דִּבֶּר אֵלָיו יְהוָה, וַיֵּלֶךְ אִתּוֹ, לוֹט; וְאַבְרָם, בֶּן-חָמֵשׁ שָׁנִים וְשִׁבְעִים שָׁנָה, בְּצֵאתוֹ, מֵחָרָן. 4 So Abram went, as the LORD had spoken unto him; and Lot went with him; and Abram was seventy and five years old when he departed out of Haran.
And from then on the Bible concerns itself with the growth and development of the Jewish Nation and its relationship to the Land G-d gave us.

G-d sees us as one People wherever we are, whatever we do.  When you read the siddur, Jewish Prayer Book, you're bound to notice that our prayers are in the plural.  We pray to Our G-d.  And even on Yom Kippur, when we confess sins it's in the plural.
(The "Al Chet" confession of sins is said ten times in the course of the Yom Kippur services: Following the Amidah of the afternoon prayers of the day before Yom Kippur; just before sunset on Yom Kippur Eve; and twice during each of the following services--the evening service of yom Kippur eve, and the morning service, the Musaf service and the afternoon service of Yom Kippur day--once at the end of the Silent Amidah, and once during the cantor's repitition of the Amidah.)
For the sin which we have committed before You under duress or willingly.
And for the sin which we have committed before You by hard-heartedness.
For the sin which we have committed before You inadvertently.
And for the sin which we have committed before You with an utterance of the lips.
For the sin which we have committed before You with immorality.
And for the sin which we have committed before You openly or secretly.
For the sin which we have committed before You with knowledge and with deceit.
And for the sin which we have committed before You through speech. (continue)
We're in this "boat" together.  So, please stay focused on the unity and the centrality of the Land of Israel.
Shannah Tovah, Have a Wonderful and Blessed Year


Shy Guy said...

I think you've forgot your days back in the US of A.

Open up your old American Siddur Shiloh (Hah! What's in a name) and there should be a reminder to all of the Chutznikim that they do NOT start asking for rain in Birkat Hashanim until solar calendar date December 4th.

Therefore, it is incorrect to claim that they are not praying for rain in their own parts of the world.

For an interesting thought, this puts our southern hemisphere down-under coreligionists in a pickle, as their seasons are at the opposite times of our own, up here.

Shy Guy said...

OK, I thought a little more about what you wrote.

Yes, all Jews worldwide begin to "mention" (in the 2nd bracha of Shmona Eisrei)- not "ask" (in the 9th bracha) - G-d's consideration for rain at this time of year because it is needed now in Eretz Yisrael.

Batya said...

Shy, there weren't many Jews or even rabbis here when those old siddurim were put together.

Val I've deleted your comment, because it's not Jewish. There is only one True G-d Who is still around and predates your religion.

Shy Guy said...

Um, Batya, those Siddurim were correct. They and the Rabbanim who "put them together" were simply following the widely accepted psak of the Shulchan Aruch. They knew exactly what they were doing.

Halacha and references