MASHIB HARUAH: Praying for a rainy day?

As we have previously explained, our rabbis introduced two prayers for the rain in the ‘amida. One is barekh ‘alenu (the ninth berakha of the ‘amida), which is the blessing for our livelihood (parnasa). We ask God for “rain” and not for “customers” for our business or for “money” because in ancient times, when Israel was an agricultural society, everyone’s economy depended entirely on rain.  We ask HaShem to bless us with dew and rain, which should come in a way of blessing (librakha). We request HaShem to give us rain in its time and in its proper measure. As it is written in the Shema’ Israel be’ito yore umalqosh, give us “in its proper time the yore, the strong rainfall which the early precipitation and helps to soften the land we need to plow) and then the soft rain, malqosh which is needed once the vegetation starts to grow (if we would get the mild rain at the beginning of the season, it will not be enough to soften the land.  And if we get the strong rainfall when the vegetation is growing, the rain will destroy the plants).

The first time rain is mentioned in the ‘amida, is during the second berakha. In that blessing, we don’t ask or request rain or anything else from God. We praise Him. We state that God is Omnipotent (=infinitely powerful) and that He uses His powers to sustain, maintain, support, cure, deliver, nurture, and revive His creatures.  This is the context in which we say “the prayer of praise for the rain “mashib haruah, umorid haGeshem, “[HaShem, You are the One] who makes the wind to blow, and the rain to fall”. In this context we are not asking for rain, we are expressing our appreciation for the fact that HaShem created rain.  We perceive rain as part of tehiyat hametim, “God’s power to revive and restore life” , because thanks to the rain the dry-land revives, the plants grow again and the living creatures of the world stay alive.

Rain is critically important for our survival.  And praising God for “rain” should be nothing short of natural and spontaneous.  In our days, however, we do not really appreciate rain. In urban areas we have lost our appreciation for it… When it rains in New York city, for example, you don’t see people excited and thankful to HaShem about it.  On the contrary, 99% of people are actually annoyed by rain.

What kind of praise then, would one say for something that feels an annoyance more than a blessing?

In the coming days, B’H we will explore some of the wonders of the mechanism of precipitation, which should help us gaining a more profound and positive outlook at the miracle of rain, and hopefully help us to better praise HaShem for one of His main blessings to mankind.