Mashib haRuah: praying with everyone in mind

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From the first day of  shemini ‘atseret we begin reciting the prayer mashib haruah umorid hageshem. In this prayer we are not “asking” God for rain. We are just acknowledging Him as the One who controls the weather system that produces rain.  The prayer in which we request rain barekh ‘alenu is going to be said later on.   But why aren’t we asking for rain now, at the beginning of autumn season, when rain is expected and needed?
The answer is simple and inspiring. In ancient Israel the Jews came (walking!) to celebrate Sukkot in Jerusalem from distant places.  After shemini ‘atseret every one would come back home. The Rabbis observed that the farthest cities were close to the Euphrates river, today Syria-Iraq. And they calculated that it would take two weeks to walk back to those towns.  The Rabbis did not approve that a Jew in Jerusalem would be asking God for rain, knowing that some of his brothers are still walking back home, and for them rain will not be a blessing at this time. They established then that the prayer for rain will be said two weeks after Sukkot. To give everyone the opportunity to get back home safe and sound.
This is why in Erets Israel, even in our days, the Tefila barekh alenu is not said now but on the 7th of Heshvan, exactly two weeks after shemini ‘atseret
Sometimes we might be praying to God for something that would be good for us but bad for somebody else. This is one of the reasons that we always pray in plural. For example: in the prayer where we ask God for our parnasa (livelihood) we don’t say: bless
me. We always say: bless us.  I’m asking God to give the same blessings to the person that might be my next door competitor, the one that sells the same merchandise to the same customers I sell to. Praying in plural reinforces our kindness and sensitivity for others. And strengthens our consciousness of collective welfare.  


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