Moshe KempinskiMoshe Kempinski, author of "The Teacher and the Preacher", is the editor of the Jerusalem Insights weekly email journal and co-owner of Shorashim, a Biblical shop and learning center in the Old City of Jerusalem.
The first night of Sukkot this year was a perplexing one. It was a time of great rejoicing and a time of great camaraderie and fellowship. Yet here in Jerusalem it began to rain and there was a lightning storm as we were all finishing our meals.
It rained for a short time but nevertheless many eyes turned to the Heavens with the questions;
"What are you saying to us HaShem?"
Are you telling us that the our Sukkah is not a fitting gift as the Mishna in Tractate Sukka (28b) implies ? “On the other hand, is the fact that it happened after we finished our meal indicative of a more positive message?” “Furthermore, “some asked, “should we be looking into this seemingly natural occurrence with this much scrutiny altogether?
We will see that the answer to the third question , especially in this land of Israel, is a resounding "yes".
We read in the Torah portion of Breishit ( Genesis) the following;
" Now no tree of the field was yet on the earth, neither did any herb of the field yet grow, because HaShem G-d had not brought rain upon the earth, as there was no man to work the soil And a mist ascended from the earth and watered the entire surface of the ground.( Genesis 2:5-6).
What was the “work” that G-d was waiting for ? Clearly the mist was enough to water the ground and make it blossom. It is also a fact that the land flourishes even in places where there are no men to tend and work it. It is for these reason that our sages understood that rain is a response to a different sort of work, that being ,the work of the heart, prayer.
Rain is a response to prayer. That was how the whole world was meant to be at creation. Yet as HaShem went into “hiding” that relationship changed in most of the world. In most of the world but not in the land of Israel.
In Deuteronomy Hashem says “For the land to which you are coming to possess is not like the land of Egypt, out of which you came, where you sowed your seed and which you watered by foot, like a vegetable garden. But the land, to which you pass to possess, is a land of mountains and valleys and absorbs water from the rains of heaven”,( Deuteronomy 11:10-11)
The granting of rain and its withholding was to be a clear message. Yet as we have seen, the clarity of that message was hidden in most of the world. In the world ,when one wants water, one goes to the fountains and the rivers, yet in this land if one wants water, one must turn to G-d.
The message can be very clear and dramatic .As we declare daily in the Shma prayer;
"And it will be, if you will diligently obey My commandments which I enjoin upon you this day, to love HaShem your G-d and to serve Him with all your heart and with all your soul, I will give rain for your land at the proper time, the early rain and the late rain, and you will gather in your grain, your wine and your oil. "
Then further in the “Shma we declare;"Take care lest your heart be lured away, and you turn astray and worship alien gods and bow down to them. For then Hashem’s wrath will flare up against you, and He will close the heavens so that there will be no rain and the earth will not yield its produce,"
Why then is such clear and instructive language confined to the land of Israel. Perhaps it is because, as our mystical teachers teach ,the further one stands from the source of spirituality, the more segregated and separated things become. On the other hand, the closer one gets to the source of all things spiritual, the more all things become intertwined and melded.
G-d's relationship with the people of Israel in the land of Israel is so much clearer. One can ignore G-d elsewhere, yet you cannot ignore G-d in Israel. That is why Secular people can become so vehemently secular, while in other locations they are simply indifferent. You cannot avoid G-d in this land and if one does not want to live with the implications of G-d ,then one must deny faith vehemently. That is why the language of rain is so clear here.
Yet we are quickly approaching the time wherein it will be clear in every land and in every location.
" And it shall come to pass, that every one that is left of all the nations that came against Jerusalem shall go up from year to year to worship the King, HaShem of hosts, and to keep the feast of tabernacles.And it shall be, that whoso of the families of the earth does not go up unto Jerusalem to worship the King, HaShem of hosts, upon them there shall be no rain.( Zechariah 14:16-17)
When that language of rain will be understood by all the nations of the earth ,then we will see the true fulfillment of "And HaShem shall become King over all the earth; on that day shall HaShem be one, and His name one.(ibid:9)