Rabbinate Calls for 'Rain Fast Day' Thursday
Once again, winter is late in coming to Israel; it barely rained in November, which is supposed to be a month with substantial rainfall. On the Jewish calendar, the entire month of Heshvan has passed, and the month of Kislev is more than a third over. Under those circumstances, the time has come for extra prayers, and even fasting, in order to implore Heaven to provide Israel with much needed rain.
To that end, the Chief Rabbinate has called on synagogues to insert special prayers for rain in the “amidah” prayers, recited three times a day, and prayers for rain when the Holy Ark is opened to take out the Torah. And, the Rabbinate has declared Thursday a day of fasting, prayer and repentance, asking G-d for rain.
According to the Talmud, a series of fast days are to be instituted after a period at the beginning of winter when rain fails to fall properly. The fast day is considered an “individual fast day,” in which every Jew who feels they can fast should do so, even if for just half a day.
According to farmers in northern Israel, rains have been very late for the past seven years – and, in addition, winters have been warmer. Both developments, the farmers said, were not good for agriculture; fruit hasn't grown properly, and what does grow is far smaller and less developed than it should be. Desalinated water is still not available in quantities needed to sustain the full growth of fruits and other crops in the north, and as a result, consumers could expect a significant rise in the price of fruits and vegetables in the coming weeks, unless rain begins to descend in copious quantities.
According to the Rabbinate's declaration, synagogues where at least 10 males are fasting should conduct a public Torah reading during the afternoon service, and all synagogues should conduct penitential prayers, asking for G-d's mercy. “He will see our suffering and hear our prayers, and fulfill our requests for mercy, providing rain and blessed dew. May G-d Bless us with the dew of heaven, the fat of the land, and bless us with peace,” the declaration said.