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PARSHAT BECHUKOTAI 5784: RAIN

בס”ד

PARSHAT BECHUKOTAI 5784

Introduction

In areas where rain seems incessant, the weather can evoke frustration. However, in Jewish tradition, rain is a Divine blessing, tied to observance of G-d’s laws. This connection between spiritual commitment and physical blessings extends to all nations, emphasizing the importance of living in harmony with Divine principles.

Rainy Days


In the area where I live, it seems like it’s mostly raining, raining, and raining again. Many people share my feeling that the weather isn’t particularly friendly. You often hear: “I understand that nature sometimes needs water, but why can’t it just fall at night? Then we wouldn’t be bothered by it.” We all have our ideas about how the weather could be better if they just thought about it “Up There”.

But “Up There” has indeed been taken into account, as we can read in the following text from Leviticus 26:3-4 in the Kehot Chumash:

26:3 G-d continued to instruct Moses what to convey in His name to the [Jewish] people: “If you make sure to advance in the knowledge of My rules by studying the Torah assiduously, i.e., beyond the minimal requirement, and you make sure to study the Torah with the intent to safeguard your proper performance of My commandments, and then indeed perform them properly,

4 I will reciprocate by granting you material beneficence that exceeds the limitations of nature: I will give you the rains in a manner most favorable to your benefit and convenience: They will fallin their time—i.e., the time I have designated for them exclusively—nighttime, when people are not outdoors working the land. This way, you will be able to work the land by day unhindered by rain. 

Chukim and Mishpatim

When the Jewish people dedicate themselves to G-d’s Divine decrees, chukim, the rain falls in the most favorable manner. Chukim are Divine commandments, such as the Jewish dietary laws or the laws of family purity, which are accepted even if they are not understood or sometimes seem irrational. This stands in contrast to the mishpatim, commandment like giving charity or prohibitions against theft and murder, which are logical and useful and likely would have been instituted even if G-d had not commanded them.

Serving G-d in a way and manner that does not make sense, in which there is no immediate practical benefit for it, serving in an unconditional manner, brings blessing through rain.

One might wonder why a physical reward follows rather than a spiritual reward.

The answer could be twofold

  • 1. The teaching of Torah can be seen as raindrops – see the text of Deuteronomy later in this text. The reward of doing G-d’s will is that you gain a greater understanding of His Torah, making you even better able to do His will and serve Him.
  • 2. Sukkot has to do with unity, among other things. G-d is One and, in that sense, physical or spiritual blessings are also 1. We must learn to discover the oneness between offerings.

We see the direct connection between observing G-d’s commandments and receiving rain also for the nations in Zechariah 14:17-19, which speaks about the Messianic era:


17 Any of the earth’s communities that does not make the pilgrimage to Jerusalem to bow low to the Supreme G-d of Hosts shall receive no rain.
 וְ֠הָיָה אֲשֶׁ֨ר לֹֽא־יַֽעֲלֶ֜ה מֵאֵ֨ת מִשְׁפְּח֚וֹת הָאָ֙רֶץ֙ אֶל־יְרֽוּשָׁלִַ֔ם לְהִֽשְׁתַּֽחֲו‍ֹ֔ת לְמֶ֖לֶךְ ד’ צְבָא֑וֹת וְלֹ֥א עֲלֵיהֶ֖ם יִהְיֶ֥ה הַגָּֽשֶׁם
However, if the community of Egypt does not make this pilgrimage, it shall not be visited by the same affliction with which G-d will strike the other nations that do not come up to observe the Feast of Booths. וְאִם־מִשְׁפַּ֨חַת מִצְרַ֧יִם לֹא־תַֽעֲלֶ֛ה וְלֹ֥א בָאָ֖ה וְלֹ֣א עֲלֵיהֶ֑ם תִּֽהְיֶ֣ה הַמַּגֵּפָ֗ה אֲשֶׁ֨ר יִגֹּ֚ף ד’ אֶת־הַגּוֹיִ֔ם אֲשֶׁר֙ לֹ֣א יַֽעֲל֔וּ לָחֹ֖ג אֶת־חַ֥ג הַסֻּכּֽוֹת
Such shall be the punishment of Egypt and of all other nations that do not come up to observe the Feast of Booths. זֹ֥את תִּֽהְיֶ֖ה חַטַּ֣את מִצְרָ֑יִם וְחַטַּאת֙ כָּל־הַגּוֹיִ֔ם אֲשֶׁר֙ לֹ֣א יַֽעֲל֔וּ לָחֹ֖ג אֶת־חַ֥ג הַסֻּכּֽוֹת

The Judgment of Water

Interestingly, specifically the command is given to the nations to sit in a sukkah during the Feast of Tabernacles. This festival is associated with the judgment regarding water, as mentioned in  Mishna Rosh HaShanah 1:2

At four times of the year the world is judged: On Passover judgment is passed concerning grain; on Shavuot concerning fruits that grow on a tree; on Rosh HaShana, all creatures pass before Him like sheep [benei maron], as it is stated: “He Who fashions their hearts alike, Who considers all their deeds” (Psalms 33:15); and on the festival of Sukkot they are judged concerning water, i.e., the allotment rainfall for each of the nations in the coming year.

While Noahides haven’t been commanded to build a Sukkah during this time – though they will during the Messianic era – it is still the time when G-d pronounces judgment over the water.

This means determining how much water a land will receive, whether it will be enough to let the fruits of the earth grow, or too little causing crops to wither and shrivel, or too much leading to fruits rotting or being washed away.

By learning and observing the Noahide Laws, as prescribed in the Torah, Noahides can improve themselves and their surroundings, what will lead to a favorable judgment over the water, and thus a favorable judgment over the crops, income, and therefore the standard of living for people.

The time of Sukkot can be a good moment to pay extra attention to our actions and how we can improve ourselves and our surroundings. In the prayer book “The Order,” there is a prayer for rain, asking G-d to give abundant rain so that He will send rain for blessing and not for curse.Bovenkant formulier

The Prayer for Rain

May He command His angel to apportion for us from the segregated rains, to soften the surface of the wasteland when it is as dry as rock. Sooth with its drops those into whom a soul was blown, sustaining and enlivening those who recall the powerful rains. Remember the righteous whom You have blessed like a tree planted by streams of water, whom you have rescued from fire and water.

For the their sake, do not withhold water from the earth. Remember the righteous who pour out their hearts before You like water. For the sake of their righteousness, give us abundant water!

For You are the L-rd, G-d, Who makes the wind blow and the rain fall. For blessing and not for curs. For life and not for death. In abundance and not in scarcity. It is He who sustain the living in kindness, supports the fallen, heals the sick, and releases the bound. Who is like You, the Master of Great Deeds, and who is comparable to You, the King who brings death and restores life, who makes salvation flourish! Blessed are You, O L-rd, creator and life-giver, Who sustains His creations! Amen*

Improving the Environment with Torah Raindrops

As we’ve seen, we must try to link the physical and the spiritual together. The rain in the physical world is a blessing, but we can also see the raindrops as a symbol of the Torah. It reminds me of Deuteronomy 32:2


May my discourse come down as the rain,
My speech distill as the dew,
Like showers on young growth,
Like droplets on the grass.
 ַֽעֲרֹ֤ף כַּמָּטָר֙ לִקְחִ֔י תִּזַּ֥ל כַּטַּ֖ל אִמְרָתִ֑י כִּשְׂעִירִ֣ם עֲלֵי־דֶ֔שֶׁא וְכִרְבִיבִ֖ים עֲלֵי־עֵֽשֶׂב

Noahides should spread their 7 Noahide Laws and way of life like gentle raindrops falling around them. Learning these laws and adapting to this new lifestyle isn’t always easy for Noahides in their surroundings. Let’s pray that, just as raindrops sink into the soil and nurture growth over time, the Torah teachings we share will also seep into the hearts of those around us, allowing them to flourish.

When this happens, more harmony and unity will emerge, with people united in adhering to Torah-based values and norms. Thus, they prepare for a future where rain will fall in its due time and blessings will come.


“All this will lead to a time when the knowledge of G-d will fill the whole world, as described in Zephaniah 3:9 and Zechariah 14:9.”

For then I will make the peoples pure of speech,
So that they all invoke G-D by name
And render service with one accord.

(Zephaniah 3:9)

and

And G-D shall be sovereign over all the earth; in that day there shall be one GOD with one name.

(Zacharia 14:9)

Learning Points



1. Rain as a Divine Blessing: In Jewish tradition, rain is seen as a blessing from G-d.

2. Connection to Observance of G-d’s Laws: The frequency and quality of rain are tied to the observance of divine laws.

3. Harmony with Divine Principles: Living in harmony with these principles is crucial for experiencing blessings in life and the World to Come.



By Angelique Sijbolts

Sources:

Chabad Article: The Logic of the Mitzvot
NOAHIDES AND SUKKOT?
How to celebrate Sukkot?

Text Sefaria.org

*Reprinted with permission: The Order includes the following note on the prayer:

Although Sukkot is the time for judgement upon water, the custom of the Jewish world is not to recite the prayer for rain until after the day of Sukkot. It is appropriate for Noahides and Jews to pray for rain at the same time so that their prayers may join together in beseeching the Creator.

Rain is a divine blessing tied to obeying God’s laws, emphasizing living in harmony with divine principles.

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