Israel typically experiences a pronounced rainy season with very little rain falling after Passover but last week, the country was drenched with not one but two powerful rainstorms. As unusual as this was, Jewish tradition teaches that just such a meteorological phenomenon comes to heal the world from diseases that have no cure.
After a five year drought, Israel was blessed this year with prayers for rain being answered, exceeding the annual average by 105% and up to 120% in some regions.The Kinneret (Sea of Gallilee) now stands at 209.61 meters below sea level and less than a meter below full capacity.
After a long stretch of seasonally warm and sunny weather, Israel was hit by countrywide rain last Tuesday. Not only was the rainfall quite heavy, adding another centimeter of water to an already full Kinneret, but it was accompanied by hundreds of lightning strikes. The desert surrounding the southern city of Arad was coated in hail.
As if that were not enough, more rain fell in northern Israel on Shabbat, filling streams that flowed into the Kinneret. Normally a tourist magnet, the stormy weather aided social distancing by keeping the crowds away from the beaches.
— כאן חדשות (@kann_news) May 9, 2020
RAIN AFTER PASSOVER: BLESSING OR CURSE?
Water can be the source of great blessing, but at the wrong times, too much or too little water can also be a curse. This concept of rain falling in the proper season is so strong as to be referred to by the Prophet Ezekiel.
I will make these and the environs of My hill a blessing: I will send down the rain in its season, rains that bring blessing. Ezekiel 34:26
The first day of Passover signals the end of the winter rainy season so the thrice-daily prayers are adjusted to reflect this by removing the request for rain and replacing it with a prayerful request for dew. This is done on the first day of the holiday in the hopes that the holiday itself will be free of rain since rain spoils the enjoyment of the Temple celebrations.
As the land of Israel is central to Judaism, Jewish prayer reflects this by making the prayers reflect the passage of the seasons in Israel. The time after Passover is the time for the grain harvest and rain will cause the sheaves of grain lying in the field to rot.
Though normally the weather can be expected to be sunny and dry until the holiday of Sukkoth when the next rainy season begins, there are, of course, occasional exceptional days when unseasonal rains fall. Jewish tradition (Mishnah: Ta’anis 12b) teaches that rains that fall at the end of the month of Nissan after Passover are considered to be a bad sign for the world and are, in fact, a curse.
But rains that fall in the next month, Iyar, do not follow this rule. Rabbi Avraham Yehoshua Heshel, an 18th Century Hasidic leader from Apt in Russia, certainly felt so, teaching that rains in the month of Iyar had a ‘segula’ (benevolent influence).
“Rain that falls in the month of Iyar bring great healing to the world for every ill that has no cure anywhere,” Rabbi Heshel wrote in his book Oheiv Yisrael.
Rabbi Pinchas Shapiro of Koretz, a Polish-Lithuanian Hasidic leader who was a contemporary of Rabbi Heshel, taught that the benevolent influence of Iyar rain could be accessed by standing bareheaded outside in the rain. He also recommended opening the mouth and drinking the rainwater.
DID IT WORK? NO CORONAVIRUS DEATHS
Whether due to the healing rains of Iyar or to social distancing, Israel on Saturday morning reported no new deaths over the past day, the first 24-hour period since March 28 in which no new fatalities were recorded. It also marked one week since there were more than 100 new cases in any one day.
The segula did not last as the death toll rose by two in the evening to 247.
Rabbi Yosef Berger, the rabbi of King David’s Tomb on Mount Zion, was unequivocal about the efficacy of the rain.
“Rains in this month are clearly having their effect,” Rabbi Berger said. “Not only was the rainy season a sign of blessing but having a double blessing of even more rain after the normal season in the month of Iyar is clearly being directed from above. To have this coincide with the time when the coronavirus is beginning to recede is not just a coincidence.”
PROPHESIED DOUBLE SEASON OF RAIN
Though rain out of season may not be desirable, the Yerushalmi Talmud (Taanit parek aleph, halacha chet) teaches that as long as there was enough rain during the winter, rains after Pesach are an additional blessing. This double-dose of rain is hinted at by the Prophet Jeremiah.
They have not said to themselves, “Let us revere Hashem our God, Who gives the rain, The early and late rain in season, Who keeps for our benefit The weeks appointed for harvest.”Jeremiah 5:24
In fact, the rains in Israel are not entirely set in their seasons and, according to the the Bible, are affected by the actions of the Jews.
If you follow My laws and faithfully observe My commandments, I will grant your rains in their season, so that the earth shall yield its produce and the trees of the field their fruit. Leviticus 26:4