Water levels at Sea of Galilee are at a record low, the lowest since measurements began nearly a century ago, the Israel Water Authority announced on Monday. The dangerously falling water level is raising serious concerns about Israel’s largest single source of fresh water. For some, the spiritual implications of the lack of rain are at least as important as the drought itself.
“The Kinneret level’s location under the red line toward the end of the rainy season is an unusual situation that has not occurred in about a decade,” a statement from the Water Authority said.
The water level in the Kinneret rose 8.7 inches last month, as compared to the February average of 23.6 inches. Water levels are 16 cm below the red line, but these low levels in the Kinneret pose a greater danger than just water shortages. Underneath the large lake run subterranean saltwater streams. Pressure from the fresh water in the lake prevents this saltwater from entering the lake. It is feared that if the water level drops too much, the saltwater will mix with the fresh, making the entire lake unsuitable for general use.
Lowering levels in the Kinneret take on a deeper meaning when seen in the light of the Zohar, the foundational work of Jewish mysticism. The Zohar states the Messiah will first appear in the Galilee.
The Messiah… will arise in the land of Galilee… the Messiah shall reveal himself in the land of Galilee because in this part of the Holy Land the desolation (Babylonian exile) first began, therefore he will manifest himself there first. [Zohar III, Shemoth 7b, 8b, 220a; Otzar Midrashim, 466]
The Bible clearly describes rain as a sign of the ongoing relationship between God and Israel that can be affected by prayer.
When heaven is shut up, and there is no rain, when they do sin against Thee; if they pray toward this place, and confess Thy name, and turn from their sin, when Thou dost afflict them. I Kings 8:35
Jews begin praying for rain on the first day of the festival of Sukkot. A request for rain is inserted in the section of the thrice daily prayer dealing with livelihood.
Rain is Israel can also indicate the nature the manner in which the Messiah will arrive. The Talmud (Sanhedrin 98a) describes how the appearance the Messiah will take is expressed through rainfall in Israel. The Talmud quotes Rabbi Alexandri, who cites two conflicting Biblical verses describing how the Messiah will arrive. He notes that the Prophet Daniel describes the Messiah as arriving on clouds.
I saw in the night visions, and, behold, there came with the clouds of heaven one like unto a son of man, and he came even to the Ancient of days, and he was brought near before Him. Daniel 7:13
The second verse, in Zechariah, describes the Messiah as a king arriving on a white donkey.
Rejoice greatly O daughter of Tzion shout O daughter of Yerushalayim; behold thy king cometh unto thee he is triumphant and victorious lowly and riding upon an ass even upon a colt the foal of an ass. Zechariah 9:9
The Talmud explains this seeming contradiction, saying that the manner in which the Messiah arrives is dependent upon Israel’s actions: If the Jews are righteous and full of mitzvot (Torah commandments), then the Messiah will arrive on rain clouds. But, the Talmud warns, if the Jews are not righteous, then there will be a drought and the Messiah will arrive on a white donkey, a symbol of poverty.
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