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Study and Theory/

Dotan Brom

In Between a Flood and Blessed Rains

Hamahanot HaOlim 2006

Israeli tradition (and Israelis) have an ambivalent attitude towards rain.

On the one hand, blessed is he who blows the wind and brings down the rain, which brings the irrigation we need to our fields after the dry summer.

On the other hand, there is some primeval fear of the rain-  that would not stop, it may flood our homes and we will be demolished by the storm.

In two cases in Israel's tradition, can we pinpoint duality. The first is the prayer and reading of the Torah. In Cheshvan we begin to recite "V'ten Tal UMatar Livrachah" - a blessing asking for rains of blessing for the arid land. However, in Cheshvan we also read the portion of Noah, perhaps the biblical tale that expresses primal fear of a flood in the most dramatic way.

The second case is the story of Choni HaMa'agel of the Babylonian Talmud. This story is about a drought in Israel, and Choni (a Palestinian rabbi from the Talmudic period) draws a circle in the ground and stands inside it. He calls out to G-d declaring that he would not leave the circle until G-d responds to the people's prayers to end the drought and to bring rain upon the earth. So G-d showers upon him a flood that threatens to drown Jerusalem. Choni now asks God to replace the flood with blessed rain.

So beyond the moral of this story that God is trying to teach Choni, there is also an expression of double fear -  of the drought and of the flood.

It seems that this ambivalence has accompanied us to this very day - with the contempt of the Israeli summer-that-is-too-hot-here-and-also-humid-and-disgusting-perhaps-we-ought-to-take-a-vacation-in-Europe-I-heard-it's-very-nice-in-London on the one hand, while turning a sour face to rain as well, when it finally arrives, and is kind enough to descend on the people, on the other hand. I believe that the simple solution to this seemingly, complex attitude to rain is, that just like everything else in life, is that it must descend in an appropriate measure.

Nonetheless, to all those who get upset about a hairdo that gets ruined and laundry that becomes wet, I recommend: Go and discover what the first rain of the season did to the fields of the valley, which were under threat of demolition by the heat wave and now fresh grass covers the face of the earth from the area of Zevulun up until the mountains of Nazareth.

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