09 Oct 2015 Praying for Rain
Sefer Bereishis, Parshas Bereishis, In the Beginning Hashem Created…
When we closed the book of Devarim on Simchas Torah, we left Moshe atop Mt. Nevo, we left the Israelite nation poised to cross the Jordan River under the tutelage of Yehoshua, and we left forty years of desert wanderings, only to begin again. It is no small matter to be zocheh to begin the Torah again. It is with awe and reverence that we offer thanks to the Almighty for allowing us to reach this day and time… בְּרֵאשִׁית.
In the account of Creation, the Torah tells us that “Any tree of the field was not yet on the earth and any herb of the field had not yet sprouted, for Hashem had not sent rain upon the earth and there was no man to work the soil” (Bereishis 2:5).
Why was rain held back from Creation? The Sages explain that since there was no man to work the soil, and there was none to recognize the goodness of rains, it was held back. However, when Adam was created and realized that rain is a necessity for the world, התפלל עליהם, he prayed for rain, and rain came down, and then the trees and vegetation sprouted (ibid and see Rashi there).
When pondering what words of chizuk to pen this Erev Shabos, out of all the messages, lessons and profundities in Parshas Bereishis, I thought of none more relevant than the message of tefillah. Hashem held back the rains until Adam was created, realized their worth and davened for them. And then, the blessed rains came.
Our nation is witnessing yet another difficult and painful time. Too many amongst us are facing challenges of our own. As a nation, and as individuals, we are crying. We must channel our tears upwards to our Father in heaven. For all the gates of heaven are locked, except for the gates of tears in prayer.
R’ Shimshon Pincus zt’l relates the following:
“My father-in-law, R’ Mordechai Leib Mann zt’l, left his home in Brainsk, a shtetl in Eastern Poland, and went to learn in yeshiva at the age of thirteen. One Shabos, he was sent for meals to the home of a very poor Jew. The home in which my father-in-law was raised was not a wealthy one, but at least they put Shabos food on the table. The home of his current host was dark, only two candles burned on the table, and the meal was so awfully meager: a piece of bread for each, and a central soup bowl from which one would take a few spoons for himself. Since he was embarrassed to eat that way, he left the home hungry and feeling very low.
“He recounted that ‘I was feeling so low I couldn’t even cry. My mother and her Shabos food came to mind, and I remembered my home, and I was so sad… but then I looked at the moon and comforted myself. I thought about how the moon now sees my mother and I see the moon, and in this way we are connected.’ This was his solace.
“I too,” notes R’ Pincus, “am consoled by something similar. On Rosh HaShana, when I cry out, Zochreinu l’chaim, Melech chafetz b’chaim – Remember us for life, O King who desires life! I think to myself: these are the exact same words that the Chasam Sofer cried out, and also the Vilna Gaon and Rashi cried out like this, and also R. Akiva cried it out and so did all the gedolei Yisrael. So we are connected!
“Our people did not begin today. We have a relationship with a long history. Our relationship with Hashem is deeper and richer than our own personal makeup and experience.” (Moadei Hashanah, Elul & R”H, p.301-302)
Our tefillos of Shachris are connected, from generation to generation, all the way back to Avraham Avinu; our prayers of Mincha, to Yitzchak Avinu; and our nighttime utterances, those of Maariv, back to our forefather, Yaakov. And our holy words of Tehillim to Dovid Melech Yisrael.
We must storm the heavens with these cries, we must unlock the gates with our tears, we must daven as Adam davened for rain – for, indeed, our continued existence depends on those heavenly drops of rain: drops of life, of health, of peace and of joy.
התפלל עליהם, says Rashi. Adam prayed, and it rained…
And if our merits are not enough, then we ask Hashem to consider the merits of all the kedoshim and tehorim, the holy and pure ones, who came before us, who uttered these very same words. Zochreinu l’chaim, Melech chafetz b’chaim – Remember us for life, O King who desires life!
May it be immediate and in our days, amen v’amen.
Wishing you – and all of Klal Yisrael – a Shabos of comfort and peace; a true שבת שלום,