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Posts Tagged ‘drought’

The Blessings of Rain

Tuesday, January 8th, 2013

It starts to rain in Israel, if we are lucky, some time in late October or November. If we are less blessed, it will start in December. January sees rainfall, as does February. By March, we know we’re near the end and by April it’s over. May, June, July, August, September (and usually October) – no rain – often not a single time, once in a while there’ll be a short rain – sometimes not even that.

The winter in Israel is spent watching the level of the Sea of Galilee – as it rises, we know we’ll have water for the coming dry months. Early in the winter, meteorologists will predict a wet winter, a dry one, a warm one, a cold one. Sometimes, you don’t even hear their prediction. This has been a good year – so far…though  much is still needed to take us out of the perpetual drought we have been in for over a decade. In all of the years I have been in Israel, not once has the level of the Sea of Galilee reached over capacity. There are provisions for this happening – huge flood gates that can be opened, sending water down through the Jordan Valley and into the dying Dead Sea.

Last year was adequate – this year, we still wait to hear. The winter is probably about half-over but we think in terms of days. In the last few days, the Sea of Galilee has risen an amazing 22 centimeters – I don’t know if you can imagine what that means. Yesterday it rained; today it is raining. Tomorrow and the next day, they are predicting more rain and even snow in some areas.

People are complaining about floods and traffic and the cold and through it all, there is this amazing joy. People will say, “it’s miserable out there, thank God.” Each drop is a blessing, a gift. In Israel, from a young age, we teach our children two things about water – don’t waste it, and always carry it with you. My children go with bottles of water – the heat in the summer can be very dangerous and they need to carry water with them. They shut the water when they soap themselves up in the shower; they shut the water when they are brushing their teeth. You don’t waste water in Israel. If you peel potatoes into a pot of water so they don’t turn colors – you walk outside and pour the pot of water into the garden.

As we drove into Jerusalem today, the water was flowing over the hills, pouring down the rocks, forming a river on the side of the road. Lauren tried to get a picture but the camera focused on the drops on the window instead. “Open the window,” said Davidi.

Both my daughter-in-law Lauren and I thought that was a bad idea – she’d be soaked, as would the car! But a neighbor managed to capture the power of the water. This is today’s blessing from God to a land that He loves, and a land that loves Him.

Rain, Wine and Why it’s all Our Fault: The History of the Rain Libel

Thursday, October 11th, 2012

We’re now entering the period when we begin to pray for rain.  Lack of rain was often an excuse to persecute the Jews, specifically those living in Jerusalem.  There are quite a few examples from our history of this rain libel, which was very often linked to the ‘sin’ of drinking wine.

Martin Kabátník, a Czech-Bohemian pilgrim who visited Jerusalem in 1491, reported that when there’s a drought, the Arabs go to the Jews and Christians and break their wine vessels.  Then they break all other vessels they find.  And they blame them, saying that because of them G-d is preventing the rain from coming, because they’re infidels and drink wine.  Kabátník said he heard from the Muslims that it’s OK to wrong the Jews, since G-d doesn’t see it as a sin.

A few years later, in 1495, a student of the Bartneura repeated the same story: when there’s no rain and the water is gone from the waterholes, the Ishamaelites will sometimes gather on us, to pour out the wine and break the jugs because they said that rains don’t come because the Jews sin and drink wine.

Around 30-years later, after the Turks conquered the land, Rabbi Moshe Basula came to Jerusalem.  And he discovered things hadn’t changed.  He writes as follows: It’s the custom of the Ishmaelites in Jerusalem, that when G-d doesn’t make it rain, they say it’s the fault of the Jews who drink wine, and they ask the governor to break the wine-jugs of the Jews. And on Wed. 20th of Kislev 5282 [Nov 20, 1521] the governor claimed that libel, until they agreed on (a fine of) 200 dukats of their currency, every dukat is 4 marcellis.  They fined anybody who made wine, and it cost half a dukat, that is 2 marcellis, for every 100 rotiol of wine, which are 600 of our liters.

A Jewish poem tells us of similar problems twenty years later.  The lamentation, written by Moshe Ma’alim, describes the troubles which befell the Jews in Jerusalem starting in 1542.  In that year a plague hit the city, followed the next year by an earthquake which hit on Passover.  Then locust covered the land, which exacerbated an on-going drought.  The Muslims blamed the Jews, and repeatedly searched their houses for wine, the cause of all the troubles.  This left the Jews with no wine for religious ceremonies.  Finally the Muslims evicted the Jews from the city.

(Yehuda Razhabi, Shalem V)

The lamentation was written while the Jews were still in “Galut,” and ends with a prayer that the Jews will return to Jerusalem soon.

A hundred years later, we again hear a very similar story.  Except this time, the problem was the Jews, not the wine.

Henry Jessey was a British priest who believed the Second Coming would only occur if the Jews of Jerusalem would convert.  He tells of several similar stories, the most descriptive is based on a letter written by the Jewish community.

In 1639 there was famine in Jerusalem following a long drought.  A Jewish convert to Islam convinced the Turks that the problem was the Jews: they were sinning against G-d.  The Turkish governor, Muhammad Pasha, ordered the Jews immediately evicted from the city.  The Jews begged (and bribed) the governor to give them three days.  The governor agreed and decreed that in three days, if it won’t rain, the Jews will be evicted and their belongings appropriated.  Any Jew found in the city after that date will be executed.

For the next three days, the Jews fasted, day and night.  As the second day drew to a close, when they saw their prayers weren’t answered, they decided they would rather commit mass suicide then stay at the mercy of the Turks.  But before they did so, they asked the governor to pray at Zecharia’s Tomb.

The governor agreed and so on the morning of the third day the Jews went to Zecharia’s Tomb and prayed and prayed.  The day was a hot day, and the Turks already prepared the stones with which they intended to stone the Jews on their return.  But come evening, after a day of prayer, the rains came.  Within a couple of hours all the water holes filled up.  The rains were so heavy, the Jews were forced to stay in the tomb throughout the night.  And on the next morning, the Turks met the Jews coming back and blessed them and gave them gifts.  The governor gave each of the rabbis a suit.  The Jews were saved, until next time.

Which Party Is to Blame for Droughts?

Thursday, August 16th, 2012

The hands in the photograph belong to President Barack Obama, who’s holding a few ears of corn during his tour of the McIntosh family farm in Missouri Valley, Iowa, which has been affected by the drought this season.

The drought in America is causing a rise in the cost of food products everywhere, including Israel, where the price of bread has just gone up by 6 percent.

Now, let’s look, at the correlation between U.S. presidents and years of peak drought, to find out whether the drought means God hates Democrats

May, 1925 – Coolidge, R

Sep. 1931 – Hoover, R

Jul. 1934 – Roosevelt, D

Aug. 1936 – Roosevelt, D

Dec. 1939 – Roosevelt, D

Jul. 1954 – Eisenhower, R

Dec. 1956 – Eisenhower, R

Jun. 1977 – Carter, D

Jun. 1988 – Reagan, R

Aug. 2012 – Obama, D

That’s 5 Rs and 5 Ds.

It appears droughts are evenly distributed between Republican and Democratic administrations. God loves—or punishes—both parties equally.

Comments welcome…

Shmuel Hakatan

Friday, August 3rd, 2012

In the days of Shmuel Hakatan a terrible drought held the land in its deadly grip. The wheat withered in the field and the grass dried and died. Day after day, the skies remained leaden and no clouds appeared to bring rain and salvation to the parched land.

The people knew that Shmuel Hakatan was a saintly and righteous man and they hoped that in his merit the Almighty might bring rain to them.

Coming to Shmuel Hakatan, they said: “The people of Israel are in great distress. Pray to the Almighty that He send us rain. Perhaps He will hearken to your prayers.”

The Rains Come

Shmuel Hakatan then answered the people saying: “Proclaim a fast for the morrow and call unto G-d with all your might and He will have mercy upon you.”

The leaders of the community immediately issued a call throughout the area for a fast and prayers to begin the next day. No sooner had the sun risen, then a great shower of rain began to fall on the land, soaking all the fields and fill­ing all the wells with precious water.

The people were overjoyed and they called out in great happiness: “Today we have seen that we are good in the eyes of the Almighty for He answered us rapidly, even before we called out to him.”

But Shmuel Hakatan shook his head and said: “No, what happened here today is a sign not of great love. On the contrary, it is a bad omen.”

The people looked at the great sage in puz­zlement.

“Why do you say that Behold, G-d sent us rain before our prayers were even ut­tered. Is this not a good sign?”

“No. It is similar to the case of a servant who seeks a favor from the king. The king knows of this and quickly tells his other ser­vants: ‘Hurry and give him what he wants, for I do not wish to be bothered with him.’”

Another Drought

Some time later, still another drought struck the land. Once again the fields dried up and the people were in great distress. Shmuel Hakatan called for yet another fast and more prayers.

This time, the people continued fasting and praying the entire day.

“Please G-d, Have mercy upon us! Redeem us, Grant us salvation and do not turn us away empty-handed.”

All day they prayed; all day they fasted. It was to no avail. The skies remained as before, the rain locked in and the land still thirsty. The people returned to their homes that night, sad and forlorn. Only then did the skies open up and the rains came down on the earth bringing life and hope.

“This, too, is not a good omen,” said Shmuel Hakatan. “To what may this situation be compared? To a king, whose servant re­quests a favor and the monarch tells his ad­visors: ‘wait until he suffers a little more before giving it to him.’”

The Good Omen

The people then asked Shmuel Hakatan: “If this is so, how can we know when the people are acceptable in the eyes of the Almighty?”

And Shmuel Hakatan answered: “This is how you shall know. When the peo­ple are in need of rain and they come to the synagogues and say, ‘Who makes the wind to blow and the rain to come down,’ if then, the Almighty grants them what they ask, this is the sign that they have found favor in His eyes and at that time you may rejoice.”

In The Days To Come

And the spirit of G-d rested on the great Shmuel Hakatan and he was permitted to see the events that would occur in the future for Israel. He saw the terrible tragedies and terror that would befall his people and his heart grew heavy within him. He would not eat or sleep and he walked about the entire day as a mourner, with his head bowed and bent. He grew ill and was forced to lie in bed but his situation grew worse and he lay at death’s door!

The sages, hearing the sad news, hurried over to see how he was. They found him only a shell of the man that he had been, pale and emaciated, unable to speak above a whisper.

Israeli Innovations: Helping the High-Tech and the Under-Privileged

Thursday, January 19th, 2012

A slew of new Israeli innovations are set to make life more convenient – and more viable – all over the world.

Israeli company Lumus has created a set of translucent television glasses which allow the wearer to see high-quality, full-color images such as e-mail, images, and text documents while walking or performing other tasks.

According to a report in Britain’s Daily Mail, the new PD-18-2 capitalizes on Lumus’s special cutting-edge visual technology called Light-guide Optical Element (LOE), which is already in use in professional and military products for soldiers, surgeons and pilots, projecting images into the eye from a micro-display.

Helping the multi-tasker keep up with his various to-dos is the goal of Any.DO, an Israeli social to-do app voted best Android application of 2011 by the Techcrunch blog, Lightbox, and Amazon MP3.

Any.DO has the basic features of a calendar, while also allowing users to add tasks through auto-complete and voice commands, manage them through gestures such as swiping and dragging-and-dropping, and sync with Google tasks, according to Israel innovations website NoCamels.

Israeli technology is also coming to the aid of those who do not yet enjoy the luxury of high-tech gadgets.  Agro-biotech company Rosetta Green, based in Rehovot, has genetically modified plants to grow under ocean water irrigation and to withstand long and severe droughts.  According to No Camels, the company hopes to produce plants which will stand up to harsh climates while maintaining bountiful yields by modifying short RNA molecules associated with a plant’s genetic ability to withstand drought or salty water.

It’s My Opinion: Taking Responsibility

Wednesday, June 3rd, 2009

South Florida was recently inundated with weeks of torrential rain. The downside was that the weather ruined the much-anticipated Memorial Day weekend. The upside was that the storms made a dent in the terrible drought conditions that had plagued the area. Sometimes it is easier to see the wisdom of the old adage, “Every cloud has a silver lining.”

 

I escaped from the weather by shopping at a store that was having a huge sale. I stood next to a woman and the line was very long.

 

The boredom of standing for 20 minutes propelled her into conversation. She confided in me that she used to be an “A personality” who would have gone crazy at the delay we were experiencing. She offered that she was diagnosed with a chronic neurological disorder two years ago, and the finding had actually changed her life for the good. 

 

She told me that she no longer got bent out of shape by delays and hindrances.  She shared that she now has a very different take. She enjoys every day. She stops to watch a sunset or a butterfly. She no longer sits on her horn in a traffic jam. Her life is qualitatively improved. Her sense of gratitude and joy was actually palpable.

 

Every life is filled with challenges. Terrible stuff does happen. It is often very hard to extract any positive from the ordeal.   

 

We often have no option in the circumstances of life. The skies can be stormy and the prognoses can be grim. Sometimes the only real choice is to see the silver lining. 

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/community//2009/06/03/

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