This week’s haftarah is from the 5th and 6th chapters of Micha. In the first verse, the Navi describes our epic salvations from the clutches of our enemies and compares us to the drops of rain which fall on the grass.
Since we are likened to it, let’s talk about rain and what we can learn from it.
When we wake up and look outside, and see rainy, gloomy weather, most of us begin to feel a bit sad, even depressed. Why is that?
Good weather makes us feel positive. There is something very real to what is commonly referred to as “spring fever.” Obviously, that is the way Hashem made is, the question is why.
My friend, R’ Shaya Gross, told me something amazing in the name of Rav Shmuel Brazil.
The Torah tells us in a few places, one which we say twice daily in the second paragraph of the Shema, that if we keep the Torah properly, Hashem Yisbarach will send us rain in the proper times and our crops will grow. Rav Brazil explained this on a deeper level as well.
There are 343 mitzvos that we can only fulfill in Eretz Yisroel with the Beis HaMikdash standing. 343 is the gematria of the word for rain, geshem. Thus, when Hashem tells us that if we keep the mitzvos, we will receive geshem, in a deeper vein, it means that we will be able to fulfill all the mitzvos in Eretz Yisroel with the ultimate geulah and binyan Beis HaMikdash. We will merit spiritual rain, not merely wet rain.
Rav Brazil continued to explain another somewhat famous pasuk in an amazing way. It says in Shir HaShirim (5:2), “Ani yesheina, v’libi er, I am asleep, but my heart is awake.” Based on what we explained above, we can really appreciate what this pasuk is telling us. “I am asleep” refers to golus where we are spiritually asleep. The word “er,” awake, has a gematria of 270 the exact amount of mitzvos we can keep even in exile. Our hearts are awake and there are mitzvos we can keep.
Now, what does all this have to do with the way we feel on a rainy day?
R’ Shaya Gross explains that this may be why people feel sad, more sleepy and down on rainy days. Subconsciously, our souls understand that the rain is a painful reminder that we don’t have the true spiritual geshem of the 343 mitzvos. Something to think about.
And here’s another.
Rav Moshe Shapiro asks the following question. Chazal (Taanis 2a) use the word she’eila describe our saying vesein tal umatar l’vracha, the request for rain we say in the bracha of Bareich Aleinu. However, Chazal generally use the term bakasha for the many requests we make in Shemoneh Esrei. Why then regarding rain is the word she’eila used?
Rav Shapiro asks another question. Chazal tell us that rain comes when man prays for it. This is seen from the pasuk (Bereishis 2:5) which says that the foliage had not yet developed for there was no man, la’avod es ha’adamah, literally, to work the ground. Rashi cites Chazal who explain this to mean that there was no man to recognize the good of rain and thus pray for it. Why was this necessary? We don’t need to pray for the sun to rise or for other elements of nature to function. Why is rain different?
Bakasha means asking for our regular needs. She’eila, Rav Shapiro explains, is asking Hashem for something more; it involves something mysterious to the one asking. The Gemara says regarding the Hagaddah, “v’kan haben sho’eil,” implying that there is something he does not know. She’eila also refers to borrowing. One who lacks something needs assistance from another and is sho’eil the object. Bakasha is a request for something more defined and specific.
Chazal tell us that there is a mayim ha’elyonim, upper, exalted waters, and mayim hatachtonim, waters from below. The upper waters are not physical, they are spiritual influence and blessing which comes directly from HaKadosh Baruch Hu. Regular rain would fall based on the way Hashem established natural law, just like other natural phenomena – sunrise and sunset, for example. However, without a special tefillah, the rainwater would only come from the mayim hatachtonim. We pray that the rain should come from the mayim ha’elyonim – something which does not occur automatically. We daven that everything we need to take care of our physical needs should be connected to our spiritual needs. We pray to partake of our gashmiyus l’shem Shamayim. We are being sho’eil for mayim ha’elyonim; we are not merely being mevakesh for mayim hatachtonim.
When we pray for rain, we are not merely requesting water; we pray for a connection to Shomayim, to Heaven, to exalted and spiritual waters. Our tefillah is not a bakasha, a simple request. Instead, it is she’eila, as we ask that Hashem reveal something spiritually hidden to us.
The next time we face a rainy day, let’s not feel down. Rather, let’s contemplate some of the many passionate and growing thoughts cited here.