On Sunday the yoreh arrived. Yoreh is that very special Hebrew word for the first rain of the season, and I apologize for reveling in the blessing of rain, when some of you may have dealt with far less pleasant weather drama over recent weeks. But, here in Israel, this Sukkot week — a time usually given to hikes and camping on the dry ground — we got just a bit more than a centimeter of rain with areas in the north even getting some flooding.
I happened to be out with Mango, my one-eyed wonder dog, at the moment it started as a light spray and slowly cranked up just enough to put a sheen on the Tel Aviv streets.
Beach goers ran home with their young children all wrapped up in towels like damp little presents.
A woman stepped out of her building onto the sidewalk right in front of me and both of our half smiles turned into a big shared grin about the first rain, about the goofiness of welcoming the first rain, about the pass the first rain gives you to make eye contact just a tad longer than usual.
The cyclists took shelter under awnings, electric bikers fretted over their batteries.
Diners having lunch out in the sukkot outside the two kosher restaurants made their choices: Some, the sabras, I suppose, fled indoors, while immigrants and tourists stayed put, eating their rain-dusted sushi and recalling the days when they sipped soup in a real diaspora downpour.
Mango suddenly caught sight of the alte zachen horse, standing on Ben Yehuda Street, waiting for her two humans to load an old stereo onto the timeless cart she pulls through the city every day.
The horse, a dappled gray, shimmered in the silvery first-rain light, And in the picture I snapped, my doggie in the foreground, with his warm reddish fur, stands out like a young Jeff Daniels in the Purple Rose of Cairo, about to step through the screen into a world less colorful yet somehow more vivid.
The word yoreh appears in the Bible in Deuteronomy, where rain at the right time is a reward for exclusive obeisance to God, who promises in return to “provide the rain of your land in its season, the former rain and the latter rain, that you may gather in your corn, and your wine, and your oil.”
וְנָתַתִּי מְטַר אַרְצְכֶם בְּעִתּוֹ, יוֹרֶה וּמַלְקוֹשׁ
And if imputing a heavenly reward for good behavior doesn’t float your boat, you may have an easier time connecting to the Talmud’s take, in which the rabbis linked yoreh with “moreh,” teaching, saying the yoreh teaches us to paint our roofs and bring the drying fruit into the house.
So people, plaster those cracks, take in that laundry, and hope all our rains are blessings and not curses: Winter is coming to the Holy Land.
This meditation was first recorded for the “Vadda Country” segment of The Promised Podcast: A Girl, and I Shoot Well! Edition. Check it out.