The Rabbis declared the situation dire enough that the time had come to insert an additional prayer for rain into our services. Now, a few short weeks later, Jerusalem is blanketed in white. Our country doesn’t know how to cope with a little flurry. Roads are closed, many schools and businesses are shut; it’s CHILL…
I visited the States recently and was taken aback by the frequency of rainfall there during the summer months. Fruits and vegetables were lush, the trees greener than what I had become accustomed to, even the country air was clearer. Why is God making it so easy for Diaspora Jews, I wondered? In Israel we pray, beg, and fast for it to rain but still our tiny Kinneret barely goes up by an inch or two each year. There are laws against watering your garden and specific amounts of water are allotted per family (otherwise the water bill will sky rocket). What are we supposed to make of this?
In Bereishit 3:14 we read that Hashem punishes the snake for his sin in Gan Eden; for the rest of his life he will eat dirt and dust.
“ארור אתה מכל הבהמה ומכל חית השדה […] ועפר תאכל כל ימי חייך”
This is peculiar – dust is EVERYWHERE – the snake will absolutely never starve! It may not be tasty, but given such a “curse,” he is conveniently set for life.
How can a lifetime guarantee of sustenance possibly be considered a punishment?
God is punishing him in a seemingly obscure way. He is so angry with the snake to the point at which He wants to cut off any form of relationship with him. Providing a lifetime supply of his basic needs for survival ensures that the snake will never have a reason to turn to God.
Complete abandonment is ultimately the worst punishment imaginable.
Rain operates on “autopilot” abroad. At times rain is annoying and inconvenient; even Barney sings about it. Here, rainfall has a completely different meaning; we don’t take a single drop for granted. In Israel we frolic in the puddles as we sing and dance all decked out with a מטריה and מגפיים. When it rains (especially for those of us who have seen nearly rain-free winters), we get SO excited!! I personally see it as direct blessing being handed to us by God Himself; I feel the closeness. By not always having abundance we are encouraged to turn to God and communicate with Him in troubling times.
Our basic needs are provided for (and often easier to attain) in chutz laaretz. But is water, a decent paying job, Duncan Donuts, and a nice house really more valuable than having a direct relationship with God?!
I think not.