Galilee Diary: Rain
Bless for us, O Lord our God, this year and all its produce. [From Pesach until the 6th of Cheshvan] Bestow a blessing on the face of the earth. [From the 6th of Cheshvan until Pesach] Bestow dew and rain for a blessing on the face of the earth.
-Beginning of the ninth blessing in the daily Amidah prayer
The peak of the peak of Israeli rush hour is Thursday afternoon. Public transportation is packed, and the roads are a mess, as soldiers and students head home for the weekend and others head away. This year the 6th of Heshvan fell on a Thursday, which happened to have been the first really rainy day we've had this year, as scattered heavy showers swept across the country. Thus the afternoon traffic radio announcers were prophets of doom, as the entire country settled into a soggy, frustrating, gridlock.
The weather system moved on and we were treated to a beautiful, cool, sunny week before winter really came in with several days of howling wind and serious rain storms (the roof blew off our local community center swimming pool, a major shopping mall was flooded, etc.). But then, as always, the storms subsided, leaving us to mop up and dry off until the next time.
A walk around Shorashim revealed plumes of gravel crisscrossing the road, where water gushing down the shoulder had eroded gullies and then carried their contents with it as it poured across the road; grass and weed seeds sent up their first shoots covering open areas with a glowing green fuzz, punctuated by delicate pink crocus flowers; the sage along the paths, whose leaves had been gray and curled, suddenly verdant; the straight blades of leaves emerging from winter bulbs - wild squill (chatzav) and domestic narcissus alike. Overnight, we had made the transition to winter. People often note that we don't really have autumn as an identifiable season here; it seems that summer just tapers off and then, suddenly, it's winter. Here and there you can find some trees that turn red, and there are the squill flowers that bloom around Rosh HaShanah; and there are scattered days that are sunny like summer but cool like winter; but otherwise, there aren't many distinctive markers of fall.
God's main competition in ancient Israel was Ba'al, the god of rain. An entire tractate of the Talmud (Ta'anit) is devoted to the rules for appealing to God by means of escalating fast days in years when the rains don't come on time. And it's interesting to note that Babylonia, the land which Abraham was ordered by God to leave for Canaan, was crisscrossed by rivers and the land to which Abraham and then the whole clan went to seek grain in time of famine was the land of the Nile. Never mind that God chose for us the one patch without oil reserves; it is perhaps more significant that God placed us here in an area where God controls the water tap, so God can keep us in suspense every year as to what the winter will bring. It seems God liked the idea of our being totally dependent on God for our sustenance in our land.
And though we've come a long way since then, with pumps and pipelines, waste water treatment and even desalination, you cannot but be conscious here of our dependence on forces that we cannot control. The rain may snarl traffic, spoil your Shabbat hike plans, soak your laundry, dampen your ceiling, but after you've lived here for a few years, there is a place inside that involuntarily smiles when you hear and smell the rain.
"God's is in heaven; all's right with the world."