Why Pray For Rain?


Helen Plotkin unpacks the Jewish prayer “Grant dew and rain for a blessing upon the face of the earth”:

[S]ometimes rain is not just rain. All over the Jewish sources, from the Bible to the Talmud to the prayer book, rain stands in for a more general earthward flow of divine nurture. Talking about rainfall is a way of talking about the relationship between God and humanity. When one is in good shape, so is the other. In fact, water is a major plot-driver of the Bible. Sometimes the narrative suspense comes from a scarcity of water, and sometimes it comes from being overwhelmed by too much water.

How she connects the prayer to contemporary America:

In our own era, Americans have farmed like the Pharaoh. We have used the power of technology to irrigate land without rain, making tomatoes and cantaloupes available year round. We have even relied on the labor of sojourners, people who live apart from those they serve in conditions that the served would never tolerate for themselves, people who are needed but whose growing power gives rise to fear.

And we have been forced to remember that life on earth actually does teeter between deluge and drought. Our focus on power over balance has not protected us from the danger of either kind of water crisis. In these circumstances, the prayer for rain is a powerful offering. The tradition teaches us to read it metaphorically, as an expression of longing for spiritual nourishment, challenging us to live in a way that allows God’s gaze to fall upon us for a blessing. And we can read it more literally as well: May we learn to live in a way that nurtures balance. May our interactions with the natural world leave us neither parched nor drowned. May the rains in their season bring bounty and blessing.

(Image of rain via Yuliya Libkina)