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Bracha on Rain 5772

By: Rav Avigdor Meyerowitz

For Each And Every Drop Rav Avigdor Meyerowitz In Gemara bekiut shiur in the Midrasha this week we learned the Gemara in Masechet Ta'anit regarding the bracha one should make on rain: "R. Abbahu said: When do we [begin to] recite the bracha over rain? When the bridegroom goes forth to meet the bride. What benediction should one recite? Rab Yehudah said in the name of Rav: We give thanks unto Thee, O Lord, our G-d for every single drop which thou hast caused to fall upon us. And R. Yochanan concluded the benediction thus: Though our mouths were full of song as the sea, and our tongues of exultation as the multitude of its waves, etc.! until, Let not Thy mercies forsake us O Lord, our G-d, even as they have not forsaken us. Blessed art Thou to Whom abundant thanksgivings are due. Abundant thanksgivings and not all the thanksgivings? Raba replied: Read, The G-d to Whom thanksgivings are due."[1] The abovementioned bracha, though beautiful as it is, is not a bracha that most of us are familiar with and in all probability have never ever made. On Sunday, the day we learnt this gemara in shiur, it was a rainy day that had followed a few days of heavy rain here in Eretz Yisrael, and it seemed so appropriate to say the bracha. I would like to address here the reason why we do not say this bracha anymore. The Mishna in masechet Berachot states: "On rains and at the receipt of good news, he says, "Blessed be He who is good and beneficent."[2] The Gemara there notes that this Mishna is apparently contradicted by the words of Rabbi Abbahu quoted above when he states that there is a different bracha to be made on rain. The Gemara[3] gives three different answers to this contradiction: If one hears that rain has fallen one says "Hatov Ve'hametiv", if one sees the rain, one says "Modim". This answer is apparently subsequently rejected by the Gemara. If rain falls heavily the bracha is "Hatov Ve'hametiv"; for light rain "Modim".[4] If one has a field of one's own - "Hatov Ve'hametiv"; if one does not have their own field - "Modim". It seems that according to all the answers of the Gemara one should say every year the bracha of "Modim". This is also the opinion of the vast majority of the Rishonim.[5] It is interesting therefore that the Bet Yosef brings what seems to be the single opinion of the Smak who says that "the bracha for rain is not in practice now". The Bet Yosef, quoting the Kol Bo, explains that the bracha was instituted for lands where rain is sparse and the rain was anticipated greatly and there was much joy when it came, however where rain is a regular occurrence, and it does not cause joy, the bracha is not recited. The Bet Yosef deduces from the Smak and the Kolbo that in usual years and when nature runs in an ordinary fashion we do not recite the bracha. The Bet Yosef then subsequently paskened in his Shulkhan Arukh that if there was a lack of rain and the people were in grief for it, when the rain then falls one should say the bracha of "Modim".[6] It seems peculiar though that the Shulkhan Arukh paskened according to the minority of the Rishonim especially since it seems contrary to the Rif, Rambam and Rosh. The Biur Halakhah[7] suggests that the Rambam in fact agrees in principle with the Smak, just that since in Eretz Yisrael it is usually very dry and they are in great need of rain it is appropriate to make the bracha there when it rains. He suggests that the Shulkhan Arukh would agree with that as well. He then quotes the Pri Megadim who says that even in Eretz Yisrael the bracha should not be said if rain falls as usual but the Biur Halakhah comments "tzarikh iyun gadol" since this stipulation seems contrary to all the above mentioned Rishonim. Practically, the Mishnah Berura[8] seems to pasken that in Eretz Yisrael the bracha should be recited every year when the first rain falls, however in the Biur Halakhah he concludes that because of the opinion of the Pri Megadim and the Eliyah Rabbah the bracha should be recited without the "Shem u'Malkhut". There is also the opinion of the Rama which explains that the minhag today is not to say the bracha since in Europe rain is common and does not cease almost at all.[9] I think it might be reasonable to suggest that the Shulkhan Arukh was addressing the de facto situation that the minhag was not to say this bracha. This minhag could only be explained according to the opinion of the Smak and Kol Bo. This special bracha on rain is clearly associated with the level of appreciation and joy one feels when it rains. When one does not feel that joy fully, it is inappropriate to make the bracha. Certainly nowadays when our day-to-day lives do not directly depend on whether it rains or not, we have become a lot less sensitive to rain. However I must admit that being in Eretz Yisrael, especially over the last ten years or so, one cannot help being a lot more concerned about the rain and the level of the water in the Kinneret Sea. This sensitivity to rain in Eretz Yisrael is not by chance but rather emphasized by the Torah when describing the difference between Eretz Yisrael and Mitzrayim: "10. For the land to which you are coming to possess is not like the land of Egypt, out of which you came, where you sowed your seed and which you watered by foot, like a vegetable garden. 11. But the land, to which you pass to possess, is a land of mountains and valleys and absorbs water from the rains of heaven, 12. A land the Lord, your G-d, looks after; the eyes of Lord your G-d are always upon it, from the beginning of the year to the end of the year." [10] While reading the Parshiyot Shavua over the last few weeks, the galut and ge'ulah from Mitzrayim, the parsha this week and the parshiyot over the next few weeks dealing with the Mishkan and its implications, it is important to remember that we say at least twice a day during Kriat Shema: 13. And it will be, if you hearken to My commandments that I command you this day to love the Lord, your God, and to serve Him with all your heart and with all your soul, 14. I will give the rain of your land at its time, the early rain and the latter rain, and you will gather in your grain, your wine, and your oil. 15. And I will give grass in your field for your livestock, and you will eat and be sated. 16. Beware, lest your heart be misled, and you turn away and worship strange gods and prostrate yourselves before them. 17. And the wrath of the Lord will be kindled against you, and He will close off the heavens, and there will be no rain, and the ground will not give its produce, [11] Of all the things we hope for and expect and pray for with deep kavanah, how high on the list is simple rain? Yet precisely rain is what the Torah promises us for all our devotion and commitment, nothing more and nothing less. We are used to looking and finding Hashem in the miracles of the Tanakh and behind the curtains of the Mishkan, but the Torah tells us that Hashem must be sought out and celebrated first and foremost in the "miracles" of everyday and in "each and every drop of rain that He has brought down on us". Shabbat shalom


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