Monday, September 21, 2009
A Good Six Minutes
Over lunch on the first day of Rosh Hashanah, I reflected with my family about, among other things, omens and hopes for the coming year. One daughter noted that taking a nap that afternoon could lead to a “sleepy” year. Perhaps, but I had a four year old who was exhausted from being out late the night before and I was bound to get him to lie down and sleep, even if it meant I had to lie down with him and fall asleep myself. The selfless things we do for our kids! My four year old fell into a deep sleep, and I was sleeping next to him a little less deeply, when I heard my older son run in the house and yell for a towel. It seems that when he was outside playing soccer (no doubt an omen for a playful, or sporting, year), the skies opened and he got drenched. When I woke up, I looked out the window and saw the puddle that accumulated at the bottom of our block, a strange site for September. In Israel, there are distinct seasons and rain usually does not begin so early. On the Jewish calendar, we begin to pray for rain only at the end of Sukkot, another three weeks off. After successive very dry years and a severe drought in effect, to the extent that our main sources of fresh water are at the lowest point in most of the last century, we need the rain desperately and I suspect that come the end of Sukkot, mine will not be the only one whose prayers are particularly fervent and sincere. Later that day, still somewhat incredulous that we had the rain that we did, I asked a neighbor if he was awake during the rain. He was. “How long did it rain?” I asked. “A good six minutes,” he replied. Of course, while it’s essential to have peace with our neighbors, the 1994 peace treaty with Jordan requires Israel to transfer 50 million cubic meters of water to Jordan every year. I can’t help but wonder what would happen if there were not enough water to transfer. Would Israel be in violation of the peace treaty and would Jordan declare war? Regardless, the additional responsibility to furnish Jordan with this vast amount of water is especially taxing to Israel’s limited water supply. The second day of Rosh Hashanah arrived wet too. I walked outside in the morning and noticed it had been raining, but no puddle suggesting a downpour. On the way to shul, little drops of rain fell on and around me, not even a drizzle, but noticeable nonetheless. At one point, my four year old ran in to happily report that it was raining, drops visible on his button down shirt and face. At his age, some six months since the last rain is a significant portion of his life so he ran back outside happily to play in the drizzle. Later, in the middle of services, the skies opened and the rain was both visible out the window, and audible on the roof. It’s interesting to be in Israel and how the pace of life literally revolves around the seasons that are Biblically ordained. The rains come in their season, the almost invisible presence of dew in its’, sabbatical years when the land is to lie fallow, and the harvest of various crops in exact sync with the Biblical recounting of these as if they were mile markers on a highway, everything coming in its season. As we start the New Year 5770, our thoughts and prayers turn to things that are reflective and often very personal. But, in a very short time, the seasonal prayer for rain will be upon us. Israel will benefit from the rains directly, or suffer the consequences of another dry winter. The rains impact us directly. But Jews around the world will have the responsibility and authority no less to enter the rainy season with sincere prayers for abundant rain in the Land of Israel. Of course, friends in North America who had rain these past summer months more reminiscent of Noah’s Ark probably want nothing to do with this. Yet, here, all we could do was look on in envy, with a faint hope and an early prayer that we too would benefit from some of that precipitation, in its season, for a blessing and not a curse, for life and not for death, and for bounty and not for scarcity. As much as I wouldn’t mind that my nap on the first day of the New Year was a positive omen for my getting a good nap on most Shabbat afternoons, even more so, I’d be elated if the rains that we were teased with the first two days of the New Year were an omen of something more to come, rains that will fill our lakes and rivers, revive the Dead Sea, and restore underground aqueducts. Most silently hope that the rains will come at night, but if they fill our days, that’s just fine by me. A good six minutes is a good start.