It’s raining. Not metaphorically this time, as was the case when I first got here. Nope. These are real raindrops, falling from a darkening sky onto a darkening ground. Shabbat starts at 3:55 PM. 3:55 PM. That is not night time. Except that now apparently it is, because this is Jerusalem and it is December 1st and the 2nd of Kislev (in the Hebrew calendar) and this is simply a time when day is short. And it is a time when there is serious rain.
Fall/Winter just all of a sudden showed up here, and the rain came with it. I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised. On Simchat Torah, over a month ago, we changed a single line in the second blessing of the amidah, one of the central prayers of the morning, afternoon, and evening services. From Passover last spring until Simchat Torah, we said: “מוריד הטל– morid hatal– [God] causes the dew to fall.” On Simchat Torah, we started to say: “משיב הרוח ומוריד הגשם– mashiv haruah umorid hageshem– [God] makes the wind blow and the rain fall.” Well, the shift worked. The rain is falling. The ark is floating even more and animals are getting grumpy about it.
I’ve always loved the little bits of acknowledgement of the natural world peppered throughout the siddur. Often, in the States, they aren’t exactly accurate. We don’t have a proper rainy season in Philadelphia. Here, though, the weather-related snatches of prayer make a certain amount of sense.
I enjoy thinking of the crafters of our prayers being tuned into the rhythms of the natural climates around them. I enjoy the idea of them asking for rain and expressing gratitude for its arrival. And it’s not even just gratitude. The blessing where we talk about God’s bringing of rain is a blessing proclaiming God’s power. It comes into the prayer between lines about God giving life to the dead (or enlivening all life, depending on your tradition) and God offering lovingkindness. Weather is important. Rain is crucial. Water matters. Rabbi Arthur Waskow and many other teachers have a lot to say about that (and perhaps I will too in another post), but for now, I’m just glad to point out the connection. And to remind myself that, even if I am not having the most fun getting soaking wet walking about, the rain is good for the earth, and global warming hasn’t messed everything up so much already that the seasons are completely off.
This week’s blessing comes from one of my grandparents. I miss my Grandpa Ken every day. Today is actually my Grannie M’s birthday, her first without my Grandpa Ken. I’ve been thinking of her a lot today, as I have every day since his passing. Even as I miss the grandparents who are gone, I’m so grateful to still have grandparents in my life in both tangible and intangible ways. I know that a lot of people my age aren’t so fortunate.
May you find in the everyday the transcendent you are seeking.
I just had lunch with a friend from the States who lives in Jerusalem. We sat in a restaurant that, were it not for the mostly-Hebrew being spoken around us and the fact that my club sandwich centered around halloumi cheese instead of turkey or ham, could have passed for a cafe back home. We chatted about all manner of things and it felt wonderfully “every day.”
Yesterday, I went to Women of the Wall to celebrate the turning from the month of Heshvan to the month of Kislev. I felt a transcendence there, particularly in light of the death threats leveled this week at the leader of this organization and the leader of the Reform movement in the USA. The numbers were smaller than last month, and the security check was more thorough– I actually got patted down, and they not only opened every compartment of my backpack but opened my tallis bag– but those of us who were there made our voices heard.
Tonight, I’ll brave the (hopefully) drizzle to go to Nava Tehila, and tomorrow morning I’ll brave it again to c0-lead Reconstructionist services. If any locals/Jerusalem visitors are reading, feel free to join us at 9:30 at HUC-JIR on King David Street. There will be signs, and a dairy potluck will follow. In the meantime, candle lighting is literally 3 minutes off. Shabbat Shalom and Hodesh tov, everyone.