Tuesday, November 16, 2010

In Israel a rabbi, imam and priest pray together for rain.

Who would have ever thought that, according to the report in the Jerusalem Post (November 14, 2010), clergy from Judaism, Islam and Christianity would gather together and in one place at the same time pray together for rain to descend upon the land?
That is exactly what happened. Apparently Israel is experiencing a dry spell. The rainy season normally begins by the middle of October. Rain and water in general is always a valuable resource in the Middle East and plays a critical although oftentimes a behind the scenes role in commerce and the politics of the region.
But this time in what appears to be a mysterious phenomenon that a Rabbi, Imam and Christian Greek Orthodox priest joined together at a spring called Eiyn Heniya in the Valley of the Ghosts that is between Jerusalem and the Bethlehem Hills for a session of prayer to God to send the rain upon the land.
According to the article Orthodox Rabbi Menachem Froman spoke about how both Islam and Judaism have beliefs that God will send rain if the people are good. So this gesture of interreligious unity was a small but important way of appealing to God to cause the rain to replenish the earth. The Rev. Issa Elias Musleh also expressed the sentiment that he was there to beseech God for mercy upon humankind and bring the rains forth.  The Mufti of Bethlehem, Sheikh Abdel Najib, also expressed hopes for peace between the religions and that by praying together reaffirmed Islam’s intention to bring peace to the region and choose peace over war.
In Judaism from the end of the harvest festival of Sukkot until the late spring we pray for rain three times a day. In the prayer we ask God to “meshev ha ruach umorid hagashem –Cause the wind to blow and make the rain descend.” In the Talmud it is written, the day the rain falls is as significant as the day heaven and earth were created.” (Taanit 8b) Rabbinic legislation in times of drought called for a communal fast to appeal to God to bring down the rain. Our ancestors as well as our contemporaries in Israel take the prayers for rain seriously. By the year 2020, population estimates approximate that there will be 8.4 million people living in Israel. The rain is, therefore, even more critical to sustain such a growing population.
But I really want to focus on this small moment of hope that three clergy could agree to meet together in front of the media and suspend the rivalries and antagonisms that afflict this holy and sacred land. The fact that they transcended the bitterness and cynicism and, instead, focused on a common problem shows that beyond the rhetoric we read about in the media that there are forces who are communicating and searching for ways to work together. This is one of those moments that should hold out a little bit of hope for us that peace is within the grasp of the parties in this conflict.
We should watch and learn from their example.  I wish more of our clergy in my community would join together in actions of praying together to demonstrate how religions can cooperate with each other and set an example to their followers for how we here in America can find common ground on issues that impact us all.

1 comment:

Rabbi Arthur Segal said...

Shalom Rebbe Brad:

Oh, how wonderous it would be if clergy from all faiths,not only prayed together, but did mitzvoth together, to bring about rain, i.e. prosperity, no hunger, no wars over resources. Amen to your wish.

In Talmudic times lack of rain, was deemed as a punishment from G!d for the nation of Israel's chetim, missings of the mark.

The rabbis felt they were powerless with just prayer, and felt the community at large must contribute with certain mitzvoth, as well as the rabbis ordering a day of fast for teshuvah.

Many times when rain didn't come in Kislev, circa December, it was because, they posited, Jews did not thank G!D properly for His bounty, including rain, during Sukkoth (Tishrei, circa September-October). Did Israel do a Water Libation ceremony during Sukkoth?

It is hard for us modern Jews to understand, that if we ask G!D for healing from the Bimah in mishaberach prayers, than spiritually , ignoring halakah, it is important for us to do prayers of Gomal (thanksgiving), when we become well again.

How many of us do not live life with an attitude of gratitude denying G!D, yet when things don't go our way we either damn Him, or do foxhole prayers?

Talmud Yerushalmi Tractate Ta'anit (fasts) speaks about, and how the Rabbis saw fasting, and how they saw mitzvoth, vis a vis troublesome times?

The Talmud Yerushalmi lists examples of Zekhut {a bank account of merit, ie a spiritual 'Get Out of Jail Free' card (Talmud Yerushalmi Tractate Ta'anit 3:11). But it seems it is acts of giving away one's possessions to the needy, that really seems to please God as an act of Zekhut.

Zekhut tends not to be just any mitzvah but tends to be those that care for the needy, and do major acts of righteousness, like releasing a prisoner.

The Talmud Yerushalmi Tractate Ta'anit, in this case 2.4.1, sites the case of the rabbis speaking to a man who prayed during a drought, and the rains came.

Rabbi Abbahu dreamed that Pentakakos prayed that rain would come, and it did rain. Rabbi Abbahu summoned him and asked him: What is your trade? He said to him: I do five sins every day: (Pentakakos means 'five evils.') hiring prostitutes, cleaning up the theater, bringing home their garments for washing in the bath house, strut and dance and play my flute for them.

Rabbi Abbahu asked: What good deed have you done?

He said: One day I was cleaning the theater and a woman came and stood behind a pillar and cried. I said to her: What's the matter? She said: My husband is in prison and I wanted to see what I can do to free him. So I sold my bed and cover and gave the proceeds to her. I said: Here is your money: free your husband, but do not sin, (become a whore.)

Rabbi Abbahu said to him: You are worthy of praying and having your prayers answered. (Talmud Yerushalmi Tractate Ta'anit 5a-b)

Aside from Rabbi Honi the Circle Maker who could ask God for rain and even control the amount, and Rabbi Hanina ben Dosa, the Rabbis of the Talmud, humbly admitted they were powerless to bring rain. They could call the community to fast, (which is what Ta'anit is about, fasting), during times of drought. But they show that a true act of ahavath chesed, even by a chronic sinner, can trump a life time of Torah study, and get God's attention and bring rain.

Aside from praying together, what actions can we as a community take, as a nation take, to bring about a just society, living in shalom, so that we 'merit rains in our seasons'?

Shalom uvracha vahavah:
Your Chaver,

rabbi arthur segal