Last week, in part one of The Rain In Spain (and anywhere else) Should Train Not To Complain, we began talking about seeing Hashem in His creations, and specifically through rain. Sha’ar Habechinah in the Chovos Halevavos is a bridge — a bridge to the previous Sha’ar Hayichud, in which he declares it incumbent upon every Jew to develop a keen sense of the truth and reality of Hashem’s existence and One-ness. In Sha’ar Hayichud, the Chovos Halevavos shows us the way to that cognizance through intellectual and philosophical inquiries and thoughts. In Sha’ar Habechinah, he states that a more direct path, and a more tried-and-true one, lies in examination of our wondrous ber’iah, with all its complexities, intricacies, and ramifications. And it is also a bridge to the subsequent Sha’ar Avodas Elokim, because as we examine the universe and all of its parts, we see that indeed, “and Hashem saw that it was good… and Hashem saw all that He had created, and behold it was all very good.” We see the goodness of Creation, the fact that all these parts of the world, whether they be in the sub-worlds of biology, astronomy, chemistry or physics, are all to benefit mankind and to give us the best possible world in which to live. This leads us into Sha’ar Avodas Elokim, since once can say that the Chovos Halevavos’s credo is that our avodas Hashem is based on our hakaras hatov, our sense of gratitude for all that Hashem bestows upon us. The Chovos Halevavos actually bemoans the fact that “although the benefits of Hashem’s world apply to all, as everyone is a beneficiary of His kindness, as it is written (Tehillim 145: 9, more commonly known as Ashrei), “Tov Hashem lakol — Hashem is good to all”; nevertheless, most people are blind and do not see or recognize the benefits with which Hashem has endowed His world and His creations. They do not recognize that they have these benefits… and they do not appreciate their importance.” For example, have we ever given thought to just how good it is to have eyes? How important it is? How wondrous it is that our body manufactures the nutrients it needs, sending each type to its proper place, after extracting those nutrients from the food and drink we consume, which “happen” to taste good, and have all sorts of good feelings associated with them? Do we stop to think and feel grateful for all that before we make our brachah acharonah?
Rain! We start saying vesein tal umatar livracha here in Eretz Yisroel on Thursday night, the night of 7 Cheshvan. Did we ever stop to think about rain? Did we ever stop to think about water? It is not for naught that Chazal compared Torah to water. Water is the life-giving force of organic forces in the beri’ah. When scientists want to determine if a certain planet can sustain life, they look for water. When a plant “dries up,” it is the moisture that is no longer there to give life. A food’s essence, its taste, is contained in its moisture; when Chazal talk about something which has or gives off no taste, they talk about the item being yavesh k’etz, dry as a piece of wood.
And our primary source for water is rain, as the water cycle works its magic. That is why we praise Hashem for sending us this life-giving elixir in the bracha of mechayeh hameisim, because, as the Rishonim explain, rain literally performs techiyas hameisim every single time it falls; it awakens all of plant life, which is our very survival in this world.
And part of Hashem’s chessed is that it is so unpredictable! Time and time again, so-called weather-forecasters are baffled by the haphazardness of the weather-pattern of rain (there are a few perakim at the end of sefer Iyov which discuss this very point). This of course is meant as a chessed, to remind us that this is a life-giving force, sent by Hashem to benefit us. And that is why Rashi comments in Bereishis that before man was created, before there would be a being who would turn to the Almighty in acknowledgement, and declare, “The rain, it is from You!” — it did not rain! Rain is structured so that we recognize that Hashem is sending it, much as its very existence teaches us that nothing we have can actualize and survive without Hashem’s willing it so, and His sending us all the conditions necessary for its continuation.
And the rain cycle, in which it is the water on Earth which ultimately results in rain, teaches us the spiritual lesson that Hashem’s sending the life-giving force is entirely dependent, so to speak, on our actions down here on earth. In a sense, He is sending “back” to us the forces we ourselves have created.
Of course, this is an almost gross oversimplification. Like any other part or aspect of the beri’ah, it is enormously more complex. For example, there are three different ways in which air in the atmosphere is cooled, thus triggering the formation of water droplets. One way is called convectional rain, one is called frontal rain, and one is called relief rain, each with its own “cooling system.” There is so much to know and understand! Do you know why rain falls in drops and not in a stream like from your faucet? Do we know why water is the only item with the almost-bizarre feature that it has higher density as a liquid than as a solid? Does anyone know why there was such an unusual weather-defying snow storm this past Shabbos and Sunday in so much of the Northeastern United States?!
Yes, we have much to learn about rain and water, as we have much to learn about Hashem’s hashgachah and hashpa’ah.
In the meantime — keep praying!
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