Thursday, April 9, 2015

Passover, Rains and Miracles

The holiday of Passover brings with it many changes. There is of course the grand Seder meals. We eat matzah rather than bread for eight days (and some seven). We adjust our routines of where we eat out. There is a different air surrounding our kitchens and dining room tables. The week stands apart.

In the prayer service as well we make some adjustments. At Pesah we stop reciting: “You cause the wind to blow and the rain to fall.” This line is added to the second paragraph of the Amidah in which we extol God’s power and might. We add this prayer for rain beginning in the fall with the holiday of Sukkot. Why recite a prayer for rain during the winter months?

It is because in the land of Israel the rainy season begins around Sukkot and concludes around Pesah. Many of our prayers continue to focus on Jerusalem and Israel. Even though we do not live in Israel our prayers direct our hearts toward there. Our dreams, and the prayers that give life to these dreams, are wrapped up in that place. Even though our winters are filled with snow (and this past winter far too much snow) we still pray for the life giving rains our holy land desperately requires.

This additional prayer teaches us two things. 1. No matter where we live the Jewish soul reaches out to touch the land of Israel. This is why I continue to observe eight days of Pesah. The additional eighth day is only added for those who live outside the land, for those like ourselves who live in the diaspora. With the advent of computers there is no confusion about the calendar and no delay in the message broadcast from Jerusalem that the holiday begins, eight days remind us that as much as I love my home and this extraordinary country in which I live, every place, every land, every synagogue, every home, is but a fraction of the Jewish ideal found in eretz yisrael.

And 2. We only pray for what is likely to occur. Let me explain. We do not pray for rain during the dry, summer months when if you ever visited Jerusalem during these months you would know that even the air is devoid of humidity. Instead we pray for rain only when we expect it to rain. This is an important lesson about prayer. We do not pray for miracles. Even though our prayers describe an all-powerful God that we believe is capable of anything and everything we do not ask God to exert these powers.

Instead we pray that the world, and nature, might follow its established patterns. In a sense our prayer is: God, please keep this beautiful earth that You created harmonious. Let there be shalom, peace and wholeness. Let me discover evidence of Your hand when the expected rains fall, the flowers’ buds emerge and the grass returns to green.

When nature is again restored, when it rains when it is supposed to rain my prayers are affirmed and my faith is fortified.

During the holiday of Sukkot, when we peer through the flimsy roofs of our temporary booths and see the full harvest moon, we do not add the prayer for rain. We wait until we go inside from our sukkot that we add this prayer. Even though the rainy season begins with this holiday we delay our prayers so that our joy might not be diminished and our holiday will not become ruined.

And then when the stars are not obscured by rain we discover one small miracle. When we leave our Seders and see again that full moon, we discover miracles in the sky. The world remains ordered. Our holidays continue to brighten our year.

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