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Prayers for Rain

The holidays are over. Reluctantly, the pilgrims to Jerusalem pack their bags and journey back to their homes. They take with them enough spiritual inspiration to last for six months, until the next pilgrimage, the Passover holiday.

During the holiday of Sukkot we begin to pray for rain. However, in Israel, the prayer for rain in our daily prayers, “Mashiv haruach u’morid hageshem,” is not recited until the 7th of Marcheshvan. The reason for this is that we do not want the rains to fall until all the travelers have arrived safely back in their homes.

***

The Torah portion of Lech Lecha is always read the same week as the 7th of Cheshvan. At first glance they have opposite themes – the travelers are returning home from Jerusalem, while Abraham heeded G-d’s call to leave his home, his birthplace, to go to the land of Israel. They are on their way back home, while Abraham is on his way forward, on a new spiritual mission.

During their week in Jerusalem, the travelers basked in G-d’s presence. They saw G-dliness revealed; they witnessed open miracles. But all this was for their own spiritual benefit. True, it was a sublime, refined pleasure, but a personal pleasure nevertheless. Each traveler to Jerusalem benefited personally from the experience – it was his pleasure alone.

When each person returned home, he was no longer able to occupy himself exclusively with prayer and Torah study. It was time to go back to the workaday world – to run his business, cultivate his land, or do whatever else his livelihood entailed. However, it is precisely through engaging in these physical acts that we fulfill the divine desire to have a “dwelling place below” – right here in the lowliest world, most removed from G-dliness.

The 7th of Cheshvan, the day by which all travelers had returned from Jerusalem to their homes, appears on its face to be a day of descent. In reality it is an ascent, because only through returning home could they truly commence their mission to make this world into a dwelling place for the Divine.

When our forefather Abraham reached the Land of Israel, he began to spread his message of monotheism to all people of the world, as G-d had commanded him. Actually, he had begun to teach people about the One G-d even before he entered Israel, but in a much more limited way. In the Land of Israel he began in earnest to disseminate the name of G-d.

The portion of Lech Lecha is read during the same week as the 7th of Cheshvan, to teach us that leaving Jerusalem, returning home to our daily affairs, is not a descent but an elevation – because this is the mission that G-d gave us.

Although we may still be in exile, this condition does not cause us to fall into despair, G-d forbid. The reverse is true – only through our stay in exile can we reach the greatest elevation, to carry out G-d’s plan to make the world His dwelling place, below.
 

 


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