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Thursday, January 29, 2009

The Rain Drain

I am writing this on Rosh Chodesh of the month of Shevat. "Jewish Arbor Day" is coming up in 15 days and I am dreading it and wishing that someone would stick in a leap-month of some kind. When I see the beautiful white flowering of the almond tree I am sickened.

Why? Because I know that no rain has fallen. January has been the driest one on record in Israel. The Lake Kineret water supply is so low that ecological damage has set in. The summer is going to come very soon and it will dry up the rest of our precious water supply. The country is on the verge of dehydration and I just wish that winter had another month to do its thing - but to no avail.

All the commentators explain that we are in a drought. Low pressure this, high pressure that. But why is there no rain? No commentator has an answer. It's a fluke; it's nature; it's bad luck...

Judaism has always believed that rain, or lack of it, is under the direct supervision of G-d, and He doles it out in accordance with our behavior. If we are good, we are wet. If we are bad, we dry up. It's a simple, effective and direct causal relationship. It's also very kind, because it's a barometer of how we are doing as a nation. A period of drought is a period of self-reflection, prayer and repentance.

I am not G-d, but I figure He wants me to think about some reasons why there is a drought. It's like when a parent sends you to your room and says, "Think about what you did."

So here is some self-reflection:

Maybe the rain isn't coming because of Gilad Shalit and Jonathan Pollard.

In the last few weeks they were both on the verge of freedom, but they were denied that basic human right. Gilad Shalit has been held captive in Gaza for almost three years. During Operation Cast Lead, Gilad probably heard Israeli bombs landing hits on Hamas targets close by to him. He probably thought, "They are finally coming for me." Maybe he even though that this whole war was started just to bring him home. Alas, the war has ended, but our pain remains. Gilad is not home yet; instead, he is in the brutal hands of our haters. Why did our beloved country stop the war prematurely without bringing him back?

Jonathan Pollard may have also thought that his day of release had arrived. He has been rotting for 22 years in prison for the crime of passing vital information to Israel from a friend. In George Bush's final moments in office, Jewish activists pulled every political string to get a last-minute pardon from the President. Days before Bush's presidency came to a close, the White House actually suspended the comment line - they shut it down - so they wouldn't have to hear any more of the numerous calls begging for Jonathan's release. But while Pollard activists were doing their part, the political echelon never mentioned Jonathan, and we never heard that the State of Israel brought pressure to bear on America.

The redeeming of captives is one of Judaism's greatest commands. It speaks of everything we hold so dear, including, "Love thy neighbor as thyself." If we can't get them released, why would the clouds release their precious blessings on us?

Or maybe the rain isn't falling because of Israel's Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court ruled against the Jewish National Fund's policy of selling land only to Jews. Yet the JNF collected that money from Jews throughout the world with the express purpose of buying property in the Land of Israel for Jews. How could that foundational Zionist activity be made illegal?

Recently, the Supreme Court ruled that the State can evict Jews from a building that was purchased in Hebron from Arabs. Yet the Jewish community had every proof that the house was legally bought, including video tapes of the seller admitting the sale and the receipt of money in return. Now, that house stands empty and boarded-off after an army eviction. How can legal purchases be overturned so arbitrarily?

Even more recently, the Supreme Court overturned a bi-partisan Election Committee decision to ban anti-Israel Arab parties from running in the upcoming election. The Knesset Election Committee felt that blatantly disloyal parties should not be allowed to run. But the Supreme Court, asserting itself in Israeli politics, overruled the committee and allowed those parties to run even though they openly support the destruction of Israel.

G-d in Heaven hates injustice, but it seems that the highest law in our land has no law at all. Their anti-Israel bent coupled with their immense power, untamed by any checks and balances, makes the Supreme Court the most dangerous entity in Israel today. How can we expect the Heavenly Court to judge us favorably when our own court has no regard for truth?

Or maybe the rain isn't falling because we waste the water we are given.

If you went to a venture capitalist and asked for a million dollars for a project, you would not be surprised if you got only a part of that money with the rest of the cash contingent on how you use the seed money first. Rain from heaven is the same. G-d says to us: "Here is just a bit of rain, and if I see you use it wisely, I will send down some more."

In many dry countries, like Australia, water capture technology is widespread. Roofs collect rain and siphon the water into big storage buckets. That water is later used for gardening or for toilet. Dish water and shower water is routinely recycled into the gardens in many countries. Israel should be a leader in this kind of technology, pioneering better ways to capture and utilize every drop of rain. But it is not. Most of the water that goes to the gutter on a rainy day gets dumped out into the desert with no practical usage. It simply gets wasted.

Now why would G-d send us more rain when we waste His gifts? Why would He give us blessing when we tolerate injustice? Why would He give us a hug when we forget to hug those who need us most?

Think of the drought as a gift, as a personal wake-up call to the nation. We can wake up. We must wake up. Or maybe instead we should just go back to our dry sleep. You know, dust to dust. Low pressure this, high pressure that. It's a fluke; it's nature; it's just bad luck.


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  • At 6:57 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Financial troubles at INR?
    Dear Yishai, as a loyal listener and watcher of israel national news I cannot help but notice a disturbing trend in the quality of programming your are providing. First of all the jerusalem conference--why are there no videos available of the conference? It seems the only way to catch a glimpse of them is to log on during the time that they are broadcast live and even then the coverage had been inconsistent at best. Furthermore, the radio coverage, your decision to broadcast three times twice a week instead of three times a week has really decreased the quality of your program. This was felt most keenly during the last war where the information you discussed on your show was already out-dated. Also, why is Alex Traiman no longer broadcasting? what about nicole monk? she was one of the most well-spoken and erudite reporters on INR tv. how about giving her her own show?

  • At 9:08 PM , Blogger Kae Gregory said...

    I don't really know from broadcast quality but I'm pretty much in your camp with what your saying in the post. Good one.

  • At 9:31 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...


    Well stated. The "Key to Rain" is ultimately in the hands of all Jews. By our prayers and showing love for our Brothers & Sisters.

    When we fear HaShem alone, and remove from our hearts the hate of Jews - the rain will come, regardless of time of season.

    Remember the Wilderness?

    Then, even our enemies will dry up like dust and we shall trample them - only when HaShem is the only ONE.


  • At 11:24 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...


    This is a very noble work, a cheshbon nefesh leumi, why the rain won't fall. Your pain is my pain. I feel it deeply. If I had any guts, sack cloth and ashes would be my street wear. Maybe the rain won't fall because we lack this courage to be the Jews that we should be.

    Since you did such a good job of depressing the hell out of me, I thought I'd pay you back with a bit of genuine optimism.

    Here's what I've pieced together: We the Jews are more Torah observant today than we were 30-60 years ago. Was there a rain shortage 30-60 years ago? Perhaps back then Hashem gave us much more slack seeing that nation building was such an all consuming task, one which religious sector did not lead by any stretch of the imagination. Perhaps now it's time for Hashem to say, you're more grown up now, you should know better, I am giving you this punishment because you should now understand what this punishment means. Perhaps this is a sign that we are maturing as a people and that we are ready for Hashem's involvement in a more intimate level. Perhaps we as a people are rising to the level where Hashem will actually tell us when we are wrong because he thinks that now we are mature enough to understand his chastisements.

    I hope so. And if so, I hope that we will continue to mature to where we can accept Hashem's rebuking and take the next step and repent and walk his ways.

    I can't invest in water catching technology, I can't free Polard and Shalit, I can't change the verdicts of the Supreme Court. But I can use the lack of rain as a huge wake up call to become a much better Jew than I am today.

    Keep up the good work Yishai. Keep plugging away. You are going to hit the jackpot one day.


  • At 9:21 PM , Blogger Amos said...

    Last night, in our little AnaBaptist church in South Carolina, the men and boys came forward to kneel and ask Hashem to send rain to Israel.


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