News from the Holy-land is that the State of Israel is experiencing an unusually dry rainy season. And while it’s not quite time to panic, should this desert country not receive enough rainfall this winter the people and the government of the Jewish State will certainly have no choice but to carefully manage their limited water resources during the dry months to come.
The two Chief Rabbis of Israel Yitzhak Yosef and David Lau have called on Israelis to recite special prayers for rain and to participate in a prayer-rally or sorts at Judaism’s holiest site, the Western Wall, this Thursday.
I know many will accuse me of being a hypocrite or a closet atheist for saying this, but as someone who in does believe in and celebrates God’s love and blessings everyday through tefiliah, prayer, and who enjoys the many rituals and traditions of Judaism, I find myself troubled by the notion that the right incantations of words can somehow manipulate or appease God into performing magic.
The God who the Torah tells us appeared onto Moshe (Moses), could only be described with adjectives that described the attributes of the Divine Being:
“The Lord! The Lord! God, Compassionate and Gracious, Slow to anger and Abundant in Kindness and Truth, Preserver of kindness for thousands of generations, Forgiver of iniquity, willful sin, and error, and Who Cleanses (but does not cleanse completely, recalling the iniquity of parents upon children and grandchildren, to the third and fourth generations)” (Exodus 34:6-7).
In this remarkable scene in which the Divine Being is unveiled to Israel’s greatest prophet, nothing is said to suggest that the God of Israel is some all-powerful wizard in the sky who performs magic upon request. The laws of nature as authored by the Creator, are not subject to Yossie in Beth Shemesh, or Channi in Bnei Brak reciting Tehilim (Psalms). Honestly, would God withhold rain to punish millions of innocent people? Do you really believe that the same God who demands that we ourselves be forgiving, loving and charitable would withhold life-sustaining rain pending the recitation of specific words from sacred texts?
When Moshe turned to God at the Sea of Reeds to save the Children of Israel from the charging Egyptian chariots God responded: “Why do you cry out to me? Go FORWARD!” (14:15-16)
If I were asked for evidence of God’s existence in our world, I would have to respond that everything that is going right is the world is proof of God’s existence. Yes, plenty is going wrong but to look for God in the micro or the macro lens of the human experience is to recognize an enduring, loving vitality that makes order out of chaos and makes it possible for us to experience fleeting moments of love, awe and wonder that give our lives meaning and purpose. Our ancestors in Biblical times surely recognized the wondrous order of history and the human experience and expressed their understanding and appreciation for the Eternal Power that guides humanity with embellished narratives and legends.
If there’s a drought in Israel, I believe God wants the people of the Promised Land to appropriately respond utilizing their God-given wisdom, talents and skills which are renown the world over. I’ll be the last person to deny the spiritual value of prayer. That said, if there is a drought in the coming months in Israel, I pray the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah will give the people of Israel the same wisdom the Creator afforded to Joseph, son of Jacob, who had the character and wisdom to sustain the nation of Egypt during a dreadful 7 year period of famine and drought. (Genesis, 41)
Don’t kvetch my Israeli brothers or sisters, GO FORWARD!