• Home
  • Parashah
  • Ask the Rabbi
  • Festivals
  • Freemasonry
  • Articles
  • About
  • Books
  • Media

    Praying for rain in Australia

    Mishnah Rosh HaShanah 1:2 says there are four seasons when the world is judged.

    On Sukkot it is in respect of water. It is determined then whether mankind deserves ample rain during the winter season. This determination is in regard to Eretz Yisra’el.

    At the end of Sukkot in Temple times people were getting ready to leave Jerusalem and make their way home. If assured of rain in the winter, their year’s agriculture would be blessed. Hence Sh’mini Atzeret was and is marked by prayers for rain.

    In Australia there was a time when a leading rabbi (Francis Lyon Cohen of the Great Synagogue, Sydney) took it upon himself to change over the prayers for rain and dew to fit the southern hemisphere seasons.

    He ordained that the prayer for rain should be said on Pesach as the prelude to the southern autumn and winter, and the prayer for dew on Sh’mini Atzeret to mark the approaching southern spring and summer.

    It is uncertain how long the Cohen innovation lasted; it probably vanished after Rabbi Cohen died in 1934.

    Regardless of Rabbi Cohen, however, Jewish tradition has always linked the weather with the liturgy. The notion was that when the earth functions normally it is evidence of the Creator.

    Is there an argument in favour of the Cohen position? The answer must be that the prayers for dew and rain are focused on Eretz Yisra’el. It is good for there to be rain in Australia, but from the spiritual point of view it is more important to have rain in Israel.

    Rabbi Dr SM Lehrman wrote that the prayers for dew and rain when said at their traditional time “linked the scattered fragments of the House of Israel into one corporate people”.

    Comments are closed.