R. Assi pointed out a contradiction [between verses]. One verse says: And the earth brought forth grass, referring to the third day, whereas another verse when speaking of the sixth day says: No shrub of the field was yet in the earth. This teaches us that the plants commenced to grow but stopped just as they were about to break through the soil, until Adam came and prayed for rain for them; and when rain fell they sprouted forth. This teaches you that the Holy One, blessed be He, longs for the prayers of the righteous.
Talmud Chulin 60B
The holydays of the month of Tishri are the spiritual highpoint of the Jewish year. They provide spiritual intensity, personal transformation and the experience of ecstatic joy. By the time we reach Shemini Atzeret, it has become clear to us that we cannot live without inspiration: we need this higher input in our lives as surely as our lungs need air to breathe.
This is the spiritual truth behind the above midrash about Adam Rishon. We are the seeds planted in the earth of this physical plane of consciousness. We cannot grow and truly become alive until heavenly rain starts to fall to nourish our souls.
This truth does not come as an automatic realization. As the midrash points out, the earth and all of the plant life existed in potential waiting to sprout forth, but nothing could happen until humanity began to pray. Similarly, we are here on earth and have infinite potential inside us, but it cannot be fulfilled until we realize that we are more than animal creatures – until we realize that we have a soul that needs to be nourished and fed.
Once this awareness dawns upon us, then we begin to pray for rain. We begin to pray for living waters to fall from heaven to nourish the parched earth of our being/spirit. And once the rain begins to fall, a multitude of living things burst forth into our lives. We come alive with light and joy and love. We become alive with a constant stream of creativity where new ideas and creations pour forth from us into the world. And the deeper our prayer, the more abundant the heavenly down-pouring will be.
On the most profound level, the down-pouring is represented by the words of Torah that we receive – the words of wisdom and inspiration that flow from us and that we bring into the world.
Rav Kook teaches that a chidush Torah, a new Torah insight, is not just a personal intellectual flash of insight, it is the revelation of a whole world, the creation of a new heavens and a new earth. This great spiritual light that flashes in the soul, contains hidden within it, all of the radiance of the light of the supernal letters that created the world. To reveal the full light of the letters with all their vowels and taagim takes profound prayer and kavanah of the heart directed to our Father in Heaven.
The Torah itself can be understood as a tremendous downpour of heavenly rain. A spiritual monsoon that flooded into the hearts and minds of the Jewish people 3500 years ago. This downpour has watered our hearts and minds ever since that time.
On the other hand, the words given at Sinai have lost their spiritual potency in our consciousness from time to time over the millennia. We, as a people, have experienced periods of spiritual drought. But the greater miracle is that these droughts do not last for long. Soon God sends down great souls with new words of inspiration to illuminate the Torah in whole new ways – to take the ancient teachings and reveal the wisdom hidden within them in ideas and concepts that are meaningful and relevant to our time.
Each year, we pray for rain on Shemini Atzeret. Each year we receive new inspiration to guide and uplift us for the coming year.
This is the unique holiness of Simchat Torah. We dance with joy that God cares about us – that He/She has not abandoned us alone in this world – that the Eternal One reaches across the abyss of time and space to communicate with us – that we have been given the tools and the skills to be able to receive and understand His/Her words.
We have been given the gift of seeking and searching. We have been given the blessing of discontent with superficial existence and material living. We have been forced by the character of life in this world and the yearnings of our soul to seek out answers to life’s mysteries and challenges. We have been given the joy of yearning for the heavenly rain.
This year, let us pray for rain with the profound longing of Adam Rishon. Let us dance holding on to the Torah with living faith and transcendent bliss. Let us celebrate our extra day in the presence of the Sovereign of Sovereigns, exclaiming that God is real and life has a higher purpose and meaning.
copyright © 2014, by Yoel Glick