Rain, Rain Go Away?

Too much of a good thing?

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The prayer for rain on Shemini Atzeret asks that the water be sufficient for “a blessing and not a curse.”  That phrase motivates the events of this tale.  This piece also underscores that everything and everyone is fair game in Jewish humor.

Excerpted from The Sukkot/Simhat Torah Anthology. Reprinted with permission from the Jewish Publication Society.

A severe drought wrought havoc with the crops, and unless rain fell soon, the fanners would suffer great losses. To demonstrate the efficacy of prayer, the rabbi decided to utilize the approaching festival of Shemini Atzeret, when it is customary to recite the prayer for rain. To this end, he engaged a cantor to officiate for the festival.

On Shemini Atzeret morning the rabbi preached a soul-stirring sermon on prayer. Emphasizing that God always answers prayers emanating from the heart, he urged the congregants to worship fervently for a favorable response to the prayer for rain. With deep emotion the cantor chanted the special prayer and the congregation responded in like vein. Never before was such a prayer for rain heard.

No one was therefore surprised that a heavy rain fell as the services were concluded. So abundant was the downpour, that it seemed the very heavens were emptying. Surely, the rabbi was being vindicated; their prayers were answered.

However, whatever had been left of the crops was completely destroyed by the plethora of water. Two neighbors who had left their houses in the rain to examine their ruined fields met on the road. With a deep sigh of anguish, one said to the other, "The rabbi really knows how to get answers to his prayers."

The other rejoined, "That is quite true, but he certainly doesn't know how to irrigate a field."

Philip Goodman is the author of The Rosh Hashanah Anthology (Jewish Publication Society, 1970, 1992).