Rain as a Blessing

Ecological balance and our prayer for rain.

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(Note that the link between ocean temperature and hurricane intensity is still a matter of scientific debate. Supporting the point made are Mann, M. E., and K. A. Emanuel, 2006: "Atlantic hurricane trends linked to climate change," EOS, 87, 233-244. They state that “Anthropogenic [human-caused] factors are likely responsible for long-term trends in tropical Atlantic warmth and tropical cyclone activity.” Also see forthcoming article in Journal of Risk Analysis by Ken Bogen of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, and  Webster et al,  "Changes in Tropical Cyclone Number, Duration, and Intensity in a Warming Environment," 9-16-05, Science.

Here too it is a bit hypocritical to pray for rain and then alter our own global climate and sea temperatures so that hurricanes become more intense. We say, "God, please bring us rain," and God does, by sending a moderate tropical storm towards Florida or China, which gains great intensity possibly due to warmer waters, and ends up tearing apart the crops and homes we wanted it to help.

Climate change may alter rain patterns in other ways, too. Global climate models project that climate change may increase precipitation by seven to fifteen percent at high latitudes, causing stronger and potentially more destructive storms in those areas. Climate change may decrease precipitation at mid- and low-altitudes, contributing to more severe regional droughts. ("Drought and Climate Change," 2006, National Drought Mitigation Center.)

Helpful Tips on Water Use

There are a number of steps we can take so as not to thwart God's blessing of rain. First, when God provides us with water, we can try to use it wisely. Rabbi Shmuel Simenowitz gives a number of helpful tips in his piece on water use and Jewish sources:

-Consider switching to a low flow toilet, which alone can save several thousand gallons of water annually.

-When doing dishes by hand, try not to use the faucet (or the sprayer) as a power washer--use the sponge to do this.

-Consider filling the sink or a dishtub with water, washing the dishes and then gently rinsing them off.

-Look into low flow shower heads, and think about taking shorter showers.

Second, if you are planning to build a house with a driveway, try using pervious concrete instead of regular concrete. The former allows rainwater to seep into the ground, instead of running off into drainage ditches and then the ocean. Third, we can be mindful of the ways we use energy, so as not to contribute unnecessarily to climate change and thus not impact the rains.

One of the challenges of living a Torah life is being consistent. Hence Moses commands the Jewish people to "Be wholehearted with the Lord, your God" (Deuteronomy: 18:13). The Ramban understands this to be a positive commandment, one of the 613 mitzvot. Rav Shimshon Rafael Hirsch comments on this verse that: "We must not detach ourselves from God with even the smallest fiber of our lives; we must be with God in our entirety." Praying for beneficial rain and then changing the climate is like praying for good health and then eating junk food, or like praying for a train to arrive and then derailing the tracks. We are essentially acting against our own best interests. So, pray intensely for rain, and try to do your utmost to ensure that if God blesses us with good rain, it can reach the soil and plants that need it, gently and in the right quantities.

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Jonathan Neril

Jonathan Neril is the project manager of the Jewish Environmental Parsha Initiative. He is a rabbinical student in his fourth year of Jewish learning in Israel. He received an MA and BA at Stanford with a focus on global environmental issues.