Rain in its season
As many of you know, the month of January typically finds me in the middle east guiding group(s) of students and pilgrims. I confess that I have never much minded leaving behind the snows and frigid temperatures of my New York residence this time of year for a more tolerable climate here. That said, I certainly do not suggest that Jerusalem doesn’t know its share of “winter” weather. In fact, rainy conditions in December through February are eagerly anticipated and, as essential to the agribusiness here, even prayed for earnestly. After them comes six long months of dryness. But therein lies a personal dilemma for me. Do I support the economy with my prayers that God will send “the tears of heaven” and a strong season of winter rains on the land? Or do I give into my own desires that the rainy, windy days of January will be limited until the activities of my groups have been accomplished without impediment from the weather?
A few nights ago I flew into Tel Aviv from New York. Just before landing, I rose to stretch my legs and in time found myself standing next to an haredi Jewish gentleman facing eastward offering his morning prayers. I stood close enough to him to notice that he prayed a traditional winter liturgy for rain. The prayer was for abundant rain, but not so much that its blessing would become a curse upon life. Later, we stood in line together waiting to be checked through passport control at Ben Gurion Airport. There I confessed to him my intrusion on his spiritual exercises. He asked if I understood his prayer. I told him I did and that his prayer spoke directly to my winter dilemma of realizing that the land is desperate for rain and the life that it brings but hoping that it might be limited for my personal convenience. We laughed. But the truth of the prayer is powerful. Too much of a good thing can be damaging.
For the people of the middle east, water is life. But there can be too much of it, as flash floods this time of year give testimony. And then it becomes a threat. In our part of the world, we have immediate access to most everything we consider essential for life, the stuff that gives us pleasure and makes life comfortable. Things so easily gotten that we come to expect them and imagine that we cannot live without them. Then the blessing becomes a curse. Sadly, even our Christmas season has not proven immune from the infection of the immediate and abundant. The prayer of the season for rain encourages us to seek for ourselves and for one another what we need. And that God in His wisdom and timing bring it in limited supply upon us all.