מַשִּׁיב הָרֽוּחַ וּמוֹרִיד הַגֶּֽשֶׁם
Mashiv haruah u’morid hagashem
God causes the wind to blow and the rain to fall
These four Hebrew words have held more meaning for me in recent days than ever before.
Two weeks ago, on Shemini Atzeret, we began adding this phrase to the Amidah prayer. For centuries, we’ve said these words from this time of year until Pesah, when the rainy season in Israel ends. I always find the liturgical addition of this phrase to be profoundly moving—and particularly so this year. On Shemini Atzeret, October 7th, as we were sitting in the darkest of shadows and devastated by the day’s events, our tradition was quietly reminding us of an eternal truth for the Jewish people that I have never felt so deeply.
On Shemini Atzeret we put our lulavs away. The time to sit in the sukkah and say a blessing is over. Instead, there is only one ritual attached to this holiday—to recite an extended prayer for rain during the morning service. With the memory of Sukkot’s lushness vivid in our minds, and with its lessons of vulnerability still reverberating in our bodies, we beseech God for a season of rain so that the land can again produce bounty. This dramatic moment evokes the gravity of Yom Kippur: Many communities sing these prayers to melodies used on the High Holy Days; we plead for life and health; we ask that this rain be “livrakha v’lo liklalah”—for blessing and not for a curse.
The prayer concludes with the four words that will become part of the daily Amidah prayer during Israel’s rainy season, from Shemini Atzeret until Pesah—the words that have affected me so much this year: “mashiv haruah u’morid hagashem” (God causes the wind to blow and the rain to fall).
It is curious that Jews all over the world follow the tradition of reciting this phrase during these months. Like so many agricultural aspects of Judaism, the words seem relevant only to those living in Israel, whose sustenance depends on rain falling in just the right amount. Why do we say these words for half the year in the Diaspora, as well?
Because, I would argue, this prayer is not really about rain.
This prayer is about the interconnectedness of Jews everywhere to the land of Israel and to our brethren there. What one of us experiences, we all experience. When I pray for rain in Israel from a country 6,000 miles away, there is a deeper sentiment expressed in my words: My wellbeing is tied up with the wellbeing of Israel; my destiny is bound up with hers.
The horror of October 7th awakened a latent understanding of this interconnectedness, and we have been witnessing its incredible manifestation: rallies and vigils where thousands stand together as one Jewish community in solidarity with Israel. An overwhelming number of fundraisers and collection drives channeling resources to army reservists, emergency response organizations, and the kibbutzim that have suffered incomprehensible losses. A gut-wrenching sadness and worry that is propelling Jews the world over to say Tehillim (chapters of Psalms) and pray for the safety of complete strangers.
In the past two weeks, my heart has ached with deep sorrow, intense confusion, rage, despair, and fear. Despite all that, I have never felt more committed to my connection with Israel than I do now. I know so many others who feel the same; even those who have never been to Israel, or who have no personal ties there, are experiencing an anguish that I can only describe as existential. Yet I have little doubt that the coming weeks and months will test that commitment. Compassion fatigue will set in. Dreams of justice and peace in the Middle East may, understandably, evaporate. Over time it will become harder to remember the faces of the captives. Many of us will disagree, sometimes profoundly, with the choices Israel’s leaders will make–and we will quite appropriately debate the morality of war, and the morality of this war.
It may be inevitable that our commitment is tested. But it is not inevitable that it is lost.
As we move into Israel’s rainy season, I want to keep my connection to Israel strong—no matter how complicated that may be—by saying “mashiv haruah u’morid hagashem” with extra intention. And I pray that by the time Pesah arrives, and our liturgy changes once again, we will emerge from the rain into a season of rebirth and redemption—for Israel, and for all.