Yesterday was the Jewish festival of Shmini Atzeret, the culmination of this month's festive season and the day on which Jews begin praying for rain in the Land of Israel
It was actually rather of striking that the last few days had been a searing sharav, also known as a hamsin, fiercely dry hot weather, characterised by overcast, hazy skies and hot dry winds which bring choking sand and dust in from the southern and eastern deserts. That kind of weather is enough to stir anyone to pray fervently for rain...
As I was walking to synagogue in the early morning that thick heat was still in the air. It was incredibly hot, the dusty air caught in everyone's throats, I couldn't talk or sing without breaking into a coughing fit.
By around midday though, just as the prayers for rain were about to begin a refreshing breeze began to blow and fluffy little white clouds began to drift in, replacing the smokelike stratus clouds of the sharav.
It was quite uncanny, as the prayers for rain got underway the sky clouded over more with each solemn hymn the shaliah tzibur (cantor) intoned, beseeching God for water "Cause the winds to blow and the rain to fall!"
By the time we were walking home you could almost smell the impending rain in the air. As soon as the festival ended that night my husband went and took down our sukkah.
By the early hours of the morning, when I got up to give my baby her next feed I could hear the pitter patter of rain against the windows.This morning (Sunday) we already had some puddles to splash in during a morning walk, squeezed between a medium rain shower and a massively heavy downpour, complete with thunder. On the news this evening the meteorological office announced that the yoreh, the first autumnal rains of the wet season, have officially arrived. Yippee! This is what "Singing in the Rain" was really written about.
In the language of the prayer I would like to wish all the peoples of this region a good rainy season:
For a blessing and not for a curse
For life and not for death
For sustenance and satisfaction and not for starvation and scarcity.
לברכה ולא לקללה
לחיים ולא למוות
לשובע ולא לרזון