In his parting words in parshat Ha’azinu, Moshe urges Bnei Yisrael to appreciate God’s Torah through a poetic metaphor: “May my discourse come down as the rain (מטר), My speech distill as the dew, Like showers on young growth, Like droplets on the grass.” What is the symbolism of the Torah being likened to rainwater?
The midrash Sifre interprets: “Just as rain is life for the world, so too, words of Torah.” This refers to matar, good rain, also known as “rains of bracha.” Rain, like Torah, connects the earthly and the heavenly, the physical and the spiritual. It comes down from the heavens and provides sustenance, life and growth on earth. Rashi adds another dimension to this idea in his interpretation of Bereshit. God did not bring down rain until there was someone to be “makir tov,” to appreciate and pray for rain. Rain reminds us to be cognizant of good things and to express appreciation for them. So too, Moshe wants the Jewish people to appreciate the Torah.
Rainwater and hakarat ha-tov are central themes during Sukkot as well. While dwelling in a temporary sukkah, we are reminded to be cognizant of what we have. Also, the mishna (Rosh Hashanah) teaches: “On the chag (sukkot) we are judged regarding the water.” Our actions and prayers directly influence the amount of rain received each year. In Temple times there were water libations (ניסוך המים) on Sukkot in prayer that the world “be blessed with water.” Just after sukkot we begin saying the tefilla for matar and “rains of bracha.”
By taking time on Sukkot to recognize the goodness of rain, Torah and other things, we hope and pray that this year brachot rain down on us and the world. Shabbat Shalom and Chag Sameach! -Karen Miller Jackson