I have been invited to an event or celebration called "Blessing of the Rains in the Autumn". I am trying to
find out what this means and what would be expected of in way of gifts, etc.
Thank you for your help in this matter.
Gerald Erickson, Kingsburg USA
I cannot guarantee that this is the subject of the party to which you were invited (if such parties are Jewish events, I am not familiar with them), but the Talmud does make mention of some blessings, or praises, that are recited upon the first rains of the winter. (In Israel, there is no rain throughout the summer, and the first rains are harbingers of growth and blessing.)
I am including some of our notes on the subject for your benefit. Please let us know if you found them helpful.
(a) One recites the Tefilah of 'Modim Anachnu Lach' etc. - when 'the Chasan goes to greet the Kalah' (i.e. when so much rain has fallen that the drops of water in the pool that has already collected, rise to meet the drops that are falling).
(b) The Berachah ends - 'Baruch ... Rov ha'Hoda'os ve'(ha)'Keil ha'Hoda'os'.
(c) Someone who hears about the rain, but does not actually see it - recites 'ha'Tov va'ha'Meitiv, and not 'Modim' etc. The Gemara then states that when it rains heavily, one recites 'ha'Tov ve'ha'Meitiv (even if he does not possess land). The second contention for reciting 'ha'Tov ve'ha'Meitiv is - that it must both rain heavily and that one must also own land before one recites 'ha'Tov ve'ha'Meitiv'.
BLESSING UPON RAIN
(a) (R. Avahu) We bless on the rain from when the Chasan goes
to meet the Kalah (the raindrops hit the rebounding
(b) Question: Which Berachah do we say?
(c) Answer (R. Yehudah citing Rav): "We thank you, Hash-m our
G-d, for each drop that You cause to descend."
(d) (R. Yochanan) Conclude: "If our mouths were as full of
song..." until "Blessed is the One of Rov ("many" or
1. Question: Only "most" and not all?
2. Answer (Rava): Say, "G-d of acknowledgments."
3. (R. Papa) Say both.
Insights for Ta'anis 6
1) RAIN IS THE HUSBAND OF THE EARTH
AGADAH: The Gemara says that the first rain of the season is called "Revi'ah" because it impregnates (Rove'a) the land, as reflected by the expression, "Rain is the husband of the earth." This metaphor has a number of profound implications.
(a) The Gemara earlier (2a) mentioned the three "keys" which Hash-m holds and does not give to any Shali'ach -- the key to rain, the key to birth, and the key to Techiyas ha'Mesim. From the perspective of our Gemara that "rain is the husband of the earth," we can see that rain is the key to all of the unique keys mentioned in the Gemara earlier. Rain has in it an element of each of the unique items that are not given to a Shali'ach. In addition to being the source of Parnasah, sustenance, for the world, Rain brings forth life (like a husband and a wife, as our Gemara says). Rainfall is also compared to Techiyas ha'Mesim (7a), for two reasons. In a practical sense, a poor person is like a Mes (Nedarim 64b), and when the rain causes his produce to grow it brings the poor person back to life (Rashi, 7a). Moreover, the verse (Tehilim 68:10) says that Hash-m brings to life the dead a rainfall. As such, it is appropriate to call rain, "Gevuros Geshamim," in the plural ("Gevuros" instead of "Gevuras), because rain includes elements of all of the acts which demonstrate the power of Hash-m.
(b) The VILNA GA'ON (Peninim mi'Shulchan ha'Gra, Parshas Shemini) mentions that there are two ways that Hash-m makes the earth give birth. One is through rain -- when the rain comes down it impregnates the earth, so to speak, causing the earth to bear its produce. The other way that Hash-m makes the earth give birth is through Techiyas ha'Mesim, as the verse (Tehilim 72:16) says that the people that come to life will "sprout from the city like the grass of the land." In both cases, the rain comes first and then the earth gives birth. However, when, in the natural world, Hash-m sends rain to cause plants to grow, the expression of Hash-m's Rachamim is the sending of the rain which causes the produce to come forth. (The rain comes for the sake of sending rain; whether it will make the plants grow or not is another question.) In the case of Techiyas ha'Mesim, Hash-m's Rachamim is expressed by bringing people back to life, which Hash-m brings about through rain. It is first Hash-m's will to bring people back to life, and in order to do that He brings the rain that will revive them. Sustenance is "born" from the rain above, while Techiyas ha'Mesim comes from the earth below.
We may add that these two types of "giving birth" represent Ge'ulah in this world, and the Ge'ulah of the World to Come. TOSFOS in Pesachim (116b) quotes the Midrash that says that in this world, when we experience a Ge'ulah, we sing to Hash-m a "Shirah Chadashah," a "new song," in the feminine form. In the future, when the complete and final Ge'ulah will occur, we will sing to Hash-m a "Shir Chadash," in the masculine form. The Gemara in Berachos (60a) says that when the man is aroused first, the child born of the union is a girl, and when the woman is aroused first, the child born of the union is a boy. In this world, the rains, representing the man's side, come first. Since the birth begins with the "husband" of the earth, the resultant Ge'ulah is that of a feminine attribute, and that is why we sing a "Shirah Chadashah." In the future, though, when Hash-m will cause "mother earth" to be aroused first and to give life to those buried within it, the resultant Ge'ulah will have a masculine attribute, and thus the world will sing a "Shir Chadash."
(c) The Vilna Ga'on points out that there is an impure bird which is called, in Parshas Shemini, the "Racham" (Vayikra 11:18), while in Parshas Re'eh it is called the "Rachamah" (Devarim 14:17). the Vilna Gaon (ibid.) explains why it has two names.
The Gemara in Chulin (63a) says that it is called "Racham" because it is able to indicate that "Rachamim" is coming to the world (that Hash-m is going to send rain -- Rashi). If the bird perches on top of something and shrieks, then there will be rain. The Gemara says that we have a tradition that if this bird would perch itself on the ground and shriek, then that would be a sign that Mashi'ach is coming.
The Vilna Ga'on says that the Racham's shriek alludes to a birth that will take place. (Birth is accompanied by shrieks, and the name "Racham" is related to the word "Rechem," womb.) There are two types of births: if the bird is perched upon something above the ground, it is a sign of a birth that will start from above -- from the rain. If it is perched upon the ground, then it is a sign of a birth that will start from the earth -- the coming of Mashi'ach and Techiyas ha'Mesim.
When it is a sign of rain it is called Racham, without the letter "Heh," indicating that the impending Ge'ulah is one originated by the "male," referring to the husband of the earth, the rain. "Racham" has a Gematriya of 248, which is the number of limbs in the body of the human male (Ohalos 1:7). In contrast, when the bird sits on the ground and shrieks, it is called "Rachamah," with the letter "Heh"(a feminine suffix), because that indicates that the earth, the feminine aspect, is being aroused first to bring forth Techiyas ha'Mesim. Furthermore, the Gematriya of "Rachamah" is 253, which represents the female body, which has five more parts than the male body (Bechoros 45a, according to Rebbi Akiva).
2) BLESSING THE "HOD'AOS"
OPINIONS: The Gemara says that when the rains come, we say a prayer thanking Hash-m for every single drop. At the end of the prayer, says Rebbi Yochanan, we say "Baruch Rov ha'Hoda'os." The Gemara asks that this praise is actually derogatory, because it implies that Hash-m is deserving of "Rov ha'Hoda'os" -- most of the praises of gratitude -- but not all of them. Rava answers that we say instead, "Baruch Kel ha'Hoda'os" -- "Blessed is the G-d [who is deserving of all] of the praises of thanksgiving." Rav Papa says that we should therefore say both, "Baruch Kel ha'Hoda'os v'Rov ha'Hoda'os" (see next Insight).
What do we mean when we say, "Baruch Rov ha'Hoda'os?" Translated literally, the words mean, "Blessed are most (or many) thanksgivings," which has no meaning.
(a) RASHI says that "Baruch Rov ha'Hoda'os" means the same thing as "Baruch b'Rov ha'Hoda'os" -- "Blessed [is Hash-m] with [many] praises of thanksgiving."
(b) The RAMBAM (Hilchos Berachos 10:5) has a different Girsa in the statement of Rav Papa. Rav Papa does not say that we should say, "Baruch Kel ha'Hoda'os v'Rov ha'Hoda'os." Rather, Rav Papa says that we should say, "Baruch Kel Rov ha'Hoda'os" -- "Rov ha'Hoda'os" is an adjective describing "Kel," Hash-m, Who is the G-d of many thanksgivings.
But what about Rebbi Yochanan's original suggestion of "Baruch Rov ha'Hoda'os" -- what did that mean? The RAMBAN (Milchamos, Berachos 59b) explains that "Rov ha'Hoda'os" can be descriptive of Hash-m even without the word "Kel" before it, as in the descriptive phrase, "Rov Onim v'Amitz Ko'ach" (Yeshayah 40:26). It means, "Blessed is Hash-m, the One of many blessings."
3) RAV PAPA'S COMPROMISE
QUESTION: The Gemara says that when the rains come, we say a prayer thanking Hash-m for every single drop. At the end of the prayer, we say "Baruch Rov ha'Hoda'os." The Gemara asks that this praise is actually derogatory, because it implies that Hash-m is deserving of "Rov ha'Hoda'os" -- most of the praises of gratitude -- but not all of them. Rava answers that we say instead, "Baruch Kel ha'Hoda'os" -- "Blessed is the G-d [who is deserving of all] of the praises of thanksgiving." Rav Papa concludes, "Therefore, we say both phrases, "Baruch Kel ha'Hoda'os Rov ha'Hoda'os."
Why do we say both, if the Gemara just explained that it is improper to say "Rov ha'Hoda'os?"
(a) RASHI and the RAMBAN (Milchamos, Berachos 59b) explains that when the phrase "Rov ha'Hoda'os" accompanies the phrase "Kel ha'Hoda'os," then it has the connotation of "many." Without the phrase "Kel," the connotation is "most" Hoda'os, which implies that He is not deserving of all of them. Since "Kel ha'Hoda'os" already implies that Hash-m is deserving of all blessings ("Kel" means the all-powerful G-d), it is clear that the following phrase, "Rov ha'Hoda'os," also has the same meaning. (This is especially true according to the Rambam, in the previous Insights, who asserted that the we combine the two phrases into a single statement, "Baruch Kel Rov ha'Hoda'os.")
The Ramban adds that the reason we mention "Rov ha'Hoda'os," praising Hash-m as the G-d of many praises of thanksgiving, is because we are thanking Hash-m for each and every drop of rain (as the prayer begins), and thus we mention the "many" praises of thanksgiving that He deserves for the many droplets of rain.
The RAMBAM (Hilchos Berachos 10:5; see previous Insight) explains that "Rov ha'Hoda'os" is understood to be an adjective when said together with "Kel ha'Hoda'os."
(b) The BA'AL HA'ME'OR (Berachos 59b) has a different text of the Gemara. His text does not say that we recite both "Kel ha'Hoda'os" and "Rov ha'Hoda'os." Rather, when Rav Papa says that "we recite both," he is referring to the two prayers of "Modim Anachnu Lach" and "Ilu Finu Malei Shirah."