"Buckets of rain
Buckets of tears
Got all them buckets comin’ out of my ears
Buckets of moonbeams in my hand
I got all the love, honey baby
You can stand"
Sukkot marks the transition from summer to fall. In the land of Israel, crops are still dependent on winter rains and drought is an ever-present threat. At the end of Sukkot, on Shemini Atzeret, we recite Teffilat Geshem, the prayer for rain, and begin inserting a request for rainfall into our daily prayers.
The cries of the shofar on Rosh Hashanah and tears of our heartfelt prayers on Yom Kippur are like the sowing/weeping in verses 5-6 of Psalms 126, whereas the celebration of Sukkot ("z'man simchateinu") is like the reaping/singing at the end of those lines. During the first seven days of Sukkot, we give thanks to the Holy Blessed One for signing and sealing us in the Book of Life, for allowing us to gather in the spiritual harvest. We wave fruits and foliage (the Arba Minim consisting of etrog/citron, lulav/palm, aravot/willows and hadasim/myrtles) and circumambulate holy spaces (Hoshanot) requesting ongoing salvation. But throughout all of this intense period of elongated and embodied prayer, we do not explicitly ask for rain. In fact, during the Hoshana service, we say: "Do not do bad to the valley - sweeten the delicacies and bring salvation, to carry the clouds, to move the rains. Restrain the clouds, open the hand and satiate - satiate Your thirsty ones."
"After so many long days in synagogue," asks Alieza Salzberg Yizhar, "why couldn't we just pray for rain during the Rosh Hashanah or Yom Kippur? What change occurs over the course of Sukkot to ready us to ask for rain only on Shemini Atzeret?"
Read Yizhar's essay "Simhat Beit HaShoevah: Sukkot Rituals that Spillover" (PDF) in Connection Points, Hadar's High Holidays Reader for 5781, for an exploration of the role of water and (not) praying for it during this special time and continue below to explore the watery depths in text.
Why do you think the water-drawing ritual elicited such overflowing exuberance from every demographic in the ancient Jewish scene such that the Sages considered it the purest expression of rejoicing?
Learn nusach for Hallel, High Holidays, Shabbat and Festivals and explore hundreds of new and ancient melodies in the RSI's master classes in Jewish song led by Joey Weisenberg: bit.ly/rising-song-master-classes
What additions to this prayer might we make to honor the role of the matriarchs, female prophets and other non-male leaders/teachers from our tradition?
Great places to start:
- Miriam's song/dance by the shore of the Reed Sea and midrashim about the well that followed the Israelites around the desert in her merit
- Chana's tear-laden supplication in I Samuel 1:9-13 that is considered the archetype for personal prayer.
We'd love to hear your thoughts! Reach out to us at [email protected].
Rise sweet waters
"Forty years of searching shows one thing that’s surely true
You’ve got to find the river first, before you can cross on through
Prophets find the path but they can’t take us to the other side,
So let’s go, ourselves, don’t hide!
Rise, Rise, Rise Rise, Sweet People, let us rise..."