Here comes the rain

Year-round, right at the beginning of the Amidah prayer, there is a very brief interruption. After invoking the names of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs (Abraham, Sarah, and the rest of the gang), and just as we start to talk about how great, amazing, wonderful (etc) God is, we insert a line that thanks God for either bringing the dew (in spring and summer) or for causing the rain to fall and winds to blow (during the autumn and winter months).

While this is nothing new, it is new to me. And this past weekend marked the first time I heard the change from dew to  rain and recognized it for what it was.

It was one small change during a series of weeks where there seemed to be almost constant change. My prayer routing has been bombarded by special Torah readings, special psalms to say daily, along with rituals unique to Rosh Hashanah, Kol Nidre, Yom Kippur, Sukkot, Shemini Atzaret and Simchat Torah – not to mention a very active section of what David Bader had the genius to dub “The Yo-Yo Diet Guide to the Jewish Holidays“.

As I heard the blessing – “mashiv haruach umorid hageshem, Who makes the wind blow and makes the rain descend” – I felt, against all logic, that this was it. No more dew. No more summer sunshine. Never mind that it had already been raining in my midwest town for about a week, or that I had built the sukkah and cut branches for it while soaked to the bone. No, this was the moment when the rain started. I didn’t exactly feel thankful. I felt a little hopeless.

Later, as I took down the sukkah (in a light drizzle), my grumpiness only increased. The cold and rain had meant that we spent precious little time in it this year, and now the moment had passed. Unlike my Christian friends who can keep the tree up for a few weeks and try to keep the holiday spirit alive, once Sukkot is over all you have is a funky lean-to in your back yard that your neighbor eyes with increasing disdain as he calculates how many days before he can sic the homeowner’s association on you.

Each morning, as I stumble through the Amidah in a morning habit that I am not performing habitually enough yet to actually improve, I continue to thank God for bringing the rain. I’ve come to believe that the point (for me at least) may be to give thanks even when I don’t feel particularly thankful. I think it might mimic, in it’s own small way, a lesson derived from the mourner’s kaddish, which we say at the moment of keenest sorrow but which says nothing of death or heaven, and exceptionally little about consolation, but instead praises and thanks God for the world around us. In both, we may be asked to focus on what we have rather than what we have lost, and to remember that, in the words of another special reading for this time of year:

Everything has an appointed season, and there is a time for every matter under the heaven.

It’s been raining for about two weeks now, with snow forecast by the end of the weekend. I’ve switched to my own version of “morid hageshem” – when people talk about the weather I respond that at least it’s nothing I have to shovel. Yet.