By Rabbah Gila Caine
(AJNews) – From when, i.e., from which date, does one begin to mention the might of the rains by inserting the phrase: “He makes the wind blow and the rain to fall”?…The mishnah states a general principle: One requests rain only immediately preceding the rainy season… Until when does one request rain? Rabbi Yehuda says: We request rain until Passover has passed. Rabbi Meir says: Until the month of Nisan has ended… (Mishnah, Ta’anit 1)
The rainy season in Israel is winter, but here in Canada? I guess summer. How about Australia? It doesn’t really matter when the rainy season is in YOUR corner of the world, because liturgically speaking, we are always aiming at the rainy season in the land of Israel as a way of maintaining a centre. This isn’t only about that strip of earth being our indigenous homeland, but also, and I would say mainly, because by asking all Jews around the world to pray for rain at the time when Israel needs it most, we hold a shared sense of solidarity and create time and again a sacred focal point.
It isn’t the land which is sacred. All Earth is sacred. Rather, it is our joint intention, the aligning of our body towards Israel in prayer and our thoughts towards the parched land, that creates and recreates our sacred body-Israel.
On the first day of Pesach Jews around the world will stop praying for rain, and begin mentioning dew (dew, the summer moisture and ancient symbol of revival). As Jews living in Alberta we are still responsible for the lushness and fruitfulness of Israel, and liturgically we aren’t only allowed to join our voices in the call for rain and dew, but are actually obligated to do so. Even if we don’t currently live on the land or vote for its government. The rationale for the whole Zionist project (be it cultural, political or religious) lies on the premise that Jews around the world have a say in the viability of the land and that their words (our words) can tip the balance between a livable home or destroyed wasteland.
Over the past few months, I’ve watched in awe as the semi – hidden rifts and cracks in Israeli society have come into plain view. What might have been swept under the carpet of “shevet achim gam yachad”; is now presented plainly for all of us to see and choose from: A democratic state, or a halachic state. And to be clear, halachah in its most reactionary and fundamentalist iteration, one which would proclaim many of this city’s Jews non-Jewish (or suspect at best).
What kind of Jewish homeland are you hoping and praying for? If you want one in which all are ruled by an antiquated version of Torah, where adult women are considered legal “minors” and where majority rules but there are no protections for minorities (sexual, religious, ethnic etc’), then we are headed in the right direction. If, on the other hand, you would like to support an Israel which is part of the Western world – you need to speak up now. We need to speak up now. By speaking up you are joining and supporting tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of Israelis from across the religious and political spectrum, who are out demonstrating every week, all over the country. If you care about an Israel where your ideals and your Judaism are recognised and respected, you need to make your voice heard.
This is hard, because we all know how questioning Israeli government policy has the tendency to get hijacked by third parties with an anti-Zionist agenda. So we have to be clear in our words and intentions, and work through organisations we trust are doing this work to support Israel and not cripple it. But we can’t allow this fear to hold us back from proclaiming we too hold a stake in the “personality” our country is developing, since Israel is homeland to all Jews. If this “personality” is moving far away from what I believe is the essence of Jewish peoplehood, then it is my religious obligation as a Jew, to call on my land to do tshuvah.
For untold generations we’ve aligned ourselves in the cycle of rain rituals and dew liturgy, focusing on a land far away, but at the core of our being. This year as Pesach approaches, we are obligated to listen closely to what our land needs and make sure we articulate a demand for freedom and a just covenant from those in power.
Pesach kasher v’sameach.
Rabbah Gila Caine is the spiritual leader at Temple Beth Ora, Edmonton’s Reform Jewish Congregation.
Israel is a Liberal Democracy whose Basic Law states that every Israeli Citizen is equal under the Law. The first act of the recently elected coalition Government was to elect an openly gay speaker of the Knesset. That does not suggest to me that this government is moving towards a theocracy. Of the 5 million votes cast in the last election some 3 million were cast for the Bibi coalition. If those who voted against are unhappy the place to make the change in a Liberal Democracy is at the ballot box. The vile accusations and the heated rhetoric plays into the hand of those who wish to do harm to Israel and the Jewish people.