Parshas Bechukosai: Your Very Own Rain

This week’s parsha opens as follows:

Leviticus 26:3-4:

אִם־בְּחֻקֹּתַי תֵּלֵכוּ וְאֶת־מִצְותי תִּשְׁמְרוּ וַעֲשִׂיתֶם אֹתָם׃ וְנָתַתִּי גִשְׁמֵיכֶם בְּעִתָּם וְנָתְנָה הָאָרֶץ יְבוּלָהּ וְעֵץ הַשָּׂדֶה יִתֵּן פִּרְיוֹ׃

If you walk in My statutes, and keep My commandments, and do them; then I will give your rains in their proper time, and the land shall yield her produce, and the trees of the field shall yield their fruit.

Immediately, a number of rather interesting things jump out at the reader. For one, the Torah seems to be using agricultural bounty, specifically rain, as paradigmatic of bracha. Many explain that this is because rain is seen as sustenance directly from shamayim, and while not literally spiritual, still originates from a place more associated with, and symbolic of, God.

Intriguing as well is the implication that only rain in its proper time is considered to be a bracha, while such potential blessings at improper times would be seen more as a klallah.

Nevertheless, what is truly most interesting about the posuk above is that the word “rain” is possessive; the Torah states that “your rain” will come in its proper time (if you deserve it). As such, there are those who suggest that this is, in fact, the true essence of the bracha. The Torah does not simply affirm that you will receive rain, but that you will receive your rain. The blessings you receive will be yours, and earned through your own actions. One can and should take all that is good and positive in his life and make it his own. Like a storeowner framing his first dollar earned on the wall — showing that he owns that dollar in a way in which he does not own other dollars — we must all take ownership of the events of our lives. Simply being the recipient of good when it is not earned or deserved is not true bracha. It may well even be a curse in its own right to have something that you know you do not deserve and did not earn. After all, we cannot fool ourselves. Can we really be satisfied and happy with a blessing, a yeshuah, that is not rightfully ours?

Indeed, the same logic applies to the inverse as well. We have a duty to own up to, and take possession of, our sins. This is perhaps the very thing that Adam HaRishon failed most at (and why he was punished so severely), namely, admitting that he had done wrong. Only after taking ownership of our shortcomings and wrongdoings can we move on and improve. Just as that which is good in our lives should be seen as our own, so too that which is negative. We must take control of the narrative of our lives. We should own lives and the events therein. All of us need to tell the stories of our own lives, and have our own voice be heard amongst the plethora others in the choir of klal yisrael. We must all be not just spectators, but active participants.

This, then, is one of the ways to understand the usage of “your rain” on our posuk: the ultimate blessing is when it really is your own blessing, when it really is deserved. Imagine a world in which any Jew who finds success knows that it is not just luck or happenstance, but that it is without question his reward, and his success. Ideally, this is what all success should be — a direct outgrowth of the efforts one has made towards his or her goals.

To be sure, we all too often cannot say or feel such a thing in most areas of our lives, all the more so the religious areas. How much of our lives — our religious lives especially — do we actively choose versus passively allow to be defined by others? Indeed, too many people spend far too much time pandering to the wills and expectations of others, and not nearly enough time with “their own rain” in their own lives.

Instead, you should be able to say with a source of pride and enthusiasm that you are responsible for your own bracha; that the rain is not just rain, but that it is your rain; that the bracha is not just bracha, but that it is your bracha; that you worked and earned and deserved the goodness that now stands before you.

The posuk could just as easily have simply said “rain” and all would have made perfect sense. Simply “rain,” however, is not the true bracha. Rather, it is “your rain” that is really the blessing, and the level of ownership that goes along with it.

Parshas Bamidbar: Who Is The Torah Calling A Bechor?

A Guide To The Term “Zonah”