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Jerusalem

In Seasons of Drought

A night scene from Kibbutz Sde Boker in the Negev Desert of southern Israel.

Blessed are those you choose
    and bring near to live in your courts!
We are filled with the good things of your house,
    of your holy temple.
— Psalm 65:4

I’ll never forget the day I went to the Western Wall to pray in the middle of a dry winter. In Israel, if it doesn’t rain in the winter, it doesn’t rain at all. We have one rainy season, and we must rely on whatever rain falls during that time for a year’s worth of water. That arid winter, people were beginning to panic. As I approached the wall, I saw an old man cloaked in a prayer shawl looking up toward the heavens. He yelled out the word, “Geshem,” which means “rain,” over and over again, filled with intense emotion. The next day it began to rain for three days straight!

According to the Jewish sages, David composed Psalm 65 during another time of drought in the land of Israel. The psalm is a prayer for rain and is read even today when we lack rainfall in Israel. God gave the Jewish people a wonderful land; however, it is a land prone to periods of drought. Why would God choose such a land for His beloved people?

In Deuteronomy 11:10–14, God explained the nature of the land of Israel to the people of Israel. He said, “The land you are entering to take over is not like the land of Egypt, from which you have come . . .” In Egypt, they didn’t worry about rainfall. The Nile River would water the land consistently and so there was always an abundance of water. “But the land you are crossing the Jordan to take possession of is a land . . . that drinks rain from heaven.” Israel is a land watered directly by God alone. “So if you faithfully obey the commands I am giving you today . . . then I will send rain on your land.” Israel’s rain is dependent upon the people’s actions and prayers.

When there is no rain and drought sets in, everyone looks up to heaven. And that’s exactly the way that God wants it. God wants to have a relationship with us. Sometimes, a drought is His way of calling our attention to Him. In the end, the curse of a drought can be a source of the greatest blessing when it brings us closer than ever to God.

In Psalm 65 David wrote, “Blessed are those you choose and bring near to live in your courts!” Sometimes God singles us out and gives us a season of drought in our lives. It can be a financial drought or a drought in relationships or in our health. But when God chooses us for a drought, it’s so He may bring us nearer to Him. Once we come close to God, we can break through the drought and He will shower us with an abundance of rain and blessings.

With prayers for shalom, peace,

Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President

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