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The Rain of Peace

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And G-d made the two great luminaries… to give light upon the earth.
Genesis 1:16-17

And no plant of the field was yet in the earth, and no herb of the field had yet grown; for the L-rd G-d had not caused it to rain upon the earth, as there was not yet a man to work the land. [Then] there arose a mist from the earth and watered the surface of the land.
Genesis 2:5-6

On Her Own Steam

Sunlight and rain are both crucial sustainers of life on earth. Indeed, there are certain similarities in the manner in which these two gifts are bestowed upon our planet: they both “rain” down upon earth from the skies, drenching her with energy or moisture. In both cases, we seem but passive recipients to a showering of blessing from above. But a closer examination reveals a significant difference between them: while the sun’s gift is indeed a unilateral bestowal, rain originates as moisture which rises from the earth, forms clouds, and returns as life-giving waters. So unlike her relationship with the sun’s radiation, the earth is not a passive beneficiary of the rain falling from the skies; it is she who generates it in the first place, releasing columns of mist from her oceans and lakes to water the thirsting soil of her landmasses.

The earth, of course, could not do this on her own. It is the sun who stimulates the release and ascent of her watery stores; it is the sun who creates the weather patterns which carry them through the atmosphere and impel them earthward.  In other words, the sun, ultimately, is the primary supporter of life on earth. But the sun’s gifts of nourishment fall under two categories: (a) those, such as its light – and warmth – purveying rays, which the earth simply absorbs from her benevolent provider; (b) those gifts, such as rain, which the earth herself generates, the sun serving as the catalyst who wakens her potentials for self-nurture and self-development and assists in their realization.

Ecology of the Soul

Also the world, He has placed within their hearts…
Ecclesiastes 3:11

Rabbi Israel Baal-Shem-Tov (1698-1760), founder of the Chassidic movement, taught: Everything that a person may observe should serve him as a lesson in his service of the Almighty. This is especially true with regard to the workings of the universe: man, say our sages, is a miniature world;[1] so in every natural phenomenon he can find a corresponding feature within himself. His observations of the universe and natural law can help him negotiate the physics and geography of his own psyche, and assist him in the perfection of his character and behavior.[2]

Man, too, is a recipient of both “rain” and “sunlight” from Above. Ultimately, of course, everything we possess, including our potentials to initiate and create, are granted us by the Creator. But the Almighty relates to the human soul in two ways: (a) with a direct and unilateral bestowal of sensitivity and enlightenment; (b) by enabling and encouraging the soul to develop and optimize her own resources, to gravitate upward in her own, self-initiated search for truth and meaning in life.

Both are crucial to the spiritual life of the soul. On the one hand, we recognize our inherent limitations. We understand that if we are to relate to a truth that is absolute and all-transcendent, we must resort to a bequest from a higher source.

At the same time, however, human nature dictates that we identify more with what we ourselves have achieved: something earned is more appreciated than a gift, an idea figured out independently is more poignant than a teaching from the greatest master. For an experience to be real – that is, to be incorporated as part of one’s essence and personality – it must stem from within.

In other words, to be truly “it” it must be granted from Above; yet to be truly meaningful it must be produced from below. We need them both. Indeed, the tension between these two needs is an ever-present feature of our growth and development in all areas, intellectual, emotional or spiritual. The real or the ideal? Mine or more?

These are the phenomena of “rain” and “sunlight” in the miniature universe that is man.  Thus, as the Torah relates, the first rainfall in history did not commence until there was a human being to work the land. For rain is the expression, on the cosmic level, of human initiative and endeavor – the reflection of our ability to answer the Divine light which radiates into our lives with the product of our own resources and potentials.[3]

Two Dimensional Year

This explains a curious redundancy in the structure of the Jewish year – it is a year with not one but two beginnings! For there are two opening months in the Jewish calendar: Tishrei (which usually begins sometime in September) contains the High Holidays of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur and the festival of Sukkot and is generally considered the “head” and beginning of the Jewish year; but six months later comes Nissan (late March-early April), the month of Passover and the Exodus, which is designated by the Torah as the “first month” and also serves as the “head” of the year for certain matters of Torah law and practice.[4]  Why two “heads” to the year?

In the land of Israel, the rains are confined to the half-year between Tishrei and Nissan.  Thus, this six-month period is referred to by our sages as the “Season of Rains” (y’mos ha’gshomim), while the six months from Nissan to Tishrei are considered the “Season of the Sun” (y’mos ha’chamah).

To the Jew, the calendar is more than a measure of time – it is a cycle that embodies the various elements of his relationship with the Almighty that are the essence of his life as a Jew. And this cycle is comprised of two basic parts: (a) the spiritually passive “Season of the Sun,” in which we mark and re-experience, the great unilateral acts of Divine involvement in our destiny (the Exodus, the revelation at Sinai); and (b) the self-generated “Season of Rains,” which open with the soul-searching and self-improvement which characterizes the month of Tishrei.

The Paradox of Peace

A scholar from the Galilee expounded before R. Chisdah: “Blessed be the Merciful One, who gave a threefold Torah[5] to a threefold people[6] through a third one[7] on the third day[8] in the third month.[9]

Talmud, Shabbos 88a

Indeed, Torah embodies the very essence of the number “3”. For “Torah was given to make peace in the world”[10] and “3” is the number of peace.

The number “1” implies a monopolous individuality. Where “1” dominates, there cannot be peace; for “1” insists on its absoluteness and exclusivity of being – to the negation of all else. Where “1” dominates, everything else (if there is anything else) must surrender their identity before its intolerant singularity. True, there is no conflict, for there is only one; but neither is this peace, which is the harmonious integration of two (or more) distinctive elements.

“Two” represents diversity. As the number implies, we are dealing with two parallel entities. One may be infinitely superior to the other, yet they are equal if only in that each is a distinct existence. Two-ness is often the cause of conflict, but even when it is not, it still precludes true peace. As long as each insists on retaining its apartness and distinction, the most they can achieve is a peaceful co-existence; dichotomized by their respective individualities, they cannot merge into a synthesized whole.

So what is peace? If it is neither the affirmation of identity nor its surrender, what is it? Indeed, peace is a paradox – a paradox articulated in the number “3”. Peace is when two distinct entities find common ground in a third reality, one that transcends the differences between them. A third element that embraces them both, as they are, to serve a higher ideal. A third element within whose broader context the unique and even opposite features of each complement and fulfill one another. A third element which preserves their differences – and uses them as the very ingredients of harmony.

The “3” of the World

The Torah was given to make peace in the world.

The world – a chaos of diversity and randomness. Here and there we may discern patches of cohesiveness, systems and communities driven by a unanimity of purpose. But on the whole, the world seems a jumble of elements and forces, species, nations and individuals, each with their own nature and agenda. We know that there must be something that holds it all together; we know that somehow, underneath it all, we’re all on the same bandwagon, headed toward a unified goal. But on the surface, we seemed doomed to conflict, as each pursues his or its individualized aspirations.

If only we could somehow get a hold of the master plan, of the grand blueprint for the universe! If only we could read the Creator’s mind, to discern His intended use for each creature’s particular traits and tendencies. If only we had a vision of a “third element” of creation, a vision which incorporates them all as the component parts of a single organism. Then, we would no longer have to fight the losing battle to enforce some sort of balance between individual and communal desires to keep the world from tearing itself apart. Then, there would be no need to compromise differences for the sake of peace, since the proper application of each being’s and community’s differences will result in the realization of the quintessential harmony which underlies all.

Torah, given in a flurry of 3’s, is all that. It is the embodiment of tifferet, “Harmony,” the third of the seven Divine Attributes. Torah lays down the do’s and don’ts of life, not as a curb on individual freedom but as the description of every man’s deepest and truest aspirations. It outlines the manner in which every element of creation is to be developed and utilized, not as a program to change them but to bring to light their ultimate essence and function.

Chassidic Winter

As mentioned above, nourishment for the human soul comes in two forms: unilateral gifts from Above (akin to “sunlight”), or generated from below and within (the “rainmaking” powers of the soul).

Torah, the ultimate gift of life, has both a “light” and a “rain” dimension to it. Originally, we received Torah as a Divinely authored document; at the greatest Divine revelation of history, G-d descended upon Mount Sinai and granted us His blueprint for creation. But our reception of the Torah was based on the commitment that “We will do, and we will comprehend”[11] – that we will not suffice with accepting the Torah as the word of G-d but will also toil to understand and appreciate it. So immediately following Sinai began the process of converting sunlight into rainmaking mist: to assimilate the revealed wisdom of G-d so that it becomes something which rises from within to nourish and animate the soul.

This is also reflected in our calendar: the revelation at Sinai took place in the month of Sivan, the third month of the “Season of the Sun,” while an important landmark in the process of Torah’s internalization is Kislev, the corresponding third month of the “Season of Rains.”

Since 1798, the 19th of Kislev has been celebrated as the “New Year” of Chassidism. On this day the founder of Chabad Chassidism, Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi (1745-1812), was released from Czarist prison, upon being cleared of the libelous charges leveled against him and the Chassidic movement. This cleared the way for the uninhibited dissemination of its teachings.[12]

A hallmark of Chabad Chassidism is that man not only rely on instructions from Above; rather, his attainments must also involve his own effort and initiative. The teachings of Chabad guide man in utilizing his own mind and heart to comprehend and appreciate the true essence of his own self, the world around him, and his relationship with his Creator. It is therefore significant that the birth of Chabad Chassidism is linked to the third month of the “Season of Rains.” For Kislev is a month that emphasizes the “rain” element of Torah: man’s ability to make his achievements in bringing true peace into the world something that is truly his, a result of his own understanding and feelings.

Based on the talks of the Rebbe during the month of Kislev 5750 (December 1989) and on other occasions.

Adapted from the teachings of the Rebbe by Yanki Tauber


[1] Midrash Tanchuma, Pikudei 3.

[2] Indeed the entirety of creation, which exists to serve and challenge man in his Divinely ordained mission in life, an outgrowth and reflection of the dynamics of the human universe.

[3] See previous footnote.

[4] See Talmud, Rosh Hashanah 2a.

[5] Consisting of the Torah (Five Books of Moses), the Prophets and the Scriptures.

[6] The Jewish people are comprised of Kohanim, Levites and Israelites.

[7] Moses, the third child (following Miriam and Aaron) of Amram and Jocheved.

[8] The Torah was given at Sinai after three days of sanctification and preparation on the part of Israel (Ex. 19:10-11).

[9] Sivan, the 3rd month from Nissan.

[10] Maimonides’ Mishneh Torah, Laws of Chanukah 4:14.

[11] Ex. 24:7.

[12] The arrest and liberation Rabbi Schneur Zalman by the Czarist Government were but a reflection of what was occurring Above. The arrest came as a result of a heavenly challenge to the Rebbe’s approach of freely revealing the most intimate elements of the Torah. His exoneration and release “below” signified the heavenly approval and endorsement of the continued dissemination of Chassidism.

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