Dear Readers,

The land of Israel had always been dependent on rain for its sustenance. The Talmud shares stories of when a drought became so severe that communities undertook fasts to pray for the much-needed rain. Here are two stories where the people’s salvation came from an unexpected outcome.

Rebbi decreed a fast but the rains did not come. Ilfa went down before the ark (to lead the prayers).

He said, “Who makes the wind blow,” and the wind blew. “Who makes the rain fall,” and rain came.

Rebbi asked him, “What do you do (that you merit to have your prayers answered immediately)?”

He said to him, “I live in a poverty-stricken village that lacks wine for Kiddush and Havdalah. I exert myself to bring wine for Kiddush and Havdalah to ensure that the community fulfills its obligation.”

Here’s another story.

Once, Rav came to a place that was experiencing a drought. He decreed a fast, but the rains did not come. Someone stepped forward before the ark in front of Rav to lead the prayers. “Who causes the wind to blow,” and the wind blew. Then he prayed, “Who causes the rain to fall,” and the rain fell.

Rav asked him: “What do you do [i.e., what is your special virtue that causes G‑d to answer your prayers]?”

He replied: “I am a teacher of young children. I teach Torah to the children of the poor, as well as to the children of the rich. From those who cannot afford, I take no payment. In addition, I own a fish pond, and any child who refuses to study, I bribe him with some of the fish and I appease him until he is ready to come and study.” (Ta’anit 24a)

Rav and Rebbi were great leaders whose humility and piety were legendary. Nevertheless, it was the dedication of a teacher and a community-minded individual who brought the rain.

The teacher knew the vital importance of teaching all children. Moreover, not only did he not charge the poor, he used his own resources (his fish) to inspire these children to learn. The other individual, Ilfa, similarly, singlehandedly undertook that all tahe members of his poverty-stricken village be able to fulfill mitzvot. This dedication and love for others is what made the prayers of these seemingly simple individuals even more effective than the prayers of the greatest sages of their time.

I loved reading these stories because it reminded me that in today’s chaotic world, G‑d sees, remembers and values our actions, and especially our dedication to one another. Moreover, the teacher who enabled all the children to learn (even those who wished to rebel) and the community individual who helped his entire community fulfill mitzvot were considered by G‑d so great that they merited miracles!

Why? Because they were helping G‑d’s children come closer to Him.

We are now in the month of Elul when “The King is in the field.” G‑d is accessible to each and every one of us. Let’s reach out to Him, by reaching out to help His children.

Chana Weisberg
Editor, TJW