It is widely known that rain on Sukkot is not a good sign.

The Mishnah1 analogizes this to a servant who comes to pour wine for his master, and the master pours a jug of water in his face to show him his presence is not desired. In the same vein, when we come to serve our Master in the sukkah, He “pours water in our faces” by making it rain and not allowing us to spend time in the sukkah.

Furthermore, we delay asking for rain in our daily prayers until after the holiday (even though this is when G‑d determines the rainfall for the coming year2 ) since rain on Sukkot is an inconvenience and a “sign of a curse.”3

Now, many of us live in places where rain is quite common on Sukkot. Are we to take this as a sign that G‑d is displeased with our service and wishes to curse us?

As we shall soon see, this is far from a hard and fast rule. In most circumstances, rain on Sukkot is not a bad omen—and sometimes can even be a sign of blessing.

Israel Vs. the Diaspora

The Mishnah was composed in the Land of Israel, where it is very uncommon to rain on Sukkot, with almost all rainfall occurring during the winter months.

As such, some explain, it is only there that rainfall on Sukkot can be viewed as a message from G‑d to Israel. In Europe and North America, however, where rain is quite common in the fall, there is no reason to read into it.4

How Long Did It Rain?

Furthermore, the Rebbe once explained that rain on Sukkot can only be viewed as an ill omen if it rains nonstop so that one cannot enjoy a meal in the sukkah that night. If, however, the rain lets up, we have the opportunity to both sit in the sukkah and view the rain as it usually is, a sign of blessing.5

When Did It Start?

Some say that it is only a bad omen when it hasn’t been raining before Sukkot, and all of a sudden, right at the onset of the holiday, the clouds gather and it starts raining—like the master who suddenly pours the pitcher on the servant. However, if it has been raining for a while before the holiday and the rain showers just continue during Sukkot, it’s not a bad omen.6

Late in the Season

In a Jewish leap year, an entire month is tacked onto the calendar, making the following Sukkot quite late in the season. Accordingly, Rabbi Moses Sofer (the Chatam Sofer, 1762–1839), explains that this concept does not apply in such a year, since Sukkot was delayed into the rainy season because we did the mitzvah of recalibrating the calendar.7

Which Day Was It?

There is a difference between the first night of Sukkot—when one sits in the sukkah even if it is raining—and the next seven days, when we are only obligated to do the mitzvah if the weather is pleasant.

Accordingly, some say that when it rains on the first night, it’s not a sign that G‑d is expelling us from the sukkah. On the contrary, it is a sign of blessing, for G‑d wants us to eat in the sukkah despite the discomfort, bringing us even more favor in His eyes.8

Others, however, explain just the opposite: only on the first night of Sukkot is it a bad omen, but not if it rains on the rest of Sukkot, when one need not remain in the sukkah in any case.9

Aroused by Prayer

Even if all the above conditions are met, rain on Sukkot may still be a sign of blessing.

Rabbi Yosef Caro (author of the Code of Jewish Law, 1488–1575), who lived in Israel, records in his mystical work Maggid Meisharim that once, after it had rained on Sukkot, an angel informed him that he shouldn’t worry that this rain was a bad omen. On the contrary, it had started to rain since Rabbi Caro had gone with his lulav and etrog in hand to pray to G‑d for rain at the gravesite of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, and the rains were actually a sign of blessing.10

Rain on Sukkot, especially outside of Israel, is not only not a bad omen, but many times can be a sign of blessing. Furthermore, even if the rain does seem to be a negative sign, remember to be joyful. As the Torah tells us, Sukkot is the season of joy, and “joy breaks all boundaries,” transforming even the most negative occurrences into blessings!