אנכי ממטיר על הארץ ז:ד Why is it that Chazal call rain gevuros geshamim, and why is it put together with techiyas ha’meisim? The Gra (in Aderes Eliyahu, parshas V’zos Ha’bracha) explains that rain does not function according to the parameters of nature. The sheim Elokim indicates the function of nature; it is well known that the gematria of Elokim is equivalent to that of ha’tevah. Nature is the chok nasan lo yaavor, the ratzon of Hashem that was engraved into creation and is permanent. (Hashem is mechadeish b’tuvo b’chol yom maaseh breishis, just that His ratzon is that it should be the same every day). The Gaon emphasizes that this is why throughout Maaseh Breishis, the sheim used is Elokim. It was during that time that the laws of nature were set up. Nature functions with a precise exactitude such that it is perfectly predictable. Scientists who master the “chochma ba’umos taamin” can tell you exactly when an eclipse took place 1,000 years ago – down to the second – and they can accurately predict when the next one will take place, and so on. Rain, though, is unpredictable. Sometimes there are dry spells, sometimes there are wet spells. Even when you know for sure that it is going to rain, no-one can tell you exactly where and when the first drop will hit. That is why, continues the Gra, it is called gevuros because it manifests gevuras Hashem. In the context of the dependent, predictable system of nature it is possible to sometimes forget that there is a Baal Ha’Birah. But rain, which functions outside of the normal laws of nature, reminds you of Who is running the system. For the same reason, concludes the Gaon, gevuros geshamim was put together with techiyas ha’meisim. Techiyas ha’meisim is also something which cannot occur on the basis of natural law. Natural law does not allow for dead people to come back to life. Understanding how techiyas ha’meisim will take place is completely out of the realm of scientific pursuit.
The Gemara in Shabbos (75a) says that “chochmaschem u’binaschem l’eini ha’amim” is a reference to astronomical calculations. Rashi explains that one who masters this field can accurately predict whether the upcoming year will be dry or rainy, etc. and that impresses the Goyim because they can see that the chochma is authentic. This may seem like a kashya on what the Gaon says – insofar as it seems pretty clear from Rashi that rain does function according to the laws of nature – but, really it isn’t. Rashi is talking about predicting whether the year overall will be dry or rainy, but the Gaon was talking about the lack of being able to predict what is going to be on a daily and hourly basis. When it comes to the latter subset, we really do not have any handle on accurate predictions. One more point to be aware of, which is necessary for rounding off this topic, is that which Rabbeinu Bachayei and other Rishonim distinguish between two types of rain (some explain that this is indicated by the two different words that we find for rain in the Torah: geshem and matar). There is a type of rain that functions as part of the laws of chukos Shamayim va’Aretz, and there is another type that functions outside of that system as in va’nasati gishmeichem b’itam. Chazal explain that Ha’Kadosh Baruch Hu sometimes makes the rain come down in a specific time which brings about tremendous blessing. Whereas the first type of rain functions primarily within the cause-and-effect of natural law, the latter is totally a function of spiritual cause-and-effect. (Adapted from audio recording)
ויחל נח ט:כ Rav Yerucham of Mir gives us a tremendous insight into this topic. The word vayachel means that he began (like techilah). However, Chazal tell us that the word vayachel also implies that Noach made himself chullin (mundane) by involving himself with planting a vineyard. Noach had grapevine cuttings in the teivah with him. That’s what he used to plant the vineyard. If he had them with him in the teivah, it only stands to reason that Hashem told him to bring them in there with him. So, obviously, it was ratzon Hashem that he should plant the vineyard. If so, why is it considered that he compromised his kedusha by doing so? The answer lies in the first meaning of the word vayachel (he began). The fact that planting a vineyard was the first thing he did showed that there was something lacking. In life, we are not always able to be involved strictly in matters of kedusha. There are mundane things that we have to take care of. That’s fine and understandable. Nobody will ever be taken to task for dealing with those mundane things that are necessarily a part of life. However, when we choose to take care of such things is something to be cognizant of. The reason for this is that what a person decides to do first says a lot about where the individual’s primary interest lies. For example, imagine a person entering his home and there are bunch of items on the table. Some sefarim, odds and ends, a newspaper, mail, some magazines, and so on. Generally speaking, whatever it is that the individual decides to give his attention to first, that is an indication of where his primary interest lies. It’s important to remember that, although mundane concerns are often necessary and unavoidable, we should be careful to not slip into a thought-pattern in which such concerns become our primary focus or interest. (From Rebbetzin Twersky’s notes)
Quotables “Where you ‘are’ depends on what your source of vitality is. If the Beis Medrash is your true source of vitality, then that is where you are!”
Vignettes Once, in the middle of a shiur, Rav Twersky asked for a certain sefer. Eager to please his rebbi, one of the bachurim quickly went to get it. However, the bachur made an error and brought the wrong sefer. It had a similar title, which was the reason for the bachur’s error, but nevertheless was not at all relevant to the point Rav Twersky was discussing in the shiur. “I meant such-and-such other sefer,” Rav Twersky said, “but, there is a great thing to learn from the sefer you brought,” and he proceeded to relate an idea from the sefer that the bachur had mistakenly brought. On another occasion that something very similar happened, Rav Twersky shared a comment of the Netziv regarding Noach’s dove: “Even though it at first didn’t quite carry out its mission, Noach still accepted it back with love.” (Reb Matis Feld)