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Parshot/Festivals

Love dew, need rain

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“May my words fall like rain, may my speech flow like dew.”

So goes the introduction to Moshe’s famous speech using evocative imagery. As he speaks to the Jewish people about their future and destiny, the trials that are still to come, and their ultimate return to the land after exile, we imagine this speech as cool water descending from heaven onto a parched earth.

Why dew and rain – two such similar metaphors used together? Rashi tells us that everyone loves dew – it nourishes the plants without inconveniencing anyone. You never hear people complain about “going out in such dewy weather”! But then, why rain?

Rabbi Moshe Feinstein says that dew indeed nourishes without putting anyone out, but it does so only in a minimal way. For a really good soaking, you need actual rain.

The same is true in our spiritual lives. We often hear a “short vort”, a “warm fuzzy” that makes us feel good and gives us inspiration without actually requiring much (if anything) from us. This is good – and necessary – this is dew. But it’s not rain. Rain is sitting down to study for two hours, reading the book, grappling with new concepts and what they mean, asking questions, and searching for answers. It’s far more challenging, but that’s where the real growth lies.

One of my teachers, Rabbi David Aaron, told me that “spirituality without discipline is just a hobby”. Hobbies add richness and interest to our lives, but they are rarely our major accomplishments. If we take our spiritual lives and our relationship with Hashem seriously, we need to be willing to undergo some degree of hardship and deprivation in this pursuit.

Mark Twain once attended a speech by a famous orator. When asked afterwards, “Wasn’t that speech great?” Twain responded, “I think not. He didn’t demand anything great from us.”

Our Judaism shouldn’t be all work and no play, and endless effort without fun or inspiration. We need the dew in the Jew (forgive me!), but we need the rain too.

Shana Tova!

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