Erev Shabbos Sukkos, as heavy rains continued to fall throughout the day, many Jews residing in the New York area stood at their windows — or inside their sukkah with closed shlocks — and worried about where and how they would be able eat the Shabbos seudos. Granted, the halachah clearly states that one is exempt from the mitzvah of Sukkah in such weather, but the thought of eating inside on Shabbos Chol Hamoed Sukkos was downright unsettling
In addition, in some kehillos, their sacred mesorah is that one eats in the sukkah regardless of the weather conditions, as they would actually suffer more tzaar eating outside of a sukkah.
The afternoon passed with no relief in sight and, at sunset, the rain was still coming down. As women bentched licht and men headed to shul, there seemed to be no end in sight for the rainfall, which was already in its third day.
Then, just as many shuls concluded davening, the mispallelim joyously realized that the rain had stopped — totally. For about an hour, the rains held, long enough for many Brooklyn families to recite the brachah of leshev basukkah according to all opinions, and eat a Shabbos seudah in their sukkah. Then the rains started anew and lasted through the night.
Many others — who ended davening earlier or later, or whose sukkos were so flooded and drenched that they were unusable — were unable to take advantage of the opportunity.
But for all those who were able to, it was a source of great chizuk and inspiration.
Shabbos morning when mispallelim went to shul, it was still raining steadily. But by the time the mispallelim in most shuls — other than those who davened vasikin or in an early minyan — had concluded mussaf, the rain had stopped again. The community heaved a collective sigh of relief and everyone happily made his way to eat in a sukkah.
As I gratefully sat in my own sukkah, a tefillah uttered by Nakdimon ben Gurion came to mind. A severe drought had dried up the water sources, and there wasn’t enough water for the Jews being olei regel to drink. Nakdimon had “borrowed” from a gentile patrician and asked him for the loan of 12 of his wells. Nakdimon promised that if the wells were not replenished by a certain date, he would give the patrician 12 talents of silver in their stead — a considerable fortune.
The day of repayment arrived, but the drought had not yet ended. In the morning the patrician sent him a message demanding either the money or the water. Again and again, the patrician sent messengers asking for payment; Nakdimon replied by stating that the day wasn’t over yet.
In the late afternoon, Nakdimon went to the Beis Hamikdash and began to pray to Hashem. “Master of the Universe,” he declared, “it is known clearly before You that I did this not for my personal honor, nor for the honor of my father’s house, but in Your honor — so that water would be available for those who are olei regel.”
Immediately the sky became overcast and rain began to fall, until the 12 wells filled up beyond their original levels. As the gentile left the bathhouse, Nakdimon emerged from the Beis Hamikdash and they met.
“Give me the money for the water that is mine, which you have in your possession,” Nakdimon said, referring to the fact that the wells now contained surplus water, more than at the time of the loan. The gentile fully acknowledged the miracle that Hashem had wrought in honor of Nakdimon, but still claimed that he had a right to be paid the silver talents.
“The sun had already set before the rains fell,” the gentile claimed. Since the deadline had passed, the rainwater was his — and the loan was still due.
Nakdimon returned to the Beis Hamikdash and pleaded, “Master of the universe, make it known that You have beloved ones in Your world!”
Immediately the clouds dispersed and the sun shone.
Chazal teach that a great miracle occurred; the time for sunset had passed, yet the sun still shone.
This past Shabbos, the sun didn’t shine, but many Jews in the Brooklyn area merited a manifestation of Hashem’s eternal love for us. Some experienced it on Friday night, many more on Shabbos morning. The Creator of the Universe made it known that He has beloved ones in His world, and for this we all are grateful.