Rain on Sukkos and Pesach

Mashiv ha’ruach u’morid ha’geshem

The Gemara in Taanis (4b) rules that although Sukkos corresponds to the time when we begin to need rain for the success of the crops, we don’t begin to pray for rain on Sukkos itself because rain on the holiday is considered a curse. We must wait an additional two weeks after the end of Sukkos to allow sufficient time for those who ascended to the Temple for Sukkos to return home without getting wet.

According to this logic, we should similarly stop praying for rain two weeks before Pesach to allow people to go up to Yerushalayim in dry travel conditions. Why do we continue praying for rain up until Pesach, praying for something which, if granted, would significantly impede the ability of people to ascend to the Beis Hamikdash with their Pesach sacrifices?

Harav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, zt”l, suggests that this is due to the power of inertia. The issue of those traveling to Yerushalayim is one that must be taken into account, but it is not compelling. Therefore, when Sukkos comes at the end of the summer, when we haven’t been praying for rain, this consideration is sufficient to delay the change in our prayers to begin petitioning Hashem for rain.

On the other hand, when Pesach arrives at the end of the winter, when we are currently asking for rain, this argument isn’t strong enough to cause us to alter the status quo and cease our prayers prematurely.

Harav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, zt”l, explains the difference with a practical observation. When people go to the Temple for Sukkos, they haven’t yet taken out their winter wardrobes and travel in clothes which are ill-suited to protect them from the rains on their return journey, so we must give them sufficient time to return home before we begin to ask for rain. On the other hand, when people ascend to Yerushalayim for Pesach, they are properly outfitted in their winter gear, which will be able to stand up to any inclement weather they encounter, and we are therefore permitted to continue our prayers for rain.

Finally, Harav Chaim Kanievsky, shlita, posits that the answer lies in a psychological difference. The verse in Tehillim (55:15) states “b’veis Elokim nehaleich b’ragesh — in the House of Hashem (the Temple) we will walk with feeling.” It is pointed out that the letters in the word b’ragesh are short for barad, ruach, geshem, sheleg — hail, wind, rain and snow. This hints that when one merits traveling to the Beis Hamikdash, his excitement and enthusiasm is so great as to allow him to overcome the greatest of hurdles and to travel in even the most inclement weather. As a result, we are permitted to continue praying for rain in the weeks before Pesach because those ascending to Yerushalayim won’t be deterred by the rains. After Sukkos, on the other hand, people are returning to their homes without the emotional charge and would find the rains tremendously burdensome, so we have no choice but to delay our petitions.

Q: The Gemara in Brachos (21a) derives from 32:3 that one is Biblically obligated to recite a blessing prior to the study of Torah. Is it permissible to study words of Torah with somebody who hasn’t recited the appropriate blessing beforehand?

Q: Prior to sending the 12 spies to bring back a report about Eretz Yisrael and its inhabitants, Moshe blessed Hoshea and changed his name to Yehoshua (Bamidbar 13:16). From that time onward, he is always referred to by his new name. Why in Parashas Haazinu (32:44) does the Torah suddenly revert and once again refer to him as Hoshea?

A: Harav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv was asked whether it is permissible to relate a dvar Torah to a Jewish taxi driver who hasn’t recited Birkas haTorah. He permitted it, explaining that the driver doesn’t intend to fulfill the mitzvah of Torah study and therefore isn’t required to say the blessing. Harav Asher Weiss, shlita, questioned this reasoning, as some opinions maintain that Birkas haTorah isn’t a blessing over the mitzvah of Torah study, but is a blessing praising Hashem for giving us the Torah, which the driver should be required to recite regardless of his intention to fulfill the mitzvah of Torah study.

He concurs with the ruling, but for a different reason. Birkas haTorah is secondary to the actual Torah study, and it would be inappropriate to neglect the primary mitzvah because of an inability to fulfill a secondary one.

A: The Chanukas haTorah answers by noting that the Gemara in Sanhedrin (107a) teaches that when Sarah’s name was changed from Sarai to Sarah, the letter yud complained that it would no longer be used in her name. It was only appeased when Hashem “paid it back” by adding it to Hoshea’s name when Moshe changed it to Yehoshua.

Sarah’s name was changed when she was 89, one year before the birth of Yitzchak. Since she died at the age of 127 (Bereishis 23:1), the yud was neglected for the final 38 years of her life. Hoshea’s name was changed to Yehoshua when the spies were sent in the second year after Yetzias Mitzrayim.

The events of Parashas Haazinu took place at the end of the 40th year of their sojourn in the wilderness. As such, it comes out that the yud, which was added to Hoshea’s name to pacify it over its removal from Sarai’s name, had already been used for 38 years, which is precisely the amount of time that Sarah lived after her name was changed. Therefore, the Torah refers to him once again as Hoshea to allude to the fact that although his name remained Yehoshua, at this point the yud had received its full “compensation.”


Originally from Kansas City, Rabbi Ozer Alport graduated from Harvard, learned in Mir Yerushalayim for five years, and now lives in Brooklyn, where he learns in Yeshivas Beis Yosef, is the author of the recently-published sefer Parsha Potpourri, and gives weekly shiurim. To send comments to the author or to receive his Divrei Torah weekly, please email oalport@Hamodia.com.