The Day of Rain in Jerusalem


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Rabbi Moshe Galante Prays for Rain

© by Dovid Rossoff

Water is the source of life. Man cannot live long without it. Whether it reaches us from underground springs and rivers, or as rain falling from the clouds, it saves our lives and waters our crops. Today, most Westerners are fortunate to have water piped into their homes and naturally take it for granted that the first touch of dry lips will be quenched with water from the nearest faucet.

We should count our blessings with a broad smile when we recall that water was not always so plentiful. In the history of mankind, piped water is relatively new. Furthermore, our forefathers felt the pinch if the rains came late after the planting and there was no irrigation system to save the day.

Israel's water situation faces a constant battle for survival. Rain falls only during the winter months and until the end of the 19th century it was stored in cisterns for use during the long, dry summer months. Should the winter rains fall late or not at all, a drought year could be the cause of famine, starvation and death.

The following story portrays the Jews of 17th century Jerusalem in the depths of a bitter, rainless winter. The test which loomed before them demanded outstanding courage and great leadership. Thank G-d, they rose to the occasion and would recall later the bountiful "Day of Rain."

The late winter sky over Jerusalem reflected the same pristine heaven as yesterday and the day before - in fact, that of the week and the months before as well. Not a drop of rain had fallen in over three months. The winter was nearly over, and the weather was turning warm. The threat to the crops posed a serious problem, but the dry drinking wells posed a much greater dilemma. Indeed, the situation had reached critical proportions.

Jerusalemites of all faiths turned to prayer. Special services were conducted in the mosques and churches. The Jews also prayed, turning to G-d in their synagogues, by the Wailing Wall, at the tomb of King David on Mount Zion, and at the Tomb of Rachel near Bethlehem. Still the heavens remained sealed.

The pasha, desperate to find a solution, ordered the Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem to appear before him. The venerable Rabbi Moshe Galante, escorted by his shamash, (attendant) entered the pasha's office.

"You are the guilty ones!" the pasha lashed out as he pointed to the Chief Rabbi. "The Jews of the city have cursed their gentile neighbors. That's why the rain have failed to come."

Rabbi Galante stood in silence. The pasha's authority allowed him to imprison whomever he wished, and even to put his enemies to death.

"You claim to be the chosen people. If so, when you beseech G-d in time of need, He should answer you. Therefore, I give you three days to pray and be answered. If there is no rain by then, all Jews will be exiled from the city!"

Rabbi Galante returned home. He proclaimed a three-day fast for all members of the community. They would only eat at night. The days dragged by slowly as the dry lips of faithful Jews uttered Psalms and supplications before the Heavenly court. Their somber faces and downcast eyes painted a picture reminiscent of Tisha b'Av, the most somber and solemn of the tragic Jewish fast days. The Rabbi sat in his chair next to the Holy Ark and recited Psalms. Outside, the sun still shone brightly as if it were a summer day.

As the third day began to wane, Rabbi Galante ordered every member of the community to follow him outside the Old City's walls to the burial cave of Shimon the Righteous. Perhaps there their prayers would be answered in the merit of the holy tzaddik, a truly G-d fearing and pious man.

Click on small picture to see large picture of the old Jaffa gate in the ancient city of Jerusalem

"Everyone, man, woman, and child, should follow me," his voice rang out.

"No one should forget to wear his winter rain garb!" he added.

Some of the congregants laughed despairingly. "Is our Rabbi a prophet, too?"

However, the Rabbi's solemn expression brooked no discussion. He had meant what he had said.

Everyone quickly scurried home to put on boots, heavy winter coats, scarves, and rain hats. Soon, hundreds of Jews marched through the city towards the Damascus Gate.

When the Turkish sentry saw the assembly dressed for a downpour, he laughed and mocked them. In short order, his scorn turned to hatred. He wantonly stalked up to Rabbi Galante and slapped him on the face. The Rabbi just kept walking in silence.

Outside the gate, the group turned to the right and followed the dirt road through Jehoshafat Valley until they came to the cave of Shimon the Righteous.

Without a word, Rabbi Galante fell on his knees and kissed the grave stone. Everyone poured out supplications to G-d from the depths of their hearts. The Rabbi whispered prayers with tears rolling down his beard. The sounds of weeping and wailing bounced off the rocks of the cave walls. The echoes spiraled out of the cave and into the parched sky.

Suddenly, gusts of wind began blowing and dark clouds raced across the heavens. The trees swayed to and fro. Everyone gazed upward, and within seconds heavy raindrops landed on their tearful cheeks. The exuberant Jews danced for joy.

Rabbi Galante remained in prayer. The downpour increased in intensity until rivulets of water flowed down the valley. The wind lashed the rain in every direction.

As the Jews rejoiced, the Turkish sentry, breathless, descended into the cave. He fell at the feet of Rabbi Galante and begged to be forgiven.

In honor of the miracle, the sentry personally carried the Rabbi home on his shoulders. They marched into the city as victors and princes before the nations of the world. For three consecutive days the rains fell, and for three consecutive days the people of Jerusalem were ecstatic. The Moslems and Christians had no choice but to admit that the miracle was due to their Jewish neighbors.

On the fourth day, the Turkish sentry entered Rabbi Galante's house. The miracle had been absorbed into his very flesh and bones. He asked to convert to the faith whose G-d performs open miracles, and was accepted. He became Rabbi Galante's personal servant for the rest of his life.

Click on small picture to see large picture of the cave of Shimon the Righeous

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