JEWISH WORDS

GESHEM

The Jewish Chronicle - - Judaism - Rabbi Ju­lian Sin­clair dips into the dic­tio­nary

ON the last day of Suc­cot, we start to pray for rain, geshem. Geshem as linked to our abil­ity to pray goes back to Gen­e­sis 2:5: “When no shrub of the field was yet on earth . . . be­cause the Lord God had not sent rain upon the earth.” Rashi ex­plains that God did not send rain upon the earth un­til hu­man­ity sensed the world’s need for rain and prayed for it. God did not want it to rain un­til hu­man­ity “recog­nised the good­ness of ge­shamim”. Gen­e­sis uses the word matar for rain. Le­hamtir means to shower some­thing on some­one, not nec­es­sar­ily rain, eg the manna which God show­ers on Is­rael in the desert. Mitriyah (um­brella) de­rives from matar.

The first big rain of the sea­son is called the yoreh, the demon­stra­tor. Ibn Ezra ex­plains that we hope the yoreh will demon­strate the prospects of a good year ahead.

As a re­ward for ful­fill­ing the com­mand­ments, God prom­ises to send geshem b’ito, rain at the ideal time, which is at night. Gish­mei be­rachah, rains of bless­ing, are the rains of Fri­day night, when we are all home en­joy­ing the Shab­bat meal.

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