The Rain of Heaven and Social Justice

Parashat Ekev points out the way the land of Israel depends on rain for it’s survival, as a defining difference between Israel and Egypt:

For the land, whither thou goest in to possess it, is not as the land of Egypt, from whence ye came out, where thou didst sow thy seed, and didst water it with thy foot, as a garden of herbs; but the land, whither ye go over to possess it, is a land of hills and valleys, and drinketh water as the rain of heaven cometh down

One line of interpretation is faith: dependence on rain is dependence on heaven. Unlike a river that provides a steady supply of water, rain is transient. One has to pray for rains for they are not guaranteed.

The connection between man, rain and faith is set in Genesis:

No shrub of the field was yet in the earth, and no herb of the field had yet sprung up; for the LORD God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was not a man to till the ground

Rashi interprets: if there is no man to acknowledge the benevolence of the heaven, there is no rain. When man came, he acknowledged the need of rain, prayed and following his prayer grass and trees grew.

Photo by Egor Kamelev

A different interpretation is a social justice interpretation, an interpretation that perceives the way the land receives water as indicative of distributive justice. Bereshit Raba explains that, unlike rivers, rain is distributed in an equal way: everyone, poor and rich, high and low, receives an equal portion of rain, because rain drops without distinction. While the water sources can be governed by the powerful, and create a discrimination, rain is not controlled by man.

Beyond laws and commandments, parashat Ekev calls for justice and social equality: “Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no more stiffnecked.”

Photo by Bibhukalyan Acharya

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