Dr Meesh Hammer-Kossoy notes that “The Mishnah states that just as the individual fate of each human being is judged by God on Rosh Hashanah, divine decisions about water for the coming year – i.e. about rainfall - are made on Succot (Mishnah Rosh Hashanah 1:2). Similarly, Zechariah 14: 16-17 foretells of an age in which not observing Succot will be punished with drought. Many of the Succot rituals, both those observed only in the time of the temple and those still observed today, relate to the motif of rainfall and water.”
Whilst living in such a notoriously ‘moist’ country, how can we connect with these themes and elevate them from the mundane? Talking about the weather is a famously British pastime, so why do we need to pay particular attention to our national hobby on Succot? Yes, rain can serve as a metaphor for spiritual growth and nourishment and it is tempting to write on this topic, but around the world we see situations where, on a physical level, rain destroys lives and ravages homes, leaving devastation in its wake. At the other end of the spectrum the UN Word Food Programme estimates that drought is currently affecting 14 million people worldwide.
Rabbi Akiva says of our time in desert housing that: “They were in the shelter of the clouds of glory.” (Sifra Emor 12). Just as on Yom Kippur we have a chance to think differently about our actions in the past year, Succot provides us with an opportunity to appreciate those clouds which we so often malign. The four species and special prayers can serve as reminders to British Jews that yes, we might rather be in the warm and dry, but there are many parts of our world which need the (appropriate amount of) rain to flourish.
Following the plight of those in Puerto Rico, and others severely affected by rains this season, I would invite you to try to seek some glory from the clouds above you. We are fortunate to be living in this drizzly country, protected and nourished by our climate, and we can only pray that this continues.