SALT - Friday, 19 Iyar 5779 - May 24, 2019

  • Rav David Silverberg
This week's SALT shiurim are dedicated in memory of
David Moshe ben Harav Yehuda Leib Silverberg z"l,
whose yahrzeit is Thursday 18 Iyar, May 23
            One of the rewards which the Torah in the beginning of Parashat Bechukotai promises to grant Benei Yisrael for obeying His commands is the blessing of rainfall: “Ve-natati gishmeikhem be-itam” – “I shall grant your rains at their time” (26:4).
            The Torah speaks here of rain falling “at their time,” meaning, at the time when rain is most beneficial.  The simple meaning of this phrase is that God will send rain in the winter months, when it is needed to ensure a successful crop in the spring, and not in the spring and summer, during the harvest season, when moisture would ruin the produce.  Indeed, Chizkuni explains, “I shall grant your rains in their time – but when it’s not their time, they cause the grain to rot.”  If rain falls on harvested grain, the grain would not last throughout the winter, and thus as much as the people needed rain in the winter to ensure the growth of quality produce, they needed rain not to fall during the spring and summer, when the produce was harvested and prepared to be stored for the winter.
            Rashi, however, citing Torat Kohanim, explains this verse differently, writing that the Torah refers to rainfall at times when people are in any event indoors.  In particular, Rashi mentions Friday nights, when people would stay at home enjoying the Shabbat meal with their families.  According to this interpretation, the Torah promises not only that God would send sufficient rainfall, but that He would do so in a manner that avoids the discomfort of being outdoors in the rain.
            According to both interpretations of this verse, we might perhaps apply it to “rain” that we “shower” upon the people around us – meaning, the proper way to lend assistance to others. 
From the first interpretation we might learn that just as rainfall is vitally important on some occasions but harmful and even destructive on others, similarly, actions that are beneficial for people at certain times can be detrimental to them at others.  One common example might be unsolicited advice and criticism.  As well-intentioned and wise as one’s remarks might be, they can be harmful if they are spoken at an inappropriate time.  The Mishna in Pirkei Avot (4:18) advises not to request forgiveness from somebody when he is still angry and distressed over the incident, and we might extend this teaching also to advice and criticism – it is beneficial only if offered at a time and setting when the individual is receptive to it.  If we try to inspire positive change in somebody at a time when the person is not yet ready to change, then the attempts are likely to be not just unsuccessful, but counterproductive.  Thus, even if we feel we have “rain” – sound advice and guidance – that is capable of helping our fellow “produce” and maximize his or her full potential, we must ensure to grant this “rain” only “be-itam,” at an appropriate time, when it is likely to be helpful, and not harmful.
            Rashi’s interpretation of this verse perhaps reminds us that even when we provide assistance that truly benefits our fellow, we must endeavor to avoid causing the individual discomfort in the process.  For example, the Gemara in Masekhet Kiddushin (31a) states that it is possible for a person to feed his parent the finest delicacies and be severely punished for it – if he does so begrudgingly, while complaining about the expense entailed, thereby causing the father anguish.  Just as God promises to bring us the rainfall we need in a comfortable manner – when we are indoors – likewise, we should seek to perform kindness in a warm and sensitive manner, so as to avoid causing the recipient unease.  We are to not only try to provide assistance to others when needed, but to do so in the kindest and most respectful way possible, to ensure that people benefit from our “rain” without experiencing discomfort in the process.