Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Praying for Rain in an Age of Desalination

The Chief Rabbinate has issued a directive to add Anenu (an additional prayer for rain) to our shemonah esreh. This makes perfect sense and follows a long line of halachic tradition, from the Mishnah Taanit down through the Shulchan Aruch. Rain is a critical element, fundamental to human life. When periods of drought threaten, we must cry out to God and beseech Him for mercy to bring the necessary rain. While it has rained a bit, it hasn't been nearly enough, and halachically, this call is a response to a crisis situation.
Except it's not. There is no water crisis here in Israel. With four major desalination plants online producing vast quantities of fresh water at very reasonable prices, the country is not in any crisis at all. We've gotten no directives to cut our water use in any way. No one has even asked us to cut the watering of the lawn, nor have water prices risen. There is no water shortage.
So we're left with a situation where we're supposed to recite a prayer of supplication and anguish, of great need due to a technicality, where there really isn't that great of a need.
This is not meant as a criticism of the Chief Rabbinate - far from it! It's an expression of a sense of frustration from a disconnect between ritual and reality. Sure, Jews around the world will add Anenu. But will that translate into religious fervor? Will the words reflect any real feelings?
Is it better to add something to davening when it will just be one more paragraph that you don't really feel strongly about? How does this affect our connection with the rest of our davening?
There are many, many things about which we need to cry out to God. A terrorist stabbed a security guard yesterday. Hamas shot rockets this week. The Israeli government decided to subsidize televisions rather than education yesterday.
But until the Water Authority tells me to take shorter showers and stop watering my lawn, we don't have a water shortage. Why then are we praying like we do?