אנכי ממטיר על הארץ (ז:ד)
Why is it that Chazal call rain gevuros geshamim, and why is it put together with techiyas ha’meisim? The Gra (in Aderes Eliyahu, parshas V’zos Ha’bracha) explains that rain does not function according to the parameters of nature. The sheim Elokim indicates the function of nature; it is well known that the gematria of Elokim is equivalent to that of ha’tevah. Nature is the chok nasan lo yaavor, the ratzon of Hashem that was engraved into creation and is permanent. (Hashem is mechadeish b’tuvo b’chol yom maaseh breishis, just that His ratzon is that it should be the same every day). The Gaon emphasizes that this is why throughout Maaseh Breishis, the sheim used is Elokim. It was during that time that the laws of nature were set up. Nature functions with a precise exactitude such that it is perfectly predictable. Scientists who master the chochma ba’umos taamin can tell you exactly when an eclipse took place 1,000 years ago – down to the second – and they can accurately predict when the next one will take place, and so on. Rain, though, is unpredictable. Sometimes there are dry spells, sometimes there are wet spells. Even when you know for sure that it is going to rain, no-one can tell you exactly where and when the first drop will hit.
That is why, continues the Gra, it is called gevuros because it manifests gevuras Hashem. In the context of the dependent, predictable system of nature it is possible to sometimes forget that there is a Baal Ha’Birah. But rain, which functions outside of the normal laws of nature, reminds you of Who is running the system. For the same reason, concludes the Gaon, gevuros geshamim was put together with techiyas ha’meisim. Techiyas ha’meisim is also something which cannot occur on the basis of natural law. Natural law does not allow for dead people to come back to life. Understanding how techiyas ha’meisim will take place is completely out of the realm of understanding of scientific pursuit.
The Gemara in Shabbos (75a) says that chochmaschem u’binaschem l’eini ha’amim is a reference to astronomical calculations. Rashi explains that one who masters this field can accurately predict whether the upcoming year will be dry or rainy, etc. and that impresses the Goyim because they can see that your chochma is authentic. This may seem like a kashya on what the Gaon says – insofar as it seems pretty clear from Rashi that rain does function according to the laws of nature – but, really it isn’t. Rashi is talking about predicting whether the year overall will be dry or rainy, but the Gaon was talking about the lack of being able to predict what is going to be on a daily and hourly basis. When it comes to the latter subset, we really do not have any handle on accurate predictions.
One more yediah which is necessary for rounding off this topic is that which Rabbeinu Bachayei and other Rishonim distinguish between two types of rain (some explain that this is indicated by the two different words that we find for rain in the Torah: geshem and matar). There is a type of rain that functions as part of the laws of chukos Shamayim va’Aretz, and there is another type that functions outside of that system as in va’nasati gishmeichem b’itam. Chazal explain that Ha’Kadosh Baruch Hu sometimes makes the rain come down in a specific time which brings about a tremendous shefah. Whereas the first type of rain functions primarily within the cause-and-effect of natural law, the latter is totally a function of spiritual cause-and-effect.
(Audio Recording, available here)
Before they installed drains on our Arzei Ha’Birah street, my kids would jokingly call it Nahar Yakim instead of Rechov Yakim because it would become like a river during the rainy season. All the rain from the Beis Yisrael neighborhood would flow down to our street. One time, on Shabbos, it was just pouring and the water was streaming down the street in rushing rivulets.
I daven at the Mir Yeshiva on Shabbos, and they start at 7:00 am. I like to get there a bit early, so I was walking out of my home and up Rechov Yakim around 6:40 am. It was raining hard. I noticed Rav Twersky standing perfectly still in the middle of the street getting absolutely soaked. He was simply frozen to his spot. Had it been anyone else, I certainly would have inquired as to why the person is standing there like that, and offered assistance. But with Rav Twersky, it was so plainly obvious that his socks must have gotten soaked through and he was concerned that walking would constitute the forbidden act of squeezing water out of a garment according to some opinions.
Had I said anything it would have been just totally out of place and completely awkward. So I continued along my way.
I learn after davening on Shabbos, so I didn’t get back home until about 10:45 am. There I saw, to my shock and bewilderment, that Rav Twersky was still rooted to his spot. I don’t recall for sure if he was still there when I left my home once again around 1:00 pm for the mid-day Mincha. Thankfully, when I passed there in the late afternoon, I saw that he had somehow managed to extricate himself from that predicament and was no longer there.
(From Reb Chanoch Teller)