“Do not fear them! You shall remember what Adonai,
your God, did to Pharaoh and to all of Egypt.” (Deuteronomy 7:18)
In the Torah, the land is the mediator of God’s relationship with the Israelites. If they follow the Torah, the rain will fall, the land will produce crops, and they will thrive. If they abandon the Torah, the rain will not fall, the land will produce no crops, and they will perish (Deut. 11:13-21). This reward and punishment approach to Jewish life is so central to Jewish thought, these verses from Parashat Eikev are recited daily as the second of the three paragraphs of the Sh’ma prayer. So what does it mean, theologically, when the State of Israel no longer depends upon rain for sustenance?
One of the many miracles Israel has wrought is its emergence as a net water-exporting country. This is the result of legislating water as common good belonging to the state, rather than to the individual, in 1959. Since then, Israel has created incentives to influence individual water usage and to stimulate technology to develop solutions. Israel no longer need our prayers for rain.
Lest you think this is a science-triumphs-over-religion polemic, consider, however: in Parashat Eikev, Moses reminds the Israelites to fear, love, and serve God, “… for your own benefit” (Deut. 10:12-1). S’forno (~1470–~1550; Italian commentator and physician) reasons: God’s world is testimony enough to God’s greatness; God doesn’t need human adulation. Still, God performs miracles for the benefit of the Israelites. Why? It must be to help us achieve the one unique characteristic of humanity: being created in the image of God. Since God’s essence manifests through creation and creativity, Israel’s ingenuity in achieving water self-sufficiency is, “…going in God’s ways.” (Deut. 10:12-1)
Gut Shabbos/Shabbat Shalom