Rain holds an important significance in many cultures, both religiously and culturally.
From history, we can learn that man saw in the rain the cause for many important things in its environment – water sources, plants, food and even the fertility of man and animal.
Man's reliance on rain impacted traditions and religions all over the world, mostly in a way corresponding with geographic area of a certain group: in the largely temperate western world, rain metaphorically has a sad and negative connotation, as opposed to dry places, such as parts of Africa, India and the Middle East, where rain is greeted with euphoria.
Rain - "גשם" - is a biblical word – and Israel's reliance on rainwater is critical. Therefore, both in Judaism and modern Israeli society, rain affects culture and language tremendously; in Judaism, it is repeatedly written in biblical stories how rain is a sign of complying with god’s commandments. Indeed, rain can be seen as punishment (too much rain causing floods and death, or not having enough rain causing drought and hunger), or a blessing (everything grows beautifully and there is enough drinking water and food).
As an Israeli child, you are usually taught that rain is a blessing. Since we only have about 60 rainy days in a (good) year, we are usually excited about rain and the rare opportunity to jump in puddles and find some snails right after it stops; usually then, the sun will come out in its caressing and loving way, providing those special moments of happiness and bliss for all. well, I (respectfully) disagree...
"גשמי ברכה"= (ברכה = blessing, לברך = to bless)
Good and blessed rain.
"גשם בעיתו"= (עת=time, עיתו = its time)
Good rain that comes during the rainy season - it was expected and came "on time".
Pouring rain. We know this word from the story of Noah's Ark where god decided he wished to erase everything he made using rain. In modern Hebrew, we use the word "מבול" literally when we refer to very strong rain showers or as a figure of speech when we are overwhelmed by a large quantity of something (phone calls, customers, people, gifts...) - "מבול של מתנות".
So, is the rain a good or bad thing? Happy or sad?
– here are 4 different cultural point of views:
מילים: תלמה אליגון, לחן: קובי אשרת
Superficially, when hearing this song for the first time, with its name – "rain coming on time" you can think that this is an optimistic song, being grateful for the rain that actually came. Well, this song was written during the 1973 war, when the rain began and the people were waiting in their homes, worried about the soldiers and loved ones who were freezing and getting wet in the battlefield. The song is about the rain coming too soon, not considering the terrible war. The speaker is talking to god asking for heat and light instead of this early rain, referring to god's power to bring the rain on time – "בעיתו". At the same time, the speaker admits – rain is a blessing, and asks for the drips of water to caress her soldier/loved one and send him her love.
מילים ולחן: מאיר בנאי
This is an exact opposite experience – when you first listen to this song it is super sad and dramatic where actually the speaker is asking for the rain to come because the city needs it as it has become a place that is symbolically tired and dirty and needs the rain so it, and the people living in it, can finally breathe.
מילים: אהוד מנור, לחן: יאיר רוזנבלום
This also may be a bit confusing at first – the speaker is calling for the rain to come - "גשם בוא". But as we listen further, we learn that the speaker is asking for the rain to wipe everything out on its way, including the speaker's life – he wishes to die. Ehud Manor wrote this song in the memory of his younger brother who was killed in Sinai during the 1968 battles. When asked about this song's meaning, he explained – it is about my wish to die, following the loss of my brother.
מילים: לאה גולדברג, לחן: יואל ולבה
In this song it is very clear - the speaker is gently calling for the rain to give its water to the thirsty earth, watching the clouds and cheering "Hallelujah!". The speaker is thankful, but not taking it for granted, for every tiny drop of rain, describing the coming of the rain as a true joy to all.
I personally don’t like rainy days, but I know – rain is mandatory for life, and is indeed a blessing which we cannot be taken for granted and must be treated with great respect.
I wish you all refreshing winter days along with the caressing rays of sun (a true Mediterranean ones - from Tel Aviv 😊).