Roy Neuberger - Nov. 17, 2017

“There was a famine in the land, aside from the first famine that was in the days of Avraham, and Yitzchak went to Avimelech, king of the Pilishtim…” (Genesis 26:1)

Why do famines occur so often in the days of our Patriarchs and Matriarchs? There were famines in the days of Avraham and Yitzchak. Then, of course, Yaakov and his sons descended to Egypt as the result of a famine, the latter being the precursor to our entire Redemption and the revelation of the Torah at Mount Sinai.

In the Shema, we read these fateful words: “Beware for yourselves, lest your heart be seduced and you turn astray and serve gods of others and prostrate yourselves to them. Then the wrath of Hashem will blaze against you. He will restrain the heaven so there will be no rain, and the ground will not yield its produce and you will be swiftly banished from the goodly Land that Hashem gives you!” (Deuteronomy 11:13-17) The Torah makes it crystal clear. A famine, and the resulting Exile, occurs in response to some deficiency on our part.

Exile does not occur because of the sins of the other nations. As the Torah shows, exile comes about because of some problem in our behavior. Although the Presence of G-d accompanies us into exile (see Megillah 29a), it is also hidden from us, and we are responsible for this terrible and tragic situation. What causes famine?

There is a terrible drought in the Land of Israel at this very moment. The Kinneret (the Sea of Galilee) is forecast to hit its lowest level ever – please note that word – before the winter rains. And who knows whether there will be winter rains! A government spokesman was quoted recently as saying, “No one imagined we would face a sequence of arid years like this, because it never happened before.”

But it did happen before! We are reading about it in the current Torah portions!

In Israel, they are already saying “tal u’matar livracha,” the prayer for rain, in the Shemoneh Esreh. I believe that we all need to pray with tears, because tears represent the rain we need to fall on the Holy Land!


We have to ask ourselves what is wrong. The passage from the Shema I have just quoted tells us that, when sufficient rain does not fall, it is because the heart of Am Yisroel has been “seduced” and we are “turning astray” to serve “gods of others and bow to them.” This is about as serious as you can get. This is deep danger. We have to search for answers.

My friends, I am writing this article at a computer. I turn on lights and use a cell phone. I don’t ride on a hoverboard, but I know a highly-respected rabbi who was knocked down on the street by one that ran out of control.

“In the six hundredth year of the life of Noah … on that day all the fountains of the great deep burst forth and the windows of the heavens were opened.” (Genesis 7:11)

The Zohar (1:117a) understands this passage as a prophetic allusion to the year in the Sixth Millennium of history, corresponding to the civil year 1840, in which the gates of spiritual wisdom (above) and the gates of material wisdom (below) will be opened. In secular history, this is basically the year in which the “Industrial Revolution” began, a moment which is generally regarded in Western Culture as the basis for the fulfillment of history, which will supposedly transform the world into a “paradise on earth.”

My friends, we all make use, to some extent, of this technological world. But we have to be extremely vigilant not to regard the technological revolution as an ideal. Our ideals are clearly defined by the Torah, and they relate to the “windows of the heavens” as opposed to the “fountains of the great deep.” They relate to kedusha, spiritual sanctity. They relate to the Final Redemption from our long Exile. They relate to the rebuilding of the Holy Temple and the return of the Presence of G-d to Tzion. They relate to the ideal expressed in the possuk, “Ki Mi Tzion … from Tzion the Torah will come forth and the word of Hashem from Yerushalayim!” (Isaiah 2:3)


We have a relative who had a serious problem with a tumor. It happened that many of her neighbors also had tumors, some malignant, and it was suggested that they bring a radiation expert to the neighborhood. This expert surveyed our relative’s house, and the results were staggering. The amount of radioactivity was extreme. Not even mentioning cell towers and radiation-emitting appliances like microwave ovens, even “innocent,” low-tech lighting fixtures, cordless telephones and irresponsible wiring were the apparent cause of extremely dangerous levels of radiation. We really do not understand the power that has been unleashed.

I heard recently that a certain country has admitted a robot to citizenship. This is supposed to be a little bit of a joke. I don’t think it is a joke. Things are getting seriously out of control. I am sorry to say that the nations of the world seem to have no understanding of the implications of the power unleashed from the “great deep.”

This is an extremely dangerous moment in history. The ringing of the cell phone, the alluring song of the surrounding culture, the obsession with its ideals and glittering gadgets … “their idols are silver and gold, the handiwork of man.… Oh Israel, trust in Hashem!” (Psalm 115)

My friends, we need healing rain in the Holy Land. We need rivers of tears! We need the waters of the Kinneret to rise. We need to beg Hashem to save us!

“Remember the one [Yitzchak Avinu] born with the tidings of, ‘Let some water be brought.’ You told his father to … spill his blood like water. He too was scrupulous to pour out his heart like water…. For his sake, do not hold back water!” (Tefillos Geshem, the Prayer for Rain)


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