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Does the Broom in the Tree Work?

Sunday, 25 November, 2018 - 6:02 pm

Question of the Week:

I am planning an outdoor event and really hope it doesn't rain. I have heard a superstition that if you put a broom in a tree at the venue it won't rain. Is there a Jewish trick to prevent rain?

Answer:
 
The Talmudic sage Rabbi Yochanan taught:

There are three keys that G-d holds, and never hands over to anyone else. They are the key to rain, the key to childbirth, and the key to revival of the dead.

No matter how advanced our society becomes, no matter how much progress we make in technology and science, and no matter how many superstitious magic tricks we perform, some things are simply out of human control.

The mystery of creating new life still baffles us. The greatest doctors cannot explain why some people conceive a child with ease, while others have so much difficulty. We are privileged to live in a time with so many options for assisted fertility. But in the end only G-d can decide when a baby is to be born. The key to life is in His hands.

As with the beginning of life, so with its end. Despite all the medical advancements and extended life expectancy, we still can't bring someone back from the dead. We believe the time will come when G-d will revive the dead and our departed loved ones will live again. In the meantime, death is the final frontier that man cannot conquer.

Then, in between birth and death, there's the weather. We can't control the rain. You can plan an outdoor function months in advance, only to see your plans upturned by a sudden downpour. A huge sporting event with tens of thousands of spectators can be rained out and called off within minutes. And when there's a drought we pray for rain, but we can't force it to come.

All the scientific research can't explain the mysteries of childbirth. And all the medical know-how can't bring the dead back to life. And all the brooms in every tree can't stop it raining. We need to humbly look up to the heavens, and acknowledge that those keys are not in our hands.

This acknowledgement is the antidote to what's known in Greek as hubris, or in Latin as chutzpah. Humans can be arrogant sometimes, thinking we are in control and have the power to do whatever we want. But we didn't choose when to be born. We can't come back when we die. And we can't do anything if it rains on our party. We need to trust that G-d does His job, and we should get on with ours.

Good Shabbos,
Rabbi Moss

Note: Jewish law encourages seeking fertility treatments under rabbinical advice. Jewish law forbids superstitions. That's why there are lots of Jewish doctors, not so many Jewish witch doctors. But all must acknowledge that G-d is ultimately in control.

Sources:

 

 


Taanis 2a, Devarim Rabbah 7:6

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