Earth Etude for Elul 23 — The Prayer for Rain

by Rabbi Louis Polisson

~The Hebrew month of Elul is well-known as the month of preparation for the Jewish holidays Rosh Ha-Shanah (the New Year) and Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement). In Jewish literature, it is often called a month of teshuvah (repentance, self-improvement, and returning to the good parts of ourselves). However, one might also view Elul as a time to prepare for the fall harvest festival of Sukkot (which literally means Booths or Huts), when we eat all of our meals in a temporary dwelling, symbolizing our fragile yet joyous and sacred relationship with nature and the Earth. Sukkot comes just five days after Yom Kippur and ends with Shemini Atzeret (the 8th day of the Assembly), a day on which Jews recite a special prayer for rain, marking the seasonal transition from summer to fall and anticipating the coming rain in the late fall and winter. This poem is an interpretive translation of Tefillat Geshem, recited on Shemini Azteret and includes a new stanza. I was inspired to write it during as the heavy rain of a thunderstorm poured down at the beginning of August 2019.

The Prayer for Rain
An Interpretive Translation and New Stanza
of Tefillat Geshem (The Prayer for Rain)
Recited on Shemini Atzeret
Inspired by the Alternative Ashkenazic
Prayer for Rain with Matriarchs
in Siddur Lev Shalem

Our Beloved Earth and the Earth of our Ancestors 

The parents drawn to your riverbanks, 
Overflowing with water
One was blessed with thirst quenched 
Like a tree planted by streams of water
Your downpour relieved another from the fiery heat with water
They and you sought each other’s well-being, 
As they sowed seeds by your water

The once-barren woman who had mercy 
On those who longed for just a sip of water
She lived with integrity on land nourished by water
She led countless women to stand with her in solidarity – 
Taking shade under trees rooted in soil and water
Thanks to her careful planting and stewardship,
She suckled thousands with the natural milk that we call water

The prophetesses and prophets 
Who invited us to partner with the water
Who shepherded us and lifted us up, 
To free ourselves through falls of water
Who taught us rituals 
To mark the ebbs and flows of seasons and water
The ones who taught us how to build fires,
Watch the clouds, who hydrated us 
With water

To your sacred nature,
The spirit within your body of stardust and water
Renew yourself with days of feasting
And become pure with one day of abstaining from Water
Prepare by witnessing the cleansing, Life-giving power of water
Know before whom you stand and remember
We can repair the world,
If we learn to accept and to change like water
May we reveal the Divine within and outside, above and below,
That which causes the wind to blow and the rain to fall

May we return to water as a blessing and not a curse – Amen
May we return to water for life and not for death – Amen
May we return to water as abundant and not as scarce – Amen

Rabbi Louis Polisson received rabbinic ordination and an M.A. in Jewish Thought with a concentration on Kabbalah and Hasidut from the Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS) in May 2018. He previously served as Rabbi of Congregation Eitz Chaim of Monroe, NY and as Rabbinic Intern at Temple Israel Center of White Plains, NY. Rabbi Polisson is also a musician and a composer. In 2017, he was awarded a grant from the Hadar Institute to record and produce an album of original Jewish and spiritual songs with his wife, Gabriella Feingold, released in November 2018, available at Rabbi Polisson also studies and teaches Jewish meditation and spiritual practices and is passionate about connecting people to Judaism, Jewish community, and the Divine. 


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