On the first day of Pesach, as the winter ends and we stop asking
for rain, we recite "T'filat Tal" - the prayer for dew.
When we pray for rain at the end of Sukkot, it is always
accompanied by great emotion and fervor. Rain, especially in Eretz
Yisrael, is an essential element for our existence. Our dependence on
the rains, at the proper time and in the proper proportion, is in actuality
a dependence for our sustenance - for our daily bread. It is therefore, of
utmost importance to us that the rains are "gishmei bracha" rain of
blessing, and "g'shamim b'itam," rain which is timely
But what about 'tal' - dew? What are we praying for when we pray
for dew? What is the unique importance of dew? Why do we pray for it
on Pesach? What is the difference between dew and rain?
To compare dew and rain would be, perhaps, to compare the
digestive or respiratory system in the human body to the body's
reproductive system. The former is a system which sustains the body by
absorbing the food or oxygen that it needs and eliminating what is not
needed. We don't have to remind ourselves to breathe or to digest our
food, nor do we have to tell our heart to beat at regular intervals. This
system is set up to work on its own - a constant system that maintains
the body. It is something we take for granted. Such is the dew - it falls
every day, in a regular pattern at a regular time, it is dependable, reliable
- the dew is there to maintain in the world, to provide a minimum of
moisture to keep the world going.
Rain, on the other hand, could be compared to the reproductive
system, in the sense that the reproductive system is not a passive system.
There is a creative force which must come to play, and the results are far
from dependable or predictable. Many things can occur on the way to
fertilization. And fertilization can come in abundance, over abundance
or not at all. There is the unknown and the mysterious that surrounds
And such is the rain: Accompanied by dramatic winds, lightning
and thunder, it is the creative force in the world - providing the source
for our very sustenance, but also being unpredictable, a wild card. Will
this year be a year of abundant rains or will there be a drought? Will
there be abundance or the flooding of OVER abundance? And on what
does it depend on?
The rains are dependent on our own behavior, what is called in the
Kabbalah "itaruta d'letata" - an awakening and a consciousness initiated
by man in the material world on earth. Our deeds and actions are one
of the controlling elements in whether or not Hashem will send us rain,
and our prayers can influence G-d's decision. We are bound together in
an intimate relationship - the amount of rain we receive is
commensurate with the way we behave. That puts an enormous
responsibility on us.
When the shepherds of Lot quarreled with the shepherds of Avram
over pasture land, it was decided to separate and have each man go his
own way. Lot chose the easy way out- he chose the well-watered Jordan
plains with their natural irrigation. Avram chose the land of Cana'an,
which was dependent on rainfall. This choice was a decision to be
forever linked to Hashem, settling in the land whose sustenance
depended on moral and ethical behavior.
Tal, dew, on the other hand, is not dependent on our behavior. Of
tal it is said "Ayno m'atzer l'olam" (Taanit 3)- it is a never ending
element, unable to be withheld. Whether we are worthy or not, the dew
will fall. Even when Eliahu HaNavi , because of immoral behavior in
the days of Achav, decrees a drought upon the land, announcing that
there will be neither rain nor dew, he is able to prevent the rains from
coming, but he is unable to prevent the dew. Dew is a given, a "free
lunch," with no "payment" from man. We could say that dew is Chessed
- a constant bestowing of kindness, as opposed to rain which is Din -
conditional on judgment.
If dew, as we said, is a constant, never ending and independent of
our worthiness, then why do we pray for it? We are going to get it
anyway! We understand why we pray for rain, but why do we have a
prayer for dew?
In a world of abundance, plenty, glitz and mass media, we are
constantly confronted and bombarded by noise, flashy colors and drama
- we have to learn to appreciate the gentle blessing of dew. We need to
pause and appreciate the things that we are could be allowed to take for
granted. We don't have to tell our heart to beat , nor remind ourselves to
exhale and inhale. We take these things for granted. The lesson of tal is
that these very things we take for granted require a special appreciation.
G-d's constant chessed with us is not something to be taken lightly.
When Yitzchak blesses his sons, he intends to give Esav the
blessing of tal (Bereishit 27). Even though Yitzchak did not consider
Esav an evil person, he knew that he was no great "tzaddik" either. He
decides to give Esav a blessing that he will merit no matter what he
does, no matter how he behaves, independent of 'itaruta d'letata'. That
was the beracha of tal - "V'yitein l'cha Elokim mital hashamayim..." To
Yaakov he would give a bracha commensurate with his deeds. (How
lucky we are to have also received the bracha of tal - the bracha of
constant chessed, a bracha to appreciate!)
(An additional element of "tal," requiring a more in-depth forum is
that hidden within the dew is the power of resurrection - T'chiat
Hamaytim. At Mt. Sinai, after witnessing the intensity and drama of the
first commandment, the nation fainted - "their souls left them" - and
Hashem revived them with "tal shel "tchiya," dew of resurrection. We
are taught that in the world to come Hashem will resurrect the dead with
What is the connection between dew and Pesach? If dew comes
all year round, why is tefilat tal said specifically on Pesach?
Pesach is the holiday of Chessed. With very little intervention on
our part we were delivered from Egypt. Having sunk to the 49th level of
impurity, Hashem bestowed upon us the benevolent kindness of
redemption, taking us out of Egypt with an abundance of miracles. We
pray for rain after Rosh HaShana and Yom Kippur, only after we have
been brought to judgment, examined our deeds, and (hopefully!)
become worthy of rain. Tefilat Tal is said at the time of natural chessed
- Pesach. In Hoshea 6, Israel asks G-d to come to them like the rain ,
but G-d answers them - "Eheyeh k'tal l'yisrael" I will be like dew to
Israel. The rains, though dramatic and potentially beneficial, can also
be destructive if they aren't given in exactly the right amounts and in
precisely the right time. "Din" is powerful, but also dangerous. A
greater blessing is to have G-d appear as tal - a dependable, constant --
and gentle -- chessed.
When dew falls, it falls only on things that are in the open. If
there is a covering or an obstruction, the dew won't reach that spot. A
person must be a 'kli kikbul' , an open vessel to receive this blessing of
chessed. On Pesach, we rid ourselves of chametz, all the vanity, the
inflated ego, the sins of our hearts. On Pesach we must remove all the
false exteriors, we must be free of obstructions, and open ourselves to
receive G-d's blessing of Tal.
Let the tal fall on our open hearts, and on Pesach, the time of
redemption, let us merit a chessed that is constant and never ending
The class is taught by Rabbi Shaya Karlinsky,
Dean of Darche Noam Institutions, Yeshivat
Darche Noam/Shapell's and Midreshet Rachel for Women.