Rabbis pray for rain as farmers fear drought [p. 4]

Farmers' fears that this will be a drought year pushed the Chief Rabbinate and leading rabbis to call on the faithful to add special prayers for rain. On Thursday Rabbi Yona Metzger and Rabbi Shlomo Amar issued a statement recommending that both Ashkenazi and Sephardi communities beseech God to "open the heavens." Thursday night the Eda Haredit organized a prayer rally at Zichron Moshe Synagogue in the heart of Mea She'arim. Supplicants recited the last verse of Psalm 90, "May the pleasantness of the Lord our God be upon us," and all of Psalm 91 a total of 91 times as prescribed by Rabbi Haim Josef David Azulai (1724-1806) and Rabbi Haim Halbershtam of Sanz (1793-1876). Last Tuesday Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv directed the leader of prayers in his synagogue to add the special prayer that is recited as part of the "hear our prayers" blessing. Rabbi Dov Lior, who also ruled that the special prayer for rain should be added, explained that since 40 days have passed since the first rainfall of the winter, it is incumbent on every Jew to pray for rain. Most halachic authorities based their decision on the expressed needs of farmers who are most sensitive to the lack of rain. Although none of the rabbis specified what was the spiritual cause for what looks to be the beginning of a drought year, Beit Shemesh-based Rabbi David Biton, who heads "The Guardians of the Holy and the Faith" (Mishmeret Hakodesh Veha'emuna), a fringe group of ultra-Orthodox, blamed the drought on the Eda Haredit's unwillingness to fight against the gay pride parade. Biton published black and white notices [pashkevilim] that were plastered all over Jerusalem Monday to that effect. The Eda Haredit spearheaded haredi opposition to a gay pride parade in Jerusalem including grappling with police, burning garbage bins and sporadic rock throwing. But just days before the scheduled parade, the Eda agreed to allow an enclosed gay pride rally at Hebrew University's Givat Ram campus.