Weekly Chasidic Story #844 (s5774-22 / 26 Shevat 5774)
The King, the Jews, the Rain
This may read like a tale from several centuries ago, but the reality is that this episode took place recently, in early 2014.
Connection: Current Events!
The title-and the story itself for that matter, might lead you to think this is one of my stories of 18th-19th century Eastern Europe, or 16th-17th century Tsfat or Jerusalem for that matter. The reality is that this episode took place recently, in early 2014.
The first stages of winter in Morocco this year were unusually warm and dry, and as the days and weeks progressed, so did the worry that this could be a year of drought leading to serious famine, for the agriculture of Morocco (like many other countries in the Mideast) is dependent upon the winter rains.
The King of Morocco, however, Muhammad the Sixth, knew well the address to turn to in the season of such troubles: the synagogues of the Jews. He sent an official royal request to the head of each Jewish community in Morocco, asking them to convene a special assembly in their synagogues for the express purpose of praying for rain. In response, the members of CCIM-“Council of Israelite Communities in Morocco”-hurried to compose a letter that was dispatched to all the Jews in the country.
“In light of the request of his Royal Highness, the King, there should take place in every synagogue [at the same time] a special prayer assembly to plead with the Master of the Universe that He should provide plentiful rain throughout the kingdom.”
It was decided that this prayer should take place in the synagogues on Shabbat, the tenth day of the Jewish month of Shvat in the year 5774 (Jan. 11, 2014), just before reading the weekly Torah portion called Beshalach. In every synagogue in the land that Shabbat, the Jews gathered and prayed with mighty devotion that the Al-mighty should release the rain upon the land.
The next day, Sunday, in the evening, their prayers were answered [in the affirmative]. Dense dark clouds slowly filled the sky, and soon thereafter heavy rains beat upon the earth everywhere within the borders of Morocco, and continued for several days without cease.
The following week, important government officials in every city with a Jewish community met with the leader of the community in his city by order of the King to thank them in his name for their congregation’s prayers. *
How did King Muhammad VI know to ask the Jews to help? Answer: He simply followed the family tradition. His father, Hussein II, often turned to the Jews for their prayers in times of need, and he enjoyed a warm relationship with a number of different Jewish community leaders. Although only a fraction of the Jewish population remained in Morocco after 1948 (about 3000 out of approximately 350,000) Hussein II believed that even this greatly reduced number was a source of blessing for the country. Indeed, on the eve of Yom Kippur each year, he would send personal representatives, wearing the fancy robes of royal emissaries to their synagogues to request a blessing for the King.
Yaakov (“Jackie”) Kadosh, head of the Jewish community of Marrakesh, testified to Sichat HaShavua, one of Israel’s most popular Shabbat weekly publications, that the current King also has this great appreciation for the Jews in his kingdom.
“A few years ago we decided to repair and renovate our centuries-old Jewish cemetery from the damages of the passage of time. I and Rabbi Raphael Ben-Shimon wrote to the King with the details of our plan. In just a short time we received a response. He blessed our plan and even said that all the expenses for the work would be paid from the royal treasury. This was a sum equivalent to millions of dollars! He called it ‘a holy project.'”
Source: Translated and freely adapted by Yerachmiel Tilles from Sichat HaShavua #1412.
* Editor’s note: I’ll answer some astute readers’ question in advance to save them the trouble of writing: Yes, I know that the day before that Shabbat, millions of Muslims prayed in their mosques for rain too, also at the behest of the King.
Yerachmiel Tilles is co-founder and associate director of Ascent-of-Safed, and chief editor of this website (and of KabbalaOnline.org). He has hundreds of published stories to his credit, and many have been translated into other languages. He tells them live at Ascent nearly every Saturday night.
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