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belser[Full transcript of this interview is available HERE.]

In the land of Israel, rain falls during a single, crucial, season of the year beginning in October or November and continuing through the spring. Lives depended on successful harvests which depended on healthy rainfall. According to the Hebrew scriptures, weather proved God’s blessing or cursing the people of Israel:

From the rain of the heavens, you will drink water—
a land that the Lord your God seeks out perpetually;
the eyes of the Lord your God are upon it
from the year’s beginning to the year’s end. 

If you heed My commands with which I charge you today
to love the Lord your God
and to worship Him with all your heart and with all your being
I will give the rain of your land in its season, early rains and late,
and you shall gather in your grain and your wine and your oil.
And I will give grass in the field to your herds,
and you shall eat and be satisfied.
(Deuteronomy 11.11–15, trans. Robert Alter)

In this episode, Julia Watts Belser talks about how rain permeates some of the earliest rabbinic texts. Surprisingly, many rabbis challenged Deuteronomy’s depiction of rain as a sign of divine favor versus drought as a sign of divine displeasure. Her new book from Cambridge University Press is called Power, Ethics, and Ecology in Jewish Late Antiquity.

About Julia Watts Belser

Julia Watts BelserJulia Watts Belser is Assistant Professor of Jewish Studies in the Department of Theology at Georgetown University. She is also an ordained rabbi. Her articles have appeared in places like the Journal of the American Academy of Religion, the Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion, and the Journal of the Society of Christian Ethics. Her new book is called Power, Ethics, and Ecology in Jewish Late Antiquity: Rabbinic Responses to Drought and Disaster (Cambridge University Press).

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