After the dramatic autumns of my East Coast childhood, living in the Galilee has accustomed me to a more gradual and nuanced approach of the season. Here, the beginning of fall is marked by the brief appearance of a wispy white flower, a chill in the evening air, and the return of clouds to the sky. After months without precipitation, these clouds signify that the winter rains will soon be upon us – tidings of hope and renewal.
The Jewish New Year begins in the fall. In Biblical times, and today, this season marked the beginning of a new agricultural cycle. Here, to put things very simply, there are traditionally two agricultural seasons – winter and summer, for grains and pulses, and for vegetables and fruits, respectively. The rains of autumn soften the summer-dry earth so it can be prepared for tilling and planting wheat and barley. And now, as one year ends and another begins, we are busy with the final harvesting of the summer fruits – grapes, pomegranates, figs, dates, and finally olives.
The billowy white clouds in the sky underscore our most fervent desire, still today as it has been for millennia, for a year of rains that come in their time – the early and the late.