The Lightning Bolts

are saying, “He causes the vapors to ascend from the ends of the earth; He makes lightning for the rain; He brings forth the wind from His storehouses.”

(Psalms 135:7)

from  Perek Shira

Electric Shock

    Lightning comes about due to an imbalance in the electric charges between the ground and the thunderhead.  The lightning bold instantly strikes and redresses the imbalance.  It’s a sudden and striking way of doing so, but highly effective.

    A similar imbalance of forces sometimes exists between man and the Heavens.  Man sometimes becomes lost in the material world, forgetting about the spiritual.  There, too, something must be done.

    There is nothing more openly perceived as an act of God than a bolt of lightning.  Thunderstorms, with their terrifying crashing sounds, startling flashes of light, and driving rain, do not merely instill awe in a person - they instill religious awe.  It’s a way of shocking people out of their complacency and reminding them to redress the imbalance between their body and their soul.

    Thunder was created only to straighten out the crookedness of one’s heart.

(Talmud, Berachos 59a)

    Lightning sings electrifyingly of the need to remember the spirituality of the Heavens, and not to fall out of synchronization with that (Birchas HaShir, Kenaf Renanim).

Driving Rain

    As we shall learn in the song of the rain, rain is the medium that symbolizes the relationship between God and man.  The fertilization of the ground by the rains from the heavens represents the emanation of Divine life from God to man.

    During a long, hot summer, the land is baked hard by the summer heat.  As a result, it is simply unable to absorb the life-giving rains.  The parallel of this is that the heat of physical desire renders man unreceptive to spirituality and distanced in his relationship with God.

If you walk in My statutes, and keep My commandments, and do them, then I will give you rain in due season… but if you do not listen to Me… I will make your skies like iron, and your earth like bronze…

(Leviticus 26:3-19)

    The solution for the land is to plough it.  One thereby opens it up, enabling it to receive and absorb the forthcoming rain.  Likewise, the end of summer is a time for repentance, for man to break through the bonds of materialism.

    However, we do not always rise to the occasion.  As such times, God may not give up on us, either.  There are ways to render us receptive to Him.

    Thunderstorms typically occur at the end of long and hot summers.  As products of vast cumulonimbus clouds, they are usually accompanied by vast quantities of pelting rain.  Such rain will not slide off the baked soil.  It is ideal for driving into the hard clods of earth and breaking it up.

    By the same token, thunderstorms shock man into remembering God and urge him to break out of his materialism and become receptive to God’s rain.  The lightning bolts are singing that God “causes the vapors to ascend from the ends of the earth; He makes lightning for the rain; He brings forth the wind from His storehouses.”  He makes lightning for the rain to be effective at penetrating the ground and giving it new life (Tziltzel Kenafim.  See too Seasons of Life, Chodesh Elul).

From Nature’s Song by Nosson Slifkin, pg. 149

A thunderstorm with a diameter of three miles might contain 500,000 tons of water and a potential energy equivalent to ten atomic bombs like the one dropped on Hiroshima.

Analyzing a Lightning Bolt

In a lightning bolt, a relatively low-powered “leader” first shoots from a thundercloud to the earth in a series of zigzag steps.  When it is sixty to ninety feet from the ground, it is met by an upward-seeking discharge of electricity some two to three inches in diameter and surrounded by a five-inch sleeve of superheated air.  The stroke pack 10,000 to 200,000 amperes and instantly cooks the surrounding air to a temperature of 50,000 degrees Fahrenheit or more, causing it to expand violently in a roar of thunder.  When the return stroke enters the could another leader descends and is in turn met by another rising charge.  This repeats from three to twenty-six times, but the bolts all travel so fast, at about 93,000 miles per second, that we see it as a single flash of lightning.

Perek Shira is an ancient text which lists 84 elements of the natural world, attaching a verse from the Torah to each.  Perek Shira is the “song” of the natural world, the tapestry of lessons for life that the natural world is telling us.

Rabbi Yochanan said: Had the Torah not been given, we would have learned modesty from the cat, [the prohibition of] theft from the ant, [the prohibition of] forbidden relationships from the dove, and the proper method of conjugal relations from fowl.

(Talmud Eruvin 100b)

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by  Nosson Slifkin
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