Moshe introduces the poem of Ha’azinu by proclaiming that his message shall “pour forth” like rain pouring down on fields: “Ya’arof ka-matar likchi…ki-rvivim alei eisev” (32:2). Many writers extended this analogy to apply to Torah generally, comparing Torah instruction to rain falling onto the ground. The Sefat Emet, for example, explains that the ground has vast potential, the capability to produce enormous amounts of tasty and nourishing products, but it requires rain for that potential to be actualized. Similarly, the Sefat Emet writes, every individual has the potential for spiritual greatness, but that potential can be realized only through the “rain” of proper Torah instruction and guidance.
Rav Menachem Bentzion Sacks, in his Menachem Tziyon, added further insight into the analogy drawn between rainfall and Torah instruction. He noted that rainfall is beneficial only if the seeds are properly embedded in the ground. Rain that falls on loose seeds ruins them. Not only is the rain unable to produce vegetation if it falls on these seeds, but it destroys them, denying them the possibility of producing in the future.
Rav Sacks applied this aspect of the analogy to religious education. Brilliant and inspiring discourses can have the desired effect only upon those whose foundations are suited for “watering.” A certain basic level of knowledge, awareness and receptiveness is needed for the “rain” of Torah teaching to produce results, to inspire commitment and devotion. Rav Sacks cites in this context King Shlomo’s advice in Sefer Mishlei (10:19), “Be-rov devarim lo yechdal pasha, ve-chosekh sefatav maskil” – “With abundant words wrongdoing is not stopped, and he who restrains his lips is wise.” Words are capable of bringing about positive change only if the “ground” has been prepared for them, if the individual is at the point where he can be receptive and open to teaching and instruction. Otherwise, the “rain” of wise teaching will be unproductive, at best, and counterproductive, at worst. In our desire to motivate and inspire the people around us to embrace the Torah, we are best advised to “restrain our lips” until we have ascertained that the foundations are in place that allow the precious “rain” of Torah wisdom to touch and awaken the hearts of our fellow Jews and unlock the vast potential within them.