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We are told in Bereishis 1:12 that on the third day of creation:

וַתּוֹצֵ֨א הָאָ֜רֶץ דֶּ֠שֶׁא עֵ֣שֶׂב מַזְרִ֤יעַ זֶ֙רַע֙ לְמִינֵ֔הוּ וְעֵ֧ץ עֹֽשֶׂה־פְּרִ֛י אֲשֶׁ֥ר זַרְעוֹ־ב֖וֹ לְמִינֵ֑הוּ וַיַּ֥רְא אֱלֹקים כִּי־טֽוֹב

The earth brought forth vegetation: seed-bearing plants of every kind, and trees of every kind bearing fruit with the seed in it. And G-d saw that this was good.

Fast forward to Bereishis 2:5

וְכֹ֣ל ׀ שִׂ֣יחַ הַשָּׂדֶ֗ה טֶ֚רֶם יִֽהְיֶ֣ה בָאָ֔רֶץ וְכׇל־עֵ֥שֶׂב הַשָּׂדֶ֖ה טֶ֣רֶם יִצְמָ֑ח כִּי֩ לֹ֨א הִמְטִ֜יר ה' אֱלֹקים֙ עַל־הָאָ֔רֶץ וְאָדָ֣ם אַ֔יִן לַֽעֲבֹ֖ד אֶת־הָֽאֲדָמָֽה

When no shrub of the field was yet on earth and no grasses of the field had yet sprouted, because G-d had not sent rain upon the earth and there were no human beings to till the soil

Rashi famously explains this to mean that despite the vegetation being created on the third day, it did not sprout from the earth until the sixth day, when Adam realised the need for rain and prayed accordingly.

However, in subsequent posukim which relates the creation of Adam, the verse writes:

וְאֵ֖ד יַֽעֲלֶ֣ה מִן־הָאָ֑רֶץ וְהִשְׁקָ֖ה אֶֽת־כׇּל־פְּנֵ֥י הָֽאֲדָמָֽה: וַיִּ֩יצֶר֩ יְהֹוָ֨ה אֱלֹהִ֜ים אֶת־הָֽאָדָ֗ם עָפָר֙ מִן־הָ֣אֲדָמָ֔ה וַיִּפַּ֥ח בְּאַפָּ֖יו נִשְׁמַ֣ת חַיִּ֑ים וַיְהִ֥י הָֽאָדָ֖ם לְנֶ֥פֶשׁ חַיָּֽה

but a flow/mist would well up from the ground and water the whole surface of the earth — G-d formed Adam from the soil’s humus, blowing into his nostrils the breath of life: Adam became a living being.

Clearly, there was a type of rain/natural irrigation that was used before Adam was created so why couldn’t that same rain have been used to water the vegetation?

The Netziv asks why it specifically had to be an אד הארץ מן יעלה and answers that it wasn’t exactly a type of גשם (rain) and instead Hashem used an אד until Adam came. However, this doesn’t yet explain why the אד that came down didn’t help to make everything grow?

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  • See also the Sforno (ad loc.)
    – Shmuel
    Commented Oct 13, 2023 at 8:53
  • Interesting @Shmuel - so we can infer that it did help the vegetation grow but only the proper rain that Adam davened allowed it to break through the surface
    – Dov
    Commented Oct 13, 2023 at 9:05
  • Yes that's what the Sforno says, it irrigated the soil in order to grow. Maybe only the roots.
    – Shmuel
    Commented Oct 13, 2023 at 9:16
  • I heard Rav Glatstein shlita also give a nice observation. I would recommend watching his new series Davar Yafeh B' Ito.
    – Shmuel
    Commented Oct 14, 2023 at 19:18

2 Answers 2

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I just heard a nice dvar Torah related to this:

The point is, Gd wanted Adam to pray for the grass. But first, what grass was he praying for?

Do you think Adam was “spawned” into Gan Eden and it was a barren wasteland and desert? Did it really have no trees or plants, and he had to pray for it? No, of course it had vegetation, this was the garden of Eden remember. The Torah explicitly says rivers were flowing in and out of the garden, so clearly it didn’t need rain. So what was Adam praying for if the garden had vegetation?

He was praying for outside of the garden which had no plant life. Gd gave Adam the ability of speech, and his first words were praying for outside of the garden. He wasn’t praying for himself, he was praying for other people as if. And as the Maharsha writes regarding the story of Rabbi Chanina Ben Dosa praying for Ribaz’s son in Berachot, “sometimes other people’s prayers are more powerful than your own.” Man’s whole ability of speech was davka to be able to do chesed for others, to pray for other people.

So I think to answer your question, the אד didn’t water the plants so that this lesson could be demonstrated. So that the first words spoken by man would be for chesed, for helping others but himself

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    +1 - Nice thank you
    – Dov
    Commented Oct 14, 2023 at 18:52
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So, my Rebbi from Yeshivas Bais Yisroel, HaRav Moshe Lehrfeld shlita answered as follows:

The Gemara in Taanis tells us on the Posuk:

"ולעבדו בכל לבבכם"

And serve him with all you heart (Devarim 11:13)

This is a reference to prayer and that's why the next verse continues:

וְנָתַתִּ֧י מְטַֽר־אַרְצְכֶ֛ם בְּעִתּ֖וֹ יוֹרֶ֣ה וּמַלְק֑וֹשׁ

I will grant the rain for your land in season, the early rain and the late. (Devarim 11:14)

In other words, "ולעבדו בכל לבבכם" means tefilla and therefore when we daven, "וְנָתַתִּ֧י מְטַֽר־אַרְצְכֶ֛ם", Hashem will give rain.

The Brisker Rav asks how this can be if we know that everything, we get comes through davening so what is so special about rain?

He explains according to the Vilna Gaon that since everything else has a cycle of when it comes, it’s not dependent on tefilla. However, since rain is always unexpected, the only key to bring it is with tefilla.

With this, we can understand that there was rain before Adam was created but it simply wasn’t capable of making everything grow. Which rain contains that power? Rain that comes through tefilla. That’s why Rashi explains that Adam had to recognize the importance of rain to be able to bring it through his tefilla.

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