The province of South Africa in which I live, the Western Cape, is in severe drought. Many shuls across the country are praying for rain, and a few days ago the Chief Rabbi of South Africa declared a public half-day fast.

Both the Tochachah at the the end of Seifer Vayikra and the 2nd paragraph of Shema talk about lack of rain as a general punishment for sinning in general.

I want to know if there are any specific sins which Hashem punishes with drought. If there are, then it should be those specifc sins which we should be focusing on doing teshuva for.


As suggested in the comments above, I took a look at Taanit 7b. (You can check out the amud with english translation on Sefaria here).

(My source for all the following is Talmud Bavli Taanit 7b)

The Gemara says that the rains will be withheld if the Jewish people are sentenced to destruction for their sins.

Here is a list of specific sins which the Gemara says are potentially punished by drought (I got the English translation from Sefaria, see link above):

  • "Rav Ḥisda said: The rains are withheld only due to the sin of the nullification of teruma and tithes"
  • "Rabbi Shimon ben Pazi said: The rains are withheld only due to the sin of those who speak slander"
  • "Rav Salla said that Rav Hamnuna said: The rains are withheld only due to impudent people [i.e those who do not show other people the respect due to them]"
  • "Rav Ketina said: The rains are withheld only due to the sin of dereliction in the study of Torah"
  • "Rabbi Ami said: The rains are withheld only due to the sin of robbery"

On a more optimistic note, the Gemara continues (I'm paraphrasing here) that increasing the quality and quantity of tefillah is the best way to cause Hashem to end the drought.

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    Nice! Thanks for following up and writing this up as an answer. +1 – Double AA May 28 '17 at 16:57

Avos, chapter five, says, in part and in my own translation:

Seven types of punishment come to the world for seven bodies of sin: Some tithe and some don't tithe, a famine of drought comes, and some are hungry and some are sated. They decide not to tithe, a famine of tumult and drought comes. [They decide] not to take chala, a famine of destruction comes. Plague comes to the world…. The sword comes…. Malevolent animals come…. Exile comes….

Rambam explains ad loc. that the famine of drought is due to rain that's only in small amounts and some places and the famine of descruction is due to a total lack of rain. (The famine of tumult, he explains, is due to people's not planting due to war-caused unease.)

(I don't mean to say that's what's causing the current drought.)

  • Useful info, but still leaves my question unanswered. But I think it is still a good answer, so I upvoted it, and I encourage anyone reading this to follow suit! – user14809 May 28 '17 at 5:55
  • If it leaves "are there any specific sins which are described in any Scriptural or Rabbinic sources as being punished by drought?" unanswered, then I misunderstood the question. Although we have a policy of not changing a question once it has an upvoted answer if such change will ruin that answer's applicability, I'm perfectly willing to waive my "rights" as answerer: please edit your question for clarity, lest it attract further answers that don't address your concern. (And then I'll delete my answer as inapplicable to your question.) – msh210 May 28 '17 at 6:36
  • Don't delete it, it adds relevant info to the question – user14809 May 29 '17 at 7:10
  • Thanks, @Tookie345. I won't delete it also because it still answers the question (as far as I can tell). – msh210 May 29 '17 at 7:36

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