In Bereshis 7:11-12 it says:

וַאֲרֻבֹּ֥ת הַשָּׁמַ֖יִם נִפְתָּֽחוּ וַֽיְהִ֥י הַגֶּ֖שֶׁם עַל־הָאָ֑רֶץ אַרְבָּעִ֣ים י֔וֹם וְאַרְבָּעִ֖ים לָֽיְלָה

And the floodgates of the sky broke open. The rain fell on the earth forty days and forty nights.

And Malachi 3:10:

אִם־לֹ֧א אֶפְתַּ֣ח לָכֶ֗ם אֵ֚ת אֲרֻבּ֣וֹת הַשָּׁמַ֔יִם וַהֲרִיקֹתִ֥י לָכֶ֛ם בְּרָכָ֖ה עַד־בְּלִי־דָֽי׃

I will surely open the floodgates of the sky for you and pour down blessings on you;

It sounds from the above verses that rain comes from the waters above the firmament. Other places in Tanakh seem to associate clouds with rain (somewhere in Yirmiyahu).

Does rain come from the "upper waters" above the firmament or from clouds?

  • Aren't they one and the same?
    – ezra
    Mar 23, 2018 at 5:42
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    @ezra "Opening" the arubos of heaven (i.e some sort of opening that allows the water to get out of) is different than rain coming from the clouds/sky.
    – Fei23
    Mar 23, 2018 at 14:49
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    It's possible that in both instances, the suggestion is miraculous, and not in accordance with normal rainfall that does come from cloud condensation. I gather that there is a midrashic concept of 7 layers of heaven as well as ananei kavod ("Clouds of Glory"). I don't know if that's metaphoric and if these types of clouds would produce rain in the same form as we perceive rain.
    – DanF
    Mar 23, 2018 at 17:55

1 Answer 1


It is a machlokes in the Gemara Taanis (9b) between Rabbi Yehosua and Rabbi Eliezer if the source of rain is from the the ocean, whose water rises to the clouds and fills them (Rabbi Eliezer), or if the heavens fill the clouds (Rabbi Yehoshua). Bot opinions agree that the clouds deliver the rain, the question only is, how are the clouds filled. The Sources you cite seem to be aligned with Rabbi Yehoshua's opinion. He explains the sequence as follows:

רַבִּי יְהוֹשֻׁעַ אוֹמֵר כׇּל הָעוֹלָם כּוּלּוֹ מִמַּיִם הָעֶלְיוֹנִים הוּא שׁוֹתֶה שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר לִמְטַר הַשָּׁמַיִם תִּשְׁתֶּה מָּיִם אֶלָּא מָה אֲנִי מְקַיֵּים וְאֵד יַעֲלֶה מִן הָאָרֶץ מְלַמֵּד שֶׁהָעֲנָנִים מִתְגַּבְּרִים וְעוֹלִים לָרָקִיעַ וּפוֹתְחִין פִּיהֶן כְּנוֹד וּמְקַבְּלִין מֵי מָטָר שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר יָזֹקּוּ מָטָר לְאֵדוֹ

In contrast, Rabbi Yehoshua says: The entire world drinks from the upper waters, as it is stated: “And it drinks water as the rain of heaven comes down” (Deuteronomy 11:11). The baraita asks: But according to the opinion of Rabbi Yehoshua, how do I uphold the verse: “And there went up a mist from the earth”? Rabbi Yehoshua could answer that this verse teaches that the clouds grow stronger, and rise to the firmament, and open their mouths like a leather bottle, and receive the rain waters from above, as it is stated: “For He draws away the drops of water, which distill rain from His vapor” (Job 36:27).

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