“Rabbi Yochanan said: ‘There are three keys in the hand of the Holy One Blessed is He that are not entrusted to an agent and they are: the key of rain, the key of childbirth and the key of revival of the dead.1’ …

In the West2 they said: ‘Also, the key of sustenance is not entrusted to an agent.’ …

Why did Rabbi Yochanan not list this one as well? He would answer that the key of rain is the same as the key of sustenance, because the world’s sustenance is provided through rain.” (Gemara Taanit 2a)

The Hebrew word for “key” is MaPhTeiaCH and it is fascinating to note that its letters stand for the four keys mentioned in our Gemara:

·        M corresponds to Matar3 (rain),

·        P for Parnassah (sustenance),

·        T for Techiyah (revival of the dead) and

·        CH for CHayah (childbirth).4

Interestingly, the second blessing of the Amidah prayer, which is the blessing of Gevurot (God’s might), appears to allude to these four keys:

·        Mashiv HaRuach UMorid HaGashem (God causes the wind to blow5 and the rain to fall) refers to rain,

·        Mechalkel Chaim (God sustains the living) relates to sustenance,

·        Mechayeh Meitim (God is the resuscitator of the dead) is revival of the dead, and

·        Matir Asurim (God loosens the bound) alludes to releasing the foetus67.8

1.       Actually several instances are recorded in which agents were entrusted with these keys, but only on a temporary basis. (Tosfot)

2.       i.e. in Israel, which is to the west of Babylon.

3.       Although the Gemara terms the key of rain Maphteiach Geshamim, its source text from Devarim 28:12 in fact uses the word Matar, rather than Geshamim.

4.       Tur, Orach Chaim 114

5.       This helps in the creation of rain and the blowing of clouds to where they are needed.

6.       VaYikra Rabbah 14:2

7.       Perhaps we could also expound the phrase Mechayeh Meitim BeRachamim (God revives the dead with mercy) as hinting at childbirth since when a child is born it leaves the womb (Rechem), its source of food and shelter.

8.       Based on Raavan at the end of his commentary to Gemara Berachot, #204.



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