The Gemara on Amud Beis tells us :

The High Priest recites a brief prayer in the outer chamber. The Gemara asks: What does he pray? Rava bar Rav Adda and Ravin bar Rav Adda both said in the name of Rav that this was his prayer: May it be your will, Lord our God, that this year shall be rainy and hot. The Gemara immediately expresses surprise at this request: Is heat a good matter? Why should he request that the year be hot? Rather, say and emend it as follows: If the upcoming year is hot, may it also be rainy, lest the heat harm the crops.

I must wonder, what are we really praying for? Are we praying that If it’s going to be a bad year it should be good? Why don’t we just pray that it should be good?  Why even assume that it would be a bad year? 

Based on the Maharsha I would like to explain the following. There are different forces in the world, and each one can be seen as either good or bad depending on the proportion. After all, it cannot be too hot, nor can it be too cool. Either one can spell environmental catastrophe. Therefore, the prayer is not to change nature as it were. Rather, the prayer is expressing that should this year need to be an unusually hot year, or should this year need to be an unusually rainy year, we are not asking God to change that nature.  In His wisdom, there are reasons for why it is necessary for the overall health of the climate. However, the prayer is that God should allow a balancing force to be brought in, in order to mitigate the harmful effects of the excessive other force. That is, if it is going to be hot, there should be more moisture coming in as well. If it’s going to be rainy, there should be some heat coming in.

This idea also can be understood in terms of personality aspects. As Rambam explains in detail in the beginning of Hilkhos Deos, character traits have value. They are only problematic when they are out of proportion. In fact, as I pointed out in other discussions, the Hebrew word for character trait is Middah, which means measure. That’s an important idea because it indicates that the trait itself is not problematic, rather the degree to which it is employed can either be helpful or problematic. Think of it like ingredients in a cake. You need salt and you need sugar; neither ingredient is bad nor good. What is bad or good in the cake is the correct proportion of salt and sugar. So too with character traits.

The prayer here is not asking God to eliminate the features of the coming year, because nothing that’s happening is by itself good nor bad. The prayer is to ask God to help bring in balancing and mitigating forces so that the experience could be of the highest benefit.

For Video versions of this click here, and look for title and daf.  

Translations Courtesy of Sefaria