Beit Midrash

  • Jewish Laws and Thoughts
  • Prayer
קטגוריה משנית
To dedicate this lesson
Mentioning and Requesting Rain
The Rule Regarding Mistakes
How to Avoid Mistakes
The Rule Outside of Israel

Mentioning and Requesting Rain
Water preserves life on earth. It follows that rain is crucial for the existence of the world. We therefore mention rain twice in our daily prayers. First we praise God for causing rain to fall, and then we request that God bless us with dew and rain.

In the second blessing of the Amida, "Mechayeh Hametim" (the Resuscitator), we say "He makes the wind blow and the rain fall" ("Mashiv haruach umorid hagashem"). The sages instituted praise for rain in this particular blessing because rain resuscitates the world.

In the eighth blessing, "Birkat Hashanim," we request, "Give dew and rain for a blessing" ("Ten tal umatar livracha al pnei haadamah"). According to Sephardic custom the wording of the entire blessing changes with the change from winter to summer. In the winter the blessing begins with the words "Barekh Alenu," and in the summer it begins with "Barkenu Hashem Elokenu."

According to Ashkenazi custom the wording of "Birkat Hashanim" is the same in the summer as it is in the winter. The only difference is the inserted request for dew and rain.

Though both the mention of rain and request for rain are inserted in the winter, there is a difference between them. Mention of rain is inserted during the rainy season, and the request for rain is made at that time when we desire rainfall.

We begin mentioning rain on Shmini Atzeret. Though it would make sense to mention rain during the Succot festival, we nonetheless refrain from doing so. This is because rain is considered a bad augury during the festival since it makes it impossible to fulfill the commandment of sitting in the succah.

Therefore, the sages ruled that our praise for rain begin after the Succot festival. What is more, they decided that this would take place during the Mussaf prayer when all are present and it is possible to make an announcement reminding everybody to begin mentioning rain. The evening prayer was not chosen because not everybody attends it; the morning prayer was likewise ruled out because it is impossible to make an announcement before it, for it is forbidden to interrupt between the Shema (geulah) and the Amida (tefilla) (Beit Yosef, Shulchan Arukh, Orach Chaim 112:1, 2).

However, the sages delayed the request for rain fifteen days, to the night of the seventh of Cheshvan. They did this in order that the last of the festival pilgrims be able reach home before the rains fall (Shulchan Arukh 117:1). This custom continues even after the destruction of the Holy Temple because any custom which recalls the great days when the Holy Temple stood is very dear to us, and we do not wish to discontinue it. Only after the Temple is rebuilt (speedily in our days!) will the Sanhedrin be able to change the time for requesting rain taking into account modern means of transportation.

We continue mentioning rain until the first day of Passover. During the morning prayers we still mention rain, and in Mussaf we mention dew. The request for rain is only made during the weekdays, and therefore the last time we make this request is in the Mincha afternoon prayer on the eve of Passover.

The Rule Regarding Mistakes
If a person makes the mistake of mentioning rain in the summer, he must go back and fix his error, because mentioning rain during this season is not considered a form of praise. If one has not yet completed the blessing he must repeat it from the beginning and insert "morid hatal," the summer formula. If one completes the blessing without mentioning rain the blessing is not valid, and because the first three blessings are like a single blessing he must go back and begin the Amidah from the beginning in order to say it correctly (Shulchan Arukh 114:4).

If a person forgets to mention rain in the winter but mentions dew (as we do in the summer), he need not go back. This is because mentioning dew is a form of praise related to rain. However, if even dew was not mentioned he must go back, for a very important expression of praise has been omitted (Shulchan Arukh 114:5).

If one made the mistake of requesting rain in the summer, he has invalidated "Birkat Hashanim," for he has inserted an inappropriate request. He must go back and fix his prayer. Therefore, if he has not yet finished his prayer, he can go back to "Birkat Hashanim," say it properly, and then continue to the end of the Amidah as usual. If he finished Amidah before realizing his mistake, he must pray all over again correctly (117:3).

If a person forgets to request rain in the winter and he has not yet reached the "Shomeah Tefillah" blessing, he continues his prayer as usual until he reaches "Shomeah Tefillah," (the blessing in which any request can be made). Here he inserts his request for rain and thus corrects his mistake.

If, however, he has already passed "Shomeah Tefillah" when he realizes his error, he has lost his opportunity to correct his mistake, and he has lost all of the blessings he recited after "Birkat Hashanim." In this case he must go back to "Birkat Hashanim," say it correctly, and continue as usual to the end of the Amidah. If he realizes his mistake after finishing the Amidah he has lost "Birkat Hashanim" and his prayer is lacking, for he did not request rain. In this case he must pray all over again (Shulchan Arukh 117:4, 5).

How to Avoid Mistakes
Mistakes related to the mentioning and requesting of rain are the most common mistakes in prayer. This is because the appropriate wording changes every six months. After accustoming ourselves to one version it is difficult to make the switch to the other. And as we have learned, three of the four possible mistakes in this regard necessitate correction.

During the thirty days following the change of wording, if a person is uncertain whether or not he recited the correct formula, he must assume that a mistake was made. This is because a person remains accustomed to the previous version during this period. One must therefore return and correct his mistake. However, after thirty days one has become accustomed to the new version and has most likely recited the prayer properly. In this case, then, one need not repeat his prayer.

In order to avoid such uncertainty, a predicament that causes many people to repeat their prayers, every person should make a practice of repeating the new formula ninety times on the day that the change takes place. In this manner a person will become habituated to saying the new version. After doing this, even if a person has some doubt about what exactly he said, he will not have to repeat his prayer, for once a person has repeated the proper version ninety times it stands to reason that he prayed correctly (Shulchan Arukh 114:8, 9).

Therefore, on the evening of the seventh of Cheshvan, Jews who follow Sephardic custom (for whom the wording of "Birkat Hashanim" changes completely, should accustom themselves to start the blessing correctly by repeating the words "Rofeh choleh amoh yisrael, barekh alenu" ninety times. Jews who follow Ashkenazic custom should say "V’et kol minei tevuatah l’tovah, v’ten tal u’matar livrakhah" ninety times.

Similarly, before the Mussaf prayer on the first day of Passover, one should say "Mechayeh metim atah rav lehoshia, morid hatal" ninety times. And on the night after the festival, before the "Chol Hamoed" prayers, Sephardi Jews should say "Rofeh choleh amoh yisrael, barkhenu" ninety times, and Ashkenazi Jews should say "V’et kol minei tevuatah l’tovah, v’ten berakhah" ninety times (Mishnah Berurah 114:30; Kaf Hachaim 60).

The Rule Outside of Israel
In Babylon, the sages ruled that the request for rain should be delayed for sixty days after the Autumnal Equinox (i.e., the fourth or fifth of December). This was because they had plenty of water from the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers and therefore did not need to make numerous requests for rain with the onset of the rainy season.

All other lands outside of Israel follow the practice of Babylon and begin requesting rain on the sixtieth day after the Autumnal Equinox (Shulchan Arukh, Orach Chaim 117:1). However, people in lands adjacent to the Land of Israel, where the climate resembles that of Israel, begin requesting rain together with the residents of Israel, on the night of the seventh of Cheshvan (Yalkut Yosef, vol. 1, pg. 251, in footnote).

Regarding a resident of Israel who goes abroad for a number of months, some authorities hold that he should request rain according to the custom of the Land of Israel, because that is his home (Pri Chadash). Others hold that he should request according to the custom of the place where he is presently residing. (Birkei Yosef). The way to fulfill all opinions is, wherever there is uncertainty, to request rain in the "Shomeah Tefillah" blessing instead of "Birkat Hashanim."

Even in regions where rain is needed after Passover, one does not continue requesting rain in "Birkat Hashanim" after Passover. Rather, such people are seen as individual exceptions, and they should therefore request rain in the "Shomeah Tefillah" blessing, in which each individual is permitted to add his own personal requests (Shulchan Arukh 117:2).

In southern hemisphere countries, such as Argentina, Brazil, and Australia, where the rainy season coincides with Israel’s summer, Torah authorities rule that the request for rain be made in the "Birkat Hashanim" blessing according to the custom of the Land of Israel. This is because the Land of Israel is the focal point of creation and all other lands are subordinate to her.

However, if in these southern hemisphere countries there are places where rain causes damage in the summer, it is impossible for the people there to request rain in "Birkat Hashanim." They should therefore recite the summer version all year round, and request rain in the "Shomeah Tefillah" blessing.

The reason that they are not able to request rain in "Birkat Hashanim" during their rainy season is that they must follow the practice of the Land of Israel. And they cannot request rain in "Birkat Hashanim" during Israel’s rainy season because rain is deleterious for them at this time. Therefore, they request rain for themselves during their rainy season in the "Shomeah Tefillah" blessing. Furthermore, it is a good idea for people in these places to request rain for Israel during Israel’s rainy season in the "Shomeah Tefillah" blessing. What it amounts to, then, is that they recite the summer version of "Birkat Hashanim" all year round, and in "Shomeah Tefillah" they request rain in their rainy season for themselves and rain in Israel’s rainy season for the Land of Israel.

If a person travels from the Land of Israel, or from some other country in the northern hemisphere, to visit a country in the southern hemisphere, he continues requesting rain according to the rainy season of the Land of Israel, even if rain is deleterious in the place where he is visiting (Sh’arim Hametzuyanim B’halakha 19:3).
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