Special thanks to Gil Melmed and Jeremy Spierer for providing some of the information used in this Chabura. The opening section comes mainly from a shiur given by Rav Shlomo Levi of Yeshivat Har Etzion


Throughout the course of the year, there are several additions that are made to the regular weekday Shemoneh Esrei. Ya'aleh v'yavoh is added on Rosh Chodesh and Chol HaMoed, Al HaNissim is added on Chanukah and Purim, and several lines are inserted between Rosh Hashanah and Yom HaKippurim. In addition, there are two lines that are added (or omitted) based not on a holiday, but rather on the season. The first is "mashiv ha-ruach u'morid ha-geshem," added into the second blessing beginning on Shmini Atzeret. The second is "v'tein tal u'matar livracha," added into the ninth blessing beginning on the seventh of Cheshvan in Israel and on December 4th (or 5th) outside of Israel. Both are prayers for rain, and both should be inserted beginning on Succot, as that is the beginning of the rainy season. However, as the mishna in Ta'anit 2a points out, rain on Succot itself is viewed as a curse, and thus we delay until one has stopped sitting in the succah. If this is so, why do we not begin saying v'tein tal u'matar until fifteen days after Succot - why is it any different from mashiv ha-ruach? The gemara in Ta'anit 4b explains that really we should begin saying both on Shmini Atzeret. However, mashiv ha-ruach is merely a praise of the might of Hashem , whereas v'tein tal u'matar is a specific request for rain. Praise can be given at any time. However, during the first few days after Succot, all of the people who made pilgrimage to Jerusalem for the holiday were still returning home, and rain would be very difficult for them. Thus, we delay the request until the seventh of Cheshvan, which was enough time for all of them to return home.

Leaving aside mashiv ha-ruach, we will focus on v'tein tal u'matar. This line is different than the other additions mentioned at the outset of this Chabura. With regard to Al HaNissim, for example, either it is said or it is not said - there is nothing else that is said in its place on every other day of the year. V'tein tal u'matar, on the other hand, is inserted into the middle of a blessing, and is replaced by "v'tein bracha" during the summer months. The question then becomes is v'tein tal u'matar merely an addition to the text of Shemoneh Esrei or is it part of the actual text? What would be the possible differences in law that would depend on this answer?

One main practical difference would be if someone forgot to say v'tein tal u'matar in Shemoneh Esrei at mincha on Friday afternoon. Normally, if a person completely forgets Shemoneh Esrei, he says it twice during the next service. However, in this case, the next Shemoneh Esrei would be one of Shabbat, which does not include v'tein tal u'matar, and thus the make-up would not be a make-up for that particular line. Is there still a reason to recite a second Shemoneh Esrei at night? With regard to a person who omits ya'aleh v'yavoh on Rosh Chodesh, the law is that he only has to make up that Shemoneh Esrei because we want him to make mention of Rosh Chodesh as many times as possible. However, if he omits it during the last prayer of Rosh Chodesh, he does not have to say Shemoneh Esrei twice during the following service. Why not? Since it is no longer Rosh Chodesh by that point, he no longer has to make mention of that special day. As a result, we see that ya'aleh v'yavoh is not considered to be part of the main text of the prayer. Had that been the case, we would have considered the omission to be a flaw in the prayer and would have required it to be repeated. As this is not the law, we can see that ya'aleh v'yavoh is merely an addition that does not affect the main text of Shemoneh Esrei.

Returning to v'tein tal u'matar, the law is the subject of dispute between Rav Chayim HaLevi Soloveitchik and Rav Tzvi Pesach Frank. Rav Chayim, basing himself on Tosafot in Berachot 26b, claims that v'tein tal u'matar is unlike ya'aleh v'yavoh in that it is viewed as being an integral part of the text of the Shemoneh Esrei. As such, its omission renders the entire prayer invalid and it must be repeated even on Friday night when that particular line would not be said. The flaw is not in that line, but in the prayer as a whole. Rav Frank responds that if ya'aleh v'yavoh is not an integral part of the text, then v'tein tal u'matar certainly is not. On what does he base this claim? The law is that if a person forgets to say v'tein tal u'matar, but remembers it before the blessing of "shomei'a tefilla," he may add it into that blessing. However, there is no recourse for forgetting ya'aleh v'yavoh other than repeating the entire Shemoneh Esrei. Rav Shlomo Levy disagrees with this proof, citing the Biur Halacha (O.C. 117:5) which points out that any part of any of the middle blessings (#4-#16) that is omitted may be added into shomei'a tefilla, and thus Rav Frank's proof does not prove that v'tein tal u'matar is not a part of the basic text of Shemoneh Esrei. However, there may yet be another proof for Rav Frank's law. If a person does not realize his omission of v'tein tal u'matar until after he has completed the blessing in which it appears then he adds that line into shomei'a tefilla. However, if it really was an integral part of the prayer, then perhaps one can argue that it should be added in as soon as one realizes his error, without waiting until shomei'a tefilla.


(information in this section is taken from the footnotes to the Tur found in the new Machon edition and from an internet leaflet published by the Royal Greenwich Observatory)

As was mentioned earlier, Israel begins reciting v'tein tal u'matar on the seventh of Cheshvan, while the Diaspora does not begin the recitation until December 4th or 5th. Why is there a discrepancy? Was does one follow the Jewish (lunar) calendar and one the Christian (solar) calendar?

The initial level of the answer to this question comes from Ta'anit 10a. There, Chananiah states that outside of Israel no request for rain is made until the 60th day of the autumnal equinox, i.e. November 22. Why is this so? As Rashi explains, lands outside of Israel, which in the gemara refers specifically to Babylonia, were flat and thus did not need rain so early in the year. The Tur and Beit Yoseif both discuss whether or not other countries should follow Israel or Babylonia. Suffice it to say that the law is that all lands in the Diaspora follow the Babylonian custom. Our goal now will be to understand how November 22 became December 4.

The answer to this question requires a historical background. In the year 46 BCE, Julius Caesar established what became known as the Julian Calendar. This calendar had 12 months, and one year had 365.25 days. Every four years, the quarter-days appeared on the calendar as a leap year day. However, the actual length of a solar year is slightly less than this, approximately 365.24219 days. In the short run, this difference is negligible, but over time it adds up. This eventually caused a problem with regard to the seasons, which depended on the solar year (actually it is known with regard to the seasons as a tropical year), and were gradually failing to fall out at the proper time. To fix this situation, Pope Gregory XIII, in 1582, instituted the Gregorian calendar. Two changes were made with the change in calendar. The first is that 10 days were "lost," meaning that October 4th that year was followed by October 15th. With regard to our issue, v'tein tal u'matar that year was said on December 1st instead of November 22nd. The second change that was made was more subtle, but is perhaps more important. The rule for leap years was altered slightly, with every century year NOT divisible by 400 losing its leap-year status. Thus, 1600 was a leap year, but 1700, 1800, and 1900 were not. This had the effect of changing the average length of a year to 365.2425 days, a difference that is much less noticeable over time (a margin of error of roughly 3 days in 10,000 years). As a result, the date for v'tein tal u'matar was bumped up one day in each of those three years, bringing us to our current date of December 4th (thus, after 2100, the date will become December 5th).

The only exception to be aware of is that v'tein tal u'matar is added beginning from December 5th in the Diaspora when the following Gregorian year is a leap year. This is due to the fact that the Jewish year begins several months earlier and factors in the extra day from the beginning (This relates to the fact that the Jewish calendar is based on both the solar and the lunar ones).


Our final area of inquiry this week will be the case of a person who travels between Israel and the Diaspora during the time period between the seventh of Cheshvan and December 4th. Should an American, who has yet to add in v'tein tal u'matar, add it in for a week and then revert to not saying it until December 4th? Should an Israeli who has begun adding it stop saying it for a week and then resume upon his return home? Are we mainly concerned about where a person is at a given time or is our main concern where a person hails from? How much consistency do we demand - can a person start and stop adding it in as frequently as he crosses borders? Would a soldier who was constantly assigned to going back and forth across the Lebanese border have a different Shemoneh Esrei every time that he prayed until December 4th finally rolled around?

The Be'eir Heitev (O.C. 117::4) presents several views with regard to this question. He first brings an opinion that claims that a resident of Israel who leaves his homeland during this time period continues to say v'tein tal u'matar, even if he does not plan to return during the winter, so long as he leaves a family behind. The idea here is that the family confirms his continued status as a resident of Israel, and thus he may continue to follow the practices of Israel. He then cites a contrary view that claims that such a person follows the practice of the place he is in at a given moment, and thus omits v'tein tal u'matar if he is in the Diaspora (until Dec. 4th). The Pri Chadash has an intermediate view, claiming that such a person can continue to follow the practices of Israel as long as he plans to return during the course of the year. However, if he plans to stay outside of Israel for an extended period of time (for example, an employee of an Israeli consulate overseas), then he takes on an aspect of a resident of the Diaspora and does not begin adding v'tein tal u'matar until December 4th.

What about the reverse case? Rav Ovadiah Yoseif, in his collection of responsa Yechaveh Da'at (1:73), says that a foreigner who comes to Israel after the seventh of Cheshvan but before December 4th must include v'tein tal u'matar in his Shemoneh Esrei so long as he is in Israel. The problem comes when he leaves Israel before December 4th. Although his saying it until now is based on the view that a person follows the practice of the place that he is in, can we then tell such a person to remove this part of his prayer based on that logic? The Be'er Mayim Chayim and others claim that such a person should stop saying this line when he returns home, as he is merely an individual in the midst of the entire Diaspora community that has yet to begin saying it. On the other hand, the Chida and others state that once a person has begun saying v'tein tal u'matar he may not simply stop saying it. Thus, Rav Yoseif suggests that a person continue to say this line, but to do so in the blessing of shomei'a tefilla, where a person may add in any request that he wants to.

Back to Chabura-Net's Home Page