בסיעתא דשמיא

ברכת השנים | On December 4th (or 5th) and the Birkat Hashanim

Rain is important in every society, but particularly so in places like Eretz Yisrael, where rain only falls during a defined portion of the year. It is critical, then, that the “rainy season” in fact be rainy, since no rain can be expected for the remainder of the year. Accordingly, prayers, liturgies, and fast days relating to rain (or the lack thereof) played, and continue to play, a prominent role in Jewish tradition. Our tefillot today contain two major references to rain: “hazkarat geshamim” (better known as “mashiv haruaḥ umorid hagashem“) and “she’eilat geshamim“, found in the weekday Amidah in the 9th berakhah, “birkat hashanim“. There, an alternating liturgy was established: during the dry months, we say “v’tein berakhah“, whereas during the rainy season, we say “v’tein tal umatar livrakhah“, an explicit request for the rain to fall. Consensus emerged around the opinion of Rabban Gamliel in Mishnah Ta’anit 1:3 that “she’eilat geshamim” should begin on the 7th of Marḥeshvan (15 days after Shmini Atzeret, the 22nd of Tishrei). This would give pilgrims from as far away as the Euphrates (a 15-day journey) sufficient time to return home in dry weather. This is current practice in Eretz Yisrael to this day. . . .

תפילת טל | Prayer for Dew by Rabbi Rachel Barenblat

Geshem and tal: rain and dew. We pray for each in its season, geshem all winter and tal as summer approaches…not everywhere, necessarily, but in the land of Israel where our prayers have their roots. In a desert climate, water is clearly a gift from God. It’s easy for us to forget that, here with all of this rain and snow. But our liturgy reminds us. Through the winter months, during our daily amidah we’ve prayed “mashiv ha-ruach u-morid ha-gashem” — You cause the winds to blow and the rains to fall! We only pray for rain during the rainy season, because it is frustrating both to us and to God when we pray for impossibilities. . . .


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