Forgot Tal Umatar

Question #1: Forgot once!

What is the halacha if someone forgot to pray for rain?

Question #2: Forgot twice!!

“I just recited the words baruch Attah Hashem of the beracha Shema Koleinu, and I realize that I have not recited Vesein tal umatar! What do I do now?”

Question #3: Forgot a third time!!! Have I struck out?

“I went back to Boreich Aleinu because I forgot Vesein tal umatar the first time I said shemoneh esrei. But now I forgot Vesein tal umatar again. Do I get another chance?”

Foreword

Chazal (Mishnah, Taanis 2a, 5a and 10a; Gemara Taanis, 10a) instituted that a small prayer requesting rain be added to the shemoneh esrei during the winter months. The Mishnah and Gemara conclude that this prayer is begun in Eretz Yisrael on the Seventh of Marcheshvan and, in Bavel, sixty days after the equinox. This article will not discuss how we calculate “sixty days after the equinox” and why it falls in the beginning of December.

Bavel vs. Eretz Yisrael

Rashi (Taanis, 10a s.v. Tata’i) explains that “we” follow the approach of Bavel, which means that the commonly accepted practice outside Eretz Yisrael is to begin reciting Vesein tal umatar in early December (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 117:1,2). I have written articles that are on the website RabbiKaganoff.com in which I explained the disagreement between Rashi and the Rosh, who disputes his conclusion; I also presented the debate among the poskim regarding when Vesein tal umatar is recited in the southern hemisphere.

Edot hamizrah and Ashkenazim

It should be noted that the Edot hamizrah follow a very different procedure for reciting Vesein tal umatar than do Ashkenazim. Based on kabbalistic sources, the Edot hamizrah recite a completely different text for the entire Boreich aleinu beracha during the winter months than they do in the summer months. Ashkenazim, whether they daven nusach Ashkenaz or nusach Sefard, merely add the words tal umatar and a letter lamed between the word ve’sein and the word beracha. Either approach is acceptable.

There is an interesting advantage to the way the Edot hamizrah fulfill this requirement of reciting Vesein tal umatar. Since the entire beracha has two different versions, someone who is uncertain whether he recited Vesein tal umatar but knows that he began the winter version of the beracha may assume that he recited that version completely, including the proper recital of Vesein tal umatar (Halichos Shelomoh, Tefillah, Devar Halacha 8:30).

Forgot once

What is the halacha if someone did not recite Vesein tal umatar?

Someone who neglected to mention Vesein tal umatar in his shemoneh esrei and completed his shemoneh esrei must daven again (Berachos 26b). However, someone who forgot Vesein tal umatar in the beracha of Boreich Aleinu may still recite Vesein tal umatar in Shema Koleinu (Berachos 29a), immediately before the words ki Attah shomei’a tefillas, which iswhere he would recite aneinu on a fast day. Thus, one is required to recite Vesein tal umatar as an essential part of davening, but there are two places in davening where Vesein tal umatar may be included.

We should note that there are times when reciting Vesein tal umatar in the beracha of Shema Koleinu is preferable, as indicated in the following passage of Gemara: “The people of Nineveh sent the following she’eilah to Rebbe: Our city requires rain, even in the middle of the summer. Are we considered individuals that request rain in Shema Koleinu, or are we considered a community that recites Ve’sein tal umatar during Boreich Aleinu? Rebbe responded that they are considered individuals and should request rain during Shema Koleinu” (Taanis 14b).

Why should the people of Nineveh recite Vesein tal umatar in Shema Koleinu rather than in Boreich Aleinu? The answer is that someone who recites Vesein tal umatar in Boreich Aleinu when he is not supposed to must return to that beracha. (If he completed the shemoneh esrei without correcting his error, he must recite shemoneh esrei again from the beginning.) However, reciting Vesein tal umatar during Shema Koleinu does not violate the halacha and does not require that he repeat the davening. Someone looking for a job or a shidduch, or whose town is suffering from a drought, may request help during Shema Koleinu. Thus, requesting rain in Shema Koleinu is fitting any time of the year; requesting rain in Boreich Aleinu is reserved for the needs of a community, and only in the appropriate season.

We now know that there are situations when requesting rain in Shema Koleinu is the best thing to do. This is also the solution often suggested for someone who is uncertain whether he should recite Vesein tal umatar – for example, someone visiting or traveling to Eretz Yisrael who is uncertain whether he should recite Vesein tal umatar during the days between the 7th of Marcheshvan and December 4th (on the above website, I have an article on this topic). Similarly, some authorities rule that, in the southern hemisphere, it is best to recite Vesein tal umatar in Shema Koleinu, so as to accommodate differing opinions. I discussed this matter at length in the article that I referred to earlier.

This is what you dew

The Gemara states that, both in the beracha of Mechayeh Hameisim and in the beracha of Boreich Aleinu, only mention of rain, using either of the two words, geshem or matar, is essential (see Taanis 3a). Someone who forgot to mention either the wind or the dew, but requested that Hashem bring rain, has fulfilled his requirement and does not repeat anything at all. Therefore, a person reciting Vesein matar al penei ha’adamah but omitting the word tal, dew, should not correct himself, since this is an unnecessary repetition in the shemoneh esrei and constitutes a hefsek (Mekor Chayim 18:8).

Someone who forgot to recite either Mashiv haruach umorid hagashem or Vesein tal umatar, when required, is obligated to repeat the shemoneh esrei. However, there is an important difference between the two, as noted by the Tur. Someone who recited Morid hatal, praising Hashem for providing dew, rather than Mashiv haruach umorid hagashem, is not required to repeat the shemoneh esrei. On the other hand, someone who is required to recite Vesein tal umatar but prayed only for dew and said Vesein tal al penei ha’adamah is required to repeat the shemoneh esrei.

Geshem instead of matar?

Is there any halachic difference between reciting the word geshem and reciting the word matar? Both mean rain. What is the halacha if someone said Vesein tal ugeshem livracha instead of Vesein tal umatar? The Aruch Hashulchan (Orach Chayim 114:2) rules that he has fulfilled the mitzvah and does not repeat any davening.

Before or after Aneinu?

What should someone do if it is a fast day and he has to say Vesein tal umatar in Shema Koleinu? Both requests, Aneinu and Vesein tal umatar, should be recited immediately before the words ki Attah shomei’a tefillas. Which one does he recite first?

Quoting the Avudraham, the Rema rules that Vesein tal umatar should be recited before Aneinu (Orach Chayim 117:5). The Magen Avraham (ad loc.) explains that this is because Vesein tal umatar is considered more vital than Aneinu – should someone omit Vesein tal umatar, he is required to repeat the davening, whereas omitting Aneinu never requires someone to repeat davening.

Finished davening

Someone who completed the shemoneh esrei and realizes that he did not say Vesein tal umatar must repeat shemoneh esrei from the beginning (Tosafos, Berachos 29b s.v. Ha). If he is still reciting personal prayers at the end of the shemoneh esrei, or he is still thinking about what personal prayers he wants to say, he is considered to be in the middle of shemoneh esrei. However, someone who backed up to say oseh shalom at the end of shemoneh esrei, or he who has concluded what he intends to daven, has completed his davening, and he must begin shemoneh esrei from the beginning in order to recite Vesein tal umatar.

What should someone do if he forgot Vesein tal umatar in its proper place, forgot it again in Shema Koleinu, and already began the beracha of Retzei. We know that he must return to the proper place to recite Vesein tal umatar, but the question is whether he returns only to Shema Koleinu, or must he return all the way back to Boreich Aleinu? This question is disputed by the ga’onim and the rishonim (see Tosafos, Berachos 29b s.v. Ha; Rosh, Berachos 4:14; Rashba, Berachos 29b; Beis Yosef, Orach Chayim 117). The poskim conclude that he should return to Boreich Aleinu (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 117:5).

Completed Shema Koleinu

What is the halacha if someone completed the beracha of Shema Koleinu, but did not yet begin Retzei. May he recite Vesein tal umatar at this point and avoid repeating parts of the shemoneh esrei, or must he already return to Boreich Aleinu? This question involves a dispute among rishonim, some of whom contend that, as long as he has not begun the word Retzei he is still considered to be in the beracha of Shema Koleinu and it is still an acceptable place to recite Vesein tal umatar (Rosh, Taanis 1:1). On the other hand, other rishonim argue that once he recited the words Boruch Attah Hashem Shomei’a Tefillah, he has completed that beracha and can no longer recite Vesein tal umatar (see Biur Halacha 114:6).

Which rishon is correct?

There is a dispute between two of the greatest poskim of their era, the Shulchan Aruch and the Maharshal, regarding how we rule in this situation. The Shulchan Aruch concludes that the halacha follows the Rosh and, therefore, it is acceptable to insert Vesein tal umatar between the berachos of Shema Koleinu and saying the word Retzei. However, the Maharshal contends that the halacha is that once the beracha is completed, it is too late to add a missed addition.

How do we rule?

Since the Shulchan Aruch concludes like the Rosh, most later authorities follow this opinion that it is acceptable to add something to a beracha after its recital is completed, as long as one has not begun the subsequent beracha. This halacha may be applied to other additions to our davening, including Mashiv haruach umorid hagashem and Yaaleh Veyavo.

Forgot twice!!

At this point, we can address the second of our opening questions: “I just recited the words baruch Attah Hashem of the beracha Shema Koleinu, and I realize that I have not recited Vesein tal umatar! What do I do now?”

The later poskim dispute what someone should do in this situation. The Mishnah Berurah (117:19 and Biur Halacha 114:6) paskins that he should interpose the two words, lamdeini chukecha, which means that he has now made the potential beracha into a pasuk (Tehillim 119:12). Then he should recite Vesein tal umatar, followed by the closing of the beracha ki Attah shomei’a tefillas amcha Yisrael berachamim (tefilas kol peh, if he davens nusach Sefard) and close the beracha correctly Boruch Attah Hashem Shomei’a Tefillah. This method avoids the dispute among rishonim as to whether he must daven over or not; however, it creates an interruption in the middle of his prayers.

The Tehillah Ledavid (Orach Chayim 114:7) is not convinced that creating this interruption is better than completing the beracha by reciting Shomei’a Tefillah, then reciting Vesein tal umatar and continuing with Retzei.Rav Moshe Feinstein concludes, unlike the Mishnah Berurah, that he should definitely complete the beracha of Shomei’a Tefillah and then mention Vesein tal umatar (Shu”t Igros Moshe, Orach Chayim, 4:93).

Forgot three times — an ultra long shemoneh esrei

What is the halacha if someone (a) forgot to say Vesein tal umatar in Boreich Aleinu, then (b) forgot to say it in Shema Koleinu, (c) remembers it before he completed his shemoneh esrei, which requires him to return to Boreich Aleinu, but he then (d) forgot to say it (again) in Boreich Aleinu! Must he (1) begin his shemoneh esrei from the beginning, or (2) return to Boreich Aleinu, or may he (3) simply continue his shemoneh esrei and (hopefully) remember to say it in Shema Koleinu (this second time around). Rav Shelomoh Zalman Auerbach rules that he should follow the third option suggested – simply continue his shemoneh esrei and remember to recite Vesein tal umatar in his second recital of Shema Koleinu (Halichos Shelomoh, Tefillah,8:22).

Friday mincha

What is the halacha if someone omitted Vesein tal umatar in mincha on erev Shabbos, and now it is Shabbos. Someone who forgot to daven mincha on Friday davens an extra tefillah, called a tefillas tashlumin, on Friday night, to make up the missed mincha, even though the Shabbos eve prayer is completely different from the shemoneh esrei he would have said on Friday. Is the same halacha true if he davened Friday mincha, but omitted saying Vesein tal umatar? After all, he recited the shemoneh esrei on Friday afternoon, and the insertion Vesein tal umatar is not said on Shabbos; so, does he gain by repeating the shemoneh esrei of Shabbos?

Before answering this question, we need to research a related issue discussed already in the rishonim (Tosafos, Berachos 26b s.v. Ta’ah). Someone forgot Yaaleh Veyavo in mincha on Rosh Chodesh, and the following evening is no longer Rosh Chodesh. Does he recite a tefillas tashlumin after he recites maariv? On the one hand, someone who forgot Yaaleh Veyavo on Rosh Chodesh must daven again, but, in this instance, he will not be reciting Yaaleh Veyavo anyway.

The question is the following: Why does he repeat the shemoneh esrei when he forgot Yaaleh Veyavo? Is it because he cannot fulfill the requirement of tefillah on Rosh Chodesh without Yaaleh Veyavo? Or has he, indeed, fulfilled the mitzvah of tefillah, but he still has a requirement to recite Yaaleh Veyavo, and Yaaleh Veyavo cannot be said without shemoneh esrei. The practical difference between the two understandings is our case – where he already missed the opportunity to recite Yaaleh Veyavo at mincha, and will be unable to recite Yaaleh Veyavo the following evening because it is no longer Rosh Chodesh. If missing Yaaleh Veyavo means that he did not fulfill his obligation to pray mincha, he is required to daven maariv with a tefillas tashlumin in order to make up the missed mincha. However, if he fulfilled his requirement to daven mincha, but is missing Yaaleh Veyavo, nothing is accomplished by davening an extra maariv tefillah, since either way he has missed Yaaleh Veyavo.

Rabbeinu Yehudah, one of the baalei Tosafos (Tosafos, Berachos 26b s.v. Ta’ah), rules that, even though he forgot Yaaleh Veyavo, he fulfilled his obligation of to daven mincha and there is no tefillas tashlumin. On the other hand, the scholars of Provence require a tefillas tashlumin; without Yaaleh Veyavo he has not fulfilled the requirement to daven (quoted in Rosh, Berachos 4:2).

The conclusion of the Shulchan Aruch is that, in this instance, he should daven the extra prayer after Rosh Chodesh as a voluntary prayer, in order to avoid the halachic dispute.

In the same way, we should view the question that we asked about someone who omitted Vesein tal umatar in mincha on erev Shabbos. If he did not fulfill the requirements of tefillah, he is required to daven a tefillas tashlumin after Friday night maariv to fulfill his missed tefillah. However, if he fulfilled his obligation to daven, but is missing only his prayer for rain, nothing is accomplished by davening a Shabbos tefillah a second time, since he will not be reciting Vesein tal umatar in the replacement shemoneh esrei.

However, this situation cannot be resolved with a voluntary tefillah, because we cannot recite voluntary prayers on Shabbos. Therefore, he will not recite an extra tefillah because of the rule of safek berachos lehakeil –we do not recite berachos when it is uncertain that they are required (Shu”t Har Tzvi, Orach Chayim 1:54; Halichos Shelomoh, Tefillah 8:82; note that both of these sources mention that Rav Chayim Soloveichek of Brisk is quoted as disputing this conclusion).

A bit of a shlemiel

The later poskim discuss the following case: Someone davened shemoneh esrei on Rosh Chodesh and remembered to say Vesein tal umatar, but forgot to say Yaaleh Veyavo, which requires him to repeat the shemoneh esrei. When repeating the shemoneh esrei, he remembered to say Yaaleh Veyavo, but this time forgot to say Vesein tal umatar. He has now recited two tefillos, said both Yaaleh Veyavo and Vesein tal umatar, but has he fulfilled his davening requirement? The Steipler Gaon, who raises this question, says that he is uncertain what this person should do (Kehillas Yaakov, Berachos #12).

Conclusion

Rashi (Bereishis 2:5) points out that until Adam Harishon appeared, there was no rain in the world. Rain fell and grasses sprouted only after Adam was created, understood that rain was necessary for the world, and prayed to Hashem for rain. Whenever we pray for rain, we must always remember that the essence of prayer is drawing ourselves closer to Hashem.