Insertions for Shemoneh Esrei (1)

  • Rav David Brofsky



     Last week, we discussed the structure of Shemoneh Esrei and the relationship of the berakhot to each other and to the entire tefilla.  We noted the importance of both the proper ORDER of the berakhot and, at times, their juxtaposition. 


     This week, we will begin our study of the various insertions added to Shemoneh Esrei


The Gemara (Berakhot 40a and Sukka 46a) teaches:


It says, "Blessed be God, day by day" (Tehillim 68:20) - do we bless God during the daytime and not at night?  Rather, it teaches that each and every day, one should give Him of its blessings.


     This gemara teaches us that whenever possible, one should specify the time or phenomenon over which one wishes to bless God.


     In the spirit of this passage, the Gemara instructs us to inject various insertions into our tefilla.  Some relate to a special time, such as Rosh Chodesh, festivals, Chanukka and Purim, while others relate to specific seasonal requests, such as the insertions relating to rain (Mashiv Ha-ruach and Ve-tein Tal). 


     Regarding each one, we will question, among other things, the relationship between the insertions and their host berakha as well as their relationship to the tefilla as a whole. 


The Power of Rain: Mashiv Ha-ruach:


     During the winter months, between Sukkot and Pesach, when the land of Israel so urgently needs rainfall, we include prayers for rain in our Shemoneh Esrei.  The Mishna (Berakhot 5:2) teaches us that we begin by mentioning God's ability to bring rain in the second berakha, which describes His might (Gevurot), climaxing with the concept of "techiyyat ha-meitim" (the revival of the dead); somewhat later, we begin formally petitioning for rainfall in the ninth berakha, known as "Birkat Ha-shanim" (the Blessing of the Years), a request for agricultural and economic security.  In each case, the insertion is a simple formula: we add "Mashiv ha-ruach u-morid ha-geshem" ("[You] make the wind blow and bring down the rain") in Gevurot, while in Birkat Ha-shanim we change "Ve-tein berakha" ("And grant a blessing") to "Ve-tein tal u-mattar li-vrakha" ("And grant dew and rain as a blessing"). For the sake of convenience, we will refer to these additions as, respectively, "Mashiv Ha-ruach" and "Ve-tein Tal."


     The first mishna in Ta'anit tells us when we begin to insert these formulas, and the Gemara (2a) analyzes its phrasing:


Why does the mishna not ask when we begin to mention "rain"?  What is "the POWER of rain" ("gevurot geshamim")?  Rabbi Yochanan says, "Because they descend with power!"


     Furthermore, in another gemara (Berakhot 33a), Rav Yosef explains why we mention rain in Gevurot: "Since it is equivalent to the revival of the dead, they established it in [the berakha of] techiyyat ha-meitim.


     When do we begin to insert Mashiv Ha-ruach?  We know that Sukkot, known simply in the Mishna as Chag (Festival), is when we are judged for rain (Rosh Ha-shana 1:2), but when within its eight days should we start listing precipitation among God's praises?  Let us go back to Ta'anit and its first mishna:


     From when do we begin mentioning the power of rain?  Rabbi Eli'ezer says, "From the FIRST day of Chag;" Rabbi Yehoshua says, "From the LAST day of Chag."

     Rabbi Yehoshua said to him, "If rain is viewed as a curse during Chag, why would one mention it?"

     Rabbi Eli'ezer responded, "I did not say that one should ASK for rain, but that one should mention 'Mashiv ha-ruach u-morid ha-geshem.'"

     He responded, "If so, then one should always mention it!"

     Rabbi Yehuda said, "The shaliach tzibbur (cantor) of Musaf (the additional prayer) on the last day of Chag should mention it… on the first day of Pesach, [the shaliach tzibbur of] Shacharit (the morning prayer) should mention it, and at Musaf he should not."


     The Gemara (4b) rules in accordance with Rabbi Yehuda, that we insert Mashiv Ha-ruach from Musaf of Shemini Atzeret, the eighth day of Sukkot, until Shacharit of the FIRST day of Pesach. 


     Why do we begin at Musaf and not from the night before? Furthermore, why do we not omit it from the first night of Pesach?


     The Yerushalmi (1:1) addresses these questions.  Regarding when we begin to insert Mashiv Ha-ruach, the Yerushalmi explains:


Should he not begin mentioning [rain] from the night before?  But the people are not there!  Then why not begin during Shacharit?  One may think that they mentioned it the night before… Rabbi Chaggai said in the name of Rabbi Pedat: "An individual should not mention it until the shaliach tzibbur does."


     The Rosh (Ta'anit 1:2) clarifies this somewhat cryptic passage.  Regarding why we do not begin inserting Mashiv Ha-ruach at night, he explains that since not everyone attends the evening service, some will begin to include Mashiv Ha-ruach and others will not, creating an undesirable situation of "aguddot aguddot" (different groups practicing in different ways).  As for the morning, he explains, the newcomers might think that the community mentioned it the night before, and in the coming year they may begin to say Mashiv Ha-ruach at night!  Furthermore, Rabbi Chaggai provides another reason why we should not begin during Shacharit: the congregation should not begin saying Mashiv Ha-ruach before the shaliach tzibbur has announced it. The shaliach tzibbur cannot make such an announcement before the Shemoneh Esrei of Shacharit, as that would constitute an interruption between the berakha of Ga'al Yisrael and the silent prayer!  The Magen Avraham (OC 114:1) cites both reasons.


     The Ra'avad (Glosses on Ba'al Ha-ma'or, Ta'anit 1b) notes that similarly, on Pesach, we do not stop saying Mashiv Ha-ruach at night, nor during Shacharit, for the reasons listed above.


     Interestingly, the Mishna Berura (114:2-3) understands that fundamentally, one should include Mashiv Ha-ruach from the night of Shemini Atzeret or omit it from the first evening of Pesach, if not for the reasons cited by the Yerushalmi.  Therefore, if one mistakenly inserts Mashiv Ha-ruach on the evening of Shemini Atzeret or omits Mashiv Ha-ruach from the evening of Pesach, one does not need to repeat Shemoneh Esrei (as one ordinarily would)! 


     When does the shaliach tzibbur "announce" that we should begin to insert Mashiv Ha-ruach?  Does the tzibbur (congregation) begin saying Mashiv Ha-ruach during the silent prayer of Musaf, or do they start only after the shaliach tzibbur inserts it during the repetition of Shemoneh Esrei (Chazarat Ha-shatz) of Musaf, i.e. during the Mincha service in the afternoon. 


     Some communities (Ashkenazic congregations in Israel; see Rema 114:2) declare "Mashiv ha-ruach u-morid ha-geshem!" BEFORE Musaf, so that the tzibbur can insert Mashiv Ha-ruach during their silent Shemoneh Esrei.  Others (Sephardic congregations and all those outside of Israel) announce "Mashiv Ha-ruach" DURING the Chazarat Ha-shatz; thus, the congregation really only begins to insert Mashiv Ha-ruach during Mincha


     An individual praying at home should not insert Mashiv Ha-ruach until AFTER his local congregation has already prayed.  Likewise, one who arrives late, after the congregation has already begun Musaf, may insert Mashiv Ha-ruach if he knows that the shaliach tzibbur has already announced that they should begin mentioning gevurot geshamim (OC 114:2).  However, according the Mishna Berura (114:2-3), as we learned above, even if one precedes the shaliach tzibbur in adding Mashiv Ha-ruach, one need not repeat Shemoneh Esrei


     From Pesach until Sukkot, we omit the petition for rain.  However, there are different customs regarding whether one should say instead "Morid ha-tal" ("[You] bring down the dew")during the summer.  The Rema (114:3) writes that the Ashkenazic custom is not to insert Morid Ha-tal during the summer.  Those Jews who follow the Sephardic or Yemenite rites — which is the prevalent custom for all Jews in Israel — maintain that one should insert Morid Ha-tal even during the summer.  Interestingly, one who fails to mention rain in the winter but includes Morid Ha-tal need not repeat Shemoneh Esrei (OC 114:4), as we shall mention in the next section. 


     Just as there are different customs regarding the proper time to begin inserting Mashiv Ha-ruach on Sukkot, so too there are variant customs as to whether the congregation should or should not insert Mashiv Ha-ruach in their silent Shemoneh Esrei of Musaf of the first day of Pesach.  (See OC 488:3 and Mishna Berura 11.) 


One Who Forgets to Say Mashiv Ha-Ruach:


     The Gemara (Berakhot 29a) teaches, "Rabbi Tanchum said in the name of Rav Assi: 'If one made a mistake and did not mention the power of rain in [the berakha] of techiyyat ha-meitim, we make him go back."  The Rishonim question whether one must go back to the beginning of the berakha when one forgets to mention Mashiv Ha-ruach BEFORE concluding the berakha.   


     The Ra'avya, cited by the Rosh (Ta'anit 1:1), writes that one should merely say Mashiv ha-ruach and continue from the next line, "Mekhalkel chayyim" ("[You] sustain the living").  The Rosh himself disagrees, and rules that one may insert Mashiv Ha-ruach anywhere in the berakha, as we consider the entire berakha to be "its place."  The placement of Mashiv Ha-ruach before "Mekhalkel chayyim" is according to CUSTOM and not inherent to the berakha's formula. 


     The Mishna Berura (114:29) notes that one should still insert "Mashiv Ha-ruach" BEFORE the final line, "Ve-ne'eman Atta"  ("And You are faithful"), in order to fulfill the rule which requires that "the end of the blessing (that which immediately precedes 'Barukh Atta') must be similar to its conclusion (the final words after 'Barukh Atta')." 


     Similarly, the Rishonim debate whether one who CONCLUDES the berakha and realizes that he has omitted Mashiv Ha-ruach must go back to the beginning of Shemoneh Esrei.  The Ra'avya, again cited by the Rosh, rules that if one realized before beginning the next berakha with the words "Atta kadosh" ("You are holy"), one should merely say "Mashiv Ha-ruach u-morid ha-geshem" right there and then continue "Atta kadosh."  Apparently, the Ra'avya believes that we do not consider one to have "concluded" a berakha until has actually begun the next one. 


     The Maharshal (cited by the Bach), disagrees and rules in accordance with Rabbeinu Yona, who insists that even before beginning the next blessing, one is considered to have "concluded" the berakha, and one must go back to the beginning of Shemoneh Esrei


     While the Shulchan Arukh (114:6) rules in accordance with the Ra'avya, the Bi'ur Halakha (114) cites numerous Rishonim and Acharonim who disagree.  He grapples with the possibility of ruling against the Shulchan Arukh, and concludes that if one has started "Barukh Atta" but not yet said the word "Mechayyei," one should conclude "lammedeini chukkekha," transforming the clause into the recitation of a verse, Tehillim 119:12; then one can  insert "Mashiv Ha-ruach" and conclude the berakha.


     While the above applies to one who has yet to begin the next berakha, the Yerushalmi (Berakhot 5:2) rules that one who proceeded to recite the next berakha should insert Mashiv Ha-ruach into "Shema Koleinu" ("Hear our voice"), the last of the middle berakhot, where one can insert any and all requests.  Furthermore, if one has concluded Shema Koleinu but has not yet finished Shemoneh Esrei, one should go back to Shema Koleinu to insert Mashiv Ha-ruach!


     Some Rishonim (see Tosafot, Berakhot 29b; Rosh, Berakhot 4:14) question how to interpret the Talmud Bavli's omission of this ruling.  Should we suggest that the Bavli agrees, yet simply omitted this ruling because it is obvious, or should we say that the Bavli disagrees with the Yerushalmi and requires that one go back to the beginning of Shemoneh Esrei?


     Most Rishonim (see Rif, Ta'anit 1a; Rosh, Berakhot 4:14, etc.) rule AGAINST the Yerushalmi, arguing that Shema Koleinu, the berakha intended for petitions and requests, is not the appropriate place to "mention" the powers of rain. 


In summary, the Shulchan Arukh (114:6) rules:


When do we say that one who omits "morid ha-geshem" in the winter must go back?  When one has finished the entire berakha and begun the next, then one must go back to the beginning of the prayer.  However, if one remembers before finishing the berakha, one should say it in the place in which he remembers.  Even if one has finished the berakha, if one remembers before beginning "Atta kadosh," one need not go back; rather, one should say "Mashiv Ha-ruach u-morid ha-geshem" without the [berakha's] conclusion.


Morid Ha-tal:


The Rif (Ta'anit 1a) cites the Talmud Yerushalmi (Berakhot 5:2), which teaches:


Rabbi Ze'ira taught in the name of Rabbi Chanina: "One who stands in the rain (i.e., between Sukkot and Pesach) and mentions dew [while omitting rain] does not go back [to the beginning of the prayer].  One who stands during dew (between Pesach and Sukkot) and mentions rain, must go back [to the beginning]…"


     Based upon this passage from the Talmud Yerushalmi, the Rif rules that one who omits rain during the winter but mentions dew does NOT go back to the beginning for the prayer.  The Ran and the Ra'avad question this ruling.  Nevertheless, many Rishonim, including the Ri and the Rambam (Hilkhot Tefilla 10:8), rule in accordance with this Yerushalmi.


     Furthermore, Tosafot (Berakhot 29b, s.v. Ha) explain that the custom to recite Morid Ha-tal throughout the summer is partially based upon this ruling.  As mentioned above, the Sephardic and Yemenite custom, which is also the custom of Israel, is to insert Morid Ha-tal.  Therefore, practically speaking, the question of one who omits "morid ha-geshem" and must therefore repeat Shemoneh Esrei applies primarily to Ashkenazic Jews living outside of Israel, where it is customary NOT to insert Morid Ha-tal.


When One is in Doubt:


     The Yerushalmi (Ta'anit 1:1) relates to a situation in which one cannot remember whether or not he recited Ve-tein Tal in the ninth berakha


If one has prayed and does not know what he inserted, Rabbi Yochanan said, "Within thirty days, [he must assume that he recited] that to which he is accustomed; from that point on, [he can assume that he recited] what he is supposed to recite."


     In other words, during the first thirty days of including a given formula, before one can assume that one has become accustomed to it, one must assume that he prayed as he did previously and omitted it.  However, after thirty days, one may assume that he has become accustomed to inserting Ve-tein Tal and therefore need not repeat Shemoneh Esrei


     While "thirty days" ostensibly refers to thirty complete days, an entire month during which one becomes accustomed to inserting Ve-tein Tal, others disagree.  


     The Maharam of Rothenburg, as cited by the Tur (OC 114), apparently used to sit down each year on Shemini Atzeret and recite ninety times, "Atta gibbor… le-hoshia, mashiv ha-ru'ach u-morid ha-geshem," i.e., from the beginning of the berakha through the insertion.  Instead of waiting to recite the Ve-tein Tal over the course of an entire month, praying three times daily, he merely repeated the important lines ninety times in one day!


     Despite the fact that several Rishonim and Acharonim disagree with the Maharam from numerous perspectives, the Shulchan Arukh (114:9) accepts his position.  The Biur Halakha, however, notes that the Gra rules in accordance with Rabbeinu Peretz, who rejects the Maharal's position. 



     Next week, we will conclude our discussion of Mashiv Ha-ruach and study the laws of Ve-tein Tal and Ya'aleh Ve-yavo.