What is "Tefilat Geshem?"

There are three items in the Jewish Liturgy which have been called "Prayers for Rain." Two of these are really more accurately described as:

  1. the annual introduction and perhaps, request of     permission, to praise G-d as The Deliverer of life-giving moisture to all     of Humanity, and to all of Nature. This is "Tefilat Geshem,"     translated, again, somewhat erroneously as "The Prayer for Rain"     and
  2. the daily, for half a year, praise of Hashem as the     Deliverer and Provider of wind and rain

The above two are included and linked (with no Internet connotation) in the Prayers of Shmini Atzeret.

The third item, the actual "Prayer for Rain," is not incorporated into the Shemoneh Esrei (1) until early in December, keyed to the rainy season in Israel, but allowing sufficient time for Pilgrim visitors to Jerusalem to get home before the rain.

"Geshem" is recited by the Prayer-Leader, "Chazzan," responsively with the congregation, during the repetition of the Shemoneh Esray.

In the prayer, we are informed that the "angel" (2) in charge of the distribution of rain is named "Af-Bri." This name alludes to the two ways in which rain can be delivered to the earth. "Af" means "Anger" and represents torrential, flood-provoking rainfall. "Bri" denotes "Health" and corresponds to the gentle rain which is beneficial to humanity and to the environment in general.

"Af-Bri is designated as the name of the angel of rain; to thicken and to form clouds, to empty them and to cause rain.

Water with which to crown the valley's vegetation may it not be withheld because of our unredeemed debt.

In the merit of the faithful Patriarchs protect the ones who pray for rain.

Chazzan bends his knees at Blessed'; bows at 'You; straightens up at 'HASHEM

Blessed are You, HASHEM, Shield of Abraham. (Cong. - Amen.)

You are eternally mighty, my Lord, the Resuscitator of the dead are You; abundantly able to save.

May He obligate [the Angel Af-Bri] to give us portions of the segregated rain (3), to soften the wasteland's face when it is dry as rock.

With water You symbolized Your might in Scripture, to soothe with its drops those in whom was blown a soul, to keep alive the ones who recall the strengths of the rain."

G-d is implored to provide healthful rain to us in the merit of our forefathers and other great leaders of Israel, in connection with whom water-related verses are cited:

"Our God and the God of our forefathers:

Remember the Patriarch [Abraham], who was drawn behind You like water. You blessed him like a tree replanted alongside streams of water. You shielded him, You rescued him from fire and from water. You tested him when he sowed upon all waters.

Cong.- For his sake, do not hold water back!

Remember the one [Isaac] born with the tidings of, 'Let some water be brought. ' You told his father to slaughter him - to spill his blood like, water. He too was scrupulous to pour his heart like water. He dug and discovered wells of water.

Cong.- For the sake of his righteousness, grant abundant water!

Remember the one [Jacob] who carried his staff
and crossed the Jordan's water.
He dedicated his heart and rolled a stone
off the mouth of a well of water,
as when he was wrestled by an angel composed of fire and water.
Therefore You pledged to remain with him through fire and water.

Cong. - For his sake, do not hold water back!

Remember the one [Moses] drawn forth in a bulrush basket from the water. They said, 'He drew water and provided the sheep with water.' At the time Your treasured people thirsted for water, he struck the rock and out came water.

Cong.- For the sake of his righteousness, grant abundant water!

Remember the appointee [Aaron] over the Temple, who made five immersions in the water. He went to cleanse his hands through sanctification with water. He called out and sprinkled [blood bringing] purity as with water. He remained apart from a people of waterlike impetuosity.

Cong. - For his sake, do not hold water back!

Remember the twelve tribes You caused
to cross through the split waters,
for whom You sweetened the water's bitter taste.
Their offspring whose blood was spilt for You like water.
Turn to us - for woes engulf our souls like water.

Cong. - For the sake of their righteousness, grant abundant water!

Chazzan:

For You are HASHEM, our God,

Who makes the wind blow and makes the rain descend.

Cong. then chazzan - For blessing and not for curse. (Cong. - Amen.)
Cong. then chazzan- For life and not for death.
(Cong. - Amen.)
Cong. then chazzan - For plenty and not for scarcity. (Cong. - Amen.)

1. Shemoneh Esray - This is the fundamental 18-Blessing (during weekdays; fewer on Shabbat and Holidays) Prayer composed by the Anshei K'Nesset HaGedolah (itself requiring explanation); these items will be dealt with at length when the Jewish Prayer Section comes online. The "Prayer for Rain" is inserted into the "Blessing," or "Request for Divine Assistance" Section, where we ask G-d to give us a successful year, which, certainly for a primarily agricultural society, meant gentle and timely rain, but which from a broader perspective is a universal requirement.

2. Angel - A heavenly being created by G-d. Angels are used by G-d as messengers (except on certain occasions, when G-d acts Himself; for example, during the Plague of the Firstborn in Egypt, when, according to Jewish Tradition, G-d acted alone) to accomplish His purposes on earth. In general, a certain "angel" can accomplish only one purpose. For example, Gavriel is used for punishment; Refael for healing.

3. "Segregated" Rain - G-d separated the waters upon their creation into "heavenly" waters and "earthly" waters; here the request is for "heavenly" waters.

"Mashiv HaRuach U'Morid HaGeshem"
The Jewish Prayer for Wind and Rain

(scanned material from ArtScroll Sukkot Machzor)

How do Jews pray for wind and rain?

Actually, we are not ready at this point in the season to request rain; it is a bit early, and the "olai regel," "the people who have gone up by foot," to come to Yerushalayim for the Holiday in fulfillment of the Biblical command, need to get home without getting drenched. Here, rather, we praise G-d as the source of the blessing of rain; in early December, we will actually make the official request. The formula for this praise is the phrase, "Mashiv HaRuach U'Morid HaGeshem," "the One Who makes the wind blow, and makes the rain descend."

When is this prayer (or phrase of praise) recited?

It is always done on Shmini Atzeret, but the exact time is a matter of custom. Some congregations begin saying it in the Silent Shemoneh Esrei (1) of Mussaf; others don't begin reciting it until the Silent Shemoneh Esrei of Minchah, the Afternoon Prayer.

Where is the prayer inserted?

The Shemoneh Esrei begins always with a Section of Praises of G-d, consisting of three blessings, which will be described here in extremely brief terms. The first, called "Avot," "forefathers," praises G-d as the G-d of our forefathers, as a great and awesome G-d, Who remembers their merit in our behalf. The next blessing extols G-d's Might as the Healer, the One Who gives life and takes it, and Who does not forget those who have died, and Who ultimately will bring about the resurrection of the dead. The third blessing in this Section describes G-d's Holiness, and describes Him as One Who is holy and Whose Name (i.e. His actions) are holy.

"Mashiv HaRuach U'Morid HaGeshem" is inserted into the blessing "describing" His indescribable Might, as the Source of life-giving rain.

You are eternally mighty, my Lord, the Resuscitator of the dead are You; abundantly able to save,

Who makes the wind blow and makes the rain descend;

Who sustains the living with kindness, resuscitates the dead with abundant mercy, supports the fallen, heals the sick, releases the confined, and maintains His faith to those asleep in the dust. Who is like You, 0 Master of mighty deeds, and who is comparable to You, 0 King Who causes death and restores life and makes salvation sprout! And You are faithful to resuscitate the dead. Blessed are You, HASHEM, Who resuscitates the dead.

The phrase is testimony to the centrality of water, H2O, to life and the marvelous delivery system, namely the wind, which transports it and arranges the climate for the entire planet.

Till when is this phrase included in the Prayers?

It is included until Pesach, when a prayer similar to "Geshem," meaning "Rain," namely "Tal," meaning "Dew," is recited. Dew is a sign of Spring, and one of the names of Pesach is the "Chag HaAviv," the "Festival of Spring." At that time, some communities have the custom of simply removing "Mashiv HaRuach;" others replace it with the phrase "Morid HaTal," the "One Who brings the Dew."

What are some laws about the recitation of "Mashiv HaRuach?" Specifically, what should one do if he or she forgets to recite that phrase?

There are several variations, depending on when one realizes that it was forgotten.

  • If one remembers before finishing the blessing of     "Who resurrects the dead," say "Mashiv … " and finish     the blessing.
  • If one remembers after finishing the above blessing,     but before beginning the next one, which begins "You are holy,"     say "Mashiv … " and it is not necessary to start the Shemoneh     Esrei again.
  • If one remembers after beginning "You are holy …     ," return to the beginning of Shemoneh Esrei.
  • If one finishes the Shemoneh Esrei, and does not     remember whether he or she said "Mashiv HaRuach … ," or not, if     thirty days have passed since it was re-incorporated into the prayers,     then one can assume that it was said (by force of habit, if nothing else);     if not, one should assume that it was not said.

From the above details (and remember, "G-d is in the details"), we see that this phrase, which recognizes the greatness and the necessity of the delivery of moisture, is a key element in the Praise of G-d for, if the phrase is inadvertently omitted, the Shemoneh Esrei must be repeated. Also, that if a key phrase is omitted, especially one built into the very structure of the Shemoneh Esrei, and a new thought is begun, the entire Shemoneh Esrei must be repeated. And finally, that Halacha (2) recognizes the reality of repetition and habit formation in human behavior.

1. The Silent Shemoneh Esrei is the silent recitation of this Prayer by the individual members of the congregation before it is repeated by the Chazzan. One of the original reasons for the repetition is that when public prayer was instituted, the Siddur, the Book of Jewish Prayer, was not yet widely available. The Chazzan either knew the prayers by heart or was one of the relatively few individuals who had a Siddur. By responding "Amen" to the blessings recited by the Chazzan, an individual congregant can thereby fulfill the obligation of prayer.

2. Halacha is the total body of Jewish Law (much more to be/is included, G-d willing, under those headings)