Tal u’Matar: The Prayer for Dew and Rain
In the winter months, the words “v’sein tal u’matar livracha” (“send dew and rain for a blessing”) are inserted in Shemoneh Esrei, in the bracha “Birkas HaShanim.” (That’s the one that ends “m’vareich hashanim”). Outside of Israel, we start saying the request for dew and rain at Maariv on the sixtieth day after the autumnal equinox, which is typically the fifth of December; in the year before a leap year in the a solar calendar, December 6. In Israel, this insertion begins on 7 Cheshvan. In either case, it is recited until Pesach. [A reader asked why this article says December 5 and 6 rather than December 4 and 5, as it says in his siddur. This is because of a gradual "slippage" that occurs between the Jewish and secular calendars; older siddurim may say December 3, or even December 2. Consult your own rabbi or a reliable luach for matters of practical application.]
What If I Forget to Say Tal u’Matar?
If one accidentally omitted tal u’matar, here’s how he should proceed:
- If he remembers before completing the blessing of “m’vareich hashanim,” he says it there and continues with the words “v’sabeinu….” He completes the bracha as per usual.
- If he only remembered after finishing the bracha, he can insert tal u’matar in the blessing of “shema koleinu,” after the words “reikam al tashiveinu.” He then continues “ki Atah shomei’ah…” and finishes that blessing as per usual.
- If he passed that part of “shema koleinu” and only remembered after saying “Baruch Atah” in the conclusion of that bracha, then so long as he has not yet said G-d’s Name, he can say tal u’matar and continue “ki Atah shomei’ah….”
- If he only remembered after finishing the bracha of “shema koleinu,” he must go back to the bracha of “m’vareich hashanim,” where tal u’matar should have been inserted in the first place. (If he hasn’t yet started the blessing “r’tzei,” he can still say tal u’matar and then continue on to r'tzei.)
- If a person only realized he forgot tal u’matar after saying the verse “yihiyu l’ratzon” at the end of Shemoneh Esrei, he must go back to the beginning and say the entire Amidah again.
What If I Say Tal U’Matar When I Shouldn’t?
If someone accidentally said tal u’matar in the summer months, he must return to the start of the bracha “bareich aleinu.” If he didn’t remember until after saying the verse “yihiyu l’ratzon” at the end of Shemoneh Esrei, he must repeat the entire Amidah.
What If I Can’t Remember Whether or Not I Said Tal U’Matar?
If one cannot recall whether or not he inserted tal u’matar, the way to proceed is based on how long we have been saying it. If we have been saying it for 30 days or fewer, we assume that force of habit has not yet kicked in. In such a case, one probably did not insert tal u’matar, so he must repeat Shemoneh Esrei. After 30 days, we assume that one inserted it through force of habit and he need not say Shemoneh Esrei again.
If someone erred during Maariv on the first night of Pesach and started saying the weekday Shemoneh Esrei, if he remembered after starting the blessing “bareich aleinu,” he must finish saying that bracha but he does not say tal u’matar since the congregation does not say it on that day.
The same is true if the first day to say tal u’matar falls on Shabbos. If someone accidentally recited the weekday Shemoneh Esrei and realized his error after starting “bareich aleinu,” he would not insert tal u’matar since the congregation is not yet saying it.