(Originally published in 2003)
QUESTION: What does a person do if he left Israel after the 7th of Cheshvan (which was on November 2 this year), where they already commenced saying “Ve’ten tal u’matar,” but before they start doing so in the diaspora (typically on December 5, but on December 6 at Maariv this year, since the evening of December 5 is a Sabbath)?
ANSWER: Let us first review the halacha as stated in Orach Chayyim (117:1), based on the Gemara (Ta’anit 10a). In the blessing of Birkat Hashanim, the 9th blessing in the Shemoneh Esreh, one is required to say during the rainy season of the fall and winter, called yemot ha’geshamim, “Ve’ten tal u’matar li’veracha – Give dew and rain for a blessing.” They begin the request for rain in the diaspora at the Maariv prayer of the 60th day after Tekufat Tishrei (the autumnal equinox, which is usually December 4 or December 5). In the Land of Israel they begin their request on the evening of the 7th of Cheshvan. The Taz (O.C. ibid.) explains that Israel needs more rain since it is more elevated than other lands, hence the earlier start date for the prayer there. We in the diaspora follow what was done by the Jews living in Babylonia, which was not in need of rain to the same extent as Israel.Thus, a person living in the Land of Israel must request rain on the 7th of Cheshvan, while one who lives in the diaspora starts his request on December 4th or December 5th. This year the 60th day falls on a Sabbath, and so we start saying “Ve’ten tal u’matar” on the first weekday Shemoneh Esreh following the 60th day, which is on Motza’ei Shabbat, December 6.Your question does not mention whether the person who travels is a resident of Israel or a resident of the diaspora, but as we shall see further, some of the practical applications might be the same.
In his responsa Minchat Yitzhak (10:9) the Gaon R. Yitzhak Yaakov Weiss, zt”l, asks your question and postulates that when one has already started the request of tal u’matar, one does not stop. He cites the statement of Birkei Yosef (117:5) in support of his view – that “a resident of the diaspora currently in Israel, and a a resident of Israel currently in the diaspora, both utter their requests according to what is done in the city in which they are at that time. The reason is that the resident of the diaspora who is now in Israel has a need [for rain] during his stay in Israel, whether short or long. The chayyei sha’ah – daily life – requirements of the residents of Israel pertain to him now. On the other hand, the resident of Israel visiting the diaspora is a yachid, and an individual may not request anything [if it is presently not the official time of request for that community].”
R. Weiss continues to cite Birkei Yosef, who rules that a resident of Israel who began to say Ve’ten tal u’matar on the 7th of Cheshvan and then traveled to the diaspora should not stop reciting that phrase, for otherwise it will be a matter of derision – one day he says it and the next day he does not.
R. Weiss continues with the comments of the Ridvaz (Responsa Ridvaz, Vol. 6:55), who differs in opinion. If it is the intention of the resident of Israel to return to Israel at some time within the time frame of the request for rain, he begins his request on the 7th of Cheshvan even though he has not yet returned. However, if he has no immediate plans but expects to return after the winter season has concluded (after the first day of Passover), he requests rain starting on December 5th, as is done in the place where he will reside for the season.
R. Weiss also notes that even according to this view of Ridvaz, if one (who is temporarily in the diaspora) is appointed to serve as a sheliach tzibbur, he would only say Ve’ten tal u’matar in his silent Shemoneh Esreh but not in the repetition for the congregation.
R. Weiss concludes that the Birkei Yosef’s view – according to which one who has started to say Ve’ten tal u’matar in Israel would continue even in the diaspora – applies only to a resident of Israel. However, a resident of the diaspora who returns to the diaspora following a visit to Israel during which he has been requesting rain would cease saying Ve’ten tal u’matar and follow the custom of his hometown.
R. Moshe Stern, zt”l, the Debrecener Rav (Responsa Ba’er Moshe, Vol. 7, O.C. 3:117) voices the opinion that a resident of Israel who intends to stay in the diaspora for a longer period does not start saying Ve’ten tal u’matar until later, like a resident of the diaspora. This is in accord with the Birkei Yosef.
However, if suddenly there was reason for him to return to Eretz Yisrael, he is to begin saying Ve’ten tal u’matar as soon as he boards the boat [or plane] for his return to Israel, and he does not need to wait until his arrival in Israel. As long as he has not embarked on the boat or plane, but only has the intention of doing so, i.e., as long as he is in the diaspora and is not traveling, he does not say Ve’ten tal u’matar because of the possibility that he will change his mind and stay. R. Stern then adds that if this traveler has an overwhelmingly compelling reason for returning to Israel that will not allow for any delay in his departure, he must immediately start the request of tal u’matar even while still in the diaspora.
He also cites Dvar Shmuel, who likewise rules that one requests rain according to the custom and needs of the place where one is presently residing. However, he feels that a resident of the diaspora who happens to be in Israel on the 7th of Cheshvan, but knows he will shortly return to the diaspora, should not commence the request for rain (notwithstanding the view of Dvar Shmuel and Birkei Yosef) since he will have to stop it in the middle. Therefore it is far better that he not begin but follow the halacha as laid down by the Mechaber in Orach Chayyim (117:2): “Individuals in need of rain in the summer time do not request it in Birkat Hashanim but say it in ‘Shome’a Tefilla’ [the 16th blessing of the Shemoneh Esreh].”
Thus he will not be making a request for a need contrary to his present place of residence (even though his request is in the form of a tefillat yachid, an individual request) when he says it as part of Shema Kolenu. This is regarded as the most proper solution in this situation.