Question: Can you explain the different starting times of Mashiv haruach u’morid hagashem and Ve’ten tal u’matar livracha as opposed to Morid hatal and Ve’ten beracha, and why they are said as part of particular berachot in the Amida, as found in the siddur?
Answer: We understand your first question to be: Why do we begin mentioning Mashiv haruach u’morid hagashem – lit. “[He] makes the wind blow and causes the rain to fall,” in the second blessing of the Shemoneh Esreh on the last day of Sukkot [i.e., Shemini Atzeret], when we recite the prayer for rain, but insofar as the insertion of Ve’ten tal u’matar livracha – lit. “May You grant us dew and rain as a blessing,” in the ninth blessing of the Amida, we do not start until a later date?
Yet when we cease to say Morid hagashem on the first day of Pesach (Nusach Ashkenaz – Sefarad replace it with Morid hatal – lit. “[He] causes the dew to fall”), we cease to include in the ninth blessing Ve’ten tal u’matar in the first weekday tefilla in which we say the full Shemoneh Esreh text, that is, at Maariv of Motza’ei Yom Tov, and replace it with Ve’ten beracha – almost simultaneously?
In the first Mishna in Tractate Ta’anit (2a), the Tanna asks: “When do we commence mentioning gevurot geshamim [the power of rain]? R. Eliezer says, From the first day of the Chag [the Festival, i.e., Sukkot]; R. Yehoshua says, From the last festival day of the Chag. Said R. Yehoshua [to R. Eliezer], Since rain is surely a bad omen on the holiday, why would he mention it [starting on the first day]?
R.Eliezer replies, Even I did not say so in regard to the request [i.e., Ve’ten tal u’matar livracha in the ninth blessing] but only regarding our mention [in the second blessing] of Mashiv haruach u’morid hagashem in its proper time. To which R. Yehoshua retorted, Then let us always make mention [that He send rain in its proper time] but as regards to our request [in the ninth blessing] for rain, we only do so close to the rainy season.
The Mishna now refers to the proper procedure in the second blessing of the Shemoneh Esreh. R. Yehoshua says regarding those who lead the congregation in prayer on the last day of the Festival (Sukkot): The last one (i.e., the Ba’al Mussaf) makes mention [of Mashiv haruach, etc.] but the first one [i.e., the Ba’al Shacharit] does not mention it. [However], on the first day of Pesach, the first one [the Ba’al Shacharit] continues to mention it, while the second one [the Ba’al Mussaf] ceases to make mention.
Thus, we see that there is a difference according to the Mishna regarding when we mention Morid hagashem in the blessing of Mechayyeh Hameitim, as opposed to Ve’ten tal u’matar, which we add to our request in the blessing of Mevarech Hashanim. Specifically, the one is included among the attributes of Hashem; thus it is only a tribute to Hashem’s glory and greatness, while the other is our beseeching Him to grant us rain. [This answers your second question as to their particular placement in the Shemoneh Esreh.]
Now we might ask if it is only included as one of the attributes of Hashem, then why not mention it year round? The answer is that this is an attribute for a specific time of year, and that is the fall/winter period when the land of Israel needs rain. While there is need of rain in the spring/summer season, there is less of a need at that time. Perhaps mention of rain at that time would be contrary to Hashem’s attribute for that time period.
(To be continued)