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According to the build-up in this question the point of Tal UMatar is to pray for good rains in one's local area. The same seems to be assumed in other questions and especially a couple of different answers. But is that right? I always thought the purpose of the Berachah was primarily (or at least partially) for Eretz Yisrael but that the reason for waiting to recite it was so people returning from their 'Aliyah LeRegel would not be met with a deluge preventing their return to their homes abroad. Is my understanding faulty (or just fuzzy)? It seems the logic therein is reflected, at least, in this answer.

Sources, please.

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2 Answers 2

up vote 6 down vote accepted

In Israel, we shift to Tal UMatar on the 7th of Cheshvan, because that is generally when the rainy season starts in Israel.

In Bavel, the rainy season started 60 days after the equinox, so that is the date used by Bavel.

Likely your confusion comes from the fact that general Jewish practice is to follow the dates of Bavel even though the country they live in does not have Bavel's weather patterns. Why Jews who live in Europe or Australia or Hawaii, follow the weather in Bavel instead of their own location is something I've never understood. But the bracha, as described by the Talmud is meant to be done for the location you are in.

(Cf. Shulhan 'Aruch 117 and Mishnah Berurah ad loc, S"k 5)

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How does that work with the opinion that everywhere outside of E"Y says it at the same time, regardless of where they live and when the rainy season is for them? –  Seth J Jan 12 '12 at 17:03
    
I've never heard a good explanation. –  avi Jan 12 '12 at 17:31
    
The Mishna Berurah doesn't seem to say that the "rainy season started 60 days after the equinox". It says that in Bavel they didn't need the rain as badly as they do in Israel (since Israel is higher than other lands), and therefore only started praying later. –  Menachem Jan 12 '12 at 17:44
    
@Menachem that was my edit. Shulhan 'Aruch ad loc. says that part - or, more precisely, outside of E"Y (or is that less precisely?). The M"B is for the last point. –  Seth J Jan 12 '12 at 18:07

We do wait for travelers before praying for rain. The reason given (Mishna in Taanis 10A) for why we wait 15 days after Sukkot, until the 7th of Cheshvan, is in order to ensure that the last travelers can pass the Euphrates River before the rain comes (Rabbeinu Gershom) and makes the river difficult to pass (Rashi).

Once the 7th of Cheshvan comes, all the travelers have left the land of Israel, and Israel can start praying for rain.

The Gemara then continues to tell us that outside of Israel they wait until 60 days after the Tekufat Tishre to start the prayer for rain. Rashi says that this is because Bavel is a low place and therefore doesn't need as much water. Rashi later says that we (the rest of Chutz LeAretz) follow the customs of Bavel. The Mishna Berurah (117:1:5) says the same thing.


Shulchan Aruch HaRav 117:1 brings an alternate opinion brought by the Rosh. This opinion questions this and says that while it is true that we follow the customs of Bavel, this is only on matters of Halacha, not when we need rain. Every region should therefore start praying for rain whenever they need it.

This opinion was not accepted by anyone, even the members of the Rosh's synagogue (see @DoubleAA's comments). See there for more details.

If a small area needs rain before the 60th day of Tekufat Tishre, they should add the request in the silent Amidah during the Shomeah Tefillah blessing.

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Which footnote implies the Rosh retracted? (I was under the impression that he actually did instruct his congregation to pray for rain at the "wrong" time and made a big to do about it.) –  Double AA Oct 7 '12 at 5:20
    
@DoubleAA: footnote 31 –  Menachem Oct 7 '12 at 5:22
    
Oh you're right. At the end of the Teshuva he writes that he did instruct his shul to start asking for rain and he did so himself, but no one in his shul listened to him so he gave up. But he still thinks he's right so I don't know if 'rejected' is the right word here. (And we think we have problems at our shuls...) –  Double AA Oct 7 '12 at 5:23

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