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I understand that the starting date to say "Veten Tal Umatar" during weekday AMidah outside of Israel is based on being 60 days after Tekufat Tishrei. This is always a solar-based calculation, and on the Gregorian calendar it occurs on Dec. 4 or 5th, currently.

If the starting time i sbased on a solar date, shouldn't we begin saying this when that solar date occurs, namely during shacharit or by davening Ma'ariv after 12 midnight when that solar date has occurred? It seems that if we start saying during Ma'ariv, we are a solar date too early.

  • To clarify the answer below, the solar cycle is an objective phenomenon. It is (roughly) to this cycle, that the prayer corresponds. However, the point at which one day is viewed as ending, and the next as beginning, is just an arbitrary convention that has nothing to do with the solar year. Thus, the prayer can just as legitimately use the normal halakhic convention of days starting at night, as any other convention. – mevaqesh Dec 5 '16 at 0:33
  • Solar days don't start at midnight. Why would you think that? What even is a solar day? – Double AA Dec 5 '16 at 1:33
  • I meant the calendar date. – DanF Dec 5 '16 at 1:34
  • What calendar date? And why would it matter? – Double AA Dec 5 '16 at 1:46
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Actually, the sixtieth day after tekufat tishrei is currently December 5th or 6th - it hasn't been December 4th for about a hundred years. We say it on maariv of the day before, because that's when it becomes December 5th.

Think of it this way: we normally think of the transition from one day to the next as being midnight, but midnight is actually an arbitrary time. It has meaning on our watches, but no meaning in the world itself. It bears zero relationship to "true midnight", in other words, which is the midpoint of the night itself.

Halakhically, we consider one day transitioning into the next when the sun goes down and the stars come out. As such, maariv is actually the first tefillah of the day - and not the third.

Since we want to start saying ותן טל ומטר on the sixtieth day after tekufat tishrei (a day that corresponds to December 5th on the Gregorian calendar), we need to start doing this on maariv of December 4th. By our reckoning, that's the point at which it becomes the sixtieth day.

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