The Catholic Pope and veSain Tal uMatar


vesainby Rabbi Yair Hoffman for the Five Towns Jewish Times

GENERALLY SPEAKING, THE POPE WHO is the head of the Roman Catholic Church, does not affect the observance of Orthodox Jewish halachic practice. And it still does not actually affect it.

In 1582, however, Pope Gregory XIII’s changes to the calendar did have some repercussions in our halachic observance, at least in the way in which we record the secular date as to when in the year we begin amending one line in the Shmoneh Esreh in Chutz La’aretz. It is in the Tefilah where we beseech hashem for rain. In Israel itself we began saying it at Maariv of the 7th of Cheshvan.

My grandfather z”l owned a very early Shulchan Aruch that preceded the Pope’s three changes. It says that we start saying vesain tal umatar in November.

In the United States, the official start date is tonight in Maariv.

The Pope made three changes to the Julian Calendar, but at first, only the Catholic countries followed it.

1] He fast-forwarded the calendar ten days.In 1582, there was no October 5th through October 14th.

2] He ruled that every 100 years there would not be a leap year.There was no February 29th in the year 1900.

3] He ruled that every 400 years there would be a leap year and that rule number two would not apply.Rule #3 has only be used twice in the year 1600 and in the year 2000.

What this boils down to is that until the year 2101 we begin saying v’sain tal umatar on the night of December 4th and before a leap year we begin saying it on the night of December 5th.

As an interesting note, if ArtScroll would have existed in the 1800’s it would have said to add in v’sain tal uMatar on December 3rd and before a leap year on December 4th.


What happens if you forgot to add it in?

There are actually two major Brachos of the 19 Brachos in Shmoneh Esreh where it can be added in – Baraich Alainu and Shmah Kolainu. Ideally we shoot for the first, but if not we can do it in the later one.


So theanswer to what you should do if you did forget, depends upon when you remembered that you did not add it in.If you remembered before saying Hashem’s name at the end of the bracha of Baraich Alainu, then just go back to V’Sain tal uMatar and continue from there (MB 117:15).


If you remembered after saying Hashem’s Name, then you just continue on until the Bracha of Shma Koleinu and add the words, “V’Sain tal uMatar livracha”right after “vkabel berachamim veratzon es tfilasainu”and before “ki attah shomaya tfilas” (MB 117:16).If one still forgot and did not yet say Hashem’s name at the end of the bracha, then just say “V’Sain tal uMatar livracha and continue saying Ki Attah shomaya.

If you have already said Hashem’s Name – then we have a debate between the Mishna Brurah and Rav Moshe Feinstein zt”l as to what to do.The Mishna Brurah (117:19) says to say “Lamdeini chukecha” – a Pasuk in TaNach and then to say V’Sain Tal uMatar livracha and finish with Ki Attah Shomaya.

Rav Moshe Feinstein questions this and asks how it is possible to just recite random Psukim in the Shmoneh Esreh?[He recommends that one just finish up the bracha and add it before one saysRetzai, like the Shulchan Aruch recommends to do if you did end up finishing Shma Kolainu.] Unless you are a talmid of Rav Moshe, most people follow the Mishna Brurah.


If one has already completed the entire Shmah koleinu bracha without having said V’Sain tal uMatar, then the Shulchan Aruch rules that you just say it then and recite Retzai.

If you forgot to say it before then and actually started retzai – then you are now in for some major repeating.You have to stop where you are and just go back to the beginning of Baraich Alainu and continue saying the Shmoneh Esreh from there.


If you forgot it and completed the Shmoneh Esreh – then repeat the entire Shmoneh Esreh from the beginning (See SA 117).


If you are not sure what you said, we assume you didn’t say it for the first 30 days.After 30 days, we assume that you did say it properly.The Mishna Brurah (114:40) suggests that if you sing the words “v’es kol minei s’vu’asah l’tova V’Sain Tal uMatar livracha” 90 times then the assumption changes.We assume that you did say it.On Maariv of January 3rd (or January 4th of a leap year) is the day when the assumption changes if you did not end up following the 90 times recommendation.

My father-in-law, Rabbi Yaakov Hirsch z”l, used to keep a piece of paper in his siddur at Baraich Alainu for those thirty days in order to remind him to add it in. This is a good idea.It also saves on not having to say the formula 90 times.

For the record, the changes were not Pope Gregory’s original idea.The idea first came from an Italian doctor and astronomer named Aloysius Lilius. The reason for the change is that each year, the value of 365 and 1/4 days was a bit off. It was missing “ad shaish” seconds. Thus the real year is 365 days 5 hours 48 minutes and 46 seconds. Most of the country that was to become America did not adopt it, however, until 1752. Also, as far as the Jews go, Pope Gregory XIII was not the biggest Ohaiv Yisroel. He wrote a Papal bull called “Sancta Mater Ecclesiae” (Holy Mother of the Church). This law created a program that required Jews to attend Church and listen to a conversion sermon every Shabbos.

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  1. You are missing 3 major points in regards to the 4/5th of December. 1. The Pope had good reason to move the calendar forward. Modern astronomers at that time realized that we were going back-in-time year over year. For instance, now that it was corrected, shkia is the same time year after year and year on the same English date. 2. The original date in November was choicen since it was 60 days after the equinox. 3. If Hillel was around these days, he would laugh and tell us to start saying it around Nov 21.

  2. It is remarkable that nowhere in this fine article was it mentioned that our purpose in saying these words is to ask Hashem to provide adequate rainfall, something we are especially in need of this year. We should also remember that when saying this tefillah.

  3. What happens if you forgot to add it in? If tonite by Ma’ariw, don’t repeat Amidah, since Tekufah Tishri was Friday October 7th @3AM, so since not 60 full days until 3AM tomorrow morning, don’t repeat by Ma’ariw tonite.

    And it still does not actually affect it. Birkas haChamoh, which currently is April 8th, but in 2121 shall be April 9th, and in 1897 was April 7th.

  4. It is remarkable in this article that no mention is made of the fact that:

    1) We are technically praying for rain in Iraq. If you check the sources, you’ll see that we are not praying for rain where we are now (e.g. Europe, USA, or what happens for people in Australia, for example). That makes this more complicated.

    2) Rain is based on the physical world. In the physical world, and following both the gemarrah and Shulchan Aruch, we’re supposed to be davening 60 days after the “tekufa”. You are either following Shmuel’s incorrect calculation in the 3rd century, or you are following the naturally occurring and observable equinox that occurs on or about 21 September each year (thank you, Popes who followed the monks making observations who then went on to fix a broken calendar). 60 days later is not 5 December.

    3) The Jewish world follows custom strongly, so we do not account for the error that has encroached on the calendar because the process does not yield a correction.

    4) This is not “just about a Pope’s decision”. This has to do with observable facts in the physical world.

    5) There is almost no question that should any of the original Greats be around nowadays (Shmuel, Rav Adda, Rambam, …) they would acknowledge the need for adjustment and act accordingly (shout-out to the #1 commentor above)

    6) Ultimately, we follow prayers that are Rabbinically-originated, so we daven when we are told to.

    It would be appreciated that when articles like this are written, and they involve a technical matter, they be more complete and accurate for the audience and not so erroneously gloss over the fundamental details. Better that we just skip to the “what do we do” section than attempt to cover a technical subject at too-elementary a level.

  5. I should have realized the quality of this article from the title: the Catholic Pope.


  6. One more thing. As the Julian calendar drifts forward 3 days every 400 years. (a leap year in the Julian calendar in year 2100, 2200, 2300 but not 2400), in approximately 15,000 years (the 3rd day of pesach is at its earliest about 117 days away, so thats 117 divided by 3 multiplied by 400) we will start saying VSEIN TAL UMATAR, after Pesach begins. Don’t think any of else will be around for that one.

  7. The article is well-written and pretty comprehensive, but to clarify for those who may not be familiar with the civil calendars, the Julian/Sh’muel calculation assumes a period of the Earth’s revolution about the sun of EXACTLY 365 1/4 days. In the Julian calendar, used in a large part of the world for about 1500 years, ALL years divisible by 4 are leap years. The exemption of those century years (sometimes called “centurial” years) that are divisible by 100 but not by 400, in what is known as the Gregorian calculation, attempts to correct for the fact that it’s not EXACTLY 365 1/4. It still does not fully compensate – it’s about eleven minutes off, which builds up to about a day per century, but also not exactly. We act based on Minhag Avoseinu B’yadeinu, but without further correction of our calendar or renewal of the Sanhedrin, in the far future there could theoretically be a point where those few left in Chutz laAretz would begin saying Sh’eilas G’shamim after they finish saying it, with effects on Bircas haChamma as well.
    For most of the world, the year 2000 was only the FIRST time that what is referred to as Rule #3 was used, as only a few Catholic countries in Europe were on the “New Style” in 1600. I made sure my students knew that at the time (i.e., in 2000, not in 1600, silly – I was too young then to know much about these things). The year 2000 was the first time that the start date of Tal UMatar elsewhere in Chu”l (sixty days after the Julian autumnal equinox, known as T’kufas Tishrei, which has drifted considerably from the measured/observed equinox) did not change between Gregorian centuries.
    Note that the British Empire did not change calendars until the mid-eighteenth century – George Washington was born in 1732 (think of the square root of 3 – actually they referred to that Jan, Feb and most of March as “1731,’ but that’s another story) – he was born on Feb 11 (Old Style [OS] – Julian), not on Feb 22, and certainly not on the “third Monday.” Russia did not shift calendars until over 150 years later, so that Alaska had to switch in the 1860s at the same time that it jumped the dateline to become a US possession. The difference between OS and NS was 11 days for virtually all of the 18th Gregorian century (That’s why the holiday was made on Feb 22 instead of on the 11th), 12 days for most of the 19th and 13 for most of the 20th, ALL of the 21st, and two months into the 22nd. Note that I am treating centuries as ending, not beginning, in the centurial year.
    To “GoLearnTorah”: In addition to those Edot Mizrach and Yotz’ei S’farad who (l’khat’chila, as b’diavad they could still say it later and not go back) change the nusach of the entire b’rakha, among those Ashk’nazim who daven “Nusach S’farad,” there is a small minority within those who also change it (or to better phrase it, change the summer version, when Sh’eila is not said, relative to what others say for the entire year).
    To editor: Wrote this yesterday, but crashed each time tried to log on and upload. It looks like it went through this time.