Tefilat Geshem: Special Prayer for Rain

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29 Jun 2006
Shmini Atzeret

What is “Tefilat Geshem”?

There are three items in the Jewish Liturgy which have been called “Prayers for Rain.” Two of these are really more accurately described as:

Rain umbrellaThe annual introduction and perhaps, request of permission, to praise G-d as The Deliverer of life-giving moisture to all of Humanity, and to all of Nature. This is “Tefilat Geshem,” translated, again, somewhat erroneously as “The Prayer for Rain” and the daily, for half a year, praise of Hashem as the Deliverer and Provider of wind and rain The above two are included and linked (with no Internet connotation) in the Prayers of Shmini Atzeret.

The third item, the actual “Prayer for Rain,” is not incorporated into the Shemoneh Esrei (1) until early in December, keyed to the rainy season in Israel, but allowing sufficient time for Pilgrim visitors to Jerusalem to get home before the rain.

“Geshem” is recited by the Prayer-Leader, “Chazzan,” responsively with the congregation, during the repetition of the Shemoneh Esray.

In the prayer, we are informed that the “angel” (2) in charge of the distribution of rain is named “Af-Bri.” This name alludes to the two ways in which rain can be delivered to the earth. “Af” means “Anger” and represents torrential, flood-provoking rainfall. “Bri” denotes “Health” and corresponds to the gentle rain which is beneficial to humanity and to the environment in general.

“Af-Bri is designated as the name of the angel of rain; to thicken and to form clouds, to empty them and to cause rain.

Water with which to crown the valley’s vegetation may it not be withheld because of our unredeemed debt.

In the merit of the faithful Patriarchs protect the ones who pray for rain.

Chazzan bends his knees at Blessed’; bows at ‘You; straightens up at ‘HASHEM

Blessed are You, HASHEM, Shield of Abraham. (Cong. – Amen.)

You are eternally mighty, my Lord, the Resuscitator of the dead are You; abundantly able to save.

May He obligate [the Angel Af-Bri] to give us portions of the segregated rain (3), to soften the wasteland’s face when it is dry as rock.

With water You symbolized Your might in Scripture, to soothe with its drops those in whom was blown a soul, to keep alive the ones who recall the strengths of the rain.”

G-d is implored to provide healthful rain to us in the merit of our forefathers and other great leaders of Israel, in connection with whom water-related verses are cited:

“Our God and the God of our forefathers:

Remember the Patriarch [Abraham], who was drawn behind You like water. You blessed him like a tree replanted alongside streams of water. You shielded him, You rescued him from fire and from water. You tested him when he sowed upon all waters.

Cong.- For his sake, do not hold water back!

Remember the one [Isaac] born with the tidings of, ‘Let some water be brought. ‘ You told his father to slaughter him – to spill his blood like, water. He too was scrupulous to pour his heart like water. He dug and discovered wells of water.

Cong.- For the sake of his righteousness, grant abundant water!

Remember the one [Jacob] who carried his staff
and crossed the Jordan’s water.
He dedicated his heart and rolled a stone
off the mouth of a well of water,
as when he was wrestled by an angel composed of fire and water.
Therefore You pledged to remain with him through fire and water.

Cong. – For his sake, do not hold water back!

Remember the one [Moses] drawn forth in a bulrush basket from the water. They said, ‘He drew water and provided the sheep with water.’ At the time Your treasured people thirsted for water, he struck the rock and out came water.

Cong.- For the sake of his righteousness, grant abundant water!

Remember the appointee [Aaron] over the Temple, who made five immersions in the water. He went to cleanse his hands through sanctification with water. He called out and sprinkled [blood bringing] purity as with water. He remained apart from a people of waterlike impetuosity.

Cong. – For his sake, do not hold water back!

Remember the twelve tribes You caused
to cross through the split waters,
for whom You sweetened the water’s bitter taste.
Their offspring whose blood was spilt for You like water.
Turn to us – for woes engulf our souls like water.

Cong. – For the sake of their righteousness, grant abundant water!


For You are HASHEM, our God,

Who makes the wind blow and makes the rain descend.

Cong. then chazzan – For blessing and not for curse. (Cong. – Amen.)
Cong. then chazzan- For life and not for death.
(Cong. – Amen.)
Cong. then chazzan – For plenty and not for scarcity. (Cong. – Amen.)