Masechet Taanit opens with discussing the time we begin to mention rain – mashiv ha'ruach u'morid ha'geshem – and the time we being to ask for rain – ve'ten tal u'matar lifracha. The Gemara (3b) includes the opinion of R' Chanina who explains that if one said morid hageshem during the summer or omitted it during the winter, one needs to repeat shemona esrei. We shall try to understand why.
The Ran (Berachot 19b) initially explains that the issue with mentioning rain during the summer is that rain during that time is a siman klala – a sign of a curse – due to its detrimental effects. The Ran however continues that even in locations where they require rain during the summer, mentioning morid hageshem would require one to repeat shemona esrei. This is despite the fact that they are allowed to ask for rain in the beracha of shomea tefilla. The reason they must repeat shemona esrei is because they have digressed from the format that was instituted by the Chachamim (meshane mimatbeah she'tiknu Chachamim).
We find from the Ran that there are two ways to understanding this problem, it is either the detrimental content or the change in the format. Put simply, an issue of semantics or syntax.
The Sefat Emet also addresses this issue when questioning the basis of R' Chanina's law. At first he asserts that neither of the above reasons appear to apply. In the first Mishnah we find the debate regarding when we start mentioning morid ha'geshem. According to R' Eliezer it is from the first day of Sukkot, while according to R' Yehoshua it from the last. R' Yehoshua argues that it is not appropriate to mention morid ha'geshem, because rain during sukkot is a siman klala, since it would prevent one from performing the mitzvah of sukkah. R' Eliezer responds that he agrees it is inappropriate to ask for rain (ve'ten tal u'matar livracha). He only requires the mentioning of rain from the first day as part of the descriptions of the might of Hashem. R' Yehoshua counters, that if mentioning rain does not present an issue, then we would should mention it all year round.
Reflecting on the Mishnah the Sefat Emet notes that according to R' Eliezer it is not a siman klala. Furthermore, if one forgot to mention mashiv ha'ruach at a time that it is required, then it would be considered meshane mimatbeah. Mentioning mashiv ha'ruach when it is not required however would not appear to be a problem. Since it is not a siman klala and it fits with the theme of the beracha, it would not be considered a hefsek (interruption). What then is the basis for R' Chanina's rule that shemona esrei must repeated?
The Sefat Emet suggests that R' Chanina understand that the debate between R' Eliezer and R' Yehoshua is based on one's intention when saying morid ha'geshem in the second beracha. According to R' Eliezer, the second beracha enumerates the might of Hashem. One of the expressions is His bringing rain – whenever He brings it. Since it is not a request for now, but a description of His might, it is not a siman klala to mention it. According to R' Yossi however, when saying morid ha'geshem, we are describing Hashem's might now. Since the expression is focused on the present moment and it would be detrimental now, mentioning it would be considered a siman klala.
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