By Rabbi Yair Hoffman
Generally speaking, the Pope who is the head of the Roman Catholic Church, does not affect the observance of Orthodox Jewish halachic practice.
In 1582, however, Pope Gregory XIII’s changes to the calendar did have some repercussions in our halachic observance, at least in the way we record the secular date as to when in the year we begin amending one line in the Shmoneh Esreh in Chutz La”aretz. In Israel itself we began saying it at Maariv of the 7th of Cheshvan.
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.
IF ONE FORGOT
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.
IN BARAICH ALEINU
So the answer 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 Alaynu, then just go back to v’sain tal umatar and continue from there (MB 117:15).
IN THE NEXT OPPORTUNITY
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 says Retzai, 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 YOU FINISHED SHMA KOLEINU
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 Aleinu and continue saying the Shmoneh Esreh from there.
IF YOU FINISHED THE SHMONEH ESREH
If you forgot it and completed the Shmoneh Esreh — then repeat the entire Shmoneh Esreh from the beginning (See SA 117).
NOT SURE WHAT YOU SAID
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 Hirch z”l, used to keep a piece of paper in his siddur at Baraich Aleinu 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 named Aloysius Lilius. Most of what was to become America did not adopt it, however, until 1752.
The author can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org