09. A Suggestion for Avoiding Mistakes

The most frequent mistakes made when reciting the Amida concern the invocation and request of rain because we grow accustomed to a particular text over the course of six months and then abruptly shift to a different wording. As we learned, three of the four possible errors require one to repeat the Amida. (One must repeat her prayer in the following situations: 1. if she requested rain in the summer; 2. if she did not request rain in the winter; and 3. if she invoked rain in the summer. One does not repeat her prayer if she forgot to mention rain in the winter and instead mentioned dew.)

If one is not sure whether she recited the correct words, as long as thirty days have not passed since the change in formulation at the beginning of the summer or winter, we assume that she most likely erred, since she is still in the habit of using the earlier formula. If the presumed mistake is one that necessitates a repetition of the Amida, she must do so. However, if thirty days have passed, people have become accustomed to the change in wording and we may assume that she most likely recited the correct wording. She therefore need not repeat the Amida.

In order to avoid uncertainty, due to which it is often necessary to repeat the Amida, it is a good idea for one to habituate herself to the new wording by repeating it ninety times on the day of the change. In that way, even if she is not sure whether she recited the proper wording, she may presume that she recited it correctly, and she need not repeat the Amida (SA 114:8-9; Peninei Halakha: Prayer, ch. 18 n. 4). Therefore, on the night of 7 Ĥeshvan, Sephardim should habituate themselves to beginning the paragraph properly (since they replace the entire paragraph of Birkat Ha-shanim) by reciting the last words of the preceding berakha and the first words of Birkat Ha-shanim (“Rofei ĥolei amo Yisrael, Barekh aleinu”) ninety times. Ashkenazim should habituate themselves to insert the proper phrase by repeating “Ve-et kol minei tevu’ata le-tova, ve-ten tal u-matar li-vrakha” ninety times. At Musaf on the first day of Pesaĥ, she says “Meĥayei meitim Ata rav lehoshi’a, morid ha-tal” ninety times. Then, before Ma’ariv on the first night of Ĥol Ha-mo’ed, Sephardim would say “Rofei ĥolei amo Yisrael, barkheinu” ninety times, and Ashkenazim would say “ve-et kol minei tevu’ata le-tova, ve-ten berakha” ninety times (MB 114:40; Kaf Ha-ĥayim 60). She thereby accustoms herself to the new formula, and if a doubt subsequently arises as to whether or not she recited the right words, she need not repeat her prayer. 1

  1. If one makes a mistake concerning the invocation of rain as summer transitions to winter on Shemini Atzeret, she does not need to repeat the Amida, since, as we learned, even if she did not say “Mashiv ha-ru’aĥ u-morid ha-gashem,” she fulfilled her obligation as long as she recited “Morid ha-tal.” Although Rema 114:3 writes that “Morid ha-tal” is not said in the summer, Israeli Ashkenazim customarily say it.