The Sages determined Babylonian Jews begin asking for rain on the sixtieth day of the season (calculated to be December 4 or 5). Since there is an abundance of water from the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, it is unnecessary to request rain in Babylonia from the very beginning of winter. All Jews living outside of Eretz Yisrael follow the Babylonian custom and begin requesting rain on the sixtieth day of the season (SA 117:1). 1
A resident of Eretz Yisrael who travels to Ĥutz La-aretz for a few months is the subject of disagreement. Some say that she should request rain as they do in Eretz Yisrael, for that is her home (Pri Ĥadash). Others say that she should request rain according to local custom (Birkei Yosef). In any situation of uncertainty, one should request rain in Shome’a Tefila and not in Birkat Ha-shanim, thereby fulfilling her obligation according to all opinions (Peninei Halakha: Prayer, ch. 18 n. 6). 2
In places that require rain in the spring, the request for rain in Birkat Ha-shanim should not be continued after Pesaĥ. Instead, the status of those places resembles the status of individuals: in those places, one requests rain in Shome’a Tefila (SA 117:2; concerning one who errs, see Peninei Halakha: Prayer, ch. 18 n. 7).
People living south of the equator, in South America, South Africa, or Australia, also request rain when it is winter in Eretz Yisrael, even though it is then summer in those countries. Since Eretz Yisrael is the center of the Jewish world, Jews everywhere follow it and request rain when it is winter there. When they must request rain for themselves, they do so in Shome’a Tefila. However, people in southern locales where summer rain causes damage do not follow the practice Eretz Yisrael so as not to request something that is harmful for them. Instead, all year round they recite the summer formula of Birkat Ha-shanim and request rain in Shome’a Tefila. During their winter they keep their place of residence in mind, and during the northern winter they should think of Eretz Yisrael.
One traveling from Eretz Yisrael or elsewhere in the northern hemisphere to the southern hemisphere should continue requesting rain according to the northern winter, even if summer rain causes damage there (She’arim Metzuyanim Ba-halakha 19:3).
- In the areas closest to Eretz Yisrael, where climates are dry and more water is needed, it is customary to begin requesting rain when the people in Eretz Yisrael do, on the seventh of Ĥeshvan (Rambam, Commentary on the Mishna to Ta’anit 1; Radbaz; Ru’aĥ Ĥayim (Palachi) 117a). ↩
- More specifically, a resident of Eretz Yisrael who goes abroad: 1) If she leaves before the seventh of Ĥeshvan, she requests rain in Shome’a Tefila starting from the seventh of Ĥeshvan; 2) If she leaves after the seventh of Ĥeshvan, since she already began requesting rain, she continues to do so in Birkat Ha-shanim (Kaf Ha-ĥayim 13, in the name of Kesher Shel Gudal); 3) If she leaves with her family for more than a year, she is considered at that time to be a resident of a different country and follows its custom.
A resident of Ĥutz La-aretz who visits Israel: it is most appropriate that she adopt the custom of residents of Eretz Yisrael. Therefore, if she intends to return to her country after the season begins, she requests rain as those in Eretz Yisrael do. If she intends to return before the beginning of the season, some say she makes her request in Shome’a Tefila (see Ishei Yisrael 23:37), while others say that she requests as they do in Eretz Yisrael. When she returns to her country, she does not need to continue requesting rain, but it is good to do so in Shome’a Tefila (Yalkut Yosef 117:17).
With regard to all these rulings, if one erred and practiced according to one of the outlined opinions (and did not make her request in Shome’a Tefila) she need not repeat her prayer. ↩