The Baal Shem Tov, or Besht —  the founder of Chasidism — 
met the soul of the Messiah during an ascent to heaven. 
The Besht asked him, "When will the Master come?" 
The Messiah answered, "When your wellsprings break forth to the outside!" 
(from a letter written by the Besht to his brother-in-law about one of his soul ascents) 

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At the end of Sukkot we plunge into Shemini Atzeret and start praying for rain, geshem. In fact the whole of Tishrei is devoted to preparing ourselves to make this prayer. Rosh Hashanah through Yom Kippur purifies us so that our prayers will be heard. All through Sukkot we make petitionary prayers for the people, the plants, the animals, the crops and the clouds. Finally, on what is technically the day after Sukkot, we insert our rain prayers into the Amidah prayer, changing the third phrase of Gevurot, the second blessing of the Amidah, from morid hatal * "who makes the dew come down" to meishiv haruach umorid hagashem* * "who makes the wind turn* * * and the rain fall".

The traditional piyut that introduces Geshem for the first time asks God to give us rain for the sake of Abraham Isaac, Jacob, Moshe, Aaron, and the whole community of Israel. The verses downloadable here are for Sarah, Rivkah, Rachel, Leah and Miriam.

Download Geshem, composed by Mark Frydenberg and R. Simcha Roth.
Alternating these verses with the traditional ones can be tricky. You can also download this pdf which integrates the two piyutim.

You'll notice that the verses of Geshem for the mothers have four lines in each stanza, while the traditional piyut has five lines in each stanza. So be sure to practice how you want to sing this piyut before you lead it! There's a Breslov nigun that I love which works well with this rhyme scheme if one alternates between the four- and five-line stanzas (if you don't alternate it's quite difficult). It's not the easiest nigun to memorize, but you can listen to it here under "Some Breslov Nigunim". It's the first nigun.

When I am leading the Geshem prayer, I start with Sarah first rather than Abraham, so that I can alternate between the matriarchs and patriarchs while still keep them in correct chronological order . The order in that case would be: Sarah, Abraham, Rebecca, Isaac, Leah, Jacob, Rachel, Moshe, Miriam, Aaron, and then verse for the tribes.

* Ashkenazim not praying Chasidic nusach, or nusach S'farad, do not have the line morid hatal.

* * Gashem rather than geshem is the pausal form - you can find prayerbooks that use either one of these pronunciations. The meaning is the same, but for euphony at the end of a phrase or sentence of poetry, the vowels of a word are frequently elongated. The same thing happens in the Torah when one reaches an etnachta or a sof pasuk (the halfway point or the end of a verse).

* * * While I can't say whether this could have been the intention behind the word meishiv (turn) in ancient times, it is more correct to think of the wind as turning rather than moving in a straight line—it's just that circles the winds make are as big as half a continent.

Thanks to Mark Frydenberg for sending this prayer-piyut in to!



Design in progress © Rabbi David Mevorach Seidenberg 2006