Shmini Atzeret and The Importance of Rain

(א) מאימתי מזכירין גבורות גשמים. רבי אליעזר אומר, מיום טוב הראשון של חג. רבי יהושע אומר, מיום טוב האחרון של חג. אמר לו רבי יהושע. הואיל ואין הגשמים אלא סימן קללה בחג, למה מזכיר. אמר לו רבי אליעזר, אף אני לא אמרתי לשאול, אלא להזכיר משיב הרוח ומוריד הגשם בעונתו. אמר לו, אם כן, לעולם יהא מזכיר:

(1) From when do we begin to mention the power of [bringing] rain [in the Shemoneh Esrai], Rabbi Eliezer says, from the first day of the festival [Sukkot]. Rabbi Yehoshua says, from the last day of the festival [Sukkot]. Rabbi Yehoshua said to him [Rabbi Eliezer], since rain on the festival is nothing but a sign of a curse why should he mention it? Rabbi Eliezer said to him: I also did not say to request [rain] but to make mention, “He causes the wind to blow and the rain to fall” in its due season. He replied to him: if so one should at all times make mention of it.

מאימתי מזכירין גבורות גשמים- From when do we mention G-d's power through rain?

הואיל ואין הגשמים אלא סימן קללה בחג- since rain is nothing but an unfavorable sign on a festival

בעונתו- in its season

Summary of the Mishna:

  • two rabbis disagree about the time when you should start praying for rain
  • Rabbi Eleazar says it should be from the first day of Sukkot
  • Rabbi Joshua says it should be from the last day of Sukkot.
  • Rabbi Eleazar then says that he doesn't think that rain should be prayed for on Sukkot because it is a curse

(ד) הִגִּיעַ שִׁבְעָה עָשָׂר בְּמַרְחֶשְׁוָן וְלֹא יָרְדוּ גְשָׁמִים, הִתְחִילוּ הַיְחִידִים מִתְעַנִּין שָׁלשׁ תַּעֲנִיּוֹת. אוֹכְלִין וְשׁוֹתִין מִשֶּׁחֲשֵׁכָה, וּמֻתָּרִין בִּמְלָאכָה וּבִרְחִיצָה וּבְסִיכָה וּבִנְעִילַת הַסַּנְדָּל וּבְתַשְׁמִישׁ הַמִּטָּה:

(4) If the seventeenth of Mar-Cheshvan has come without the rain having yet descended, private individuals commence to keep three fast-days. On the night beforehand, they are allowed to eat and drink, and it is allowed [on the fast day itself] to work, to bathe, to anoint the body, to wear [leather] shoes, and to perform the marriage duty.

1. What do we do if rain has not fallen by the seventeenth of Mar-Cheshvan?

you fast for three three days

2. What are we allowed to do, and what aren't we allowed to do?

3. What holiday(s) is this similar to? Why?

If we only ask for rain at certain times of the year, why do you think we mention it twice every day as part of the Shema?