On the first morning of Passover, many Jewish communities recite a special prayer called Tefillat Tal, literally “the prayer for dew.”
The prayer is one of two times in the year when Jews recite special prayers for precipitation. The other is in the fall, at the end of the holiday of Sukkot, when a prayer for rain, Tefillat Geshem, is recited.
Both prayers coincide with the changing of the agricultural seasons in ancient Israel. The winter is the rainy season in Israel. Summer is long, dry and hot, and in ancient times the regular presence of a tiny bit of dew could mark the difference between a successful harvest season and a poor one.
Both prayers reflect the idea that rain and dew are blessings from God. In the Book of Deuteronomy, God explicitly warns the Israelites that the presence of rain for crops and cattle — and the food supplies that result therefrom — are a function of the observance of God’s commandments.
“Take care not to be lured away to serve other gods and bow to them,” the verse reads. “For the LORD’s anger will flare up against you, and He will shut up the skies so that there will be no rain and the ground will not yield its produce; and you will soon perish from the good land that the LORD is assigning to you.” Deuteronomy 11:16-17
The traditional Ashkenazic practice is to recite Tefillat Tal during the repetition of the Mussaf Amidah on the first day of Passover. Sephardic Jews recite the prayer just prior to the recitation of the silent Mussaf Amidah. In liberal congregations that don’t recite the Mussaf Amidah, the prayer is recited elsewhere in the service.
In some communities, the prayer is recited with the cantor wearing a kittel, the white robe typically reserved for prayers on the High Holidays. Given the significance of rain and dew for the survival of the ancient Israelites, the comparison to the High Holidays, when Jews pray for another year of life and sustenance, is apt.
The text of Tefillat Tal takes the form of a liturgical poem, or a piyyut, whose authorship is ascribed to Eleazar Kalir, one of the earliest Hebrew poets who lived in the sixth century of the Common Era. The prayer concludes by praising God “who causes the wind to blow and the dew to fall” and makes three requests: for a blessing, not for a curse; for life, not for death; for abundance, not for famine.
The full text of Tefillat Tal is as follows:
:אֱלהֵינוּ וֵאלהֵי אֲבותֵינוּ
טַל תֵּן לִִרְצּות אַרְצָךְ
שִׁיתֵנוּ בְרָכָה בְּדִיצָךְ
רוב דָגָן וְתִירושׁ בְּהַפְרִיצָךְ
קומֵם עִיר בָּהּ חֶפְצָךְ
טַל צַוֵּה שָׁנָה טובָה וּמְעֻטֶרֶת
פְּרִי הָאָרֶץ לְגָאון וּלְתִפְאֶרֶת
עִיר כְּסֻּכָּה נותֶרֶת
שימָהּ בְּיָדְךָ עֲטֶרֶת
טַל נופֵף עֲלֵי אֶרֶץ בְּרוּכָה
מִמֶּגֶד שָׁמַיִם שבְּעֵנוּ בְרָכָה
לְהָאִיר מִתּוךְ חֲשֵׁכָה
כַּנָה אַחֲרֶיךָ מְשׁוּכָה
טַל יַעֲסִיס צוּף הָרִים
טְעֵם בִּמְאודֶךָ מֻבְחָרִים
חֲנוּנֶיךָ חַלֵץ מִמַסְגֵרִים
זִמְרָה נַנְעִים וְקול נָרִים
טַל וָשובַע מַלֵּא אֲסָמֵינוּ
הֲכָעֵת תְּחַדֵּשׁ יָמֵינוּ
דוד כְּעֶרְכְּךָ הַעֲמֵד שְׁמֵנוּ
גַּן רָוֶה שימֵנוּ
טַל בּו תְבָרֵךְ מָזון
בְּמַשְׁמַנֵּינוּ אַל יְהִי רָזון
אֲיֻמָה אֲשֶׁר הִסַּעְתָּ כַצּאן
אָנָא תָּפֵק לָהּ רָצון
שָׁאַתָּה הוּא ה’ אֱלהֵינוּ מַשִּׁיב הָרוּחַ וּמורִיד הַטָּל
:לִבְרָכָה וְלא לִקְלָלָה. אמן
:לְחַיִּים וְלא לַמָּוֶת. אמן
:לְשובַע וְלא לְרָזון. אמן
Our God and God of our ancestors:
Dew, precious dew, unto Your land forlorn,
Pour out our blessing in Your exultation,
To strengthen us with ample wine and corn,
And give Your chosen city safe foundation
Dew, precious dew, the good year’s crown, we await,
That earth in pride and glory may be fruited,
And that the city once so desolate
Into a gleaming crown may be transmuted
Dew, precious dew, let fall upon the land;
From heaven’s treasury be this accorded;
So shall the darkness by a beam be spanned,
The faithful of Your vineyard be rewarded
Dew, precious dew to make the mountains sweet,
The savor of Your excellence recalling.
Deliver us from exile, we entreat,
So we may sing Your praises, softly falling
Dew, precious dew, our granaries to fill,
And all our youthful excesses pardon.
Beloved God, uplift us at Your will
And make us as a richly watered garden
Dew, precious dew, that we our harvest reap,
And guard our fatted flocks and herds from leanness.
Behold our people follow You like sheep,
And look to You to give the earth her greenness
You are Adonai our God
who causes the wind to blow and the dew to fall.
For a blessing, not for a curse, Amen.
For life, not for death, Amen.
For abundance, not for famine, Amen.
Translation reprinted with permission of the Rabbinical Assembly.