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    Geshem – Sh’mini Atzeret

    Sh’mini Atzeret is marked by Geshem, the prayer for rain.

    Though everyone knows the ditty, “Rain, rain go away, come again another day”, life would be lacking without rain.

    Many poets produced texts for the Tal (Dew) and Geshem prayers. The conventional Ashkenazi versions are attributed to Elazar Kallir, the religious poet of the early Middle Ages. Kalir’s piyyutim (liturgical poems) – which also include sections of the High Holyday services – have an intricate style with constant resort to acrostics.

    The author brings in Biblical, Talmudic and Midrashic allusions which generally only a scholar can appreciate, though his Tal and Geshem are not as complicated as his High Holyday piyyutim.

    Kalir’s prayer texts have a range of musical settings; Tal has become specially popular by reason of Yossele Rosenblatt’s lively version which many synagogues utilise. Both poems are lent especial awe and solemnity by the white High Holyday robes worn by the cantor. Indeed it must be said that without Geshem and Yizkor (memorial prayers), Shemini Atzeret in particular would seem empty.

    In Israel the day is combined with Simchat Torah, creating a strange mixture of emotions.

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