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Thought for the Day: When You Remember משיב הרוח ומוריד הגשם Barely In the Nick of Time

I remember really random things.  I was once walking across campus sometime around summer quarter (yes, I could never think of any more fun way to spend my summer than taking more science courses...) after the lecture from my zoology class.  We had just learned about the details of lung structure and I was mulling over some questions I had.  I realized that I could not even have had these questions the day before, since I hadn't known about those particular lung structures (alveoli).  That's when I had an epiphany: You can't ask proper questions until you learn more data and have a better understanding of the subject!  (Yes, my friends were not so impressed either...)

Nerdy or not, the principle is true.  Moreover, even if you hear something very important, but you don't really understand the question, then you'll likely also dismiss the "something very important" as not so.  This point was brought home to me this last week as we transitioned to to adding משיב הרוח ומוריד הגשם in the the second bracha of the שמונה עשרה.  In particular, what to do if one forgets, and in particular of that particular, what to the mistake is remembered after saying HaShem's name in the conclusion of the second bracha.

First, a bit of background.  The first three brachos are a single unit.  If there is any error in their recitation that is not corrected before the conclusion of the third bracha, then שמונה עשרה must be repeated.  Do not pass Go, do not collect 200$; just back the beginning, pal.  One might very reasonably think, therefore, that as soon as one has uttered even a single word past the insertion point for משיב הרוח ומוריד הגשם that he is done; back to the beginning.  Not quite true.  The phrase משיב הרוח ומוריד הגשם really only needs to be inserted somewhere in the second bracha.  In fact, even if one finishes the entire second bracha, but has not yet started the third, then he can (and, in fact, should) insert משיב הרוח ומוריד הגשם immediately, and then carry on as usual.

What about if this sorry soul has just uttered HaShem's name at the end of the second bracha?  The halacha is that one would then conclude למדני חוקיך; transforming one's error of omission into the scriptural verse tehillim 119:12.  Ok.
What?!  You are OK with that?  Interrupting your שמונה עשרה with a random verse from Tanach, out of the blue that has nothing to do with the topic at hand?  And in the first three brachos, no less?  You're really ok with that?  Especially when you have another option?  You'll pardon me if I remain surprised.
That's more or less direct quote from one of my best friends, as we reviewed the halacha together.  (I think his surprise was as much at me for rolling over and accepting this without more thought as the halacha itself.)  Baruch HaShem, I kept wondering why I was so calm.  I finally started appreciating the question, and then I remembered that I had heard an answer!  More than 20 years ago, I heard R' Cham Tzvi Hollander, שליט''א discuss this issue between mincha and ma'ariv one day during this season.  At the time, I did not have the background nor sophistication in Torah matters to understand the question; and certainly did not appreciate the answer.  Baruch HaShem, it lingered in the back of my memory until I had the tools I needed.

The first three brachos cannot be separated because they are one unit of שבח/praise.  I am in the middle of that when I just realized that I forgot a critical phrase. If I just give up and return to the beginning, I am showing that I am really not taking this seriously as an actually conversation.  If I continue the bracha like everything is ok and then attach that phrase at the end, I show I am taking the conversation seriously, but I am basically sweeping my mistake under the carpet and making like "oh.... maybe He won't notice".  If, however, I convert my misstatement to a verse in tehillim in order to avoid taking HaShem's Holy Name in vain, then correct my mistake by now saying משיב הרוח ומוריד הגשם, then finish the bracha properly... then I am admitting my mistake. and doing what I can to recover while remaining engaged in the conversation.  That's not "hoping He won't notice"; that's owning up to my mistake and living with the consequence; knowing all along that HaShem is both my Father and my King.  There is no greater praise than that, and therefore this verse is not at all an "interruption out of the blue", but a seamless integration!

Baruch HaShem for my random memories.


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