Geshem or Gashem?


siddurBy Rabbi Yehuda Spitz

Two weeks ago, on Shmini Atzeres, as per the Mishna’s instruction and codified by the Shulchan Aruch, world Jewry started reciting “Gevuros Geshamim B’Tchiyas HaMeisim“, better known as the formulaic insert “Mashiv HaRuach U’Morid HaGashem“, in the second bracha of Shmoneh Esrei. This addition, showcasing the Might of G-d by mentioning the fact that He is the only One who has the power and ability to make rain, is considered so imperative, that one who forgets to insert it must repeat the whole Shmoneh Esrei.

As there are no vowels in the Gemara or Shulchan Aruch, an interesting question arises: what is the proper way to pronounce the Hebrew word for rain (גשם) in this sentence?  Is it Geshem (with a segol under the letter Gimmel) or is it Gashem (with a kamatz under the letter Gimmel)? Although the word for rain is pronounced Geshem when saying the word by itself, still, its proper pronunciation might be changed when part of a sentence.

Contemporary halachic authorities used various rules of Hebrew Grammar (dikduk) to come up with the proper solution.

Rav Moshe Feinstein, quotes a rule cited by several Rishonim, including Tosafos, the Ran and the Rosh, that any word before a pause (esnachta) or period (sof pasuk) becomes vowelized with a kametz (uh sound), instead of a segol (eh sound). The example given is the word “eretz“, that when it is the last word in a sentence or right before a pause, changes to “aretz“. This, Rav Moshe reasons, is the very same thing that happens to the word Geshem in this formula, that since it is the end of the sentence, the proper reading is “Mashiv HaRuach U’Morid HaGashem”.

Several other authorities, including the Vilna Gaon, the Netziv, the Chafetz Chaim, Rav Aharon Kotler, the Shaarim Metzuyanim B’Halacha, and Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, agree with Rav Moshe’s analysis and hold that the proper pronunciation is “Gashem”. This is also how it’s presented in the siddur of the Arizal.

On the other hand, Rav Yaakov Kamenetsky is of the opinion that since this part of Shmoneh Esrei is called “Gevuros“, meaning strengths of G-d (plural), then the mentioning of the rain should not be considered the end of that sentence, but rather the beginning of the list of various strengths (making rain fall, sustaining life etc.), especially as the falling of rain and sustaining of life are interrelated, as they are both referring to providing parnassah. Therefore, he posits that the proper reading here is “Mashiv HaRuach U’Morid HaGeshem“, with the word “Geshem” maintaining its usual form. He adds that this pronunciation is found generations earlier, in the siddurim of the Shulchan Aruch HaRav, and the VaYaas Avraham of Tchechnov. This is also the way it is presented in the siddur of Rav Yaakov Emden, known for its exacting dikduk.

Although they do not expound on the reasoning behind their practice, several other contemporary authorities, including the Levushei Mordechai, the Steipler Gaon, Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, the Minchas Yitzchak, and Rav Moshe Sternbuch rule this way as well, that the correct pronunciation is “Mashiv HaRuach U’Morid HaGeshem.

This ‘dikduk debate’, over which rule of grammar applies here, is a universal one, which explains why one who walks into almost any shul in the world will find that there is no set rule; one chazzan might say Geshem and another might say Gashem. And even though there are shuls that follow the ruling of one set of poskim relating to this issue, another shul will follow the ruling of the others.

Practically speaking, if one’s minhag is to say “Gashem“, then one should ensure to immediately pause after saying it; ergo, the converse is true as well. If one’s minhag is to say “Geshem“, then one should not pause after, rather reading it as part and parcel of the next line, “Mechalkel Chaim.

So, whichever minhag one’s synagogue follows, at least he may finally gain an appreciation for all those Hebrew Grammar lessons in elementary school.

Postscript: This is just one of a number of places where dikduk decides the proper reading of tefillos. Although many Gedolim through the ages spoke about dikduk’s importance, unfortunately its study at present is much neglected. In the words of Rabbi Yisroel Reisman in his excellent recent book, Pathways of the Prophets: “The myth of the lack of importance of (at least) a minimal amount of knowledge of dikduk must be dispelled. This is an area where a small amount of time and effort go a long way. Let’s do it!”


This article originally appeared on the Ohr Somayach website:

For any questions, comments or for the full Mareh Mekomos / sources, please email the author:

Rabbi Yehuda Spitz serves as the Shaul U’ Meishiv and Rosh Chabura of the Ohr Lagolah Halacha Kollel at Yeshivas Ohr Somayach in Yerushalayim. He also currently writes a contemporary halacha column for the Ohr Somayach website titled “Insights Into Halacha”.


[1] The very first Mishna in Maseches Taanis, as well as the Mishna in Maseches Brachos 33a.

2 O.C. 114, 1.

3 Shulchan Aruch ibid. 5, based on the statement of Rabbi Chanina in Taanis 3b. For a comprehensive halachic viewpoint on what the one should do by a mistake with this formula, see Shgiyos Mi Yavin vol. 1, Ch. 12, at length.

4 Shu”t Igros Moshe O.C. 4, 40: 15.

5 In their commentaries to Gemara Nedarim 37b, on the statement of Rabbi Yitzchak of an example of the rules of dikduk that were transmitted from Moshe Rabbeinu at Mount Sinai.

6 Cited in Ashrei HaIsh Ch. 20, 30, quoting Kovetz Mevakshei Torah vol. 43 pg. 57. However, see Tefilla Khilchasa Ch. 12 footnote 61 who writes that there is a “kabbalah” from “Ziknei Yerushalayim” that the Gr”a actually said “Geshem“.

7 Quoted in Shu”t Teshuvos V’Hanhagos vol. 2, 58, in the brackets. The Netziv adds a very compelling reason why the proper pronunciation should be “Gashem“, based on where one must start over from if one erred by this formula.

8 Cited in Ashrei HaIsh Ch. 20, 30, quoting Kovetz Mevakshei Torah vol. 43 pg. 57.

9 Cited in HaMispallel Kahalacha pg. 24, footnote 2, quoting Rav Yechiel Perr, Rosh Yeshivas Derech Ayson in Far Rockaway.

10 Quoted in Shu”t Rivevos Efraim vol, 3, 68, that although many Tzaddikim including the Chozeh m’Lublin and the Maggid of Koznitz said “Geshem”, nevertheless, al pi dikduk, the proper pronunciation should be “Gashem”. I heard an interesting explanation in the name of Rav Chaim Halpern of London, as to why many Chassidim say “Geshem“, even if not necessarily correct grammatically. The word “kamatz” is also the root for the Hebrew word for constraining or miserliness. When praying for material livelihood (gashmius – related to Geshem) one wants to use a segol (eh sound) instead of a kamatz (uh sound), as the segol has openings to allow the shefa (overabundance) of gashmius to flow through, and not to put constraints on this bracha of parnassa.

11 Cited in Wake Up! pg. 95 footnote 7, quoting sefer Pninei Tefillah pg. 145. Also brought in Tefilla Khilchasa Ch.12 footnote 61, as well as in Ashrei HaIsh Ch. 20, 30, who states that this mesorah of Rav Elyashiv’s, comes from his grandfather, the Leshem Shvo V’Achlama, who held that “Gashem” was correct. It is well known that in shuls where Rav Elyashiv’s talmidim are the rabbis, they are extremely makpid on this pronunciation.

12 Cited in Shu”t Rivevos Efraim vol, 3, 68.

13 Emes L’Yaakov al HaTorah Bereishis 3:19, also brought in Emes L’Yaakov on Shulchan Aruch O.C. 114, 1.

14 Cited in Shu”t Bais Avi vol. 3, 45, as proof that “Geshem” is correct.

15 Shu”t Levushei Mordechai vol. 4, 213. He simply states that “Geshem” seems proper, and even though it seems that there should be a pause after that word, nevertheless, it seems unclear whether the pronunciation of tefillos were established beholden to the rules of dikduk. He also cites another example of this.

16 Orchos Rabbeinu vol. 1, pg 63: 213. However, see Tefilla Khilchasa (cited above) who says that he heard that the Steipler said “Gashem“.

17 Halichos Shlomo, Tefilla Ch. 8: 14, that after he read Kuntress Birchos HaChaim (by Rav Chaim Krauss), who cites many proofs and opinions that “Geshem” is correct, he changed his pronunciation to “Geshem“.

18 Quoted in Ishei Yisrael Ch. 25, footnote 87.

19 Shu”t Teshuvos V’Hanhagos vol. 1, 81. Although some (see Minhag Yisrael Torah vol. 1, 114: 1) opine that the pronouncing of the word as “Gashem” was introduced by Maskilim, Rav Sternbuch puts this notion to rest, quoting earlier sources that also said “Gashem”.

20 See also Shu”t Rivevos Efraim vol, 3, 68; Shu”t Az Nidbaru vol. 12, 26; Ishei Yisrael ibid; Tefilla Khilchasa Ch. 12, 27, footnote 61; and Daily Halachah Discussion ppg. 21 – 22. Although some posit that “Geshem” is correct based on the Sefardic pronunciation of the bracha on wine, “Borei Pri haGefen“, even though it is the end of the bracha, see however Chazon Ovadia vol. 2 – Haggada shel Pesach, Kadesh, pg. 128, that Sefardim hold that the “Amen” is actually the end of the bracha; thus disproving any comparison.

21 See Shu”t Teshuvos V’Hanhagos vol. 2, 58.

22 See at length Rabbi Yisroel Reisman’s Pathways of the Prophets “Rules of Dikduk” starting on pg. 312.

23 For example see Rambam – Pirush HaMishnayos, Avos 2:1; Beis Yosef O.C. 142:1, Yesod V’Shoresh HaAvodah 5: 3; Shu”t Chavos Yair 124; Shu”t Sheilas Yaavetz vol. 1, 10; Bnei Yisaschar – Introduction to Igra D’Kallah and Mayon Ganim 13: 6, all cited in the aforementioned chapter.

24 Pg. 325.

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  1. Those of us who Daven Nusach Sfard say “Morid HaTawl” in the summer. (I have not heard anyone and have not seen any Siddur that says “Morid HaTal.”) To be consistent, we should say “Morid HaGashem” rather than “Morid HaGeshem” in the winter. In other words, assuming a pause following “HaTawl” in the summer obligates one to similarly assume a pause following “HaGashem” in the winter.

  2. I personally know Rabbi Spitz. The man is a Gadol Batorah and a big Baal Middos. We should all always be able to learn his Torah and emulate his actions.

  3. Thank you Rabbi Spitz! Excellent, informative article. Really hoping to hear from you again soon. Our Tefillah is so important, we need to be cerain that, at the very least, we are not mispronouncing the words.

  4. great article! hope to see more by this author! if only i can figure out where all the footnotes go… guess i’ll email the author… good thing it’s posted…

  5. 5. Comment from Unohu
    Time November 3, 2011 at 8:48 AM

    I personally know Rabbi Spitz.


    Kol Hakavod – but is there any other way of knowing someone other than “personally”?

  6. Rabbi Chaim Fessel seems to agree with you.
    He posted this in audio on his website “Kol
    Hamikra” This is in audio in the Peshat section in Bereishis.

  7. Avrohom Yaakov, look at the Sefer Emes L’Yaakov from Rav Yaakov Kaminetsky Z’TL where he explains why one would say Hatol with a Komatz and also say Geshem with a Segol.

    In any event there are Gedolim on both sides of the issue. I would note that this is an old question and that the Siddur of R. Shabsai Sofer (a talmid of the Levush), and which has Haskamos from many of the early Acharonim, says to say Geshem with a Segol.

  8. #2, Avrohom Yaakov
    NOTE: Rav Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld zt”l said HAGESHEM (with a segol) and HATAL (with a patach).
    (See Davar Be’ito Calender 5772 by Rabbi Genut)

  9. Taka g’valdig! It’s always great to see halacha l’maaseh in a clear fashion w/ the sources quoted.

    Can we get a regular column from the author?

  10. 12. Comment from Bochur 22
    Time November 3, 2011 at 11:26 AM

    Rabbi Chaim Fessel seems to agree with you.

    He agrees with whom? this thorough article brings down both sides and the reasons behind a machlokes. It seems to me that the main point is that both sides are valid – just don’t make a stira.
    looking forward to more by r spitz! does he/ did he write any other articles?

  11. He agrees with the importance of learning proper pronounciation through dikduk. He devoted an entire website to teach the public proper davening and laining. This was also one of his topics. Located in the Bereishis-Peshat Chazal and Halacha section.

  12. There is absolutely no source that the Vilna Gaon said gashem. All old siddurim say geshem. The introduction of the pronunciation gashem didn’t appear until after the Gaon’s lifetime.

  13. 21. Comment from TorahYidKS
    Time November 3, 2011 at 3:17 PM

    There is absolutely no source that the Vilna Gaon said gashem. All old siddurim say geshem. The introduction of the pronunciation gashem didn’t appear until after the Gaon’s lifetime.

    obviously this is incorrect – didn’t you read the article?? in footnote 6 –
    Cited in Ashrei HaIsh Ch. 20, 30, quoting Kovetz Mevakshei Torah vol. 43 pg. 57. However, see Tefilla Khilchasa Ch. 12 footnote 61 who writes that there is a “kabbalah” from “Ziknei Yerushalayim” that the Gr”a actually said “Geshem“.
    there seems to be a discrepancy, but research the original mekor and argue if you would like. this article seems very thoroughly researched with sources given.
    the idea that every old siddur said geshem is proven incorrect in this article and by the comments!!!! actually in old siddurim there was no nikud! gr8 article btw

  14. Excellent work
    and the pun is rather funny….

    a minimal amount of knowledge of dikduk must be dispelled

    I would like to add that as with any halachic debate, there are differing sides, and it is virtually impossible to present every halachic opinion. As with any halachic issue, one should consult one’s own Rav for final decision. This article simply addresses the major points and issues involved. Kudos to Rabbi Spitz. Looking forward to more divrei Torah!

  15. @bob This is utterly ridiculous. The reason it rained in Eretz Yisrael, is because Hashem decided it to be so. What may not be so coincidental is the fact that another seasonal addition in the Shemoneh Esrei was added on the Evening of 7 Cheshvan – “V’Tein Tal Umatar Livracha” which is said during the Winter as a prayer for Rain.

  16. This discussion, unfortunately, is only valid when there is a doubt in one’s Mesorah. Then one is required to analyze why one might pronounce the word like this or like that.

    The facts though are, that upon reviewing all old Siddurim that predate the publication of VaYetar Yitzchok by Yitzchak HaLevi Satanov in 5545, every Siddur without exception, whether printed or in manuscript, has HaGeshem. This change to HaGashem was wrought by Satanov, who was a confirmed Apikorus, who sought to prove via grammar that the Mesorah of Klal Yisroel is deficient. His changes, and there are many, became accepted through the influence of Wolf Heidenheim who published Siddurim with these changes, which were used across Germany and Poland.

    For more information about other changes introduced by Satanov throughout the Siddur, review the footnotes in Siddur Eizor Eliyahu by Rav Dovid Cohen of Jerusalem.

  17. Mordechai beat me to his comment. I never understood why there is such a controversy in dikduk, when we should follow our mesorah and not dubious people like Satanov. By the way, Satanov also said that we should say ???? ????? instead of ???? ?????. I hope no one would do that, even though he is correct grammatically.

    I just would like to prove the point from the siddur of R. Shabsi Sofer. He is the one who caused Ashkanazim to begin saying Hagaffen and not Hageffen, but he still had no problem with Hageshem, therefore we see that even rabbanim who questioned the accuracy of the minhag to say Hageffen, relied on the minhag to say Hageshem.

  18. For the reason cited by #26, The Satmar Rav, the Divrei Yoel ZT”L said-and told his Chasidim to say-Hageshem. So I was told many years ago, by a very prominent, elderly Satmar Chassid, Rav Shlomo Braver Z”L.

  19. #22, when I say source, I mean primary source. The mesorah of the ziknei yerushalayim, while not a written source, is at least something. How do you know that footnote 6 refers to that part of the article? The footnotes do not appear in the body of the article.
    Actually, vowels appear in siddurim long before the Gaon’s time, and certainly during. Please, name one Ashkenazi siddur printed before the year 1800 that has “gashem”.
    The accepted pronunciation in Eastern Europe at the time was geshem, and yet no where in the writings of the Gaon’s talmidim (Maaseh Rav, etc.) is it brought that the Gaon was noheig otherwise (whereas in many other instances such a thing is recorded).

  20. Another almost universal error introduced by Satanov is saying “Shuva EILEINU Bahamon Rachamecho” in Musaf for YomTov. The original word was “Oleinu”. This change was inserted in Musaf by Heidenheim and Baer in their Siddurim and thus spread to almost all Siddurim found today.

    As to #15, yes the Chasam Sofer considered Heidenheim to be a great Baal Medakdeik and even gave him a Haskama to his monumental work on the Piyyutim. However, he never gave him a Haskama to his Siddur.

  21. #29 -elementary my dear watson – it’s the only footnote that mentions the Gr”a.
    #26 -in old siddurim there was no nikud! also in footnote 19 (only footnote that mentions maskilim)- “Shu”t Teshuvos V’Hanhagos vol. 1, 81. Although some (see Minhag Yisrael Torah vol. 1, 114: 1) opine that the pronouncing of the word as “Gashem” was introduced by Maskilim, Rav Sternbuch puts this notion to rest, quoting earlier sources that also said “Gashem”.” take it up with the Raavad!
    #25 -possibly you can say zeh vzeh garam!! maybe all the torah learned from this article was chalois of the poiyal of the shefa brachos!
    #30 – apparently #5 and possibly rov haolam – doesn’t agree with him.

    Eibishter -just keep the rain coming!!

  22. This is why Sephardim answer the Chazzan “livracha” making the word Geshem not the last word in the sentence. The Reform movement in Germany in the 1800’s , based on their understanding of dikduk, and being Germans, we’re the first to print Gawshem in a Siddur. The minhag of the German Orthodox Ashkenazim and the German sephardim (Heidelberg) is Geshem

  23. Saying Goshem instead of Geshem is a minhag that was made up by on of the maskilim about two hundred years ago; his name was satanov!

    He wanted to make the siddur more madakdek so they printed siddurim (such as the rodelheim)
    Eventually the change became accepted in ashkenaz despite the rabbinical objections.

    Therefore the correct girso is GESHEM. This is the minhag of kehillos bnei ashkenaz as Eretz Yisroel.

  24. thanks for the excellent article , i really enjoyed the grammar lesson. also, i
    agree with the post script, its sad how people don’t know dikduk today
    and therefore make silly and halachically problematic mistakes.

  25. even though Halichos Shlomo reports that after RSZA read kuntress Birchos Chaim he retracted and started saying Geshem, Here is a link to a teshuva by Rabbi Y.Y. Fischer zt”l of the Eidah Charedis, who writes that he refused to give the Birchos Chaim his haskama, as it was misleading and he found sources for Gashem from Siddurim printed 5 years before Satanov (the maskil B”C cites as the mekor for Gashem) was born. Worthwhile to see – Shu”t Even Yisrael vol. 8, 9 –

  26. TO: Rabbi Spitz
    Be aware that Rabbi Yosef ber Soloveitchik agreed with
    Rabbi Kamenetsky that it should be Geshem because
    it is only the beginning of the sentence.
    For the same reason it should be “Morid Hatal’ and
    not “Morid Hatol.”

  27. This is a peeve that I have with ArtScroll –
    When I grew up, there was no such thing as an Ashkenaz minyan saying geshem – it was always gashem (except for tefilas geshem which has a word geshem in it). Only Nusach Sfard minyanim would say geshem.
    Now, because ArtScroll CHANGED Nusach Ashkenaz, many people say geshem because that’s what it says in the siddur.

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