Taanit, Chapter One, Mishnah One

 

Introduction

During the rainy season during the second part of the Amidah, in the paragraph about God’s power, we add in the words “He causes the wind to blow and the rain to fall.” In our mishnah Rabbi Eliezer and Rabbi Joshua debate when we begin to say this phrase.  

 

Mishnah One

1)      From when do they mention the powers of [bringing] rain? 

a)      Rabbi Eliezer says: from the first day of the Festival [of Sukkot]. 

b)      Rabbi Joshua says: on the last day of the Festival [of Sukkot].

2)      Rabbi Joshua said to him: Since rain on the Festival is nothing but a sign of [God’s] curse why should he mention it?

3)      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.

4)      He replied to him: if so one should at all times make mention of it.

 

Explanation

Section one:  This is the question that is debated in this mishnah—when do we begin to mention that God has the power to bring rain?  Both sages agree that we begin during Sukkot—they argue over whether we begin mentioning rain on the first or on the last day of Sukkot.

Section two:  Rain on Sukkot is considered to be a rebuke by God (see Sukkah 2:9) because it prevents one from being able to dwell (eat and sleep) in the Sukkah. Therefore, Rabbi Joshua argues, it does not make sense to mention God’s rain-giving powers at this time.

Section three:  Rabbi Eliezer agrees that rain on Sukkot is a curse.  However, he responds that he was not suggesting that we ask for rain at the beginning of Sukkot, but rather that we just mention that God has the power to bring rain in its due season.  We ask for rain in the ninth blessing of the Amidah when we say, “And provide dew and rain (ten tal umatar).”

Section four: Rabbi Joshua responds that if all we are doing in this prayer is mentioning rain, why not mention it all throughout the year.  The fact that Rabbi Eliezer agrees that we only mention it during the rainy season means that he too agrees that it is connected with actual rain.  If so, then he should also agree that we shouldn’t mention it until the time when we hope that the rainy season will actually begin, that is at the end of Sukkot when we are done sitting in the sukkah.

The halakhah is according to Rabbi Joshua.    

 

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