Taanit, Chapter One, Mishnah Seven

 

Introduction

In the final mishnah of this chapter we learn what the community would do if all of their fasts had not worked and God still had not sent rain.

 

Mishnah Seven

1)      If these passed and there was [still] no answer then they restrict engaging in business, and in building, planting, betrothal and marriage, and in greeting one another, as if they were people undesirable to God.

2)      The individuals go back to fasting anew until the end of Nisan.

3)      If Nisan passes and then rain falls this is a sign of a curse, as it is written, “It is the season of the wheat harvest.  [I will pray to the Lord and He will send thunder and rain; then you will take thought and realize what a wicked thing you did in the sight of the Lord when you asked for a king” (I Samuel 12:17). 

 

Explanation

Section one:  By this point, it seems that the fasts just aren’t going to be effective.  They therefore go into a state of semi-mourning. They cut back on the normal creative activities of life, perhaps as a symbol that all around them there is death.  By this point, the crops have probably died, many animals have probably died and people’s health and wellbeing is in great danger.  Indeed, it seems that God has rejected the entire community; it is as if He put them into a state of excommunication. The community is in despair and until things are set aright, they make few plans for the future.

Section two:  The community no longer takes upon itself more fasts.  Only those individual leaders, those who began fasting at the outset, go back to fasting.  These are people whose merit was supposed to help bring rain in the first place.  In essence, the failure to achieve rain is partially seen as being their fault. 

Section three:  If Nisan, the last rainy month passes, and then it rains, this too is perceived as a curse.  Rain in Nisan in the land of Israel will further damage the crops.  It is if God is being particularly cruel, not giving rain at the proper time and then giving it at the improper time.  The prooftext demonstrates quite clearly that rain at the improper time is a way of God rebuking the people of Israel.

 

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