Taanit, Chapter One, Mishnah Two

 

Introduction

The previous mishnah discussed the concept of “mentioning rain.”  This mishnah adds in a discussion of the subject of “asking for rain.” This refers to the addition of the words “and give dew and rain (veten tal umatar)” in the ninth blessing of the Amidah, which is called “The Blessing of the Years.” 

 

Mishnah Two

1)      They don’t pray for rain except close to the rainy season.

2)      Rabbi Judah says: One who goes down before the ark on the last day of Sukkot—the last one mentions [rain], the first does not; on the first day of Pesah, the first mentions, the last does not.

3)      Up until when do they request rain?

a)      Rabbi Judah says:  Until Pesah is over.

b)      Rabbi Meir says:  Until Nissan is over, as it says, “Now He makes the rain fall in the first month, early rain and late rain” (Joel 2:23).

 

Explanation

Section one:  In Israel there is a clearly defined rainy season, which lasts roughly from Sukkot to Pesah. It does not rain in the summer in Israel.  The mishnah teaches that we request rain only in the season in which it is normal for it to rain.  There are probably two reasons for this.  First of all, rain in the wrong season can destroy crops, so one shouldn’t ask for something if it will cause damage.  Secondly, we ask God for nature to perform in a predictable and stable fashion, for it to run its course. We do not ask God for miracles, nor do we rely on them or expect them.

Section two:  This section returns to discuss the “mentioning of rain” that comes during the second blessing of the Amidah.  In yesterday’s mishnah Rabbi Joshua said that we begin to mention rain on the last day of Sukkot.  Rabbi Judah in our mishnah agrees and merely points out that there are two prayer leaders on a festival, one for Shacharit and one for Mussaf.  On the last day of Sukkot the prayer leader, one who “goes down before the ark” for Mussaf begins to mention rain. The prayer leader for Shacharit does not.  The opposite is true at the other end of the spectrum.  On the first day of Pesah, the prayer leader for Shacharit still mentions the rain, but the prayer leader for Mussaf does not.  In other words, at both times the change is made during Mussaf.  This means that there is almost no point in the festival during which rain is mentioned—rather dew is basically mentioned all of the time.  This is because dew, which falls during the summer months, is a blessing during the festival because it doesn’t disrupt people’s travel. While rain is good for the land, we all still love a bright sun shiny day!

Section three: In this section two sages disagree with regard to how long in the season we ask for rain.  Rabbi Judah says that we ask until Pesah is over.  We should note that Rabbi Judah’s opinion in this section seems to disagree with what he said before, that we stop mentioning rain on the first day of Pesah.  The Talmud resolves this problem by saying that there are two different versions of Rabbi Judah’s opinion within this mishnah. 

Rabbi Meir says that we ask for rain until the entire month of Nissan is over. He uses the verse from Joel as a prooftext that rain is a blessing in the entire first month, the month of Nissan.     

 

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