Taanit, Chapter Two, Mishnah Four

 

Introduction

Today’s mishnah provides liturgical conclusions to the six additional benedictions for the Taanit Amidah.  Each conclusion here correlates with one of the seven benedictions in the previous mishnah.

The basic structure of this liturgy is quite simple.  After having read a Psalm or other biblical passage, the benediction concludes by reminding God of another incident in which He answered Israel’s prayers.  It then ends with a concluding benediction. 

There are actually seven benedictions in our mishnah, but only six are additional. The first “who redeems Israel” is the seventh benediction in every weekday Amidah.  The following six are additional.

 

Mishnah Four

1)      For the first he says:  He who answered Abraham on Mt. Moriah, He shall answer you and hear the voice of your cry on this day.     

Blessed are You Lord who redeems Israel.

2)      For the second he says:  He who answered our fathers at the Sea of Reeds, He shall answer you and hear the voice of your cry on this day.

Blessed are You Lord who remembers all forgotten things.

3)      For the third he says: He who answered Joshua in Gilgal, He shall answer you and hear the voice of your cry on this day.

Blessed are You Lord who hears a blast.

4)      For the fourth he says:  He who answered Shmuel in Mitzpah, He shall answer you and hear the voice of your cry on this day.

Blessed are You Lord who listens to cries.

5)      For the fifth he says: He who answered Elijah on Mt. Carmel, He shall answer you and hear the voice of your cry on this day.

Blessed are You Lord who hears prayer.

6)      For the sixth he says:  He who answered Jonah in the belly of the fish, He shall answer you and hear the voice of your cry on this day.

Blessed are You Lord who answers in time of trouble.

7)      For the seventh he says:  He who answered David and Shlomo his son in Jerusalem, He shall answer you and hear the voice of your cry on this day.

Blessed are You Lord Who has mercy upon the land.

 

Explanation

Section one:  This first benediction is part of the weekday Amidah.  It refers to the binding of Isaac.

Section two:  This is the additional benediction called “zikhronot”, remembrances, in the previous mishnah. It refers to the splitting of the Sea of Reeds.

Section three:  This is the additional benediction called “shofarot”.  The reference is to Joshua 6-7, when he blew shofarot to destroy the walls of Jericho.  In Joshua 5:10 we learn that the Israelites were encamped in Gilgal.

Section four:  This is a reference to I Samuel 7:5-9 where Shmuel leads the people to a decisive victory over the Philistines. 

Section five:  This refers to I Kings 18:26-39 where Elijah challenges the false prophets and God sends a fire from heaven to demonstrate that He is the true and only God. Since this episode takes place on Mt. Carmel, it is appropriate for Psalm 121 which begins, “I lift my eyes up to the hills” (Psalms 121).  This Psalm is the heart of this benediction, as we learned in yesterday’s mishnah. 

Section six:  A reference to Jonah in the belly of the whale is appropriate to Psalm 130 used in this fifth benediction, since it begins, “Out of the depths I called to You Lord”.  

Section seven:  God rescued David in a time of famine (II Samuel 21: 1-14).  Shlomo prays to God for rain (I Kings 8:35) and to stop a famine (ibid, 37) and God answers him (ibid 9:3).

The liturgist mentions David and Shlomo at the end because they were answered in the very type of occasion in which this liturgy was being recited—famine or drought.  Had the benedictions gone in simple chronological order, David and Shlomo should have been before Elijah and Jonah.

The concluding formula, “Who has mercy on the land” is appropriate because Psalm 102 which is part of the benediction includes the verse, “You will surely arise and have mercy on Zion” (v. 14). 

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