Taanit, Chapter One, Mishnah Six

 

Introduction

This mishnah continues with the series of increasingly more stringent fasts.

 

Mishnah Six

1)      If these passed and there was no answer, the court decrees three more fasts on the community.

2)      They may eat and drink [only] while it is still day; they may not work, bathe, anoint themselves with oil, wear shoes, or have marital, relations.  And the bathhouses are closed.

3)      If these passed and there was no answer the court decrees upon the community a further seven, making a total of thirteen.

4)      These are greater than the first, for on these they blast the shofar and they lock the shops.

5)      On Mondays the shutters [of the shops] are opened a little when it gets dark, but on Thursdays they are permitted [the whole day] because of the Shabbat.

 

Explanation

Section one:  If after the first three communal fasts there is still no rain, then the court decrees another set of three fasts on the community.

Section two:  These fasts are stricter because they begin the night before.  The mishnah refers to the day before the fast and rules that one can eat only while it is still day. On these fasts all of the major prohibitions apply. These are the same prohibitions that apply on Yom Kippur. The bathhouses are closed because there is no need for them to be open.  Also, this is a very public sign of mourning.

Section three:  If these three fasts are not effective, then another seven are decreed, bringing the total number of communal fasts to thirteen.

Section four:  All of the prohibitions from the previous three fasts still apply and new practices are added.  They blow the shofar as a sign of distress (on this practice see the introduction to the tractate).  They also close the shops as a further sign of communal mourning and distress.

Section five:  The problem with closing the stores is that people need to buy supplies for the next day.  Therefore they allow the stores to open their shutters a little bit towards the end of the day on Monday.  On Thursday the stores are allowed to be opened all day because people need to buy food for Shabbat.  We can see a value statement being made here.  As important as it is to pray for rain and as dire as the situation of drought may be, people must remember and be able to honor the Shabbat.

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