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Tractate Ta'anis: Commentary and Study Guide

by Nachman Cohen

Bibliographic information

TitleTractate Ta'anis: Commentary and Study Guide
AuthorNachman Cohen
PublisherVarda Books
Publication Date2009
SubjectMaster a Mesikhta Series


It is the Torah's belief that climatic conditions are entirely dependent upon the deeds of people. This Talmudic Tractate explicates this principle.

"It is the Torah's belief—Nachman Cohen writes in Introduction to this volume that climactic conditions are entirely dependent upon the deeds of man. The Torah records this correlation in a number of places.

In the Kriyas Shema we read—


And it shall come to pass, if you hearken diligently to my commandments... that I will give you the rain of your land in its due

season...and I will send grass in thy fields for thy cattle...Take heed to yourselves, that your heart be not deceived, and you turn

aside , and serve other gods, and worship them and the Lord's anger be inflamed against you, and He shut up the heaven and

there be no rain, and the land yield not its fruit (Deut. 11:10-17).


In the beginning of parshas B'chukosai the Torah states—


If you walk in my statutes and keep my commandments, and do them; then, I will give you rain in due season, and the land shall

yield its increase, and the trees of the land shall yield their fruit ...But if you will not hearken to me, and will not do all these

commands...I will make your skies like iron, and your earth like brass: and your strength shall be spent in vain: for your land shall

not yield her increase, neither shall the trees of the land yield their fruit (Leviticus 26).


Tractate Ta'anis explicates this principle. The laws found in this tractate, coupled with the aggadic literature are aimed at sensitizing man to the fact that all that befalls him—including "Natural Phenomema ״— has its source in Heaven, and that God generates events based upon man's actions. To the extent that man follows the commandments, he will be blessed. If "Nature" turns against him, man must realize that "Nature" is but a manifestation of God's Will. Included in the Torah's directives regarding climactic conditions is the rule that man should pray for blessed rain in its season and that if there is a drought, he is obligated by the Torah to blow shofar/chatzotzeros (trumpets). The Rabbis instituted that fasting should take place as well.


Accordingly, this tractate is divided into two main sections: prayers for rain (pages 2-10) and the procedure for fasting and blowing (masri'in) (pages 11-31). Of this latter section, pages 10-18 deal with Rain Fasts, pages 18-26 discuss Fasts called for other tragedies, and pages 26-31 review the laws pertaining to the Fast of the Ma'amados and 9 Av. As per the Talmud's normal procedure it digresses from time to time to discuss other material. "

About the Author 

Nachman Cohen ---

Rabbi Nachman Cohen, Director of Torah Lishmah Institute, is the Spiritual Leader of Young Israel Ohab Zedek, of North Riverdale/Yonkers, and Chairman of the Board of the Association of Orthodox Jewish Scientists.

Rabbi Cohen studied in Mesivta Torah Vodaath as well as Yeshivas Karlin Stolin. He received an Sc.M. in Physics from Brown University and a Ph.D. in Philosophy from Boston University.



Preface v

Introduction 1

Key to Symbols and Transliteration 2


    Ta'anis: Chapter One


Section A


Suggestion for Study 3

Summary Outline: Mishna 2a, 5a,10a 3

Summary Outline: 2a 4

Overview: Halakhic Justification in Praying for Rain 5

Overview: Praying for Rain Within the Scheme of Modern Physics 6

Summary Outline: 2b&3a 7

Analysis: 2a-3a: Import of Halakha I'Moshe miSinai 8

Summary Outline: 4a&b 9

Chart and Analysis: Tannaitic Positions Regarding the

Commencement of Hazkarah 9

Summary Outline: Jerusalem Talmud 1:1, 1:2: Announcing

Morid haGeshem 11

Summary Outline: 3a&b, Jerusalem Talmud 12

Analysis: 3a&b 13

Customs regarding mentioning dew, wind and clouds

Customs regarding saying morid hatal in the summertime

Regarding the saying of mashiv haru'ach in the summertime

Regarding one who recited tal and geshem in the summer

Regarding one who recited morid hageshem in thesummertime

Summary Outline: 3b: One who Forgets to Say Morid haGeshem

Analysis: 3b 16

Sequence Analysis: 3b-4a: Comparison of Rain to Torah 17

Aggadita: 4a 20

        Young talmid chakham

        Qualities of a talmid chakham

Summary Outline: 4a&b 22

Summary Outline: Halakha with Regard to Sh'elah and Hazkarah 25

Chart and Analysis: Dates for Beginning of Sh'elah in our Time

Summary Outline: 14b (Ninveh) 28

Overview: Relationship Between Hazkarah and Sh'elah 30

Overview: Significance of Tal 31


Section B


Aggadita 5a&b: Sequence of R. Yitzchak's Statements

Summary Outline: 6a&b: Yoreh and Malkosh 38

Summary Outline: The Three Rainfalls 38

Summary Outline: 6b: Blessing for Rain 40

Summary Outline: 7a-8a: Exaltedness of Rain 41

Sequence Analysis: 7a־8b 42

Overview: Reasons for Rain 46

Sequence Analysis: 7b-8a: Reason Rain is Withheld and Remedies 47

Sequence Analysis: 8a-b: Barekh Alenu 48

Sequence Analysis: 8b־9b 49a


Section C

Summary Outline: 10a&b: Y'chidim 50

Analysis: 10a&b 51

Aggadita: 10b־11a: Communal Responsibility 54

Summary Outline: 11a, 22b: Status of Fasting 56

Summary Outline: 11b-12b: General Laws of Fasting 57

Summary Outline: 12b: Exchanging a Fast Day 59

Analysis: 59

Ta'anis sha'os

During which t'fillos is anenu recited?

Parameters for anenu during a ta'anis sha'os

Kabbalas Ta'anis

Summary Outline: 12a 65

Until When May One Eat?


Do "Conditions" help?

Fasts which begin at night

When does the day begin

One who accepts a ta'anis yachid

To avoid the dilemma

Lan b'ta'aniso

Circumstances under which a Fast may be exchanged

Rationale for exchanging a Fast


Section D


Summary Outline: 12b: Second Series of Fasts 70

Summary Outline: 13a&b: Washing of Fast Days 70

Advanced Analysis 72

Summary Outline: Anenu 76

Analysis: 77

Where does sh'liach tzibbur say anenu on public Fasts?

Where does sh'liach tzibbur say anenu on private Fasts?

Where does one say anenu when he fasts on Shabbos?

Summary Outlines: 14a-15a 78

Pregnant and Nursing Mothers

Last Series of Fasts

Maximum Number of Fasts for Catastrophies Other than


Closing Stores

After the Thirteen Fasts are Completed

Analysis 80

Thirteen Fast limit

Sequence of non-rain Fasts

Closing stores

Falling prostrate 83

Summary Outline: 14b: Restrictions on Building 82



        Ta'anis: Chapter Two



Summary Outline: 15a-16a 83

Summary Outline: Procedure for a Ta'anis Tzibbur 85

Overview: Two Approaches to Prayer: Chuni haMa'agal 86

Summary Outline: 16a: Earnestness of T'shuvah of Ninveh 88

Overview: The Need for Fasting 90

Summary Outline: 15a, 16: Halakhic Qualifications of a Sh'liach Tzibbur

Aggadita: Cod's Choice for Sh'liach Tzibbur 93

Overview: Not Allowing Routine to Become Rut 94

Summary Outline: 15a, 16b: Additional Six Brakhos 96

Analysis: The Basis of the Rambam-Rashi Dispute 98

Analysis: Relationship Between Shofar and Brakha 99

Correspondence Of Seven Brakhos to Mystical Spheres 100

Analysis: Twenty Four Blessings 101

Background Information: M'gilas Ta'anis 102

Summary Outline: 15b, 17-18b,12a: 104

Status of Chanukah and Purim 107

Analysis: 111

Prohibition against Fasting on Rosh Chodesh

When do Congregational Vows Supercede Rosh Chodesh?

When does an Individual's vows Supercede a M'gilas Ta'anis Day

Torah Reading when Fasting Occurs on Rosh Chodesh

Background Information: Additional Fast Days Mentioned in

the Shulchan Arukh 112


Ta'anis: Chapter Three


Introduction 115

Suggestions for Study 115

Summary Outline: Reasons for which to Fast/Blow 115


Catastrophies Which are Limited to the People Affected

Catastrophies Which are of Concern to Surrounding Cities

Catastrophies Which Can Spread Throughout the Whole


Chart: Relationship between Mishnah and the Prayers of King

Solomon 120

Analysis: 121

Introduction: Chatzotzeros


Masri'in miyad

Masri'in b'kol makom

Summary Outline: 14a: Masri'in 125

Analysis: 127

Masri'in b'Shabbos

Masri'im b'Shabbos: I'ezrah v'lo l'tze'aka

Praying on Shabbos for those endangered

Why do we no longer blow Shofar or Chatzotzeros on Fast


Summary Outline: 19: Batzores and Kafna 130

Summary Outline: 19a, 25, 10b 131

Overview: 132

Relationship Between the Stature of the Leader and that of

the Congregation with regard to Prayers for Rain Aggadita: 133

Nakdimon b. Guryon

For Whom the Walls Stand

Things Are Not Always the Way They Seem

R. Ada b. Ahava's Longevity

R. Huna and Communal Responsibility

Leaving Yeshiva: Ufa and R. Yochanan

Nachum Ish Gam Zu: What is Good?

Not Praying for an Abundance of Blessing: Israel and


Aba Umna, The Heavenly Academy and Engendering


Blessed Rains

Chuni: Companionship and Effectiveness

Chanan ha'Nechbah: The Righteous Must be Implored

Sequence Analysis: 23b־24a

R. Mani

R. Yosi of Yokeres

R. Eliezer b. Birsah

Summary Outline and Sequence Outline: 24b־25a

R. Eliezer and R. Akiva


Ta'anis: Chapter Four


Introduction 147

Summary Outline: Kohanim 147

Birkas kohanim/n'siyas kapayim

Status of a kohen who drinks wine

Kohanim: Haircuts

Analysis:          Birkas Kohanim— 150

On mincha of Fast Days

On mincha of Yom Kippur

On mincha of a half-day Fast

Summary Outline: Mishmaros and Ma'amados 151

Definition of mishmaros

Definition of and reason for ma'amados

What did the ma'amad do?

Torah Reading

Situation in which ma'amados are abrogated

Analysis 153

Op the origin of mishmaros

The composition of the ma'amados

What did the yisraelim of the ma'amad do?

Jerusalem ma'amad

Non-Jerusalem ma'amados

The number of prayers recited by the ma'amad

Torah Reading

Regarding the suspension of ma'amados

What was suspended when there "was no ma'amad?"

On a day of korban eitzim who did not have a ma'amad?


On the Four Fast Days

On Rain Days

Outside Israel

On Sundays and Fridays

Overview: Ma'amados 157

Summary Outline: 26a, 28: Korban Eitzim 159

Analysis: Korban Eitzim 160

Summary Outline: Rosh Hashanah 18b: The Four Fasts 161

Overview: The Four Fasts 162

Summary Outline: 28b־29a 165

Summary Outline: Laws of the Days Preceding 9 Av 167

Analysis: 169

Washing clothes during the week of 9 Av

Clothes washed before week of 9 Av

Washing in Babylonia/Diaspora

Definition of gihutz

Babylonia or the Diaspora

Clothes washed but not worn

Hair cutting during the week of 9 Av

Washing one's body during the week of 9 Av

Making new clothes

Washing if 9 Av falls on Thursday

Summary Outline: Last Meal Before 9 Av: 30a 171

Summary Outline: Prohibitions of 9 Av 172

Analysis: Last Meal 173

Shnei tavshilin

Seudah hamafsekes

Eating meat

Salted meat


Washing after seudah hamafsekes

Not wearing shoes

Conjugal relations if 9 Av falls on Shabbos

Last meal when 9 Av falls on Shabbos

Summary Outline: 30a: Washing on 9 Av 177

Analysis: 177

Washing on Afternoon of 9 Av

Bride and Groom

Torah Study on and before 9 Av

What may be Studied

Ma'avir Sidrah


Torah Study on Eve of 9 Av

Manner of Study

Studying with Children

9 Av which Falls on Sunday 181




Sick Person

Seder Hayom

Summary Outline: Nachem 183


Where in sh'moneh esreh is nachem recited?

Forgot to Say Nachem in I'Y'rushalayim irkha

One who Fasts on 10 Av

Summary Outline: 29b־30a 184

Siyum 186

Appendix I





From Preface

In my twenty years as a yeshiva menahel I measured the success of a school by two yardsticks: How did it increase Torah values in its student body and how successful was it in inculcating in its graduates the need to make Torah study a lifelong pursuit.

Yet even yeshivos who meet these standards have many alumni who do not continue their "learning" once they have left the sacred halls of the Yeshiva. This is certainly the case with regard to the study of G'mara. There are many reasons why former yeshiva students do not study G'mara. Some have not mastered the ability to study a Talmudic text on their own. Others need direction in understanding rishonim and acharonim. Still others are unable to derive on their own the fullness of a sugya or the significance of aggadita. Finally, there are those who are truly capable of all of the above but do not learn because of their business and professional obligations. Because of the foregoing some people shy away from learning G'mara while others dutifully study G'mara but do not find any real satisfaction.

This work is intended to meet the needs of these groupings. Herein, the student is given a summary outline which crystalizes the salient

points of the daf and is excellent for review. Where appropriate, background material is introduced. The analysis of the commentaries are outlined and explained. The sequence analysis of the aggadita is illuminated. Finally, overviews serve to give the reader a broad understanding of the underpinnings of the halakha. The sefer has been written primarily for those with a background in G'mara and rishonim.


The level of material is intermediate to advanced although the cumbersome shaklah v'taryia has been omitted. (Nevertheless, anyone wishing to study the G'mara— even in translation—can derive a great deal of information and insight from this work.)  The treatise is not meant to be a substitute for Talmud. Rather, it is written and sequenced so as to accompany the natural progression of Talmud study.


That is, first the basic material is set down. This is followed by the study of the commentaries, and, thereafter, an overview of the whole topic is given. The work is not meant to be exhaustive. Many important points have been left out. Intricate arguments made by acharonim are omitted. (It was felt that the reader would find this too cumbersome, and those who wished could handle the original texts.) Points which are discussed more fully in other tractates are also excluded. The aggadita is not outlined. (This was seen to be superfluous). Nevertheless within its guidelines the work is quite comprehensive and a thorough study of the material will allow the reader to master the Mesikhta.

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