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Ta'anis 2

TA'ANIS 2-5 sponsored by a generous grant from an anonymous donor. Kollel Iyun Hadaf is indebted to him for his encouragement and support and prays that Hashem will repay him in kind.


QUESTION: The Mishnah opens by saying, "From when do we recite the prayer of Gevuros Geshamim," and proceeds to give the day on which we begin to recite that prayer. The Gemara asks where we find any obligation to recite such a prayer, such that the Mishnah here has to ask "from when" do we recite it, as if we have already been told of the obligation to recite it. The Gemara answers that we know of the obligation to recite such a prayer from the Mishnah in Rosh Hashanah (16a), which states that on Sukos, the world is judged for rain. If there is a judgment for rain, then it is obvious that we must say a prayer for rain, and thus the Mishnah here begins by asking *when* we must say this prayer. (Rashi)

However, the Mishnah in Rosh Hashanah also says that the world is judged for its crops on Pesach, and it is judged for its fruits of the tree on Shavuos, and yet we do not find any prayer for those items on those other festivals! Why should it be more necessary to say a prayer of appeasement in the Shemoneh Esreh on Sukos for rain, than to say a prayer of appeasement for crops or for fruit on Pesach or Shavuos?


(a) On Pesach and Shavuos, as well as during the rest of the year, we ask Hashem to "Bless for us this year and all of its produce, that they should be good for us, and place Your blessing on the face of the earth...." Since we attribute the produce to Hashem by asking Him for it, it is not necessary to also mention it in a prayer of appeasement.

With regard to rain, though, since we do not want to ask Hashem for rain on Sukos or even immediately afterwards, it is necessary to at least say a prayer of appeasement for rain on, or immediately after, Sukos. We do not ask for rain on Sukos since it is a bad sign when it rains during the holiday, nor did we ask for rain immediately after the holiday when the Beis ha'Mikdash stood, in order not to complicate the return home of those who came to Yerushalayim from afar for the holiday (Ta'anis 4b). Therefore it is necessary to say a prayer of appeasement (Hazkarah) for rain.

(b) The Gemara in Rosh Hashanah (16a) explains that on the days of judgment, the Torah bids us to perform *acts* of appeasement. Pesach we appease Hashem by bringing the Korban ha'Omer, and on Shavuos we appease Hashem by bringing the Bikurim. Those two acts of appeasement are done in the Beis ha'Mikdash. On Sukos, the Torah describes two acts of appeasement for rain. The first act of appeasement is the Nisuch ha'Mayim, which is done in the Beis ha'Mikdash. The second act of appeasement on Sukos is the taking of the Arba'as ha'Minim, which need large amounts of water to grow (Ta'anis 2b). This act of appeasement is not only done in the Beis ha'Mikdash, but it is done by every individual no matter where he is. Since every person is doing an *act* of appeasement, it stands to reason that every person make a *mention* of appeasement for rain in his Shemoneh Esreh. On the other festivals, when the act of appeasement is done only in the Beis ha'Mikdash, the individuals do not have to make any mention of appeasement in their Shemoneh Esreh.

Why, though, is there indeed no public act of appeasement done on Pesach and Shavuos like there is on Sukos? It could be that rain is a more important commodity than crops and fruits, since it is the commodity from which the crops and fruits themselves come. Therefore, the judgment on Sukos is the primary judgment while the judgments on Pesach and Shavuos are secondary, and that is why we mention a prayer of appeasement in our Shemoneh Esreh only for rain. (M. Kornfeld)

AGADAH: The Gemara says that the prayer for rains is called "*Gevuros* Geshamim," because the rains demonstrate the Gevurah (might) of Hashem. In what way does rain demonstrate the power of Hashem more than any other thing?
(a) The MESHECH CHOCHMAH (Parshas Re'eh, 16:5) addresses this question. He cites a Yerushalmi (Avodah Zarah 3:1) which says that while those who worship Avodah Zarah believe that their idols have power over the world, they admit that their idols have no power over the seas. The Meshech Chochmah says that in the same vein, they admit that their idols have no power over water in general. That is why we find (Sanhedrin 67b) that water nullifies the powers of Keshafim (sorcery). [Similarly, the Mishnah in Kelim (17:13) says that anything which comes from the sea cannot become Tamei.]

The same applies to rain; as the verse in Yirmeyah (14:22) implies, no idolater believes that an idol can bring rain. For this reason, the Mishnah refers to rains as "Gevuros Geshamim," for rain is something that shows the unique and unparalleled power of Hashem which everyone acknowledges and which no one attempts to attribute to any other perceived power.

We find that all of the shipmates of Yonah prayed to their various gods to stop the storm at sea. According to the assertion of the Meshech Chochmah, why did they do that if they know that their gods have no power over the sea? Also, the Gemara (Avodah Zarah 55a) talks about a certain Avodah Zarah that visited people in their dreams and told them that if they offer it a sacrifice it will bring rain to them. (They offered a sacrifice and it indeed rained.) We see, then, that the idolaters *do believe* that their idols have control over the sea and rain!

It must be that they believe that sometimes other powers can persuade the true G-d to manipulate the rains or the seas, but they know that their gods do not have any permanent or independent power over water. The keys to the seas are in the hand of the G-d of G-ds.

The Meshech Chocmah's contention might explain why the Torah, in the Parshah of "v'Hayah Im Shamo'a" that we recite each day in Keri'as Shema, states that when the Jewish people follow the will of Hashem, then the rains will come in ample supply and at appropriate times (Devarim 11:14), and conversely, when the Jewish people do not follow the will of Hashem, He will withhold the rains (ibid. 11:17). Since the rain is a clear indication of the power of Hashem, it is a fitting way of demonstrating the reward (or punishment) for following (or defying) the will of Hashem.

The Gemara says that the keys to rain, childbirth, and Techiyas ha'Mesim are in the hands of no one but Hashem. The RA'AVAN writes that like rain, childbirth and Techiyas ha'Mesim demonstrate the power of Hashem. For this reason, they are also mentioned in the blessing of Hashem's Gevurah in the Shemoneh Esreh ("Atah Gibor..."). Following the Meshech Chochmah's approach, we may suggest that these are also things that no idolater would say that his idol can do -- no one else makes claim to the power of childbirth or Techiyas ha'Mesim, and therefore these things are also referred to as Gevuros of Hashem.

(b) The VILNA GAON (Aderes Eliyahu, end of the first verse in v'Zos ha'Berachah) suggests a somewhat different approach. He explains that "the four keys" refer to acts that defy nature. According to the laws of physics, it is absolutely impossible for the dead to be resurrected. Similarly, the fall of rain (and weather in general) follows no natural physical, predictable law. It is not like sunrise and sunset, or the motions of the planets which can be predicted thousands of years in advance. In this sense, rainfall is "supernatural," and demonstrates the presence of the Creator more than other events. This is why it is referred as "Gevuros Geshamim," and why it constitutes a demonstration of Hashem's might.

The BEN YEHOYADA here (DH Sheloshah) follows a similar approach, adding that the "Shali'ach" to whom all keys but these three are given is none other than the forces of nature.

(c) In BENAYAHU (beginning of Daf 7a) the author of the Ben Yehoyada suggests another approach. As the Gemara (ibid.) says, rain is greater than the resurrection of the dead since it is beneficial not only to the righteous, but even to the wicked.

The Mishnah tells us, "Who is mighty ("Gibor")? One who conquers his will." The only acts that can be described as "hard," as it were, for the Creator, are acts in which he conquers His will and shows generosity even when it is not deserved. This is what the Gemara means in Pesachim (118a) when it asserts that providing sustenance for every person is as hard before Hashem as the Splitting of the Red Sea. Hashem split the sea even for the sinners of Israel: "The idol of Michah passed through the sea!" Similarly, Hashem provides sustenance -- through rain -- for all beings, be they deserving of it or not. In this sense, it is fitting to refer to rain as the "might of Hashem."

(d) The Torah tells us in the verses of v'Hayah Im Shamo'a that in Eretz Yisrael we should not feel free to act as we do out of Israel. Israel is lacking in natural self-replenishing water sources, unlike Egypt, and if we sin Hashem will immediately make us aware of the fact by taking away our water sources (as happened in the times of Eliyahu and Achav).

In this manner, rain, or the lack of it, causes us to always lift our eyes towards heaven in prayer, and to trust in and pray to Hashem. It also reminds us constantly of Hashem's presence, by letting us witness Divine retribution in a direct cause and effect manner. Since it reminds us of Hashem's presence and His omnipotence, it is appropriate to refer to it as the "might of Hashem." (M. Kornfeld)

(Although at first glance these four approaches may appear to differ from each other considerably, upon further analysis it should become evident that they are complementary. They reflect four perspectives of the same approach.)


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