(Permission is granted to print and redistribute this material
as long as this header and the footer at the end are included.)


brought to you by Kollel Iyun Hadaf of Har Nof
Rosh Kollel: Rav Mordecai Kornfeld

Ask A Question about the Daf

Previous daf

Ta'anis 20

TA'ANIS 20 (15 Elul) - dedicated by Yechiel Wachtel l'Iluy Nishmas his father, Reb Shimon Eliezer ben Reb Yechiel Wachtel (who passed away on 15 Elul 5757).


QUESTION: The Mishnah (18b) says that if one city in a province does not receive any rain, then that city must fast and blow the Shofar, and its surrounding areas must fast, but do not blow the Shofar. The Mishnah demonstrates this scenario of one city not receiving rain while others receive rain from the verse, "I will bring rain upon one city, and upon another city I will not bring rain" (Amos 4:7).

The Gemara here explains that the verse in Amos means "Shneihem l'Klalah" -- when one city receives rain and the other city does not, it means that *both* cities are suffering from a Divine punishment. The city that does not receive any rain obviously suffers, because none of their fields produce any crops. But even the city that receives rain suffers, because, as RASHI explains, that city receives too much rain which ruins the crops. Thus, the verse means that neither city has any food to eat (as the Gemara earlier (6b) mentioned).

This explanation, though, contradicts the words of RASHI in the Mishnah (beginning of 19a). Rashi there says that the reason why the areas surrounding the city that did not receive any rain must blow the Shofar is because the people from the neighboring city which did not receive any rain are going to come to the surrounding areas to buy their food, and there will not be enough food for everyone, leaving both cities to starve.

Why did Rashi in the Mishnah not explain the same way that he explains in the Gemara here, that the city that gets rain gets too much of it, and thus the crops are destroyed?

ANSWER: Rashi understood that even though the verse means that "Shneihem l'Klalah" -- one city suffers from no rain, and the other city suffers from too much rain, the Mishnah cannot be discussing a case where one city received no rain and the other city received too much. First, the Mishnah does not mention anything about a catastrophe in the second city; it only says that if it does *not rain* on one city that city must fast and blow the Shofar and the surrounding cities fast. Second, if there is a second city that received too much rain, then they should also have to fast and *blow the Shofar* in that city as well, and yet the Mishnah says that the surrounding areas only fast but do not blow the Shofar. It must be that the Mishnah is discussing a different case than the verse that it quotes (as explained by the Gemara) is discussing -- it did not rain at all on one city, and in the other city it rained *normally*. In such a case, the suffering of the city that received rain is not as serious as that of the city that received no rain, and therefore the people of that city only fast and do not blow the Shofar.

How does Rashi understand the Gemara earlier (6b) in which Rav Chisda says that if rain comes down only on parts of a country but not on the rest, it is not a sign of Divine punishment and the people *do not need to Daven* for the situation to change? Even if the second city did not get flooded, our Mishnah says that the city that was rained upon also has to fast!

The answer must be that there are three different cases according to Rashi: (1) If it rains too much on the city, it is certainly a Klalah, and they must fast and blow the Shofar. (2) If it rains normally on the city, as much as it rains in other years, it is a bad sign, because they are going to have to supply food to the other city, but it is not as bad as when the city gets flooded. Therefore, they only fast, but do not blow the Shofar. (3) The case of Rav Chisda (on 6b) is where it rained the amount of two cities on one city, causing the second city to have enough crops to supply both cities. In that case, it is good for both cities and neither one needs to fast.

(The other Rishonim here argue with Rashi, and assert that the city in the Mishnah that was rained upon is not fasting due to their *own* plight. Rather, they are simply fasting in sympathy for the brethren in the neighboring city. According to them, there are only two different kinds of cases, since in both cases (2) and (3) above there cause for suffering in the city upon which rain fell.)


QUESTIONS: The Gemara relates that one time Rebbi Elazar bar Rebbi Shimon was riding his donkey proudly on the river bank after having learned much Torah. He was greeted by a very ugly person and he did not reply to the greeting. Instead, he said, "Empty one! How ugly are you! Are all of the people of your city as ugly as you?"

The person replied, "I don't know. But go and say to the Craftsman Who made me how ugly His handiwork is."

When Rebbi Elazar realized what he had done, he dismounted the donkey, spread himself upon the ground before the person and begged for forgiveness.

(a) This incident poses some serious questions. Why did Rebbi Elazar not return the greeting of the person to begin with? Just because a person is not handsome is no reason to ignore his greeting!

(b) Second, how could he have said such an insulting comment to the person? It is inconceivable that such a great Tana would insult someone just because of his looks!

(a) The reason Rebbi Elazar acted so harshly when the person greeted him was because Rebbi Elazar considered the person's greeting disrespectful, since we are told that it is not respectful for a less-learned person to greet a more- learned person (Berachos 27b and Shekalim 7a; see Insights to Shekalim 7:1). Proper respect dictates that one should wait until the Chacham greets him, and only then respond to the greeting.

Therefore, when the person greeted him, Rebbi Elazar did not answer him because he maintained that the person did not conduct himself properly by greeting the Rav.

(b) Rebbi Elazar's comment may now be understood as follows. The Gemara in Shekalim says that different places had different customs as far as greeting the Rav. Some places did not know about the custom to refrain from greeting the Rav out of respect.

Rebbi Elazar simply said to the person, "Are all of the people of your city *like this*?" Rebbi Elazar maintained that one may not greet someone greater than he, but he realized that this person was oblivious to this practice. He therefore asked whether the person had been brought up in a place where it was considered acceptable to extend greetings to a greater person. He asked in a disdainful manner to express that he considered such a custom inappropriate.

The person, though, was not know aware that there was any custom *not* to greet a Rav, so when he was not greeting in return by Rebbi Elazar and he heard Rebbi Elazar's statement, he understood Rebbi Elazar to be insulting his physical features. "Are they like this," in his ears, meant "are they as ugly as you!" Although the Gemara quotes Rebbi Elazar as asking, "Are all of the people of your city *as ugly as you*," that is not what Rebbi Elazar actually said, but how the person *heard* what he said. Rebbi Elazar actually said, "Are all of the people of your city *like this*," but his relatively disdainful manner bespoke the sort of statement that the person thought he heard (see Tosfos in Nazir (10a), who says that the phrase "he spoke" can also refer to something expressed by one's actions). After hearing the response of the ugly person, Rebbi Elazar strongly regretted expressing himself in such a way without specifying what he was upset about (i.e. the way the person greeted him), and he regretted not having more tolerance for the other person's custom.

This is why, in the end of the incident, Rebbi Elazar publicly taught that "a person should be soft as a reed and not as hard as a cedar." He was expressing his regret for the way that he had acted. According to the simple way of reading the incident, the issue was one of haughtiness, as the beginning of the incident implies. However, that has nothing to do with being "soft" (and tolerant) or "hard" (and stubborn). According to this explanation, though, the main issue was not haughtiness, but tolerance. Thus, it was appropriate for Rebbi Elazar to talk about being "soft like a reed" and tolerant and not "hard like a cedar" and intolerant. (Based on ideas mentioned in the BEN YEHOYADA and IYUN YAKOV.)

Next daf


For further information on
subscriptions, archives and sponsorships,
contact Kollel Iyun Hadaf,