August 28 - 31

Hi chevra,

Welcome to Ta'anit!

Please make plans to join us for our siyyum of Rosh Hashana, this Wednesday evening, August 30th at 7:30 in the Beit Midrash! Rachel Grose, Zev Wainberg, Etan and Maccabee Cohen, and Sari Abrams will each teach a Mishna in honor of the occasion!

The first couple of Mishnayot of Ta'anit discuss the question as to when "Mashiv HaRuach U'morid HaGeshem" is added to the second blessing of the Amidah in the Fall, and when it is withdrawn from it in the Spring. A couple of interesting points:

(1) The detailed back-and-forth between Rabbi Eliezer and Rabbi Yehoshua in Mishna 1 ends in an interesting place. Rabbi Yehoshua parries his colleague's seemingly correct contention that "Mashiv HaRuach" is not an actual request for rain rather merely a mention of the fact that the provision of rain is among God's powers, by countering that despite formal appearances there isn't really such a thing in our liturgy as a "mere mention" of God's qualities. Every "mention" is an implicit prayer, and a coded request. It's interesting to view and to recite sections of our tefilla such as the Pesukei D'Zimra - and all of the praises of God that it mentions about God - through this lens.

(2) Mishna 2 specifies that it is davka in Mussaf of Shmini Atzeret and of the first day of Pesach when the seasonal changes in the recitation of Mashiv Haruach are made. Later scholars raise the question as to why the change isn't made in the Ma'ariv that opens each of those days, which is where we typically introduce liturgy changes that will apply to that day (think for example about Ya'aleh V'yavo on Rosh Chodesh or Yom Tov). The answer they offer is that the Mishna wants to make sure that everybody is "on the same page" concerning the addition / subtraction of Mashiv HaRuach, and it was only at Mussaf (not even at Shacharit!) when everyone could be counted on to be in shul to hear what's going on. Hmmmm.

The closing Mishnayot of the perek introduce us to the theme from which the tractate derives its name, namely the practice to fast in response to crisis. It is interesting to note the similarity of the practices described in the perek's final Mishna, and the practices that characterize the "Nine Days" (which, not coincidentally, will also be described in Massechet Ta'anit)

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