כ״ג בסיון ה׳תשע״ד (June 21, 2014)

Ta’anit 10a-b: Praying for Rain

We learned earlier (see daf 2) that we begin adding gevurot geshamim at the beginning of the Amida at the end of Sukkot. When do we begin adding a request for rain? The Mishna on our daf teaches that, according to the Tanna Kamma, we wait until the third day of Marheshvan; Rabban Gamliel rules that we wait until the seventh day of Marheshvan, which will give the pilgrims returning from Jerusalem a full two weeks after the holiday to reach their homes near the river Perat, which is the border with Suria. Both agree that we cannot reasonably expect people traveling to pray for rain during their journey.

The Mishna was written in Israel. The Gemara deals with the question of when the proper time would be to begin requesting rain in the golah – the Diaspora. Hananya teaches that in the golah the prayer for rain begins 60 days after the fall equinox.

The Gemara clearly rules like Rabban Gamliel in the Mishna and like Hananya in the Gemara; thus our practice should be clear. In Israel we begin to recite the prayer for rain two weeks after Sukkot (on the seventh day of Marheshvan) and in the Diaspora sixty days after the fall equinox. In fact, neither of these rulings is simple. While Rabban Gamliel’s ruling was necessary when pilgrims traveled back and forth to the Temple, is it appropriate today? Should all of Diaspora Jewry follow a ruling that was established when the center of the Diaspora Jewish community was living in Bavel?

We find disagreements among the rishonim as to how to approach these questions. The Rosh felt strongly that every community should request rain in the Amida according to its particular needs. The Ritva ruled that we cannot reject the clear conclusion of the Gemara and every community must choose one of the two dates mentioned by the Gemara. Current practice is that communities in the Land of Israel follow the ruling of Rabban Gamliel, while Diaspora communities follow Hananya’s ruling.

It should be noted that the date in the Diaspora – December 4th – does not coincide with the date at which we arrive when we add 60 days to the equinox of September 22 or 23.

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