Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Daf Yomi - Taanis 16 - Highlights


The Mishna had stated that they would place ashes on the head of the Nasi and upon the head of the Rosh Beis Din (Head of the Court). Each person would place the ashes on his own head. The Gemora questions why the Nasi and Rosh Beis Din do not place the ashes on their head by themselves. Rabbi Abba answers that being embarrassed by one’s own hand pales in comparison to being embarrassed by the hands of others and this will help make their prayers more successful.

The Gemora states that they would place the ashes on the place where the tefillin are worn on one’s head. (15b – 16a)


The Mishna had stated that they would take the Ark into the streets of the town and pray there. The Gemora offers two reasons as to why they went into the center of town. Rabbi Chiya bar Abba says that they previously prayed in private to no avail, so now let them try praying in public where there is more shame and can bring about true repentance. Rish Lakish says that perhaps the exile from their synagogues will atone for them. A difference between the two of them would be if they went from one synagogue to another. It would be considered exile but there is no public humiliation.

Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi explains the purpose of taking the Ark outside. It is to convey the idea that the Ark, which is private, has been degraded as a consequence of our sins. This will help lead to a true repentance.

The Gemora explains that the significance of wearing sackcloth is to convey the idea that we are regarded as animals (sackcloth is generally made from goats’ hair).

The Gemora presents two reasons as to why they would place ashes on the Ark. Rabbi Yehuda ben Pazi says that it is as if Hashem is saying “I am with him in distress.” Rish Lakish states that it is as if to say: In their every distress, He is in distress. Rabbi Zeira commented that when he initially observed them placing the ashes on the Ark, his entire body trembled.

The Gemora offers two opinions as to why each person placed ashes on his head. One opinion cited is because Klal Yisroel is regarding themselves unworthy like ashes. The other opinion is that they were beseeching Hashem to remember the ashes of Yitzchak. (16a)


 The Gemora states that it was the custom to visit a cemetery on a fast day. One reason given is that the Jewish people were saying that they consider themselves like corpses and this will stimulate them to repent. Another reason is that this will enable the deceased who are buried in the cemetery to pray for them. According to the second reason, they would not visit a cemetery that contained the graves of gentiles. (16a)


 The Mishna had stated that the eldest among them addressed them and said words that would inspire them to mend their ways. Abaye elaborates that if there is an elderly person who is also a scholar, he would address the people. If not, then a young scholar would address them. If there were no scholars present, a man of stature (Rashi – tall man Rosh – a learned man Meiri – a pious individual) would address them.

Rav Adda bar Ahava said that a person who stole and repented but did not return the stolen object is compared to a person who is holding a dead sheretz in his hand; even if he immerses himself in all the waters of the world, the immersion is not valid. Once he releases the sheretz and immerses himself in a mikvah which contains forty se’ah, he is tahor.

The Mishna had stated that they would send a chazzan to lead the prayer who was an elder and fluent in the prayers. He should have children and his house should be empty (lacking the necessary funds to support his family) in order that his heart will be completely devoted in the prayer.

The Gemora cites a braisa which rules that even if there is an elderly person who is a scholar, it is still preferable to send someone to be the chazzan who is fluent in the prayers.

Rabbi Yehuda elaborates on the attributes which are necessary for the chazzan to have. He should have small children and no means to support them. He should be someone who works on a farm and needs rain but his house is empty (from sin). He should be a person that does not have a bad reputation even from his younger years. He should be humble, acceptable to the congregation and have a sweet voice. He should be an expert in Scripture, halacha and aggadah. The Rabbis heard this braisa and looked at Rabbi Yitzchak bar Ami who possessed all these attributes.

The Mishna had stated that the chazzan will recite the eighteen brochos of Shemoneh Esrei plus an additional six brochos. The Gemora asks that the Mishna actually lists seven conclusions. Rav Nachman bar Yitzchak answers that the first conclusion mentioned in the Mishna is the conclusion of the brocha of Geulah. (16a - 16b)


 The Gemora cites a braisa that explains the soundings of the shofar which the Mishna mentioned. After each one of the extra blessings, they sounded the shofar. They alternated between sounding a tekiah after one of the brochos with sounding a teruah afterwards. Rashi explains that when it was announced “tekiah,” they blew a tekiah, teruah, tekiah and when it was announced “teruah,” they blew teruah, tekiah, teruah.

The Gemora cites a Scriptural verse proving that they didn’t answer Amen in the Beis Hamikdosh; rather they answered Boruch shem kevod malchuso l’olam vo’ed.

The Gemora asks from a braisa which states that regarding matters of misfortune, we would always begin with the least important person.

The Gemora answers that placing the ashes on the head of the Nasi and the Rosh Beis Din is an honor for them since the people are telling them that they are prominent enough to beg for compassion for the entire congregation. (16b)