Monday, January 15, 2007

Daf Yomi - Taanis 6 - Highlights

One of the promises that we repeat daily in our recitation of the Keriyat Shema is that the reward for appropriate behavior is rain in its proper time - yoreh u'malkosh. Our Gemara discusses these terms and their meaning. The yoreh, according to the baraita, is the first rain of the year, which occurs in the month of MarHeshvan, and the malkosh is the rain that ends the season in Nissan.

With regard to the meaning of each of these words, several suggestions are made by the Gemara.

Yoreh can be understood to be made up of any one of a number of different root words.
• It can be a form of moreh - teacher - implying that the first rain teaches the people that winter is coming so that they will prepare their roofs, bring in their dried fruits, and get ready for the rainy season.
• It can be a form of yarah - to throw or shoot - indicating that the first rains fall gently to the earth.
Malkosh appears to come from the root lekesh, an unusual root that means "late." Rashi says that it is the name of a type of locust - the Schistocerca gregaria - whose appearance coincides with the end-of-season rains. (The Aleph Society)

The Gemora states that just as malkosh is beneficial, so too the yoreh rainfall is beneficial.

The Gemora explains the root meaning of the word malkosh. One explanation given is that since the Jewish Nation needs it desperately, it removes their stubbornness and drives them to repent. Another interpretation offered is that it fills the stalks with grain. A braisa is cited explaining malkosh to mean something that falls on the ears and stalks. (6a)
 The Gemora cites a braisa which presents an alternative view on when the yoreh rainfall is. Rabbi Meir maintains that yoreh is in Mar-Cheshvan. The Chachamim hold that yoreh is in the month of Kislev. Rav Chisda states that the opinion of the Chachamim is consistent with the viewpoint of Rabbi Yosi cited in a different braisa. There are three times that the yoreh rain descends. The braisa cites three opinions in regards to these times. Rabbi Yosi maintains that the first rain falls on the seventeenth of Mar-Cheshvan. The second rain descends on the twenty-third and the last one falls on Rosh Chodesh Kislev.

The Gemora explains the halachic significance for the three yoreh rains. It is important to know the time for the first rain because this is when we will commence requesting for rain. It is pertinent to know the time for the third rainfall since we need to know when to begin fasting if the rain does not descend. The Gemora offers several explanations for the purpose of knowing the time of the second rain. Rabbi Zeira explains that it is relevant for the halachos of vows. One who makes a vow “until the rains” or “from when the rains begin” is referring to the second rainfall. Rav Zevid states that it is relevant for the halacha in connection to olives. The wealthy are permitted to gather the “forgotten olives” in the field after the second rainfall. Rav Pappa understands the significance of the second rainfall in regards to taking shortcuts through other people’s fields. This is only permitted until the second rainfall because afterwards, the new crop will get damaged. Rav Nachman bar Yitzchak explains the pertinence of the second rainfall in regards to the halachos of Shemitah. (6a – 6b)

Rav Yehuda bar Yitzchak states that clouds that appear in the early morning do not bring blessing. The Gemora asks on this from a saying that people say “If rain falls when the gates are opened, donkey driver, fold up your sack and go to sleep.” The rain that falls in the morning will be so beneficial that the grain peddlers will not be productive that day and therefore they should go to sleep. The Gemora answers that the rain which falls in the morning is beneficial if the clouds are thick but thin clouds are not a blessing. (6b)

The Gemora discusses the brocha that one recites when seeing rain. One would recite the brocha when the drops of rain fall into a puddle that is already on the ground and some of the drops move upwards. The Gemora discusses the text of the brocha. There is a dispute regarding the conclusion of the brocha. (6b – 7a)