For the week ending 21 June 2014 / 23 Sivan 5774

Ta'anit 9 - 15

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
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  • The reward for tithing
  • How much rain for individual and for the general public
  • The three Heavenly gifts which sustained Jews in the wilderness
  • Danger of shaming a teacher of Torah
  • The Sage Ulla and the Jews of Babylon
  • Rain water from the ocean or the clouds
  • When to start praying for rain in Eretz Yisrael and elsewhere
  • The fast days for rain of the Torah scholars and the public
  • Avoiding looking comfortable while others are suffering
  • Sage advice regarding travel
  • Importance of sharing in the troubles of the community
  • The pros and cons of individual fasts
  • Fasting only part of a day
  • When to make the commitment for an individual fast
  • Till when may one eat before a fast
  • The series of 13 public fast days for rain
  • Washing with cold water on a fast day
  • When to say the special "Aneinu" prayer in the fast day service
  • Expectant and nursing mothers on fast days for rain
  • Blowing of the shofar on these fast days
  • How long are fast days continued for rain or other dangers
  • Other restraints practiced on these days besides fasting
  • How the fast day was divided
  • The six blessings added to the regular service
  • Participation of kohanim on duty in these fasts
  • Taking the aron kodesh outside and the placing of the ashes

"Doing Business" with Heaven

  • Ta’anit 9a

The Midrash tells this most inspiring story about "doing business" with Heaven.

A wealthy Jew was blessed each year with a bumper crop of one thousand kur (a large measure) from which he dutifully separated 100 kur in accordance with the Torah command to tithe. On his deathbed he called his son and urged him to faithfully continue this pattern of tithing. The son did so the first year following his father's passing. The next year the field again produced its great bounty but this time the son couldn't bring himself to give away ten percent as a tithe. The result was that the field produced only a hundred kur. His relatives thus explained to him what had happened:

"When you inherited the field you were the landowner and G-d was the priestly recipient Who could designate to whom it should be given. Now that you failed to tithe, G-d is the landowner and you are the priestly beneficiary receiving only ten percent of what the field used to produce."

Tosefot cites this Midrash in regard to what Rabbi Yochanan states as an explanation of the double language used by the Torah (Devarim 14:22) in commanding a Jew to tithe: "Tithe, you shall tithe all the crops which your field produces each year." The letters of the Hebrew word assair can be read to mean "tithe" or "become wealthy", so that the above passage can be read as "tithe in order to become prosperous".

This Divine promise of reward for tithing is not limited to agricultural produce. Our Sages saw in the word all used in this passage an indication that it extends to tithing monies gained in business and any other income.

What the Sages Say

"Whoever takes upon himself to fast (when it is not required and when he is not physically fit to do so) is considered a sinner. This is based on the fact that if the Torah refers to the nazir who abstains from wine as a sinner, how much more so does this apply to one who abstains from all food and drink."

  • The Sage Shmuel -Ta’anit 11a

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