Taanit, Daf 2, Teachers: Yehudit Epstein & Dena Rock
Thoughts on the daf by Susan Suna
As we learn our way through the Daf Yomi cycle, there is a touch of excitement at the beginning of a new Masechet! There is also an appreciation between the interconnectedness between our lives and our learning. We are learning Taanit, the Masechet that discusses fast days instituted due to the lack of rain, while we pray for rain.
The first Mishna begins with the type of question that we are familiar with from Masechet Brachot, asking “from when.” This question appears as a continuation of Brachot 33a where we learned that the placement of גבורות גשמים “the might of the rains” is inserted within the blessing for the resurrection of the dead in Shemona Esrei. The Meiri explains the reason it is said in this blessing is because 1. all of life in this world depends on rain and therefore the ability to cause rain is equal to that of reviving the dead. 2. The Yerushalmi claims that it is due to verses 2-3 in Hosea 6, where rain and the resurrection of the dead are juxtaposed to each other.
The Ritva points out the similarity to the dead who are buried in the ground to the seed that is planted. The seed that is seemingly buried grows due to rain and sprouts up above the ground. So too will be the resurrection of the dead as it says in Tehillim 72:16 “and let men sprout up in towns like country grass.” In fact, the Ritva points out that reviving the dead is mentioned three times in this blessing. The first, before mentioning rain, relates to the living. When we don’t have rain, we don’t have sustenance and we are like the dead. Rain revives the living. The second, which is after mentioning rain relates to the healing Hashem provides one who is deathly ill. Only the last one is about reviving the dead both as that which was done by Eliyahu and Elisha as well as that of reviving the dead in the future.
Rebbi Yochanan on our daf points out another connection: both are included in the keys managed by Hashem and not transmitted to a messenger. The three keys are for rain, birthing, and resurrection of the dead. Miriam Hirshman in our shiur thought that the connection between these three things are that they are incredibly personal but grantable only by an incredibly Powerful Source. She said that it reminds her of the parable of a king who gave his grown children everything they needed but he never saw them and it made him sad. So he changed the model. They could still have whatever they wanted, but he only gave them a day’s worth at a time. This way each day they’d return to him with their daily request. The moral is that Hashem held access to these three things for Himself because he wants us to form that relationship with Him where we love and appreciate what He provides because we ask for it and get it directly.
Rebbi Yochanan explains that the blessing is called “the might of the rains” since the might of the rain displays God’s power in the world, hinting, the Meiri adds, to the many times that rain falls not during its natural time but due to Hashem hearing the prayers of his sons.