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Blessing and Cursing – Gefet 16


The mishna that opens the third perek of Masechet Taโ€™anit describes that as opposed to the gradual process that is described in the first perek of the masechet, where the fasts get more intense as the year goes on, and slowly, slowly, as they see that rain still isnโ€™t coming, the rabbis establish more fasts and decrees, there are tragedies that we cry out about immediately. One example of such a case is what is described by the mishna:ย 


ื•ื›ืŸ ืขื™ืจ ืฉืœื ื™ืจื“ื• ืขืœื™ื” ื’ืฉืžื™ื ื“ื›ืชื™ื‘ (ืขืžื•ืก ื“’) “ื•ื”ืžื˜ืจืชื™ ืขืœ ืขื™ืจ ืื—ืช ื•ืขืœ ืขื™ืจ ืื—ืช ืœื ืืžื˜ื™ืจ ื—ืœืงื” ืื—ืช ืชืžื˜ืจ ื•ื’ื•ืžืจ” ืื•ืชื” ื”ืขื™ืจ ืžืชืขื ื” ื•ืžืชืจืขืช ื•ื›ืœ ืกื‘ื™ื‘ื•ืชื™ื” ืžืชืขื ื•ืช ื•ืœื ืžืชืจื™ืขื•ืช ืจื‘ื™ ืขืงื™ื‘ื ืื•ืžืจ ืžืชืจื™ืขื•ืช ื•ืœื ืžืชืขื ื•ืช:ย 


As opposed to the other examples in the mishna which expand the laws of fasts to other tragedies which are not lack of rain, this case seems to fit in with the type of tragedy that the masechet discussed in the first perakim. If so, it is not clear why the mishna here says that this calls for an immediate fast? The Tosfot Yom Tov on the mishna deals with this question and explains:ย 


ื‘ื”ื ื”ื™ื™ื ื• ื˜ืขืžื ืฉืื•ืชื” ื”ืขื™ืจ ืžืชืจืขืช ืžื™ื“ ื•ืื™ื ื” ื ื•ื”ื’ืช ืกื“ืจ ื”ืชืขื ื™ื•ืช ื”ืืžื•ืจื•ืช ื‘ืจื‘ื™ืขื” ืจืืฉื•ื ื” ืืฃ ืขืœ ืคื™ ืฉืื™ืŸ ืฆืจืชื” [ืืœื] ืขืฆื™ืจืช ื’ืฉืžื™ื. ืœืคื™ ืฉื”ื“ื‘ืจ ืžืจืื” ื‘ืขืฆืžื• ืฉื–ื” ื‘ื ืขืœื™ื”ื ื‘ื’ื–ื™ืจืชื• ืฉืœ ื”ืงื“ื•ืฉ ื‘ืจื•ืš ื”ื•ื ื•ืœื ื‘ืžื ื”ื’ื• ืฉืœ ืขื•ืœื. ื•ืœืคื™ื›ืš ืจืื•ื™ ืฉื™ืชืขื ื• ื•ื™ืชืจื™ืขื• ืžื™ื“ ื•ืžืฉ”ื” ืžื™ื™ืชื™ ืงืจื ื“ื›ืชื™ื‘ ื•ื”ืžื˜ืจืชื™ ืขืœ ืขื™ืจ ืื—ืช ื•ื’ื•’ย 


The unique situation where rain is held back from one city expresses in a very immediate way, the unnaturalness of the situation and therefore a fast is established immediately, without waiting for nature to take its course.ย 


The sugiya on the mishna tries to understand why also do the neighboring towns fast according to the opinion of Tanna Kamma, or blow the shofar, according to the opinion of Rabbi Akiva, and in opposition to what we would think – that the fasting and shofar blowing is out of identification with the tragedy of the neighboring city. Rav Yehuda explains in the name of Rav:ย 

ื•ื›ืŸ ืขื™ืจ ืฉืœื ื™ืจื“ื• ืขืœื™ื” ื’ืฉืžื™ื ื›ื•’. ืืžืจ ืจื‘ ื™ื”ื•ื“ื” ืืžืจ ืจื‘: ื•ืฉืชื™ื”ืŸ ืœืงืœืœื”.ย 


Rashi explains the words of Rabbi Yehuda in the name of Rav:


ืืงืจื ืงืื™, ื”ืื™ ื“ื›ืชื™ื‘ ืขืœ ืขื™ืจ ืื—ืช ืืžื˜ื™ืจ ื•ืขืœ ืขื™ืจ ืื—ืช ืœื ืืžื˜ื™ืจ – ืฉื ื™ื”ื ืœืงืœืœื”, ืื•ืชื” ืฉื™ืžื˜ื™ืจ ืขืœื™ื” – ืจื•ื‘ ื’ืฉืžื™ื ืฉืžืงืœืงืœื™ืŸ ืืช ื”ืชื‘ื•ืื”, ื•ืืช ืฉืœื ื™ืžื˜ื™ืจ – ืื™ืŸ ื’ืฉืžื™ื ื•ืื™ืŸ ืชื‘ื•ืื” ื’ื“ื™ืœื”, ืืฉืจ ืœื ืชืžื˜ื™ืจ ืขืœื™ื” ืžื•ืกื‘ ื”ื“ื‘ืจ ืขืœ ื”ืขื‘, ืฉื”ืขื‘ ื‘ืœืฉื•ืŸ ื ืงื™ื‘ื”, ื“ื›ืชื™ื‘ (ืžืœื›ื™ื ื’ ื™ื—) ื”ื ื” ืขื‘ ืงื˜ื ื” ื›ื›ืฃ ืื™ืฉ ืขื•ืœื” ืžื™ื.


Rashi opens his explanation with the words:ย  “ืืงืจื ืงืื™” and explains that the words of Rav are not based on the law in the mishna which describes that the cities surrounding the one that does not have rain fast – rather they are based on a passuk from Amos which is quoted in the mishna and which describes a stiuation where one city receives rain while its neighbor does not. Rashi explains that the rain that is received by the first city is not natural rain and is the type that will ruin the crops.ย 


The way that Rashi explains the words of Rabbi Yehuda in the name of Rav, as clarifying the passuk from Amos and not the mishna, is interesting, and seems to leave the mishna in its simple meaning, that the neighboring cities fast and blow the shofar in identification with the tragedy of the city which did not receive rain, and not because of the curse that has befallen them.ย 


From here, the gemara brings a collection of statements of Rav Yehuda in the name of Rav which go in the opposite direction, and explain different pesukim which seem to be curses, as blessings. After a revolutionary explanation of a passuk from Megillat Eicha and from Sefer Malachi, the sugiya brings a passuk from Sefer Melachim, which Rav Yehuda in the name of Rav also explains in a way that turns the curse into a blessing:ย 


“ื•ื”ื›ื” ื”’ ืืช ื™ืฉืจืืœ ื›ืืฉืจ ื™ื ื•ื“ ื”ืงื ื” ื‘ืžื™ื”, ืืžืจ ืจื‘ ื™ื”ื•ื“ื” ืืžืจ ืจื‘: ืœื‘ืจื›ื”. ื“ืืžืจ ืจื‘ื™ ืฉืžื•ืืœ ื‘ืจ ื ื—ืžื ื™ ืืžืจ ืจื‘ื™ ื™ื•ื ืชืŸ: ืžืื™ ื“ื›ืชื™ื‘ ื ืืžื ื™ื ืคืฆืขื™ ืื•ื”ื‘ ื•ื ืขืชืจื•ืช ื ืฉื™ืงื•ืช ืฉื•ื ื – ื˜ื•ื‘ื” ืงืœืœื” ืฉืงื™ืœืœ ืื—ื™ื” ื”ืฉื™ืœื•ื ื™ ืืช ื™ืฉืจืืœ ื™ื•ืชืจ ืžื‘ืจื›ื” ืฉื‘ืจื›ืŸ ื‘ืœืขื ื”ืจืฉืข; ืื—ื™ื” ื”ืฉื™ืœื•ื ื™ ืงืœืœืŸ ื‘ืงื ื”, ืืžืจ ืœื”ื ืœื™ืฉืจืืœ ื•ื”ื›ื” ื”’ ืืช ื™ืฉืจืืœ ื›ืืฉืจ ื™ื ื•ื“ ื”ืงื ื”, ืžื” ืงื ื” ื–ื” ืขื•ืžื“ ื‘ืžืงื•ื ืžื™ื ื•ื’ื–ืขื• ืžื—ืœื™ืฃ ื•ืฉืจืฉื™ื• ืžืจื•ื‘ื™ืŸ, ื•ืืคื™ืœื• ื›ืœ ื”ืจื•ื—ื•ืช ืฉื‘ืขื•ืœื ื‘ืื•ืช ื•ื ื•ืฉื‘ื•ืช ื‘ื• – ืื™ืŸ ืžื–ื™ื–ื•ืช ืื•ืชื• ืžืžืงื•ืžื•, ืืœื ื”ื•ืœืš ื•ื‘ื ืขืžื”ืŸ. ื“ืžืžื• ื”ืจื•ื—ื•ืช – ืขืžื“ ื”ืงื ื” ื‘ืžืงื•ืžื•. ืื‘ืœ ื‘ืœืขื ื”ืจืฉืข ื‘ื™ืจื›ืŸ ื‘ืืจื–, ืฉื ืืžืจ ื›ืืจื–ื™ื (ืขืœื™ ืžื™ื), ืžื” ืืจื– ื–ื” ืื™ื ื• ืขื•ืžื“ ื‘ืžืงื•ื ืžื™ื, ื•ืื™ืŸ ื’ื–ืขื• ืžื—ืœื™ืฃ, ื•ืื™ืŸ ืฉืจืฉื™ื• ืžืจื•ื‘ื™ืŸ, ืืคื™ืœื• ื›ืœ ื”ืจื•ื—ื•ืช ืฉื‘ืขื•ืœื ื ื•ืฉื‘ื•ืช ื‘ื• ืื™ืŸ ืžื–ื™ื–ื•ืช ืื•ืชื• ืžืžืงื•ืžื•, ื›ื™ื•ืŸ ืฉื ืฉื‘ื” ื‘ื• ืจื•ื— ื“ืจื•ืžื™ืช – ืขื•ืงืจืชื• ื•ื”ื•ืคื›ืชื• ืขืœ ืคื ื™ื•. ื•ืœื ืขื•ื“ ืืœื ืฉื–ื›ื” ืงื ื” ืœื™ื˜ื•ืœ ื”ื™ืžื ื• ืงื•ืœืžื•ืก ืœื›ืชื•ื‘ ื‘ื• ืกืคืจ ืชื•ืจื” ื ื‘ื™ืื™ื ื•ื›ืชื•ื‘ื™ื.ย 


This means that the blow that Hashem strikes Yisrael with is that we should be as a reed that moves back and forth in the water. At first glance it seems that the curse turns Am Yisrael into a people who lacks stability and permanence in the world, however, as Rav Yehuda in the name of Rav explains, the reed is has special strength and power, and its flexibility allows for it to stand up to all of the winds of the world and not to break. As the base of this drasha, a drasha is quoted on a passuk from the Sefer Mishlei: “ื ืืžื ื™ื ืคืฆืขื™ ืื•ื”ื‘ ื•ื ืขืชืจื•ืช ื ืฉื™ืงื•ืช ืฉื•ื ื”. The Rif, a chacham who lived in the 17th century in Syria (and whose acronym is that same as the Rif – Rabbi Yitzchak Alfasi), wrote a perush on the bookย  “ืขื™ืŸ ื™ืขืงื‘”, which collected all of the aggadot of the Talmud, and there he explains the foundations of the drasha on this passuk:ย 


ื ืจืื” ื“ื”ื•ืงืฉื” ื‘ื›ืชื•ื‘ ืฉืื™ื ื• ืžืงื‘ื™ืœ ื ืืžื ื™ื ืœื ืขืชืจื•ืช ื•ื”ืœ”ืœ ื ืืžื ื™ื ืคืฆืขื™ ืื•ื”ื‘ ื•ืžื›ื–ื‘ื™ื ื ืฉื™ืงื•ืช ืฉื•ื ื. ืื• ื™ืืžืจ ืžืขื•ื˜ื™ื ืคืฆืขื™ ืื•ื”ื‘ ื ืขืชืจื•ืช ืฉื”ื•ื ืœืฉื•ืŸ ืžืจื•ื‘ื™ื ื ืฉื™ืงื•ืช ืฉื•ื ื ืœื–ื” ื“ืจื™ืฉ


The Rif explains that the passuk seems to create a contrast between “ืคืฆืขื™ ืื•ื”ื‘” and “ื ืฉื™ืงื•ืช ืฉื•ื ื”, but the words that describe each one of these parts donโ€™t seem to contradict each other: “ื ืืžื ื™ื” is not the opposite of the word “ื ืขืชืจื•ืช”. The Rif suggests that the full contrast, which goes from the phraseย  “ื ืืžื ื™ื ืคืฆืขื™ ืื•ื”ื‘” should have been “ืžื›ื–ื‘ื™ื ื ืฉื™ืงื•ืช ืฉื•ื ื” and that the full contrast which goes from the phrase “ื ืขืชืจื•ืช ื ืฉื™ืงื•ืช ืฉื•ื ื”ย  should have been “ืžืขื•ื˜ื™ื ืคืฆืขื™ ืื•ื”ื‘”.ย 


This lack of symmetry seems to also have bothered the Tosfot, who although they donโ€™t phrase this as a question, this seems to lie at the foundation of their words in “ื“”ื” “ื•ื ืขืชืจื•ืช”.ย 

Tosfot open with the statement:

ืคื™ืจื•ืฉ ื›ืœื•ืžืจ ื ืืžื ื™ื ืคืฆืขื™ ืื•ื”ื‘ ื•ื—ื™ืœื•ืคื™ื”ืŸ ื‘ืฉื•ื ืย 


Meaning that it is clear that the passuk is supposed to contain a contrast between ืคืฆืขื™ ื”ืื•ื”ื‘ ื•ื ืฉื™ืงื•ืช ื”ืฉื•ื ื. After establishing this, Tosfot suggest three different ways to read the passuk, each one giving a different meaning to the passuk and to the human complexity in the relationships he has within himself:ย 


  • ื•ื ืขืชืจื•ืช ืœืฉื•ืŸ ื”ืคื•ืš ื‘ืขืชืจ ืคื•ืจืง”ื ื‘ืœืข”ื– ืฉืžื”ืคื›ื™ืŸ ื‘ื” ืืช ื”ืชื‘ื•ืื”. ื•ื”ื›ื™ ืคืฉื˜ื™ื” ื“ืงืจื “ืคืฆืขื™ ืื•ื”ื‘ ื ืืžื ื™ื” ืฉื”ื•ื ืขื•ืฉื” ืœื˜ื•ื‘ื”, ืืคื™ืœื• ื›ืฉืžื›ื” ื—ื‘ื™ืจื• ืžืชื›ื•ื™ืŸ ืœื˜ื•ื‘ื” “ื•ื ืฉื™ืงื•ืช ืฉื•ื ื” ื”ื ืœื”ื™ืคืš ืฉืขื•ืฉื” ื”ื›ืœ ืœืจืขื”ย 
  • ื•ื™”ืž ืคืฉื˜ื™ื” ื“ืงืจื ื”ื›ื™ “ื ืืžื ื™ื ืคืฆืขื™ ืื•ื”ื‘ ื•ื ืขืชืจื•ืช ื ืฉื™ืงื•ืช ืฉื•ื ื” ื›ืœื•ืžืจ ื•ื ืขืชืจื•ืช ืœืฉื•ืŸ ืจื™ื‘ื•ื™ ื›ืœื•ืžืจ ื ืฉื™ืงื•ืช ืฉื•ื ื ื“ื•ืžื™ื ื”ื ืœืžืฉื ื›ืœื•ืžืจ ื”ื ืžืจื•ื‘ื•ืช ื•ืœืžืฉื ืœืขื•ืœื.ย 
  • ื•ื™”ืž ื”ื›ื™ ื›ืฉืื•ื”ื‘ื™ื ืขื•ืฉื™ื ืžืจื™ื‘ื” ื•ืฉื•ื ืื™ื ื–ื” ืืช ื–ื” ื”ืฉื ืื” ื ืืžื ื” ื•ื”ื›ื™ ืคื™ืจื•ืฉ “ื ืืžื ื™ื ืคืฆืขื™ ืื•ื”ื‘” ื”ืคืฆืขื™ื ื–ื”ื• ื”ืฉื ืื” ืฉื‘ื™ืŸ ืื•ื”ื‘ื™ื ื”ื ื ืืžื ื•ืช “ื•ื ืขืชืจื•ืช ื ืฉื™ืงื•ืช ืฉื•ื ื” ืคื™’ ื“ื›ืฉืฉื•ื ืื™ื ืขื•ืฉื™ื ืฉืœื•ื ื–ื” ืœื–ื” ื”ืฉืœื•ื ื•ื”ืคืฉืจื” ืฉื‘ื™ื ื™ื”ืŸ ืืžื ื” ื•ืงื™ื™ืžืช ื•ื”ื™ื™ื ื• ื ืขืชืจื•ืช ื ืฉื™ืงื•ืช ืฉื•ื ื ื›ืœื•ืžืจ ื ืฉื™ืงื•ืช ืฉื•ื ื ื ืขืชืจื•ืช.


The first interpretation that Tosfot suggest for the word “ื ืขืชืจื•ืช” is โ€œoppositeโ€. Although Tosfot donโ€™t reveal to us what method led them to this interpretation, the ืžืกื•ืจืช ื”ืฉ”ืก on the side of the printed gemara sends us to Massechet Sukkah daf 14a, where there, in the context of a discussion of the impurity of schach, it says “ื”ื•ืื™ืœ ื•ืจืื•ื™ื•ืช ืœื”ื•ืคื›ืŸ ื‘ืขืชืจ”. Meaning that this interpretation was born out of the interpretive method that characterises Tosfot: checking the term in other sources in the Shas and explaining our source according to what arises from the other source. The meaning of the word “ืขืชืจ” is opposite, and the pasuk means thatย  “ืคืฆืขื™ ืื•ื”ื‘ ื ืืžื ื™ื” and do good, and their opposite lies in the kisses of the hater which do bad. This first interpretation solves the difficulty raised by the Rif, by establishing the word “ื ืขืชืจื•ืช” not as expressing a description opposite to the description of the word “ื ืืžื ื™ื”, but rather as describing the contrast itself.ย 


The statement about human relationships which is hiding in this interpretation is the understanding that intentions are not tested according to their simple form: sometimes the outward expression is one of a wound that hurts, but when the relationship is one of love, even the wound and criticism is given in order to do good. Sometimes the outward expression looks as though it hugs and kisses, when really it is given by someone who hates, and it is likely that the intention in the background is stiff and bad.ย 


The second interpretation that Tosfot suggest for the word “ื ืขืชืจื•ืช” is wealth. It seems as though the interpretive method used by Tosfot, which is also not revealed from their words themselves, is in looking at Aramaic, where โ€œืชโ€ and โ€œืฉโ€ areย  switched. In that case, โ€œื ืขืชืจื•ืชโ€ย  is actually “ื ืขืฉืจื•ืช”. Understanding the passuk as inverse, requires an addition on top of what is written: ืคืฆืขื™ ืื•ื”ื‘ ื ืืžื ื™ื and are pleasant, as opposed to many ื ืฉื™ืงื•ืช ืฉื•ื ื which are heavy and put a heavy, unpleasant burden on the person.ย 


This interpretation also points to the fact that human relationships are tested according to the make-up of the relationship itself and what we experience opposite the other person, more than the actual expressions that we receive from those around us. However, while the first interpretation attributed this duality to the position of the giver, this interpretation attributes the duality to the experience of the receiver: when we meet a loving person, everything is received by us with love, even when the expression is harsh, while when we meet a hating person, everything is received by us with difficulty and hate.ย 


The third interpretation of Tosfot is based on the understanding that “ื ืืžื ื™ื” and “ื ืขืชืจื•ืช” are not opposing words, but rather synonyms which both express agreement and actualization of reality. In this case, the interpretation of the passuk is that on the one hand, when lovers hurt each other and fight, the fight stays in existence and stays strong, while on the other hand, when haters kiss and make up, that hug and connection also succeeds to exist strongly.ย 

This interpretation suggests the movement and ability to mess up as well as to fix relationships and to turn from a lover to a hater, but also from a hater to a lover.ย 


From an interpretive standpoint, Tosfot suggest three interpretations using different methodologies:ย 

  1. ื ืขืชืจื•ืช – a word lacking specific decriptive content, rather a word which signifies contrast between what was described up until now and what will be desribed after. The interperative tool that Tosfot use for this clarification is analysis of parallel sugiyot.
  2. ื ืขืชืจื•ืช – a word that desribes wealth and multiplicity, which with greater clarification, turns into a contrasting description of specific content to the word “ื ืืžื ื™ื”, which describes the wounds of the lover. The interpretive tool that Tosfot uses for this clarification is using knowledge of Aramaic.ย 
  3. ื ืขืชืจื•ืช – a word that describes the fulfillment of a certain reality, and this is the part of the passuk that is not in contrast to the first part, but rather is parallel to it. The interpretive tool that the Tosfot use for this clarification remains unclear, as well as their determining that “ื ืขืชืจื•ืช” is supposed to be a synonym for “ื ืืžื ื™ื”, which remains mysterious.ย 


In the context of Masechet Taโ€™anit which describes the relationship between Hashem and Am Yisrael, these three derashot take on significance – the understanding that what is given to us by Hashem, as a tragedy or curse is given out of love and a desire for teshuva and a connection, the understanding it is up to us to experience the pain and difficulty as a way of meeting Hashem, and the understanding that it is possible to repair relationships and take away the iron partitions which sometimes exist between us an Hashem, and to establish a new, loving, and stable relationship.ย 

Rabbanit Yael Shimoni

Rabbanit Yael Shimoni is the Ramit and Deputy Rosh Yeshiva at Yeshivat Drisha in Kfar Etzion. Rabbanit Shimoni has learned at Migdal Oz, Matan, and the Susi Bradfield Womenโ€™s Institute for Halakhic Leadership at Midreshet Lindenbaum. She holds a BFA from Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design and a BEd in Torah Shebeโ€™al Peh and Jewish Thought from Herzog College. She is currently studying towards an MA in Jewish Thought Education at Herzog College. Rabbanit Shimoni taught gemara and halakha at Pelech High School and served as a ramit for shana bet at Migdal Oz. She directs Meshivat Nefesh, the online responsa program of the rabbaniyot of Beit Hillel. She is also a plastic artist and member of โ€œA Studio of Her Own.
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