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The Misha Tractate Taanith 


The Library 

rom the Theodore E. Cummin 
Election of Hebraica and Judai' 

The Mishna Tractate 


(On the Public Fasts) 

Translated from the Hebrew with brief annotations 



St. John's Hall, Highbury. 



The Mishna Tractate 


(On the Public Fasts) 

Translated from the Hebrew with brief annotations 



St. John's Halt, Highbury. 



Printed at 

Palestine House, 

58, Bodney Road, London, E. 8. 




I. From what time do they make mention of "the 
power of rain " ? l R. Eliezer 2 says, From the first 
day of the feast of Tabernacles. R. Joshua 3 says, 
From the last day of that festival. R. Joshua said to 
him, Since rains are only a sign of a curse on that 
festival, 4 why should mention be then made of them ? 
R. Eliezer answered him, I also did not say that they 
should be expressly asked for, but that mention should 
merely be made of them with the formula, " Who 
causes the wind to blow and the rain to descend in its 
season." 5 To this R. Joshua replied, If it be so, then 
mention may be made throughout the year. 

1 QW) niTO: The manifestation of Divine 
power in sending rain : cf. Job v. 9, 10. The ex- 
pression is inserted in the second (called the 
Geburoth) of the eighteen benedictions. 

2 b. Hyrcanus. A tanna of the second genera- 
tion, and a distinguished disciple of R. Johanan 
b. Zakkai, who spoke of him as " a lime cemented 
cistern that does not lose a drop" (Aboth II. 10, 
na^B 13NQ irXP TD 113). It is said of him that 
he never spoke a word which he had not received 
from his teacher (Succ. 28). As an expounder 


of traditional law he became famous, and was 
known as " the Great " ( VnJPi ). He was excom- 
municated by the Sanhedrim for opposing the 
opinion of the majority on a question of Levitical 
uncleanness, and thereafter lived in retirement. 
A famous saying of his is : " Let the honour of 
thy friend be dear unto thee as thine own." See 
further Hyman, Toledoth Tannaim ve'Amoraim, 
i. pp. 161-175. 

3 b. Hanania. A contemporary of R. Eliezer, 
and fellow-pupil under R. Johanan b. Zakkai. 
His opinions are cited one hundred and thirty 
times in the Mishna, and evince him as being a 
faithful observer of the Law and consistently 
opposed to extravagant developments (cf. Yalkut 
Shim. II. 589). A famous saying of his is : "An 
evil eye, the evil nature, and hatred of mankind 
put a man out of the world" (Aboth II. 15). See 
further Bacher's article \njew. EncycL vii. 290, ff. 

4 Cf. Succ. II. 9, and note there. 

6 In the ninth benediction, known as the 
" Blessing of the Years " (Ber. V. 2), the actual 
prayer for rain is made at appropriate seasons, 
whereas in the second mention only is made of 
God's power in giving rain. The decision is 
according to R. Joshua (Maimonides). 

2. Requests for rain are not made except near 
the time of rain. 1 R. Jehudah* says, He who acts 
last as reader of the prayers on the last day of the 

feast of Tabernacles makes mention of the rain, but 
he who reads first does not do so 2 ; on the first 
day of Passover, he who reads first makes mention of 
it, but not he who reads last. 3 How long are requests 
for rain made ? R. Jehudah says, Till Passover has 
gone by : R. Meir 4 says, Till Nisan 5 is passed, since 
it is said, And he causeth to come down for you the 
rain, the former rain and the latter rain, in the first 
month. 6 

1 That is, as R. Jehudah says, on the last day 
of Tabernacles. The wind was observed for 
indications of the rain by the pilgrims gazing at 
the smoke of the altar ; if it inclined to the 
North there would be copious rain in the coming 
year ; if to the South but little and dearth would 
would ensue ; if to the East all rejoiced ; if to 
the West all were depressed (Yoma 2\b\ It 
was said that the South winds brought no rain 
after the destruction of the second Temple 
(B. B. 25^). * See note 2 on p. 34. 

2 There were two readers on Sabbaths and 
festivals, the first reading the morning prayers, 
the second the Musaf, or additional prayers. 

3 That is, " Who causeth the wind to blow " is 
said in the benediction of the morning service, 
but not in the Musaf. 

4 A tanna of the third generation, styled " the 
light of the Law." Remarkable for his sympathy 
with all branches of learning ; and for his tolerant 

B 2 


attitude towards Elisha b. Abuyah, an apostate 
from Judaism (Hag. 15^). He lived up to his 
motto, " Do little business, but be busied in the 
Torah : and be lowly of spirit before all men " 
(Aboth IV. 12 [14]). See Jew. EncycL viii., 432 ff., 
Hyman, op. cit., iii. 865-878. 

5 The first month, Neh. ii. I, Esth. iii. 7 = pre- 
exilic Abib. Babylonian Nisannu. 

6 Joel ii. 23. 

3. On the third day of Marheshvan 1 requests are 
made for rain. 2 Rabban Gamaliel 3 says, On the 
seventh day of that month, fifteen days after the 
feast of Tabernacles, that the last of the Israelites 
returning might reach the Euphrates. 4 

1 The eighth month. Assyr. Arahsamnu. The 
name is not found in the Bible. 

2 In the ninth benediction orSy ~p3) : insertion 
for rains applicable to the land of Israel only 
(Rashi, Succ. loa). 

8 A tanna of the second generation, grandson 
of the Gamaliel of Acts v. 34. He terminated 
the opposition between the schools of Shammai 
and Hillel. " The ends he had in view were the 
abolition of old dissensions, and the prevention 
of new quarrels, and the restoration of unity 
within Judaism " (Bacher). He introduced an 
addition to the Amidah in the form of a prayer 
against sectarians, and the central feature of the 

Pesah Haggadah is due to him. His motto was, 
" Get thee a teacher, eschew that which is doubt- 
ful, and do not multiply uncertain tithes " ( Aboth 
I. 16). See Jew. Encycl. v. 560, ff. ; Hyman, op. 
cit., i. 310-318. 

4 That those who come up from a distance to 
the fast may be able throughout it to remain in 
Jerusalem (Succ. 470). Those living beyond the 
Euphrates were exempt from the pilgrimage 

4. If the seventeenth day of Marheshvan has 
come, and the rains have not come down, pious 
individuals 1 commence a three days' fast, 2 on the pre- 
ceding nights of which they may eat and drink. On 
the fast days they are permitted to engage in work, 
to wash, to anoint themselves, to put on sandals, and 
to perform the duty of marriage. 3 

1 DHTP Explained by R. Huna in the Gemara 
to mean the rabbis. But the rabbis taught that 
every young scholar should consider himself a 
rabbi for the purpose of fasting (Taan. 10^), and 
that whoever was considered worthy of appoint- 
ment as manager of a congregation was called 
a yahid (ib.). So TIT came to mean a particularly 
pious individual as opposed to the many (D^tn/ 
cf. Mark x. 45). 

2 On Monday, Thursday and the following 
Monday (Maimonides, Taan. III. i). 

5 Cf. I Cor. vii. 3 (TTJV ofyeiXopevyv ZVVOLCLV : v.l 

5. If the first day of the month Kislev 1 has 
come, and the rains have not come down, the court 2 
orders three fasts 3 for the congregation, on the 
preceding nights of which they may eat and drink. 
On the fast days they are permitted to engage in 
work, to wash, to anoint themselves, to put on sandals, 
and to perform the duty of marriage. 

J The ninth month, Zech. vii. i ; Neh. i. I. 
Assyr. Kishilivu. 

2 JH fP3, the supreme court, the highest ecclesi- 
astical and civil tribunal, delegated some of its 
powers to the " Small Sanhedrim " (piJBp pirUD)/ 
which consisted of twenty-three members and 
a president (N^fllB), It sat every Monday and 
Thursday, these being the market-days (B. K. 


3 On Monday, Thursday and the following 

6. When these days are passed and no answer 
to their prayers has been given, the court orders three 
further fasts for the congregation, on the preceding 
nights of which they may eat and drink. 1 On the 
fast days they are prohibited to engage in work, 
to anoint themselves, to put on sandals, and to 
perform the duty of marriage ; and the bath-houses 
must be closed. If these fast-days also pass without 


any answer being given, the court decrees seven 
further fasts ; so that there are in all thirteen for the 
congregation. These seven are more serious than 
the former ones, for on them the Shofar is sounded, 
and the shops are closed, except that on the second 
day, towards nightfall, they may open the doors 
somewhat, 2 and on the fifth day still more in honour 
of the Sabbath. 

1 As they do on the Day of Atonement. 

2 For the necessities of the poor. Only those 
shops selling food are referred to, others must 
remain closed (Rashi). 

7. When these days are passed, and no answer 
to their prayers has been given, they are to do less 
business, less building l and planting, 2 less betrothing 
and marrying, less mutual enquiries after health ; 
refraining from these things like men excommuni- 
cated in the sight of God. 3 Pious individuals begin 
again to fast till the end of Nisan. If the rains come 
down in Nisan it is the sign of a curse, for it is written, 
Is it not wheat harvest to-day? I will call unto 
Jehovah, that He may send thunder and rain ; and ye 
shall know and see that your wickedness is great, 
which ye have done in the sight of Jehovah, in asking 
you a king. 4 

1 Explained in the Gemara of the building 
of a house especially for a son about to be 
married (Taan. 14^). 


2 " What is meant by a pleasure - garden 
hv nycM) ? It means putting up a regal 
banqueting tent for one's son's wedding " (ib.). 

3 Like men driven out of God's presence. In 
Gen. xxxvii. 10 13 ~\yx\ is rendered by Targ. 
rra BJMI. 

4 i Sam. xii. 17. All the texts for rain in this 
chapter apply to the land of Israel only. Cf. 
"There is no public fast observed in Babylon 
except the ninth of Ab " (Pes. 54^) since they 
have there no need of rain, and so no occasion 
for proclaiming a fast (Rashi). 


i. The ceremonial observed (for the last seven 
fasts) is : They carry forth the ark into the open 
place 1 of the town, and sprinkle fine dust over it, 2 and 
on the head of the Nasi, 3 and on the head of the 
president of the court 4 ; then each one puts some on 
his own head. The oldest of them speaks before 
them admonitions to penitence : My brethren, it is 
not said of the men of Nineveh, And God saw their 
sackcloth and their fast, but, And God saw their 
works, that they turned from their evil way. 6 And 
in the prophets 6 it says, Rend your heart and not 
your garments, and turn to Jehovah your God. 7 


1 Various reasons are given for this. R. Hiyyah 
b. Abba says : In order that they might say, We 
have prayed privately and were unanswered, so 
now we humiliate ourselves publicly. Resh 
Lakish says : In order that they might say, We 
have been banished, may such banishment be an 
expiation. R. Joshua b. Levi says : In order 
that they might say, We had a hidden treasure 
but it has been profaned by reason of our 
iniquities (Taan. 160). 

2 Maimonides says that dust was sprinkled also 
over the roll of the Law (Taan. IV. i), whence it 
would appear that his Mishna differed from ours. 
"See Lund's note in loc. TJ? hv nmm : Cf. ei9 ras 
TrXaretas, Luke x. 10 ; xiii. 26 ; xiv. 21, etc. 

3 The chief of the Great Sanhedrim and of its 
successors in Palestinian places. See Jew. Encycl. 
ix. 171, f., and Schiirer, Jew. People in time of 
Christ i. 180-184 (Eng. trans.). 

4 fT JV3 3N The vice-president of the Great 
Sanhedrim. See articles mentioned in the pre- 
vious note. 

5 Jonah iii. 10. 

6 r6ap3 lit. " in the Kabbalah." According to 
the Rabbis the tradition passed from Moses and 
Joshua to the Prophets : cf. Moed Kat. 1 1 1. 9. The 
word is not used in the Mishna in the later 
Hebrew meaning of " mystic lore." Rashi's gloss 
is : " Every place in which the prophet com- 



mands, preaches and forewarns Israel is called 
Kabbalah." See Taylor, Pirqe Avoth, pp. 120, flf. 
7 Joel ii. 1 3. 

2. When they make ready 1 for prayer, they ap- 
point to officiate 2 an old man who is conversant with 
the prayers, who has sons and an empty house, 8 so 
that his whole attention may be fixed on prayer. He 
recites before the people the twenty-four blessings, 
the eighteen used daily, 4 together with the six addi- 
tional ones. 

lit. "stand." Cf. Matt. vi. 5 ; Mark xi. 25 ; 
Luke xviii. 11, 13 ; Ber. V. i. 

2 mTin ifob DHniD lit. " bring down before 
the ark." The ark stood in a low place, since 
man must pray in humility, after Ps. cxxx. I : 
" Out of the depths have I cried unto Thee." 

3 A poor man. R. Hisda says : One free 
from sin. 

4 Known as the Shemoneh Esrah (m^y rUDP), 
or Amidah (nTDy) from the standing attitude 
appropriate, in Jewish eyes, to prayer (cf. Luke 
xviii. n). In the Mishna and earlier sources 
often designated simply as Prayer (nSfin). For 
history and contents see Jew. EncycL xi. 270-282. 

3. And these additional ones are the Zikronoth 1 
and the ShofAroth 2 ; then, I will lift up mine eyes to 
the hills, etc. 3 ; To God in my distress I called, and 


He answered me 4 ; Out of the depths have I called 
to Thee, O Lord 5 ; A prayer of the afflicted when he 
fainteth. 6 R. Jehudah says : It is not necessary to 
say the Zikr6noth and the Shofardth, but one can say 
instead of them, If there be in the land famine, etc. 7 ; 
then, The word of the Lord that came to Jeremiah 
concerning the drought 8 ; after that the concluding 
formula of the prayers. 9 

1 The second section of the Musaf prayer for 
New Year's day, healing of Divine remembrance, 
beginning " Thou rememberest what was wrought 
from eternity and art mindful of all that hath 
been formed from of old." See Abrahams, Daily 
Prayer Book, pp. cxcvii., fif. 

2 The third section of the same prayer, treating 
of Revelation, in which the Shofar is named 
either literally, or figuratively, when God sounds 
it as a call to Israel. 

3 Ps. cxxi. * Ps. cxx. 6 Ps. cxxx, 
6 Ps. cii. 7 I Kings viii. 37. 

8 Jer. xiv. 

9 Decision is after R. Jehudah (Maimonides). 

4. To the first benediction x he adds : May He 
who answered Abraham in mount Moriah 2 answer 
you, and hearken to the voice of your cry this day. 
Blessed art Thou, O Lord, Redeemer of Israel ! To 
the second he adds : May He who answered our 
fathers at the Red Sea 3 answer you, and hearken to 

C 2 


the voice of your cry this day. Blessed art Thou, O 
Lord, who rememberest the things that are forgotten ! 
To the third he adds : May He who answered Joshua 
in Gilgal 4 answer you, and hearken to the voice of 
your cry this day. Blessed art Thou, O Lord, who 
hearkenest to the t'ru'Ah ! 5 To the fourth he adds : 
May He who answered Samuel in Mizpah 6 answer 
you, and hearken to the voice of your cry this day. 
Blessed art Thou, O Lord, that nearest (our) cry ! 
To the fifth he adds : May He who answered Elijah 
in mount Carmel 7 answer you, and hearken to the 
voice of your cry this day. Blessed be Thou, O Lord, 
hearer of prayer ! To the sixth he adds : May He 
who answered Jonah in the fish's belly 8 answer you, 
and hearken to the voice of your cry this day. Blessed 
art Thou, O Lord, who answerest in the time of dis- 
tress ! To the seventh 9 he adds : May He who 
answered David and Solomon, his son, in Jerusalem 
answer you, and hearken .to the voice of your cry this 
day. Blessed be Thou, O Lord, who hast compassion 
on the earth ! 

1 The first in the Amidah in which the inter- 
polations are introduced. It is the seventh, 
beginning " Look upon our affliction " (ir'Oya ilKI), 
See Abrahams, op. cit., pp. Ixii., f. 

2 Gen. xxii. 12, ff. 3 Cf. Exod. iii. 16. 4 Josh. v. 9. 

5 The blowing of a rapid succession of three 
notes on the Shofar. See my note on Succah 
IV. 9. 


6 I Sam. vii. 9. 7 1 Kings xviii. 37, ff. 

8 Jonah ii. 2. 

9 " Although but six additional blessings are to 
be said on these fast-days, yet this is called the 
seventh, in respect of its being the seventh bless- 
ing in which additional matter is introduced ; for 
the first blessing ending ' Redeemer of Israel,' is 
one of the eighteen blessings of the daily Amida " 
(De Sola). See note i above. The Gemara 
explains the reason for Jonah being mentioned 
before Solomon and David, because the benedic- 
tion to the seventh must conclude with " Blessed 
be Thou, O Lord, who had compassion on the 
earth " (Taan. 170), for David and Solomon 
prayed for the land of Israel (2 Sam. xxi. I ; 
i Kings iii. 37). Symmachos b. Joseph said that 
the benediction ended " Blessed be He who 
humbles the proud," referring to Solomon's 
building of the Temple (i Kings viii. 13), and to 
David's numbering of the people (cf. Ps. cii. 13). 

5. There is a story that in the days of R. Halafta 1 
and R. Hanania b. Teradion 2 that a minister officiated 3 
and finished the whole of the blessing without the 
people answering after him Amen. 4 He called out, 
Sound the trumpets, O priests. They sounded them. 
He continued, May He who answered Abraham, our 
father, in mount Moriah answer you, and hearken to 
the voice of your cry this day. Then he said, Sound 


the tru'ah, ye sons of Aaron. They did so, and he 
continued, May He who answered our fathers at the 
Red Sea answer you, and hearken to the voice of 
your cry this day. And when this came to the 
knowledge of the sages they said, It was not our 
custom to do so, except at the eastern gate and on 
the Temple mount. 6 

1 A tanna of the second generation and the 
father of R. Jose. He was, according to Jer. 
Taan. IV. 2, a descendant of Jonadab b. Rechab, 
and was head of a school in Sepphoris, living 
there to an advanced age (Tos. Kelim). 

2 A tanna of the second generation, head of a 
school in Siknin (San. 32^). A famous saying 
of his is : " Two that sit together and are occupied 
in the words of the Torah have the Shekinah 
amongst them " (Aboth III. 3). He was martyred 
in the Hadrianic persecution. 

3 rDYin vsh 13J? the regular expression for 
officiating at the prayers, since the leader stepped 
in front of the ark wherein lay the scrolls of the 
Law. R. H. IV. 7 ; Meg. IV. 3, at. 

4 Cf. Deut. xxvii. 15, ff; Neh. viii. 6 ; I Chron. 
xvi. 36 ; Tobit viii. 8 ; i Cor. xiv. 16. What 
they said was : " Blessed be the name of his 
glorious Kingdom for ever and ever," the response 
made in the Temple (Tos. I. 13), where alone the 
sacred name was pronounced. 

5 Decision after the sages (Maimonides). 


6. On the three first fasts the divisions of priests 
on duty 1 fast, but not the whole day ; whilst the 
division in charge of the services 2 do not fast at all. 
On the second three fasts the division of priests on 
duty fast completely ; whilst the division in charge of 
the services fast, but not the whole day. On the last 
seven fasts both classes fast completely. Such is the 
opinion of R. Joshua 3 : but the sages say that on the 
first three fasts neither class fasts at all : on the 
second three the division of priests on duty fast, but 
not the whole day ; whilst the division in charge of 
the services do not fast at all : on the last seven the 
division of priests on duty fast completely, but the 
division in charge of the services fast, but not the 
whole day. 4 

The priests were divided into 
twenty-four divisions (JTftDtPQ) each of which took 
a week's duty in the Temple. Cf. Luke i. $ 
(t e<f>rjfjLpLa<s 'AySta) : and note on Sukkah 
V. 6. 

2 3N JV2 ^JK Each division was subdivided 
into seven, a subdivision being called a 3K JT3 
and officiating one day in the week after a regular 
order. See Schiirer, op. cit, i. 216, fif. 

3 See note 3 on I. i. 

4 Decision after the sages (Maimonides). 

7. The division of priests on duty are permitted 
to drink wine at night, but not in the day ; the division 


in charge of the services neither by night nor by 
day. 1 The division of priests on duty and the 
standing men 2 are forbidden to shave, and to wash 
their linen ; but on the fifth day they are allowed 
to do so on account of the respect due to the 

1 See Tos. II. 2, 3. The regulations are general, 
and do not relate only to the fasts. 

2 "icyo IB>:N were the staff attached to the 

in Jerusalem. See below IV. 2. 

8. Wherever it is written in the Roll of Fasts 1 
that no mourning is to be made on a certain day, it 
is also prohibited on the day before, but allowed the 
day after. R. Jose 2 says, Both before and after it is 
prohibited. And where it is said that no fasts are to 
be kept on a certain day, it is allowed to fast on 
the day before and the day after. R. Jose says, 
It is forbidden on the day before, but allowed 
the day after. 

1 rpjyn n^JD was a book containing* a list of 
memorial days of joyous events on which fasting 
was forbidden. The book, as we have it, 
is composed partly in Aramaic, partly in 
Hebrew ; and it is divided into twelve chapters, 
each chapter dealing with the days of a single 

2 b. Halafta (II. 5). One of R. Akiba's five 
famous pupils. See Hyman, op. cit, ii. 705-713 : 


and the reff. in Biichler's " Political and Social 
Leaders of the Jewish Community of Sepphoris 
in the Second and Third Centuries." 

9. A public fast is not decreed to commence on 
the fifth day of the week, in order not to cause a rise 
of prices on the market ; but the three first fasts are 
on the second, the fifth, and the following second 
day ; and the second three fasts on the fifth, the 
second, and the following fifth day. 1 R. Jose says : 
As the first fasts do not begin on the fifth day, so the 
second and the last fasts do not. 2 

1 Cf. Didache viii. : At Se z^oTetat v 
<rT(ocrav /zero, TMV viroKpirtov 

yap Sevrepo, craft f3dT(ov /cat irefJUTTy u/xet? 8e 
vrjo-revcrare rer/oaSa /cat Trapaa-Kevijv. 

2 Decision not after R. Jose (Maimonides). 

10. A public fast is not decreed on the feast of 
New Moon, nor on the feast of the Dedication, 
nor on Purim : but if they have begun one on these 
occasions they do not break it off, according to the 
opinion of Rabban Gamaliel. R. Meir says that 
although Rabban Gamaliel says that they do not 
break it off, yet he acknowledges that they do not 
fast the whole day ; and so with the ninth of Ab, 
when it happens to fall on a Friday. 1 

1 Decision not after R. Meir (Maimonides). 



1. The order of these fasts already mentioned l 
has reference only to the failure of the first rainfall : 2 
but should the sprouts degenerate, then they im- 
mediately sound an alarm for them. And if there 
be an interval of forty days between the rains they 
sound an alarm for them, 3 because it is a calamity 
which will produce dearth. 

1 Mishna I. 5-7. 

2 njW lit. "fructification." "Why is rain 
called nyoi ? Because it fructifies (y3"i) the 
ground " (Taan. 6). 

3 In the Munich MSS. there is added " im- 
mediately " (TD). 

2. If the rains come down sufficiently for plants 
but not for trees ; or for trees but not for plants ; or 
copiously enough for both, but not sufficiently to fill 
pits, ditches and caves, they immediately sound an 
alarm for them. 

3. And so of any city on which the rains have not 
fallen, as it is written, And I caused it to rain upon 
one city, and caused it not to rain upon another city ; 
one piece was rained upon, and the piece whereupon 
it rained not withered, 1 that city must fast and 
sound the alarm ; and all the places round about 
must fast but not sound the alarm. R. Akiba 2 says : 
They must sound the alarm but not fast. 


1 Amos iv. 7. 

2 b. Joseph. Flourished c. 110-135 A.D. He 
favoured the cause of Barcochba and was put 
to death. As to his methods of exegesis Bacher 
says : " He had the art of deducing halachoth 
from every jot of the Law." Our present Mishna 
is founded on his codification of the Halachah. 
His famous sayings are given in Aboth III. 19-25. 
It is said of him in Jer. Sota IX. 10 : " There 
arose no famous scholar ( i rOPN-=U ^ntP PW 
before R. Akiba, and the springs of wisdom 
ceased with him." See Jew. Encycl. i. 304-310: 
Hyman, op. cit., iii. 988-1008. 

4. And so in a city wherein is pestilence, or 
a ruined building, 1 that city must fast and sound the 
alarm ; and all the places round about must fast but 
not sound the alarm. R. Akiba says : They must 
sound the alarm but not fast. What is a pestilence ? 
When in a city, capable of bringing forth five 
hundred able-bodied men, 2 three people die in three 
consecutive days, this is a pestilence ; but less than 
this is not a pestilence. 3 

Cf. Ber. 3, "One must not enter 
a ruined building for prayer because it may 
fall in." 

2 ^n lit. " footman." " Women, children and 
old men past work are excluded " (Maimonides, 
Hil. Taan. II. 5). 


3 The following illustration is given in the 
Gemara : " A town like Ptolemais, which can 
furnish fifteen hundred men and three deaths 
occur on each of three consecutive days, is said 
to be afflicted with pestilence ; but if all the 
deaths occurred on a single day or in four days, 
it is not said to be afflicted with pestilence." 

5. For these things they sound the alarm in every 
place, for blasting and mildew, for locusts and 
caterpillars, for evil wild beasts, 1 and for armies 
passing through the country ; 2 for these they sound 
the alarm since they are calamities which spread 

1 If they appear in the daytime in a town. 
See the following Mishna. 

2 Even if they be friendly armies. See Tos. 
II. 10, and Maimonides Hil. Taan. II. 4 ("Armies 
passing through the land of Israel, even if there 
be no war between them and Israel, are a cause 
of distress "). Rashi, however, thinks the refer- 
ence to be to hostile armies only. 

6. There is a story that some elders l went down 
from Jerusalem to their own cities, and decreed a 
fast, because there had been seen in Ascalon a blast- 
ing of such size as would cover an oven's mouth. 2 
And they also decreed a fast because wolves had 
devoured two childre'n beyond Jordan. R. Jose says : 

It was not because they had devoured them, but 
because they were seen (in the towns). 

1 Qijpj = npecrfivTepoi, (cf. Mk. xi. 27) denotes 
generally the members of the Sanhedrim ; but 
is also used of those members who were neither 

2 TUn 'S xSoD. The simplest explanation 
seems to be : a place on the ground whose 
dimensions were only the size of an oven's mouth 
(Maimonides). See Lund, however. 

7. For these things do they sound the alarm even 
on Sabbath, for a city encompassed by enemies or 
by a flood ; for a ship in danger by being tossed 
about on the sea. R. Jose says : It is sounded to 
obtain help from men, not for prayer to God. Simeon 
the Temanite l says : Even for a pestilence (shall 
they sound the alarm on Sabbath). But the sages 
did not agree with him in this opinion. 2 

1 A tanna of the second generation, so called 
because he came from Teman, a district in the 
north of Edom (cf. Ezek. xxv. 13). See Frankel, 
N13D p. n"'p. 

2 The opinions of R. Jose and of Simeon are 
not to be followed. They only fast for a pesti- 
lence, not sound an alarm ; and one can cry to 
God and fast without sounding an alarm for the 
dangers mentioned (Maimonides). 


8. For every plague (may it not befall the con- 
gregation ! ) they sound the alarm, except for a 
superabundance of rain. 1 There is a story that they 
said to Honi, 2 the circle drawer, Pray that the rains 
may come down. He said to them, Go out and 
collect the Passover ovens, 3 that they may not be 
softened. He prayed, but the rains did not come 
down. What did he do? He drew a circle, 4 and 
stood in the middle of it, and prayed : O Lord of the 
universe, thy children have looked to me, since I am 
accounted by them a favourite of thine ; I swear by 
thy great Name that I will not move hence till Thou 
have pity on thy children. The rains began to 
trickle. He said, This was not what I asked Thee 
for, but for enough to fill wells, cisterns, and caves. 
They then fell with vehemence. He said, This was 
not what I asked Thee for, but for favourable rains, 
bringing blessing and good gifts. They then came 
down in their usual manner, until the Israelites had 
to go up from Jerusalem to the Temple-mount 
because of the rains. They came and said to him, 
As thou didst pray for the rains to come down, so 
pray that they may cease. He said to them, Go and 
see if the Stone of Losers 5 is covered up by the 
waters. Simeon b. Shatah 6 sent to him and said, If 
thou wert not Honi I would decree excommunication 
against thee ; but what can I do to thee ? for thou 
comest petulantly before God, 7 like a child who lords 
it over his father, and yet he does after the child's 
will. To thee may be applied the text, Thy father 


and mother shall rejoice, and she who bare thee shall 

exult. 8 

1 R. Johanan says the reason is because it is 
not allowed to pray for the cessation of too much 
good. The Mishna applies to Israel only where 
as Maimonides says (Hil. Taan. II. 15) the land 
is mountainous and the houses built of stone, and 
so there can hardly be too much rain. In Baby- 
lon, on the other hand, the alarm is sounded for 
excess (Taan. 22$). 

2 ^in = 'CWag. A miracle-worker of the first 
century B.C. It is related of him that whenever 
he entered the Temple court it used to shine, and 
that he slept for seventy years in a cave (Jer. 
Taan., trans. Greenup, p. 91). The story of his 
death is narrated in Josephus, Antiq. xiv. 2, I 
(Whiston's trans., p. 299). 

3 The ovens used to roast the paschal lamb, 
which were generally made of clay and kept 
outside the house when not in use. 

*A common practice with magicians. Some 
commentators explain the phrase miy Jj; to mean 
that he dug out a circular trench and placed 
himself in it that it might appear as if he were 
sitting in prison. 

5 D^jflBn px A very high stone in Jerusalem 
on which were deposited lost articles. The finder 
caused proclamation to be made in the city 
TINVD n^YD, so that the loser might claim the 


6 Lived in the time of King Jannaeus and Queen 
Alexandra. He was one of the most formidable 
opponents of magic, and at one time executed 
eighty women who were guilty of its practice 
(San. 44#). He was instrumental in establishing 
popular schools throughout Judaea, and in restrict- 
ing the number of divorces (Yer. Kat. 32^). 

7 D1pDn "The Omnipresence," an epithet de- 
scriptive of God, who is Absolute Space (Gen. 
R. Ixviii.). Cf. Philo, De Somnns, ed. Mangey, i., 
p. 630. 

8 Prov. xxiii. 25. 

9. Should the rains come down before sunrise 
whilst they are fasting, they shall not complete the 
fast ; but if after sunrise, they shall complete it. 
R. Eliezer says : If the rains come down before noon 
they shall not complete the fast ; but if after they 
shall complete it. 1 There is a story that a fast was 
decreed at Lydda, and the rains came down before 
noon. R. Tarphon z said to the people. Go out, eat 
and drink, and make a feast day. So they went out, 
ate and drank, and made a feast day ; and in the 
afternoon they returned and recited the great Hallel. 3 

1 Decision is after R. Eliezer (Maimonides). 

2 A contemporary of R. Akiba, and possibly 
to be identified with the Try pho of Justin Martyr. 
He states that he officiated in the Temple (Jer. 
Yoma III. 7), and told Justin that he had fled 

from Palestine on account of the war (Dial. c. 
Trypho, c. i.). A famous saying of his, remind- 
ing us of the Parable of the Vineyard (Matt xx. 
i, ff.), is : "The day is short, the task great, the 
labourers idle, the reward great, and the Master 
of the house urgent " (Aboth II. 19). He is said 
to have favoured the views of the House of 
Shammai ; and, on account of his learning, was 
called " the teacher of Israel." See Hyman, op. 
cit, ii. pp. 524, ff. 

3 Ps. cxxxvi. So called to distinguish it from 
the Hallel, Pss. cxiii.-cxviii. ; but Pss. cxx.-cxxxvi. 
and Pss. cxxxv. 4 - cxxxvi. also were called 
"Great Hallel." In the Gemara 2$b the 
question is asked why they should not have 
recited before and not after their return, and 
the answer given is : " Hallel is not recited 
save with a satisfied soul and a full stomach " 
.(nxSo Dim nya BSJ hy N^N ^n oncix ]>) 
See Box's article in Hastings' Diet. Christ and 
Gospels^ s.v. Hallel. 


I. Three times a year do the priests lift up their 
hands (in the priestly blessing), 1 four times on one 
day at the morning prayers, at the additional prayers, 
at the afternoon prayers, and at the closing prayers. 2 
And these three times are, on the fast days, on 


the fast of the standing-men, 3 and on the Day of 

1 Num. vi. 24-26. 

2 onyp n^yj lit. " the closing of the gates " 
hence the prayer called N'ilah. The reference is 
to the closing of the Temple gates, though Rab 
says it means the closing of the gates of heaven, 
i.e. when darkness comes. See the discussion in 
Jer. Ber. IV. 7. 

3 See below, IV. 2, 3. 

2. This is the origin of the ma'amadoth. 1 It is 
written, Command the children of Israel and say 
unto them, My offering, my bread. 2 But how can a 
man's offering be presented if he stand not by it? 
So the former prophets 3 instituted twenty-four guards 
(mishmaroth) ; and corresponding to each guard was 
a post (ma'amad) of priests, Levites, and Israelites 
stationed in Jerusalem. When the time came that a 
guard should go up to Jerusalem, the priests and 
Levites belonging to it went up, whilst the Israelites 
who belonged to that guard 4 assembled themselves in 
their cities to read the story of creation. 5 

1 nnoj;o "stations," or "posts." The people, 
like the priests and the Levites, were divided 
into twenty-four courses (nnDIPD), representatives 
of which took their turn every day for a week to 
stand by whilst the daily sacrifice was being 
offered. See Tos. IV. 2. In Tamid V. 6 it is as- 


sumed that the " head of the station " noyon t?tn> 
was always present in Jerusalem. 

2 Num. xxviii. 2. 

3 David and Samuel. 

* And who were not able to go up to Jerusalem. 

5 To remind them that the world was estab- 
lished for the sake of worship. 

3. [The standing-men were fasting four days in 
the week, from the second to the fifth day ; but they 
did not fast on the eve of Sabbath on account of the 
honour due to the Sabbath, nor on the Sabbath itself, 
so that they should not pass from rest and enjoy- 
ment to labour and fasting, and so run the danger of 
death.] 1 On the first day they read the sections of 
Scripture n^Ki3 and jppn 'iT ; on the second jppn W 
and D^cn llp^i ; on the third D^DH llp^ and nniHD Tn ', 
on the fourth nniKD TP and D^an ivi^l ; on the fifth 
onsn imisp and pn Niwii ; on the sixth pxn NYin 
and D^QPn iS^I. 2 A long section was read by two 
persons, a short one by one, in the morning and 
additional prayers ; but at the afternoon prayers they 
assemble and recite the passages by heart 3 as they do 
the Shema. 4 On Friday they do not assemble at the 
afternoon prayers on account of the honour due to 
the Sabbath. 

1 The passage in brackets is omitted in many 
MSS., including the Cambridge MS. add. 470, I 


(ed. Lowe) and both Munich MSS., and in some 
of the printed editions. It is not in the Jerusalem 

2 These passages are in Gen. i. I ii. 4. 

3 The reciting by heart is here mentioned as 
an exception, the rule being that the Torah must 
be read from its scroll (cf. Meg. II. I, in respect 
to the book of Esther). 

4 The Shema consists of Deut. vi. 4-9, xi. 13-21, 
Num. xv. 37-41, and obtains its name from the 
opening words h^W yetp, cf. Mark xii. 29. It 
is not a prayer, properly so speaking, but a 
confession of belief, and so the reciting of it 
(yep nNnp) is spoken of, a custom attributed by 
Josephus (Antiq. iv. 8, 13 : Whiston, p. 96) to 
the command of Moses. See Vitringa, De 
Synagoga, pp. 1052-1061. 

4. Every day on which the Hallel 1 is sung there 
is no attendance at morning prayer by the standing- 
men. When there was an additional offering they 
were not in attendance at the closing prayers. When 
there was a wood offering 2 they were not in attendance 
at afternoon prayers. These are the words of R. 
Akiba ; but Ben Azzai 3 said to him, Thus was R. 
Joshua teaching : When there was an additional offer- 
ing they were not in attendance at afternoon prayers ; 
when a wood offering, not at the closing prayers. 
R. Akiba changed his view, and taught like Ben Azzai. 


1 Pss. 113-118. See note on III. 9. The 
Hallel was sung on Passover night, on Pentecost, 
on the Feast of Tabernacles, and on the eight 
days of Hanukah (Tos. Succ. III. 2). 

2 See below IV. 5. 

3 A tanna of the second generation, his full 
name being Simeon b. Azzai. According to 
Hag. 14^ he was one of four men who "went up 
into Paradise," i.e. indulged in speculative philo- 
sophy, with disastrous results in the case of all 
but Akiba, who "went into Paradise in peace 
and came down in peace." See Jew. EncycL ii. 
672, f. ; Taylor, op. cit, p. 79 n. 5. 

5. Nine days are appointed for the priests and 
the people to bring wood for the altar. On the first of 
Nisan the family of Arah b. Jehudah 1 bring it ; on the 
twentieth of Tamrnuz the family of David b. Jehudah 2 ; 
on the fifth of Ab the family of Perosh b. Jehudah 3 ; 
on the seventh the family of Jonadab b. Rechab 4 ; on 
the tenth the family of Sinah b. Benjamin 5 ; on the 
fifteenth the family of Zatu b. Jehudah, 6 and with 
them the priests and Levites who had forgotten from 
which tribe they were descended, and also the family 
of Gonebe Eli 7 and that of Kotsi Ketsioth 8 ; on the 
twentieth the family of Pahath Moab b. Jehudah 9 ; on 
the twentieth of Elul the family of Adin b. Jehudah ; 
on the first of Tebeth the family of Perosh for the 
second time. On the first of Tebeth there was no 


attendance of the standing-men, for then the Hallel 
was sung and there was an additional offering and a 
wood offering. 

1 Cf. Ezra ii. 5 ; Neh. vii. 10. 2 Cf. Ezra viii. 2. 

8 Cf. Ezra ii. 3, viii. 3, x. 25 ; Neh. iii. 25, 
vii. 8, x. 15. 

4 Cf. 2 Kings x. 15, 23 ; Jer. xxxv. 8 ; I Chron. 
ii. 55- 

5 Cf. Ezra ii. 35 ; Neh. iii. 3, vii. 38. 

Cf. Ezra ii. 8, x. 27 ; Neh. vii. 13, x. 15. 
78 See Tos. IV. 7 where these names are 
explained (as in Taan. 280 ; Jer. Taan. IV. 4). 

9 Cf. Ezra ii. 6, viii. 4, x. 30 ; Neh. iii. 1 1, vii. 1 1, 
x. 15. 

10 Cf. Ezra ii. 15, viii. 6; Neh. vii. 20, x. 17. 
It may be noted that the wood of the olive and 
that of the vine were not allowed to be brought 
(Tamid II. 3). In the Book of Jubilees xxi. 12 
it is forbidden to bring any other but these 
woods: cypress, bay, almond, fir, pine, cedar, 
savin, fig, olive, myrrh, laurel, aspalathus. 

6. Five calamities befell our fathers on the seven- 
teenth of Tammuz, and five on the ninth of Ab. On 
the former the tables of the Law were broken, 1 the 
daily offerings ceased,* and the City was broken into, 
Apostomos 8 burnt the Torah and set up an image in 
the Temple. On the latter it was decreed that our 


fathers should not enter Palestine, 4 the first and second 
Temples were destroyed, Bethar 6 was captured, and 
the City was ploughed over. 6 From the time when 
Ab begins rejoicing must be lessened. 

1 This is deduced from Exod. xxiv. 16, where 
by the seventh day is to be understood the 
seventh of Sivan, when the ten commandments 
were given. As Moses was on the mount for 
forty days (ib. xxiv. 18), he would descend on the 
seventeenth of Tammuz, when he broke the 
tables (Taan. 28^). 

z Josephus, Bell. Jud. VI. 2, 1 ( Whiston, p. 598). 
Cf. Dan. viii. 11-13 x ' 3 1 x "- !I > w ^ tn Driver's 
notes ad loc. 

8 His identity is unknown. Kohler suggests 
that D1DBD12N may be a corruption of DUEBDN, a 
Hebraized form of Stephanos, the name, given 
by Josephus, of the soldier who burned the scroll 
of the Law. Jastrow thinks it may be a popular 
corruption of aTroerroXo?, cf. 2 Mace. vi. I (Lex. 
p. 101). Ginzberg identifies him with Antiochus 
Epiphanes, "of whom, moreover, it is known 
also, from other sources, that he set up an idol 
in the Temple." 

4 Num. xiv. i, ft. 

6 A large city in Benjamin, near Jerusalem 
(Eusebius, Hist. IV. 6). 

6 Cf. Jer. xxvi. 18 ; Micah iii. 12. 


7. During the week in which the ninth of Ab falls 
it is forbidden to shave and to wash one's clothes ; but 
on the fifth day these are allowed on account of the 
honour due to the Sabbath. On the day preceding 
the ninth of Ab no one may eat two dishes, nor eat 
flesh, nor drink wine. Rabban Simeon b. Gamaliel l 
says that it is enough to alter somewhat one's ordinary 
way of living. R. Jehudah 2 says that it is obligatory 
to place the mattresses on the floor 3 ; but the sages 
do not agree with him. 4 

1 Grandson of Rabban Gamaliel I. (Acts v. 34). 
Simeon was a tanna of the third generation and 
father of Jehudah ha-Nasi. He escaped from 
Bethar in Bar-Cochba's revolt, and after the 
death of Hadrian became head of the academy 
at Jamnia. He was noted for his wide learning 
in science and philosophy. A famous saying 
of his is : " On three things the world stands, 
Judgment, Truth, and Peace " (Aboth 1. 19). See 
Hyman, op. cit., iii., pp. 1163-1171. 

2 b. Ilai'. A tanna of the third generation, and 
a pupil of R. Akiba. In the Mishna he is called 
simply R. Jehudah, and must not be confused 
with R. Jehudah ha-Nasi who is there called 
Rabbi. His eloquence gained for him the title 
of " Chief of the Speakers " (Dnnon m). 
Contrary to the edict of Hadrian he was ordained, 
and had to flee the country, returning after three 
years to Usha, where he attained a prominent 
position. As an expounder of the Law his 


opinions carried great weight. Most of the Sifra 
is attributed to him. He was a man of piety and 
lived an ascetic life,supporting himself by following 
a trade. Amongst his famous sayings are : " He 
who does not teach his son a trade, teaches him, 
as it were, robbery " (Kid.] ; " Labour is an 
honour to every man " (Ned. 49^). See Hyman, 
op. cit., ii., pp. 534-542. 

3 As a sign of mourning, and so sleep on the 
ground (Moed. Kat. 15^). See, however, Jew. 
Encycl. ix. 102. 

4 Neither the opinion of Rabban Simeon nor 
that R. Jehudah is to be followed (Maimonides). 

8. Rabban Simeon b. Gamaliel said : Israel had 
no more joyous festivals than the fifteenth of Ab 1 and 
the Day of Atonement z ; for on them the daughters 
of Jerusalem used to go forth in white garments 
which were borrowed so as not to put to shame those 
who had none. All the garments were required to 
be purified ; and the daughters of Jerusalem went 
forth and danced in the vineyards. And what were 
they saying? Young man, lift up thine eyes, and 
consider well whom thou wilt choose for thyself; 
look not on beauty only, but on the family, for it is 

Grace is deceitful, and beauty is vain ; 

A woman that feareth Jehovah, she shall be praised ; 3 

and it is also said, 

Give her of the fruit of her hands : 

And let her works praise her in the gates. 4 


And so it says, 

Go forth, O ye daughters of Zion, and behold King Solomon, 
With the crown wherewith his mother hath crowned him 
In the day of his espousals, 
And in the day of the gladness of his heart. 5 

" In the day of his espousals," an allusion to the 
promulgation of the Torah : " And in the day of the 
gladness of his heart," when the Temple was built. 
May it speedily be rebuilt in our days, Amen ! 

1 The reasons given being that on that day the 
tribes were allowed to intermarry (Num. xxxvi. 6) ; 
members of the tribe of Benjamin were allowed 
to intermarry with the other tribes (Judges xxi. 
15); the last of those destined to die in the 
desert died, and so God again spoke to Moses 
(Deut. ii. 1 6, 17) ; the guards appointed by 
Jeroboam were abolished by Hoshea b. Elah ; 
permission was given to bury the dead after the 
battle of Bethar ; wood for the altar ceased to be 
cut on that day (Taan. 30$). The true explana- 
tion is to be sought in the fact that on this day 
all the people took part in the wood offering 
(Meg. Taan. V.). 

2 Because it is a day of forgiveness (cf. Pesikta 
xxiv. ; Jer. Rosh Hash. 57^), and on that day 
the second tables of the Law were said to have 
been given to Moses, and on it the first Temple 
was dedicated. 

3 Prov. xxxi. 30. 4 ib. xxxi. 31. 6 Cant. iii. II. 


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