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Tuesday, 13 Tammuz 5775 / June 30, 2015
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Rambam - 1 Chapter a Day

Rambam - 1 Chapter a Day

Ta'aniyot - Chapter One

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Ta'aniyot - Chapter One

Halacha 1

It is a positive Torah commandment to cry out and to sound trumpets in the event of any difficulty that arises which affects the community, as [Numbers 10:9] states: "[When you go out to war... against] an enemy who attacks you and you sound the trumpets...."

[This commandment is not restricted to such a limited scope; rather] the intent is: Whenever you are distressed by difficulties - e.g., famine, plague, locusts, or the like - cry out [to God] because of them and sound the trumpets.

Commentary Halacha 1

It is a positive Torah commandment - See Sefer HaMitzvot (Positive Commandment 59), which mentions this in the reckoning of the 613 mitzvot of the Torah.

Significantly, however, the Rambam's appreciation of this mitzvah differs in the Mishneh Torah from that in Sefer HaMitzvot. To explain: Following the verse quoted here by the Rambam as a proof-text, the Torah continues [Numbers 10:10]: "On the days of your rejoicing, on your festivals, and on your new moon [celebrations], you shall sound the trumpets for your burnt offerings and for your peace offerings."

In Sefer HaMitzvot, the Rambam writes:

We are commanded to sound the trumpets in the Temple when offering sacrifices that are offered only at appointed times.... [Also,] we are commanded to sound the trumpets at a time of distress and difficulty when we pray to Him.

In Sefer HaMitzvot (and similarly in Sefer HaChinuch, Mitzvah 384), the emphasis of the mitzvah is clearly on the sounding of the trumpets during the sacrifices. In the Mishneh Torah, when listing the 613 mitzvot at the beginning of the text, the Rambam mentions the sounding of the trumpets both for the sacrifices and in times of distress. Nevertheless, further on in the beginning of the text, when delineating the mitzvot according to subjects, he places the emphasis on crying out to God at a time of distress (seemingly, including crying out verbally and crying out with the trumpets in the same mitzvah). Significantly, in Hilchot Klei HaMikdash, Chapter 3, where the Rambam mentions the practice of sounding the trumpets in connection with the offering of the sacrifices, he does not mention it as a component of this or any other specific mitzvah.

(Note also the commentary of the Maggid Mishneh, which questions why these two different rites were included as a single mitzvah at the outset. Even in the Torah, they are included in two separate verses.)

to cry out - in prayer. Our Sages (Sifre, VaEtchanan) explain that זעקה is one of the ten verbs used for prayer.

and to sound - The verb להריע refers to the sounding of a series of staccato notes referred to as teru'ah. See Hilchot Shofar 3:2-4. Significantly, although in practice, both types of notes were sounded, with regard to the sounding of the trumpets at the offerings, the Torah uses the verb ותקעתם, which refers to sounding a teki'ah, a single long note.

trumpets - In the Temple, these were made of silver (Hilchot Klei HaMikdash 3:5). Josephus describes them as being approximately a cubit long, slightly thicker than an ordinary flute, and having a bell-like end. It is questionable whether it was necessary for them to be silver outside the Temple as well.

See also the Ramban (Drashot l'Rosh HaShanah), who mentions an opinion that the shofar, and not a trumpet, should be sounded in time of communal distress. The Maggid Mishneh also notes this opinion and states that either instrument, a shofar or a trumpet, is acceptable, but that - outside of the Temple premises - only one of the two should be used in time of distress. Some support for this position can be drawn from Halachah 6.

in the event of any difficulty that arises which affects the community, as [Numbers 10:9] states: "[When you go out to war...] against an enemy who attacks you and you sound the trumpets...." - As obvious from Halachah 4, this practice was observed throughout Eretz Yisrael, and not only in the Temple. Nor is its observance dependent on the existence of the Temple, nor does the Rambam specify that it must be fulfilled only in Eretz Yisrael. (In this regard, there are differing opinions; see Mishnah Berurah 576:1) Accordingly, the Magen Avraham 576:1 questions: Why is the rite of sounding the trumpets (or shofarot) not observed at present?

The resolution of this question lies in the Rambam's words, "any difficulty that arises which affects the community." This rite should not be observed when an individual, or even a group of individuals, are in distress, but only when a "community" is affected.

Pesachim 54b explains that communal fasts are possible only within Eretz Yisrael. There is no concept of taking such a unified communal act of this nature in the diaspora. Therefore, this mitzvah was not relevant in all the generations of our people's existence in the diaspora. (See also the Drashot l'Rosh HaShanah of the Ramban.)

A question arises, however, with regard to the situation at present, with the renewal of the Jewish settlement in Eretz Yisrael. As explained in the commentary on Chapter 3, Halachah 11, there are opinions (see the gloss of the Birkei Yosef to the Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 575) that maintain that at present, the concept of community also applies in Eretz Yisrael.

According to this view, without entering into the discussion regarding the halachic status of the present government, it would appear that it would be proper for this mitzvah to be observed, since its observance is not dependent on the Temple.

[This commandment is not restricted to such a limited scope - i.e., it does not apply to war alone, as might be understood from the verse.

rather] the intent is: Whenever you are distressed by difficulties - e.g., famine, plague - Note Ta'anit 22b, which states that the trumpets should not be sounded in the case of a plague even during the week. Since a plague is a very severe matter, were the trumpets to be sounded during the week, they might also be sounded when a plague took place on the Sabbath, and thus a prohibition would be violated. The Rambam discusses this question in his Commentary on the Mishnah (Ta'anit 3:3). Similarly, in Chapter 2, Halachah 1, the Rambam rules that the trumpets are sounded when a plague occurs.

locusts, or the like - i.e., circumstances that cause distress to the community as a whole.

cry out [to God] because of them and sound the trumpets. - See Hilchot Teshuvah 2:6, where the Rambam gives the assurance that if the Jews cry out to God as a community, He will surely heed their prayers.

Halacha 2

This practice is one of the paths of repentance, for when a difficulty arises, and the people cry out [to God] and sound the trumpets, everyone will realize that [the difficulty] occurred because of their evil conduct, as [Jeremiah 5:25] states: "Your sins have turned away [the rains and the harvest climate]." This [realization] will cause the removal of this difficulty.

Commentary Halacha 2

This practice is one of the paths of repentance - Note the conclusion of Hilchot Temurah, where the Rambam writes that although all the mitzvot of the Torah are Divine decrees and thus unfathomable in nature, we should meditate upon them and, to the fullest extent of our potential, try to explain them. Similarly, with regard to the mitzvah under discussion, without claiming to be able to fathom it in its entirety, the Rambam gives a rational explanation for the practice.

for when a difficulty arises, and the people cry out [to God] and sound the trumpets, everyone will realize - The very sound of the trumpets will have a startling effect, arousing the people to inspect their conduct. Similarly, in Hilchot Teshuvah 3:4, the Rambam writes:

Although the sounding of the shofar on Rosh HaShanah is a mitzvah, it also contains an allusion. [It is as if the shofar is saying,] "Wake up you sleepy ones.... You who forget the truth in the vanities of time... look to your souls and improve your conduct."

that [the difficulty] occurred because of their evil conduct, as [Jeremiah 5:25] states: "Your sins have turned away [the rains and the harvest climate]." - See Hilchot Teshuvah 9:1, where the Rambam explains that God has instituted a cycle of causation into the world in which performing a mitzvah brings an individual - or a community - blessing and prosperity, which enable them to perform more mitzvot. Conversely, the failure to observe mitzvot brings about misfortune, which, in turn, makes it even harder to observe mitzvot.

This [realization] will cause the removal of this difficulty. - For when the Jews turn to God in repentance, He will remove their hardships.

Halacha 3

Conversely, should the people fail to cry out [to God] and sound the trumpets, and instead say, "What has happened to us is merely a natural phenomenon and this difficulty is merely a chance occurrence," this is a cruel conception of things, which causes them to remain attached to their wicked deeds. Thus, this time of distress will lead to further distresses.

This is implied by the Torah's statement [Leviticus 26:27-28]: "If you remain indifferent to Me, I will be indifferent to you with a vengeance." The implication of the verse is: When I bring difficulties upon you so that you shall repent and you say it is a chance occurrence, I will add to your [punishment] an expression of vengeance for that indifference [to Divine Providence].

Commentary Halacha 3

Conversely, should the people fail to cry out [to God] and sound the trumpets, and instead say, "What happened to us is merely a natural phenomenon and this difficulty is merely a chance occurence" - Rather than seeing their difficulty as part of a Divinely structured plan to motivate their repentance.

this is a cruel conception of things - Misfortune is definitely not pleasant. Nevertheless, when one conceives of it as a message from God, intended to motivate a change in one's conduct, one can appreciate that, ultimately, its intent is mercy. In contrast, when one does not appreciate God's hand, one is left with a conception of an existential and cruel world in which there is no force working for man's benefit.

which causes them to remain attached to their wicked deeds - for they refuse to pay attention to the external cues God gives to motivate repentance.

Thus, this time of distress will lead to further distresses. - Note the conclusion of Hilchot Tum'at Tzara'at, where the Rambam explains that when a person remains indifferent to the punishment God gives him, God brings more severe punishment upon him.

This is implied by the Torah's statement [Leviticus 26:27-28]: "If you remain indifferent to Me, I will be indifferent to you with a vengeance." - מקרה, the Hebrew for "chance occurrence," shares the same root as קרי, "indifferent." Thus

The implication of the verse is: When I bring difficulties upon you so that you shall repent and you say it is a chance occurence, I will add to your [punishment] an expression of vengeance for that indifference [to Divine Providence].

Halacha 4

In addition, it is a Rabbinic ordinance to fast whenever there is a difficulty that affects the community until there is a manifestation of Divine mercy.

On these fast days, we cry out in prayer, offer supplications, and sound the trumpets only. In the Temple, we sound both the trumpets and the shofar. The shofar blasts should be shortened and the trumpet blasts extended, for the mitzvah of the day is with the trumpets. The trumpets are sounded together with the shofar only in the Temple, as [can be inferred from Psalms 98:6]: "Sound trumpets and shofar blasts before God, the King."

Commentary Halacha 4

In addition - to the obligation to cry out and sound the trumpets incumbent upon us from the Torah

it is a Rabbinic ordinance to fast - The Or Sameach mentions that this practice has its source in Biblical times. II Chronicles 20:3 relates that Yehoshafat called a communal fast when beset by war.

whenever there is a difficulty that affects the community - These difficulties are listed in Chapter 2.

until there is a manifestation of Divine mercy. - I.e., we are not required to fast only once when a distressing situation occurs. Instead, we are obligated to continue fasting until God shows us His mercies and eliminates the source of distress.

Ta'anit 14b quotes a Rabbinic opinion that maintains that no more than thirteen communal fasts should be ordained because of a difficulty. The Talmud, however, explains that this statement was made with regard to drought alone. With regard to other difficulties, we should continue to fast until our prayers are answered. This conclusion is alluded to by the Rambam's choice of wording in Chapter 3, Halachah 9, and is quoted by the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 575:6).

On these fast days, we cry out in prayer, offer supplications, and sound the trumpets - blow a series of teru'ah notes

only. - I.e., with no other instrument to accompany them.

In the Temple, we sound both the trumpets and the shofar. - From the Mishnah (Rosh HaShanah 3:3), it would appear that two shofarot were sounded together (Minchat Chinuch).

The shofar blasts should be shortened and the trumpet blasts extended - I.e., the trumpet blasts should continue even after the shofar blasts have ceased.

for the mitzvah of the day is with the trumpets. - Note the contrast to Hilchot Shofar 1:2.

The trumpets are sounded together with the shofar only in the Temple, as [can be inferred from Psalms 98:6]: "Sound trumpets and shofar blasts before God, the King." - I.e., only "before God," in the Temple, where His Presence is manifest, should these two instruments be sounded together, not elsewhere.

Halacha 5

These fasts ordained for the community because of difficulties should not be consecutive, for the community would not be able to observe such a practice.

A communal fast should be ordained only on a Monday, on the subsequent Thursday, and on the subsequent Monday. This pattern - Monday, Thursday, Monday - should be followed until [God manifests His] mercies.

Commentary Halacha 5

These fasts ordained for the community because of difficulties should not be consecutive - day after day.

for - even though it would be permitted to eat at night

the community would not be able to observe such a practice. - And an ordinance for the community is not instituted unless it is possible for the majority of the community to observe it (Hilchot Mamrim 2:5). Were a communal ordinance that could not be observed by the majority of the community to be instituted, the people's observance, not only of that particular ordinance, but of the Torah as a whole, would be weakened.

A communal fast should be ordained only on a Monday - See the commentary on the following halachah, which deals with the question of communal fasts being instituted on days other than Monday or Thursday.

on the subsequent Thursday, and on the subsequent Monday. - Mondays and Thursdays are days associated with significant spiritual influences. Also, in this manner, the fasts are separated from each other and from the Sabbath.

In his Commentary on the Mishnah (Ta'anit 2:9), the Rambam explains that communal fasts should be held first on Mondays, because were they to be held on Thursday, the shopkeepers would assume that the possibilities for famine are great - for otherwise why would a public fast be instituted before the Sabbath - and they would raise the prices of foodstuffs.

(This rationale differs slightly from Rashi's interpretation of the Mishnah. Significantly, many of the traditional commentaries on the Mishneh Torah do not mention the Rambam's Commentary on the Mishnah. See the Sefer HaKovetz.)

This pattern - Monday, Thursday, Monday - should be followed until [God manifests His] mercies. - From the wording of this halachah, it would appear that the second Thursday should be skipped, and the second series of three fasts begun on the third Monday. The commentaries note that although there is justification for this position in the Jerusalem Talmud (Ta'anit 2:13), the Babylonian Talmud (Ta'anit 15b) rules that there is no need to interrupt the sequence of fasts on the second Thursday. This ruling is also borne out by the Rambam's Commentary on the Mishnah (loc. cit.) and some authoritative manuscripts of the Mishneh Torah. There are, however, other Rabbinic opinions - which are also supported by different manuscripts of the Mishneh Torah (see the commentary on Chapter 3, Halachah 3) - that maintain that a series of communal fasts should always begin on a Monday.

Halacha 6

A communal fast should not be decreed on a Sabbath, nor on a festival. On these days, neither a shofar nor a trumpet should be sounded, nor do we cry out [to God] or offer supplications in prayer.

The [only] exceptions are a city surrounded by gentiles or a [flooding] river and a ship that is sinking at sea. [In these instances, and indeed,] even when a single individual is being pursued by gentiles, by thieves, or by an evil spirit (we may fast because of them on the Sabbath), cry out [to God], and offer supplications on their behalf in prayer. [The trumpets] should not be sounded for them, however, unless they are being sounded to gather together the people to help them and [try to] save them.

Commentary Halacha 6

A communal fast should not be decreed on a Sabbath, nor on a festival - for the reasons mentioned above.

The Merchevat HaMishneh HaSefaradit raises a question regarding this statement. From the previous halachah, it would appear that a communal fast is ordained only on Mondays and Thursdays, and from this halachah one might assume that, since it is necessary to exclude the Sabbath, such a fast might be ordained for other days.

In resolution, it is explained that the previous halachah refers only to the thirteen communal fasts instituted when the rains fail to descend. When a difficulty of another nature arises, a fast may be instituted on a day other than Monday or Thursday. Alternatively, it can be explained that if the difficulty is not a matter of immediate emergency, the fast is put off for a Monday, as mentioned above. In the case of an immediate emergency, however, a fast may be held on any day other than those mentioned in this and the following halachah.

On these days, neither a shofar nor a trumpet should be sounded, nor do we cry out [to God] or offer supplications in prayer. - Because of the atmosphere of rest and pleasure that permeates the Sabbath, it is improper to make requests about matters that are not immediate necessities. See Hilchot Shabbat 30:12

The [only] exceptions are - See also Chapter 2, Halachah 2, which states that we should cry out in prayer, even on the Sabbath, if our source of sustenance is threatened.

a city surrounded by gentiles or a [flooding] river and a ship that is sinking at sea. - for these are situations where human life is in immediate danger.

[In these instances, and indeed,] even when a single individual is being pursued by gentiles, by thieves, or by an evil spirit - i.e., he loses control of his behavior and may harm himself (Rashi, Ta'anit 22b)

(we may fast because of them on the Sabbath) - This phrase is set off by parentheses in most contemporary editions of the Mishneh Torah, because it is not included in the quotation of this halachah in the Tur (Orach Chayim 576). In his Kessef Mishneh, Rav Yosef Karo brings support for the omission of this phrase, noting that in Hilchot Shabbat 2:24 and 30:12, where the Rambam discusses praying to God in the event of such imminent disasters on the Sabbath, he does not mention fasting. Hence, when mentioning appealing to God with regard to these difficulties on the Sabbath in the Shulchan Aruch (288:9, 576:12), Rav Yosef Karo omits the mention of fasting.

cry out [to God], and offer supplications on their behalf in prayer. - Ta'anit 14a states that this refers to the addition of the prayer Anenu. According to the authorities who maintain that we may fast on the Sabbath (and even according to some who forbid fasting), this refers to the blessing Anenu added to the Shemoneh Esreh). According to the other opinions, it refers to the seven blessings mentioned in Chapter 4 that begin "May He who answered... answer you" (Maggid Mishneh).

[The trumpets] should not be sounded - Sounding a trumpet is not one of the forbidden Sabbath labors; it is, nevertheless, forbidden because of a Rabbinical decree (see Hilchot Shofar 2:7).

for them - as an expression of prayer to arouse God's mercies.

however, unless they are being sounded to gather together the people to help them and [try to] save them. - I.e., they may be sounded as an alarm to call people to come to their assistance, for the Sabbath laws may be violated for the sake of saving lives (Maggid Mishneh).

Note Chapter 2, Halachah 14, which states that if a community's source of sustenance is threatened מתריעים (the verb that generally means "we sound the trumpets") on the Sabbath. Note the commentary on that halachah for an explanation.

Halacha 7

Similarly, at the outset, a fast should not be ordained on Rosh Chodesh, Chanukah, Purim, or Chol HaMo'ed. If, however, the community has begun to fast because of a distressing situation for even a single day, and the schedule of fasts requires that a fast be held on one of the days mentioned above, we should fast, and [indeed,] fast for the entire day.

Commentary Halacha 7

Similarly, at the outset, a fast should not be ordained on Rosh Chodesh, - Rashi (Ta'anit 15b) cites Numbers 10:10 as an indication that Rosh Chodesh is described as "a festival." As such, it is inappropriate for a fast to be held on such a day.

Chanukah, Purim - Tosafot, Ta'anit 18b, note that Esther 9:22 describes Purim as "days of celebration and joy." Thus, fasting is inappropriate.

or Chol HaMo'ed. - Although it is a logical addition, it must be noted that Chol HaMo'ed is not mentioned in the source for this halachah, Ta'anit 2:10, nor is it mentioned in the Tur (Orach Chayim 572). The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 572:2) quotes the Rambam's ruling.

If, however, the community has begun to fast because of a distressing situation for even a single day, and the schedule of fasts requires that a fast be held on one of the days mentioned above, we should fast, and [indeed,] fast for the entire day. - Although the Mishnah (ibid.) states that the fast should be interrupted before nightfall because of the positive nature of these days, Ta'anit 18b quotes a majority opinion that maintains that the fast should be completed.

Halacha 8

Pregnant women, nursing women, and children need not fast on communal fasts that are instituted because of difficulties of this nature.

[With regard to these fasts,] even though we are required to fast during the day, we are allowed to eat on [the preceding] night, with the exception of the fasts instituted for [a lack of] rain, as will be explained. Whenever we are allowed to eat on the night of a fast, whether a communal fast or an individual fast, a person is allowed to eat until dawn, provided he does not sleep. If he goes to sleep, he may not eat after arising.

Commentary Halacha 8

Pregnant women, nursing women - lest their fetus or child be endangered by the lack of nourishment.

and children - The Magen Avraham 576:10 questions the mention of children in this halachah, for it is accepted that children are never obligated to fast. He explains that, in this instance, the term refers to children past the age of majority. Males are not obligated to observe fasts of this nature until they are 18, nor females until they are 15.

The B'nei Binyamin offers another explanation, noting that on Yom Kippur children should be trained to fast by withholding food from them for several hours (Hilchot Sh'vitat Asor 2:10). This practice need not be observed on these fast days.

need not fast - Nevertheless, as mentioned in Chapter 3, Halachah 5, they should not indulge in food and drink for the sake of pleasure.

on communal fasts that are instituted because of difficulties of this nature. - In contrast, these women are required to fast on the seven fasts observed for a lack of rain (ibid.).

[With regard to these fasts,] even though we are required to fast during the day, we are allowed to eat on [the preceding] night, with the exception of the fasts instituted for [a lack of] rain, as will be explained - in Chapter 3, Halachot 3 and 5.

Whenever we are allowed to eat on the night of a fast, whether a communal fast or an individual fast, a person is allowed to eat until dawn, provided he does not sleep. If he goes to sleep - Ta'anit 12b emphasizes that this refers to a sound sleep. If one merely dozes off briefly, one may eat.

he may not eat after arising - even if he wakes up before dawn.

The Tur and the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 564:1) state that if, before going to sleep, a person stipulates that he desires to rise before dawn and eat, he is allowed to eat, and yet his fast is still considered to be a fast.

Halacha 9

Just as the community should fast because of distress, so too, each individual should fast [when confronted by] distress. What is implied? When an individual to whom a person [feels close] is sick, lost in the desert, or imprisoned, one should fast for his sake, ask for mercy for him in prayer, and say [the passage] Anenu in all the Shemoneh Esreh prayers recited [that day]. One should not fast on the Sabbath, on festivals, on Rosh Chodesh, on Chanukah, or on Purim.

Commentary Halacha 9

Just as the community should fast because of distress, so too, each individual should fast [when confronted by] distress. - The Maggid Mishneh interprets this as an obligation. Not only is fasting advisable for a person as a means to secure Divine favor, it is an obligation incumbent upon him.

What is implied? When an individual to whom a person [feels close] is sick - The B'nei Binyamin cites the example of King David, who fasted when the first son born to him by Batsheva fell ill (II Samuel 12:15-16).

lost in the desert, or imprisoned, one should fast for his sake - Significantly, the Rambam mentions fasting on behalf of another person. Surely, one should fast for one's own sake if that is possible. In many situations, however, were a person who confronts distress to fast, he would lack the strength to cope with the crisis he is facing. (See Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 571:3.)

Nevertheless, Ta'anit 8b gives advice regarding such a situation as well, counselling one to vow to fast in the future. This will be considered as if the person fasted already, as implied by Daniel 10:12, "From the day on which you first considered... fasting before your Lord, your words were heeded."

ask for mercy for him in prayer, and say [the passage] Anenu - See Hilchot Tefillah 2:14.

in - the blessing Shome'a Tefillah in

all the Shemoneh Esreh prayers recited [that day].

One should not fast on the Sabbath, on festivals, on Rosh Chodesh, on Chanukah, or on Purim. - The Maggid Mishneh interprets this as a prohibition. Although a community may observe a fast on some of these days, as stated in Halachah 7, an individual may not. (See also Halachah 12.)

Note the Lechem Mishneh, which raises questions about this decision, citing Hilchot Nedarim 3:9, where the Rambam states:

If a person vowed to fast for several days, and those days included Chanukah and Purim, his vow is nullified and he should not fast. [The celebration of] these days was instituted by the Rabbis, and hence, it should be reinforced.

One might infer that on the other days that should be celebrated because of the Torah's decree, a vow to fast takes precedence. Some commentaries, however, differentiate between a vow to fast and a commitment to fast made in the afternoon service of the preceding day, as mentioned in the following halachah. In practice, the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 578:1) rules that one should not fast on these days.

Halacha 10

Whenever an individual did not accept a fast [on the previous day] before sunset, it is not considered to be a fast.

How does one accept a fast? After reciting the afternoon prayers, one states, "Tomorrow I will fast," and resolves to do so. Although one eats at night, this does not detract from one's commitment to fast.

Similarly, if one resolved to fast for three or four days consecutively and accepts such a fast upon oneself, the fact that one eats each night does not detract from his fast. It is unnecessary for him to state his intent on the afternoon before each succeeding day.

Commentary Halacha 10

Whenever an individual did not accept a fast [on the previous day] before sunset, it is not considered to be a fast. - Ta'anit 12a describes a person who fasts without having made such a commitment to be "a bellows full of air" - i.e., he receives no reward for refraining from eating. Note the Lechem Mishneh, who questions why such a person does not receive at least the reward of an hourly fast, as mentioned in Halachah 13.

He explains that since the person desired his fast to be considered as a full day fast, it is impossible for him to receive the merit of an hourly fast. (See also Mishnah Berurah 562:42.)

How does one accept a fast? After reciting the afternoon prayers - i.e., after reciting the verse, Yih'yu l'ratzon, but before concluding one's prayers entirely.

Significantly, the Maggid Mishneh notes that some texts of the Mishneh Torah state that one should make this commitment in the blessing Shome'a Tefillah, reciting the prayer Anenu. Although the Kessef Mishneh and others take issue with this concept, its authenticity is borne out by two responsa ascribed to the Rambam.

In practice, the Shulchan Aruch 562:6 mentions both possibilities, while the Ramah states that it is preferable to make this statement after the Shemoneh Esreh. Interestingly, the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 127:2 fuses together both options, stating that one should make a mental resolve while reciting the blessing Shome'a Tefillah, and a verbal statement after reciting the verse, Yih'yu l'ratzon.

one states, "Tomorrow I will fast," and resolves to do so. - From the Rambam's statements, it appears that a mental resolve is not sufficient. This is borne out by the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 563:1). Note the ruling of the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (ibid.) and the Mishnah Berurah 563:3, which state that, after the fact, it is sufficient to have made a mental resolve for one's commitment to fast to be binding.

Although one eats at night, this does not detract from one's commitment to fast. - In contrast to what might be inferred from the Rambam's statements and the ruling of the Shulchan Aruch (ibid.), the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (ibid.) and the Mishnah Berurah (ibid.) also mention that, after the fact, it is not necessary for the commitment to be made in the afternoon service. As long as it was made during the previous day, whether before the service (according to the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch only) or afterwards (according to both sources), it is binding.

Similarly, if one resolved to fast for three or four days consecutively and accepts such a fast upon oneself, the fact that one eats each night does not detract from his fast - provided that in the daylight hours one refrains from eating.

It is unnecessary for him to state his intent on the afternoon before each succeeding day. - The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 562:8) questions whether this applies only when one intends to fast on several consecutive days. If, however, one intends to fast on several non-consecutive days - e.g., on a Monday, on the following Thursday, and on the following Monday - perhaps one is required to make a separate commitment for each day.

With regard to the fasts of B'hav (the Monday-Thursday-Monday sequence of fasts which follow the festivals), the authorities agree that a single statement of intent is sufficient. In other instances, however, the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 127:1 and others require a separate commitment.

The Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 127:3 mentions another leniency in this instance. Were a person to desire to retract his commitment to fast on the subsequent days, he is allowed, since he did not make an explicit statement to the effect that he would fast.

This view is not, however, accepted by all authorities. The Mishnah Berurah 162:39 cites opinions that require him to honor his commitment on the subsequent days as well.

Halacha 11

When a person accepted a resolution to fast on the following day, and indeed, did fast, and on the night [following his fast], changed his mind and decided to [continue his] fast on the following day, it is not considered a fast,1 because he did not accept [this commitment] while it was still day.2 [This applies] even if he continued his fast overnight. Needless to say, if he ate and drank at night and woke up in the morning and desired to fast, it is not considered a fast at all.

Halacha 12

A person who has a disturbing dream must fast on the following day, so that he will be motivated to improve his conduct, inspect his deeds, and turn [to God] in repentance.

He should undertake such a fast even on the Sabbath, reciting the passage Anenu in each of the prayer services. [This applies] even though he did not resolve on the previous day to fast.

When a person fasts on the Sabbath, he must fast on another day as well, [to atone for] nullifying [the mitzvah of indulging in] pleasurable activities on the Sabbath.

Commentary Halacha 12

A person who has a disturbing dream must fast - i.e., the Rambam sees this as an obligation. Other authorities differ, as mentioned in the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 127:18.

on the following day, so that he will be motivated to improve his conduct, inspect his deeds, and turn [to God] in repentance. - As the Rambam mentioned at the beginning of this text, the purpose of fasting is not the fast itself, but the repentance evoked by the fast.

He should undertake such a fast even on the Sabbath - Berachot 31b states that a person who fasts on the Sabbath will cause a decree of seventy years standing against him to be rent.

Shulchan Aruch HaRav 288:3 explains that such a person is allowed to fast on the Sabbath, because the disturbing nature of his dream will prevent him from appreciating the Sabbath pleasures. It is fasting and not indulgence that will bring such a person satisfaction.

Note that the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 288:5) explains that at present, it is customary to fast on the Sabbath only for certain disturbing dreams, since we are not as aware of the proper interpretation of dreams as were the Sages of the previous generations.

reciting the passage Anenu in each of the prayer services. - During the week, this passage should be recited in the blessing Shome'a Tefillah as usual. On the Sabbath, one should recite Anenu in the passage E-lohai Netzor (Maggid Mishneh).

[This applies] even though he did not resolve on the previous day to fast. - This is the only exception to the rule mentioned in Halachah 10. The positive influences aroused by fasting are most effective immediately after the disturbing dream (Ta'anit 12b).

When a person fasts on the Sabbath, he must fast on another day as well, [to atone for] nullifying [the mitzvah of indulging in] pleasurable activities on the Sabbath - i.e., indulging in the Sabbath meals. Although one is obligated (or at least advised) to fast on the Sabbath, one is not absolved from the mitzvah of Sabbath pleasure. Hence, one must fast again in atonement.

Halacha 13

A person may fast for several hours - i.e., that he not eat anything for the remainder of a day. What is implied? A person was involved with his affairs and tended to his concerns without eating until noon or until three in the afternoon. Should he make a decision to fast for the remaining hours of the day, he should fast for that time and recite [the passage] Anenu, because he accepted the fast before the hours of the fast. Similarly, if a person ate or drank and then began to fast for the entire day, it is considered to be a fast for several hours.

Commentary Halacha 13

A person may fast for several hours - i.e., although a person did not undertake a full day fast, the fact that he refrains from eating for several hours can be considered to be a fast. Although his merit is less than that of a person who undertakes and completes a full day fast, he still receives reward for his conduct.

i.e., that he not eat anything for the remainder of a day. - This phrase has its source in Ta'anit 12a and serves as a point of difference between the Rambam and other authorities (among them, the Ra'avad and the Maggid Mishneh). The others maintain that it should be rendered "provided he has not eaten anything the entire day." Based on the Jerusalem Talmud (Nedarim 8:1), the Rambam maintains that even if a person has eaten, if he does not eat for the remainder of the day, he receives merit for fasting.

What is implied? A person was involved with his affairs and tended to his concerns without eating until noon or until three in the afternoon. - Although the person actually fasted for the entire day, it is considered only an hourly fast, since he did not make a commitment on the previous day.

Should he make a decision to fast for the remaining hours of the day, he should fast for that time - and he is given merit for having fasted

and recite [the passage] Anenu - in the afternoon service

because he accepted the fast before the hours of the fast. - Hence, the fact that he refrains from eating is considered significant.

Similarly, if a person ate or drank and then began to fast for the entire day, it is considered to be a fast for several hours. - As mentioned above, this is a point of difference between the Rambam and other commentaries. In his responsa (Vol. I, Responsum 6), the Rashba writes that the Rambam altered his opinion in his later years and accepted the majority view. The majority opinion is accepted by the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 562:10).

Significantly, the Shulchan Aruch also mentions a more stringent view (that of Rabbenu Asher). According to this opinion, even an hourly fast has to be accepted on the previous day. Thus, an hourly fast refers to an instance when a person previously made a commitment to fast for half a day, and then decided to extend the fast for the entire day.

It must be noted that at present, when individuals find fasting difficult, it is customary for a community to declare an hourly fast. In these instances, the members of the community make a commitment not to eat until the afternoon. They recite the afternoon service early, and each individual recites Anenu (Ramah, Orach Chayim 562:1; Mishnah Berurah 562:6). This passage is not, however, recited in the repetition of the Shemoneh Esreh by the chazan (Ramah, Orach Chayim 562:1).

Halacha 14

Whenever a person is fasting, whether he is fasting because of an individual distress, a disturbing dream, or distress of a communal nature, he should not indulge in pleasures, act frivolously, or be happy and of good spirits. Instead, [his conduct] should be characterized by serious concern, [as if he were] in mourning, as [implied by Eichah 3:39]: "Over what should a living man be concerned? [Each] man over his sins."3

It is permitted for [a person who is fasting] to taste even a revi'it4 of food, provided he spits it out without swallowing it.5 If [a person who is fasting] forgets and eats,6 he should complete his fast.7

Halacha 15

When an individual was fasting for a sick person, and the latter recovered, or because of a distressing situation, and the difficulty passed - he should complete his fast.8

A person who travels from a place where [the community] is fasting to a place where [the community] is not fasting should complete his fast.9 One who travels from a place where [the community] is not fasting to a place where [the community] is fasting should fast together with them.10 If he forgets and eats and drinks, he should not let himself be seen, nor should he indulge in pleasures.11

Halacha 16

When a community is fasting for the sake of rain, and it begins to rain before noon, the people should not complete their fast. Instead, they should eat, drink, and gather together to read the Great Hallel, for the Great Hallel is recited only when one's spirit is satisfied and one's belly is full.

If [the rains descended] after noon, since the majority of the day had passed in holiness, they should complete their fast. Similar [rules apply] if [a community] was fasting because of a distressing situation and the distress passed, or because of a harsh decree and the decree was nullified: [If this occurred] before noon, they need not complete their fast; after noon, they should complete their fast.

Commentary Halacha 16

When a community is fasting for the sake of rain, and it begins to rain before noon, the people should not complete their fast. - This teaching, quoted from the Mishnah (Ta'anit 3:9), conveys an important lesson. We must always be ready to praise God for His mercies and to do so with joy.

Instead, they should eat, drink, and gather together to read the Great Hallel - The term Hallel means "songs of praise." Generally, Hallel refers to the passages from Psalm 113 to Psalm 118. The Great Hallel, in contrast, refers to Psalm 136 (Hilchot Chametz UMatzah 8:10).

Pesachim 118a explains that this psalm is given this title because it contains the verse, "He grants bread to all flesh, His kindnesses are everlasting." This is the greatest praise of God, that although He utterly transcends our world, He provides each creation with its needs.

for the Great Hallel is recited only when one's spirit is satisfied and one's belly is full. - Hence, we do not recite these verses of praise until we have eaten.

If [the rains descended] after noon, since the majority of the day had passed in holiness - i.e., in separation from material concerns

they should complete their fast. - From this explicit teaching regarding rain, the Rambam infers that

Similar [rules apply] if [a community] - in contrast to an individual, as mentioned in the previous halachah

was fasting because of a distressing situation, and the distress passed, or because of a harsh decree and the decree was nullified: - The Mishnah Berurah 569:5 quotes a difference of opinion among the Rabbis whether the leniency to be mentioned applies if the prayers of the community were not answered, but the reason for which they are fasting ceases to become relevant. For example, the people were fasting for the recovery of a sick person and he died.

[If this occurred] before noon, they need not complete their fast; - The Ra'avad objects to this decision, explaining that the leniency of stopping a communal fast applies only with regard to the fasts associated with rain. In other instances, it is impossible to be certain that the distressing situation has entirely passed before noon.

The Maggid Mishneh justifies the Rambam's ruling, explaining that although the Ra'avad's rationale is generally applicable, if - in fact - the distressing situation passes before noon, the fast may be halted.

The Maggid Mishneh also states two reasons for the difference between an individual fast and a communal fast:

a) Leniency was granted to the community because of the greater scale of the difficulty involved in such a fast;

b) When the court called the communal fast, it had in mind that were the community's prayers to be answered, the fast could be terminated.

The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 569:1) rules that if the Torah scholars and the majority of the members of the community desire to continue the fast, all the members of the community are obligated to abide by their decision.

after noon, they should complete their fast. - There are opinions which rule that if the community receives word after noon that the difficulty for which they are fasting was averted before noon, they need not continue their fast.

Halacha 17

Whenever there is a communal fast that was instituted for a distressing circumstance, the [community's] court and [its] elders sit in the synagogue and review the conduct of the city's [inhabitants] from the time the morning prayers were concluded until noon. They remove the stumbling blocks that lead to sin. They give warnings, enquire, and investigate all those who pursue violence and sin, and [encourage them] to depart [from these ways]. Similarly, [they investigate] people who coerce others and humble them. They also occupy themselves with other similar matters.12

[This is what would happen] from noon until the evening: During the [third] quarter of the day, they would read the blessings and the curses in the Torah13 [as implied by Proverbs 3:11]: "My son, do not despise the instruction of the Lord, and do not reject His rebuke."14 As the haftarah,15 they would read a portion from the prophets appropriate to the distress [for which they are fasting].

During the [fourth] quarter of the day, the afternoon service is recited, supplications are made, [the people] cry out [to God] and confess according to their capability.

FOOTNOTES
1.

Note the comments of the Lechem Mishneh cited in the commentary on the previous halachah with regard to whether the person receives the rewards of an hourly fast.

2.

This halachah, quoted from Ta'anit 11b, illustrates clearly the principles stated in the previous halachah.

3.

Here again, the Rambam reemphasizes the theme stated at the beginning of the text, that the purpose of fasting is to motivate a person to sincere repentance. (See also Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 568:12.) The Chesed L'Avraham states that on such days a person should make a special effort to refrain from becoming angry and should try to carry out all his dealings with his colleagues in a pleasant manner.

4.

But no more. (See Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 567:1-2.) A revi'it is 66.4 cc according to Shiurei Torah and 150 cc according to the Chazon Ish. The Ramah writes that it is customary not to take this leniency on a communal fast day.

5.

Note the contrast to Hilchot Berachot 1:2 (D'var Torah).

6.

This discussion applies when he eats a k'zayit of food (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 568:1). Other authorities mention slightly larger amounts.

7.

The Ra'avad states that this applies only when the person made a commitment to fast on that specific day. If he made a commitment to fast for one day without specifying the day, he is required to fast another full day afterwards. The Maggid Mishneh notes that this interpretation is borne out by the Rambam's own statements, Hilchot Nedarim 4:16. This is the ruling quoted in the Shulchan Aruch (loc. cit.).

The Ramah adds that even when a person ate despite making a commitment to fast on a specific day, he is required to fast on another day as well. (See Mishnah Berurah 568:8.)

See also the Mishnah Berurah 568:3, which states that on a communal fast, such a person may recite Anenu in the afternoon service. On an individual fast, however, he may not add this passage.

8.

Note the contrast to a communal fast mentioned in the following halachah.

The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 569:1) states that if the person had accepted several fasts upon himself, he is obligated to complete them all, even when the distressing situation passes after he completes the first fast. If, however, the distressing situation passes before he has begun to fast, he need not fast (loc. cit.:2).

9.

Rashi (Ta'anit 10b) explains that in this instance, we follow the principle that the person is obligated to observe the stringencies applicable to the city which he left and those of the city to which he goes.

The Lechem Mishneh questions whether the Rambam obligates the person to complete all the fast days accepted by the town he left, or if it is sufficient for him to complete the one fast alone.

The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 574:1) states that he is obligated to complete these fasts only when he intends to return to his original city. The Mishnah Berurah 574:1 states that this applies only when he did not explicitly accept these fasts. If he accepted the fasts himself, he is obligated to observe his commitment.

10.

Since he did not accept the fast previously himself, he has no obligation to fast. Nevertheless, while he is in the city, he must join together with them. The Tur (Orach Chayim 574) quotes an opinion which states that even within the city he is not obligated to fast, if he can find a private place to eat. Nevertheless, neither the Rambam nor the Shulchan Aruch accept this leniency.

11.

The intent is that one should not show that one is enjoying comfort while others are in distress. Ta'anit 10b derives this principle from Jacob's instructions to his children (Genesis 42:1) to avoid contact with Esau's and Ishmael's descendants. At that time, Jacob and his family had grain, but the others did not, and Jacob did not want to arouse ill-feeling.

The Talmud (ibid. 11a) concludes its discussion of this issue with the following principle: Whoever separates himself from the community will not witness their being comforted. In contrast, one who joins in their distress will merit to join in their being comforted.

12.

This continues the theme developed by the Rambam at the beginning of the text, that the difficulties God brings upon a community should motivate them to repentance.

Significantly, the Rambam does not mention reading the Torah in the morning service. The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 566:2) mentions that the Torah should be read in the morning, as on other communal fasts, and mentions that the reading Vay'chal, which is usually read on a communal fast day, should be read on such an occasion as well.

13.

This refers to the portion of Bechukotai (Leviticus, Chapter 26), and not the blessings and curses in the book of Deuteronomy (Rashi, Megillah 31a). (See also Hilchot Tefillah 13:18.)

The Shulchan Aruch (ibid.) states that at present, the custom is to read the portion Vay'chal as on other public fast days. (See also the Maggid Mishneh.)

14.

Significantly, Ta'anit 12b, the source for the division of the day in this manner, quotes a different proof-text, "And they read from the Torah scroll of their Lord" (Nechemiah 9:3). The verse cited by the Rambam is mentioned by Megillah 31b in another context.

This reflects a pattern common within the Mishneh Torah. Frequently, the Rambam cites verses independently of the manner in which they appear in the previous works of our Sages.

15.

At present, the custom is to recite the haftarah, Dirshu, as is done on other public fasts. It must be noted that Rav Kapach maintains that the Rambam's intent is not that these passages from the Torah and the Prophets should be read communally with blessings recited beforehand and afterwards, as is our present custom. Instead, the intent is that they should be read merely to motivate repentance in a manner similar to the recitation of Eichah on Tish'ah B'Av. These statements are based on Hilchot Tefillah 13:18.

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