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Rambam - 3 Chapters a Day

Kiddush HaChodesh - Chapter Eighteen, Kiddush HaChodesh - Chapter Nineteen, Ta'aniyot - Chapter One

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Kiddush HaChodesh - Chapter Eighteen

1

It is well-known and obvious that although the calculations indicate that the moon should be sighted on [a particular] night, its sighting is [only] probable. It is, however, also possible that it will not be sighted, because it is covered by clouds, because the place [from where it could be sighted] is in a valley,1 or because there is a tall mountain in the west,2 blocking [view of] the people in the place [from where it could be sighted], and it will be as if they are in a valley.

For the moon will not be able to be sighted by a person in a low place, even when [its crescent] is large. Conversely, it will be possible for a person on a high and lofty mountain to sight [the moon], even though [its crescent] is very small. Similarly, sighting it will be possible for a person dwelling on the seashore, or a person travelling on a ship in the Mediterranean Sea, even though [its crescent] is very small.

א

דבר ידוע וברור שאם יוציא לך החשבון שהירח יראה בלילה. אפשר שיראה ואפשר שלא יראה מפני העבים שמכסין אותו או מפני המקום שהוא גיא או שיהיה הר גבוה כנגד רוח מערב לאנשי אותו המקום שנמצאו כאילו הן יושבין בגיא. שהירח לא יראה למי שהוא במקום נמוך אפילו היה גדול ויראה למי שהוא עומד בראש הר גבוה ותלול אע"פ שהירח קטן ביותר. וכן יראה למי ששוכן על שפת הים או למי שמהלך בספינה בים הגדול אע"פ שהוא קטן ביותר:

2

Similarly, in the rainy season, on a clear day, the visibility of the moon will be greater than it is in the summer. For on a clear day in the rainy season, the air is clear and the heavens appear more brilliant, because there is no dust clouding the air. In the summer, by contrast, the air is like smoke, because of the dust. Therefore, the moon will appear small.

ב

וכן בימות הגשמים אם יהיה יום צח יראה הירח יותר ממה שיראה בימות החמה. לפי שבימות הגשמים אם יהיה יום צח יהיה האויר זך הרבה ויראה הרקיע בטוהר יותר מפני שאין שם אבק שיתערב באויר. אבל בימות החמה יהיה האויר כאילו הוא מעושן מפני האבק ויראה הירח קטן:

3

When the two limits [mentioned] with regard to the arc of sighting and the first longitude are short, [the crescent of] the moon will be small, and sighting the moon will be possible only from a very high altitude. If the arc of sighting and the first longitude are long, and [several] degrees were added to their minimal limits, the moon will appear large. Its size and the extent of its visibility will increase according to the length of the arc [of sighting] and the first longitude.

ג

וכל זמן שתמצא קשת הראייה והאורך הראשון שתערוך לה עם שני הקצין שלהם בצמצום. יהיה הירח קטן ביותר ולא יראה אלא במקום גבוה ביותר. ואם תמצא קשת הראייה והאורך הראשון ארוכין הרבה והוסיפו עד סוף הקצים שלהן ממעלות. יראה הירח גדול לפי אורך הקשת והאורך הראשון יהיה גדול וגלייתו לכל:

4

Therefore, the court should always have its attention focused on the following two matters: a) the season when [the moon] was sighted, and b) the place [where the witnesses were located]. [The judges] should ask the witnesses, "Where were you when you saw the moon?" For if the arc of sighting was short, and according to the calculations there is only a limited opportunity to see the moon, [more care is taken regarding their testimony].

For example, the arc of sighting was nine degrees and five minutes, and the first longitude was exactly thirteen degrees, and witnesses came, [claiming] that they saw [the moon]: If this occurs in the summer, or if the [witnesses] were located in a low place, we suspect [the veracity of] their [testimony] and subject them to much cross-examination.

In the rainy season, or in a very high place, [under such circumstances, the moon] would surely be sighted unless clouds obscured it.

ד

לפיכך ראוי לבית דין לשום שני דברים אלו בלבם, שהן זמן הראייה ומקומה ושואלין את העדים באי זה מקום ראיתם. שאם היתה קשת הראיה קצרה ויתן החשבון שיראה בצמצום. כגון שהיתה קשת הראיה ט' מעלות וה' חלקים והיה האורך הראשון י"ג מעלות בשוה ובאו עדים שראוהו. אם היה בימות החמה או שהיו במקום נמוך חוששין להן ובודקין אותן הרבה ואם היה בימות הגשמים או במקום גבוה ביותר ודאי יראה אם לא יהיו שם עבים המבדילין:

5

[Let us examine a hypothetical situation:] Witnesses saw the new moon at the appropriate time.3 They came [to the court], and gave testimony. The court accepted their [testimony] and sanctified this first month.

Afterwards, they counted twenty-nine days from the day that was sanctified. On the night of the thirtieth, the moon was not sighted, either because sighting it was impossible, or because it was covered by clouds. The court waited the entire thirtieth day, as we have explained,4 [but] witnesses did not arrive. [Therefore,] they added a day to the month, and thus, Rosh Chodesh of the second month was on the thirty-first day, as explained.5

ה

עדים שראו החדש בזמנו ובאו והעידו וקבלום בית דין וקדשו את החדש הזה הראשון ומנו כ"ט יום מן היום המקודש. וליל שלשים לא נראה הירח מפני שאי אפשר לו להראות או מפני שכיסוהו עבים. והרי בית דין מצפין לו כל יום שלשים כמו שביארנו. ולא באו עדים ועברו את החדש ונמצא יום ר"ח השני יום ל"א כמו שבארנו.

6

They began to count twenty-nine days from the day of Rosh Chodesh in the second [month], but the moon was not sighted. If you would say that [again] a day should be added to the month - i.e., the following day would be the thirtieth of the month, and the thirty-first day should be Rosh Chodesh of the third month [an undesirable situation would arise]. For it is possible that the moon would not be sighted on the night of the thirtieth of this month as well. Thus, [hypothetically, we could see an] ongoing [pattern, in which] a day is added and the new month begins after thirty days throughout the year. Thus, in the last month, it would be possible for the moon to be seen on the night of the twenty-fifth or the night of the twenty-sixth.6 There could be no more ludicrous and demeaning situation than this.

ו

והתחילו למנות כ"ט יום מן יום ראש החדש השני וליל שלשים לא נראה הירח. אם תאמר שכך מעברין את זה ועושין אותו שלשים וקובעין ראש החדש השלישי יום ל"א. כך אפשר שלא יראה הירח בליל שלשים גם מחדש זה ונמצאו מעברין והולכין ועושין חדשים אחר שלשים כל השנה כולה. ונמצא בחדש אחרון אפשר שיראה הירח בליל כ"ה בו או בליל כ"ו. ואין לך דבר שחוק והפסד יותר מזה.

7

Nor can one say that the [hypothetical situation described] - that the moon is never sighted throughout the year - is an infrequent occurrence [that need not be considered]. The contrary [is true]; it is very likely [to take place]. This often occurs in countries that have long rainy seasons and cloudy [skies]. For the intent is not that the moon will never be seen throughout the year, but that it will not be sighted at the beginning of the month, and will be sighted only afterwards.

[In certain months] it will not be sighted, because sighting it is impossible, and in the months when sighting it is possible, it possibly will not be sighted because of the clouds, or because its [crescent] was very small, and no one focused [his attention] on sighting it.

ז

ואל תאמר שהדבר הזה דבר שאינו מצוי הוא שלא יראה הירח בכל השנה. אלא דבר קרוב הוא הרבה. ופעמים רבות יארע זה וכיוצא בו במדינות שזמן הגשמים שם ארוך והעבים רבים שאין אנו אומרין שלא יראה הירח בכל השנה אלא שלא יראה בתחלת החדשים ויראה אחר כך. ופעמים לא יראה מפני שאי אפשר לו שיראה בהם וחדשים שאפשר שיראה בהם לא יראה מפני העבים או מפני שהיה קטן ביותר ולא נתכוון אדם לראותו:

8

[These difficulties were avoided due to the following] tradition which existed among our Sages, [having been] transmitted from one to another in a chain extending back to Moses our teacher: When the moon was not sighted at the beginning of the months, month after month, the court establishes [the following sequence], one full month with thirty days, one lacking month with twenty-nine days. In this manner, they would calculate and establish one full month and one lacking month - establishing these months, but not sanctifying them.7 For the sanctification of the months is dependent solely on the sighting [of the moon]. At times they would have a full month follow another full month, or a lacking month follow another lacking month, depending on the results of their calculations.

ח

אלא הקבלה שהיה ביד חכמים איש מפי איש מפי משה רבינו כך היא. שבזמן שלא יראה הירח בתחלת החדשים חדש אחר חדש. בית דין קובעין חדש מעובר משלשים יום וחדש חסר מכ"ט יום. וכן מחשבין וקובעין חדש מעובר וחדש חסר בקביעה לא בקידוש. שאין מקדשין אלא על הראייה. ופעמים עושין מלא אחר מלא או חסר אחר חסר כמו שיראה להם מן החשבון:

9

The intent of their calculations is always that it is possible to sight the moon in the following month at its proper time,8 or on the night following the added day, but not to sight it beforehand - e.g., on the night of the twenty-eighth.

Through the sighting calculations mentioned above, it is possible for you to determine when it will be possible [for the moon to be] sighted, and when it is possible that it will not be sighted. [The court] relies on [similar calculations] and [accordingly,] establishes two full months in succession, or two lacking months in succession.

Never should there be fewer than four full months in a year, nor should there ever be more than eight full months.9 When a full month is established according to calculations, a celebratory feast is also made in honor of the full month, as mentioned previously in Chapter 3.10

ט

ומתכוונין לעולם בחשבונם שאם יראה הירח בחדש הבא יראה בזמנו או בליל עיבורו. לא שיראה קודם זמנו שהוא ליל כ"ח. ובחשבונות הראיה האלו שבארנו יתבאר לך ותדע מתי אפשר שיראה ומתי אפשר שלא יראה. ועל זה סומכין ומעברין חדש אחר חדש או עושין חדש חסר אחר חדש חסר. ולעולם אין פוחתין מארבע חדשים המעוברין בשנה ולא מוסיפין על שמנה חדשים המעוברין. וגם לעיבור חדשים אלו שמעברין לפי חשבון עושין סעודת עיבור החדש כמו שאמרנו בפרק שלישי:

10

Whenever you find statements in the Talmud11 according to which it appears that the court relies on computations [rather than the testimony of witnesses], or that it there is [a chain of tradition extending] from Moses at Sinai that this matter has been entrusted to them, and it is their decision whether to make the month lacking or full, and similarly, the fact that, during one year, Rabbi [Yehudah HaNasi] declared nine months as lacking12 - these and all similar matters are dependent on this principle [and apply at] a time when the moon is not sighted at the appropriate time.

י

וכל שתמצא בגמרא מדברים שמראין שבית דין סומכין על החשבון ומפי משה מסיני שהדבר מסור להם והרשות בידם לחסר או לעבר. וכן זה שחסר תשעה חדשים בשנה וכל כיוצא בזה הכל על עיקר זה הוא בנוי בזמן שלא נראה החדש בזמנו:

11

Similarly, the statements of our Sages13 that a day is added to the month when necessary, applies in an instance when a full month [is declared] according to the calculations, [so that] one month is made lacking, and another month full.14 They have the authority to declare full months in succession one after the other, and lacking months in succession.

[Only] when the moon is not seen at the appropriate time does [the court] declare full months when necessary. When, however, the moon is seen at the appropriate time - its first shining after its conjunction with the sun - it is always sanctified.

יא

וכן זה שאמרו חכמים שמעברין את החדש לצורך הוא בחדשים אלו שמעברין אותן לפי חשבון ועושין אחד מלא ואחד חסר. ויש להם לעבר חדש אחר חדש או לחסר. בזה הוא שמעברין לצורך מפני שלא נראה הירח בזמנו. אלא בעת שיראה הירח בזמנו שהוא תחלת היותו נראה אחר שנתקבץ עם השמש מקדשין לעולם:

12

All the above concepts apply when there is a court that relies on the testimony of witnesses. In the present era, by contrast, we rely solely on the calculations based on the mean [motion of the sun and the moon] that are [simple and] widespread throughout Israel, as explained [previously] in these laws.15

יב

וכל הדברים האלו בזמן שיש שם בית דין וסומכין על הראייה. אבל בזמנים אלו אין סומכין אלא על הקביעה בזה החשבון האמצעי הפשוט בכל ישראל כמו שביארנו בהלכות אלו:

13

It is explained in the texts of astronomical and geometrical calculations that if the moon is sighted in Eretz Yisrael, it will be sighted in all the lands in the world that are located to the west of Eretz Yisrael and are at the same latitude.16 If the calculations indicate that the moon will not be sighted in Eretz Yisrael, sighting it is, nevertheless, possible in those lands that are west of Eretz Yisrael and at the same latitude. Therefore, the fact that the moon is sighted in a country that lies west of Eretz Yisrael is not an indication of whether [or not] the moon will be sighted in Eretz Yisrael.17

יג

יתבאר בספרי החשבון התקופות והגימטריאות שאם יראה הירח בארץ ישראל יראה בכל מדינות העולם שהן למערב ארץ ישראל ומכוונות כנגדה. ואם יתן החשבון שלא יראה בארץ ישראל אפשר שיראה במדינות אחרות שהן למערב ארץ ישראל ומכוונות כנגדה. לפיכך אם יראה הירח במדינה שהיא למערב ארץ ישראל אין בזה ראיה שלא יראה בארץ ישראל אלא אפשר שנראה הירח בארץ ישראל:

14

If, however, the moon is not sighted on the mountains of the countries located west of Eretz Yisrael that are at the same latitude, the moon surely was not sighted in Eretz Yisrael.

יד

אבל אם לא יראה הירח בראש ההרים במדינה המערבית המכוונת כנגד ארץ ישראל בידוע שלא נראה בארץ ישראל:

15

Similarly, if the moon was not sighted in Eretz Yisrael, it certainly was not sighted in those countries that are east of Eretz Yisrael, and at the same latitude. If [the moon] was sighted in Eretz Yisrael, however, [there is no certainty whether it will be sighted] in these easterly lands; it may be sighted, and it may not be sighted.

Accordingly, if the moon was sighted in a country located to the east of Eretz Yisrael at the same latitude, the moon was surely sighted in Eretz Yisrael. If, however, the moon was not sighted in a country that lies east [of Eretz Yisrael], that is not an indication that the moon will not be sighted in Eretz Yisrael. On the contrary, it is possible that it will be sighted in Eretz Yisrael.

טו

וכן אם לא יראה הירח בא"י בידוע שלא נראה בכל מדינות העולם שהן למזרח ארץ ישראל ומכוונות כנגדה. ואם יראה בארץ ישראל אפשר שיראה במדינות מזרחיות ואפשר שלא יראה. לפיכך אם יראה במדינה שהיא למזרח ארץ ישראל ומכוונת כנגדה בידוע שנראה בארץ ישראל. ואם לא נראה במדינה המזרחית אין בזה ראיה אלא אפשר שיראה בארץ ישראל:

16

All the above statements apply when the countries to the west and to the east [of Eretz Yisrael] are at the same latitude as Eretz Yisrael - i.e., they are 30 to 35 degrees north [of the equator]. If they are located in a more northerly position, or in a less northerly position, different principles apply, for they are not parallel to Eretz Yisrael.

In the cities that are located to the east and west [of Eretz Yisrael], the statements we made [concerning the sighting of the moon are of abstract interest only], to clarify all the laws regarding the sighting [of the moon] to make the Torah great and glorious. [The intent is not that] the people living in the east or the west should depend on [their] sighting of the moon, or that [their sighting] should be of any consequence whatsoever. Instead, we rely only on the sanctification of the moon [performed] by the court in Eretz Yisrael, as we have explained several times previously.18

טז

וכל אלו הדברים כשהיו המדינות שבמערב ושבמזרח מכוונות. כגון שהיו נוטות לצפון העולם משלשים מעלות עד ל"ה מעלות. אבל אם היו נוטות לצפון יותר מזה או פחות. משפטים אחרים יש להן שהרי אינן מכוונות כנגד א"י. ודברים אלו שביארנו בערי מזרח ומערב אינן אלא להגיד כל משפטי הראייה להגדיל תורה ולהאדירה. לא שיהיו בני מזרח או בני מערב סומכין על ראיית הירח או תועיל להם כלום. אלא לעולם אין סומכין אלא על קידוש בית דין שבארץ ישראל כמו שביארנו כמה פעמים

Footnotes
1.

Since the moon is always low on the horizon at the beginning of the month, it is possible that the individuals dwelling in a valley will not be able to see it. For the horizon that appears to them is always higher in the sky than the actual horizon.

2.

At the beginning of the month, the moon will always be sighted in the west, for it will have completed most of its daily circuit before nightfall, and will set within a few hours of the setting of the sun.

3.

I.e., on the night between the twenty-ninth and thirtieth days of the month, as mentioned in Chapter 1, Halachah 4.

4.

Chapter 1, Halachah 6.

5.

Ibid.

6.

Since there are slightly more than twenty-nine and one half days in a lunar month, after an entire year the conjunction of the moon would fall approximately five and one sixth days earlier than the previous year.

7.

I.e., although the court would declare the beginning of a new month, they would not follow the practice of sanctifying the new month described in Chapter 2, Halachah 8.

8.

I.e., on the night between the twenty-ninth and thirtieth days of the month.

9.

These figures apply in the era when the moon is sanctified according to the testimony of witnesses. According to the fixed calendar we follow at present, there are never more than seven, nor fewer than five, full months.

10.

Halachah 7.

11.

E.g., Rosh HaShanah 20a.

12.

That year was a leap year, and Rabbi Yehudah HaNasi decided that it would be preferable for the additional month to be lacking rather than full (Arichin 9b).

13.

Rosh HaShanah, loc. cit.

14.

Note the gloss of the Lechem Mishneh on Chapter 3, Halachah 15, which offers a different interpretation of that passage.

15.

See Chapters 6-10.

16.

As one moves westward, the sun sets earlier, granting more time for the moon to be seen.

17.

In this instance, our translation follows the version of the Mishneh Torah found in authoritative manuscripts and early printings. The standard printed text differs slightly.

18.

See Chapter 1, Halachah 8; Chapter 5, Halachah 1.

Kiddush HaChodesh - Chapter Nineteen

1

Since our Sages1 said that among the questions posed to the witnesses [in order to verify their testimony] was "In which direction was [the crescent of] the moon inclined," I feel that it is appropriate to explain how this factor can be calculated. My statements will not be exact, because [this knowledge] is of no consequence regarding the actual sighting of the moon.

The starting point of these calculations is to know the degree of inclination of the constellations' [position].

א

לפי שאמרו חכמים שבכלל דברים שהיו בודקין בהן את העדים אומרין להן להיכן היה הירח נוטה. כשר בעיני להודיע דרך חשבון דבר זה. ואין אני מדקדק בו לפי שאינו מועיל בראייה כלל. ותחלת חשבון זה לדעת נטיית המזלות תחילה:

2

The orbit of the sun that passes through the center [of the sphere] of the constellations does not pass directly through the center of the earth from east to west. Instead, it is inclined above the equator which passes through the center of the earth, [slightly] to the north and to the south. Half of it is northerly in inclination and half is southerly in inclination.

ב

העגולה שהיא עוברת במחצית המזלות שבה מהלך השמש. אינה עוברת באמצע העולם מחצי המזרח לחצי המערב. אלא נוטה היא מעל הקו השוה המסבב באמצע העולם כנגד צפון ודרום. חציה נוטה לצפון וחציה נוטה לדרום:

3

There are two points at which the orbit of the sun intersects the equator, which passes through the center of the earth: The first point is the beginning of the constellation of Aries, and the second point, opposite to [the first], is the beginning of the constellation of Libra. Thus, there are six constellations [whose positions] are inclined to the north, those between the beginning of the constellation of Aries and the end of the constellation of Virgo. And there are six [whose positions] are inclined to the south, those between the beginning of the constellation of Libra and the end of the constellation of Pisces.2

ג

ושתי נקודות יש בה שפוגעת בהן בעגולת הקו השוה המסבב באמצע העולם. הנקודה האחת ראש מזל טלה. והנקודה השנייה שכנגדה ראש מזל מאזנים. ונמצאו ששה מזלות נוטות לצפון מתחלת טלה עד סוף בתולה. וששה נוטות לדרום מתחלת מזל מאזנים עד סוף מזל דגים:

4

From the beginning of the constellation of Aries, the constellations' [positions] begin to be inclined slightly and diverge from the equator in a northerly direction until the beginning [of the constellation] of Cancer.

The beginning [of the constellation] of Cancer is approximately twenty-three and one half degrees north of the equator. [Afterwards,] the constellations begin to proceed toward the equator slowly until the beginning [of the constellation] of Libra, which is positioned on the equator.

From the beginning of the constellation of Libra, the constellations' [positions] begin to be inclined slightly and diverge from the equator in a southerly direction until the beginning [of the constellation] of Sagittarius.

The beginning [of the constellation] of Capricorn is approximately twenty-three and one half degrees south of the equator. [Afterwards,] the constellations begin to proceed toward the equator slowly until the beginning [of the constellation] of Aries.

ד

ומראש מזל טלה יתחילו המזלות לנטות מעט מעט ולהתרחק מעל הקו השוה כנגד הצפון עד ראש סרטן. ויהיה ראש סרטן רחוק מעל הקו השוה לרוח הצפון שלש ועשרים מעלות וחצי מעלה בקירוב. ויחזרו המזלות להתקרב לקו השוה מעט מעט עד ראש מאזנים שהוא על הקו השוה. ומראש מאזנים יתחילו לנטות ולהתרחק כנגד רוח דרום עד ראש גדי. ויהיה ראש גדי רחוק מעל הקו השוה לרוח דרום שלש ועשרים מעלות וחצי מעלה. ויחזרו המזלות להתקרב מעט מעט כנגד הקו השוה עד ראש טלה:

5

Thus, [in their daily orbits,] the beginning [of the constellation] of Aries and the beginning [of the constellation] of Libra revolve on the equator. Therefore, when the sun is positioned in the beginning [of these constellations],3 it will not be inclined either to the north or to the south. It will rise due east and set due west, and the daytime and the nighttime [hours] will be equal throughout the world.

ה

נמצא ראש טלה וראש מאזנים מסבב על הקו השוה. ולפיכך כשתהיה השמש בשני ראשים אלו לא תהיה נוטה לא לצפון ולא לדרום. ותזרח בחצי מזרח ותשקע בחצי מערב. ויהיה היום והלילה שוין בכל הישוב:

6

Thus, it should be clear to you that each of the degrees [in the sphere] of the constellations is inclined to the north or to the south, and that there is a specific measure to their inclination. The greatest inclination will be no more than approximately twenty-three and half degrees.

ו

הרי נתברר לך שכל מעלה ומעלה ממעלות המזלות נוטה לצפון או לדרום ויש לנטייתה שיעור. ורוב הנטייה לא תהיה יותר על שלש ועשרים מעלות וחצי בקירוב:

7

The following represent the extent of inclination from the equator vis-a-vis the number of degrees [in the sphere of the constellations]. Beginning with the constellation of Aries: [A point located at] 10 degrees [in the celestial sphere] will be inclined 4 degrees [from the equator]. [A point located at] 20 degrees will be inclined 8 degrees. [A point located at] 30 degrees will be inclined 11 1/2 degrees.

[A point located at] 40 degrees will be inclined 15 degrees. [A point located at] 50 degrees will be inclined 18 degrees. [A point located at] 60 degrees will be inclined 20 degrees. [A point located at] 70 degrees will be inclined 22 degrees. [A point located at] 80 degrees will be inclined 23 degrees. [A point located at] 90 degrees4 will be inclined 23 1/2 degrees.

ז

ואלו הם השעורים של נטיות לפי מניין המעלות של מזלות. והתחלה מתחלת מזל טלה. י' מעלות נטייתם ד' מעלות. כ' מעלות נטייתם ח' מעלות. ל' מעלות נטייתם י"א מעלות ומחצה. ומ' מעלות נטייתם ט"ו מעלות. נ' מעלות נטייתם י"ח מעלות. ס' מעלות נטייתם כ' מעלות. ע' מעלות נטייתם כ"ב מעלות. פ' מעלות נטייתם כ"ג מעלות. צ' מעלות נטייתם כ"ג מעלות וחצי מעלה:

8

If the number [of degrees] also includes units, you should calculate [their degree of inclination] by taking an average between the two figures, as was explained with regard to [the determination of the position of] the sun and the moon.5

What is implied? Five degrees will be inclined 2 degrees. If the number of degrees [in the celestial sphere] is twenty-three, the inclination [from the equator] will be nine degrees. This same pattern should be followed whenever calculating a number that has both units and tens.

ח

ואם יהיו אחדים במנין תקח להם מנתם מבין שתי הנטיות כמו שביארנו בשמש ובירח. כיצד חמש מעלות נטייתם שתי מעלות. ואם היה מניין המעלות כ"ג נטייתם ט' מעלות. ועל דרך זו בכל האחדים שהן עם העשרות:

9

Since you know the extent of the inclination of all the degrees from one until ninety, you will be able to calculate the degree of inclination [of the entire celestial sphere] according to the method of calculation explained with regard to the moon's latitude.6 For if the number is between 90 and 180, the number should be subtracted from 180.7

If the number is between 180 and 270, 180 should be subtracted from the number.8 If the number is between 270 and 360, the number should be subtracted from 360.9 [After these subtractions have been made], you will know the degree of inclination of the remainder, for it is the degree of inclination of the numbers mentioned previously without any addition or subtraction.

ט

ומאחר שתדע הנטייה של מעלות מאחד עד צ'. תדע נטייתם כולן כדרך שהודענום ברוחב הירח. שאם היה המניין יותר על צ' עד ק"פ תגרע אותו מק"פ. ואם היה יותר על ק"פ עד ר"ע תגרע ממנו ק"פ. ואם היה יותר על ר"ע עד ש"ס תגרע אותו מש"ס. והנשאר תדע נטייתו והוא נטיית אותו המניין שבידך בלא גרעון ולא תוספת:

10

If you desire to know the number of degrees by which the moon's position deviates from the equator to the north or to the south, [you should follow this procedure]: Calculate the inclination of the degree [in the celestial sphere] that will be the true position, and see if its inclination is northerly or southerly. Afterwards, calculate the moon's first latitude and see whether it is northerly or southerly.

If the moon's latitude and the inclination of the degree [in the celestial sphere where it is located] have the same direction, then they should be added together.10 If they are in different directions - i.e., one is southerly and one is northerly - the smaller figure should be subtracted from the larger one.11 The remainder is the [angular] distance of the moon from the equator to the direction in which the larger figure was inclined.

י

אם תרצה לידע כמה מעלות הוא הירח נוטה מעל הקו השוה כנגד צפון העולם או כנגד דרום העולם. תדע תחלה כמה נטיית המעלה שהיא מקום הירח האמיתי ולאי זה רוח היא נוטה לצפון או לדרום. ותחזור ותחשוב ותוציא רוחב הירח הראשון ותראה אם הוא צפוני או דרומי. אם נמצאו רוחב הירח ונטיית מעלתו ברוח אחת כגון שהיו שניהם צפונים או דרומיים תקבץ שניהם. ואם נמצאו בשתי רוחות כגון שהיה האחד דרומי והאחד צפוני. תגרע המעט משניהם מן הרב והנשאר הוא מרחק הירח מעל קו השוה באותה הרוח שהיה בה הרב בשניהם:

11

What is implied? Let us say that we are trying to calculate the degree of inclination of the moon from the equator on the night of sighting, the second day of the month of Iyar of this year. You have already established that the angle [in the celestial sphere] at which the moon was located is the nineteenth degree of the constellation of Taurus. Thus, its inclination to the north will be approximately 18 degrees.12

The latitude of the moon is approximately four degrees to the south.13 After you subtract the lesser figure from the larger one, the position of the moon will be fourteen degrees to the north of the equator, for the largest figure is the eighteen degrees north [at which the moon's true position was located]. All [of the phases] of this calculation are approximations and are not exact, because they are of no consequence regarding the sighting.

יא

כיצד באנו לידע כמה הירח נוטה מעל הקו השוה בליל הראייה שהוא שני לחדש אייר משנה זו. וכבר ידעת שמעלת הירח היה י"ט ממזל שור. נטייתה בצפון כמו י"ח מעלות. ורוחב הירח היה בדרום כמו ד' מעלות. תגרע המעט מן הרב ישאר י"ד מעלות. נמצא הירח רחוק מעל הקו השוה י"ד מעלות לרוח צפון. שהרי המניין הרב שהוא שמנה עשרה מעלות היה צפוני. וכל חשבון זה בקירוב בלא דקדוק לפי שאינו מועיל בראייה:

12

If you desire to know the direction to which the moon will appear to be inclined [when sighted, it is governed by the following principles]: Calculate [the moon's angular] distance from the equator. If it is located on the equator or within two or three degrees to the north or to the south,14 it will appear due west and its crescent will appear to be pointed due east.

יב

אם תרצה לידע לאי זו רוח מרוחות העולם יראה הירח נוטה. תחשוב ותדע מרחקו מעל הקו השוה. אם יהיה על הקו השוה או קרוב ממנו בשתים או שלש מעלות בצפון או בדרום. יראה מכוון כנגד אמצע מערב ותראה פגימתו מכוונת כנגד מזרח העולם בשוה:

13

If [the moon] is inclined to the north of the equator, it will appear in the northwest, and its crescent will appear to be pointed southeast.

יג

ואם יהיה רחוק מעל הקו השוה לצפון העולם. יראה בין מערב העולם ובין צפונו. ותראה פגימתו נוטה מכנגד מזרח העולם כנגד דרום העולם:

14

If [the moon] is inclined to the south of the equator, it will appear in the southwest, and its crescent will appear to be pointed northeast. To the extent of [the moon's] distance [from the equator], its inclination will increase.

יד

ואם היה רחוק מעל הקו השוה לדרום העולם. יראה בין מערב העולם ובין דרומו. ותראה פגימתו נוטה מכנגד מזרח העולם כנגד צפון העולם. ולפי רוב המרחק ולפי רוב הנטייה:

15

Among the other dimensions of the examination of the witnesses is the question: "How high [in the sky did the moon] appear?" This factor can be determined by the arc of sighting. If the arc is short, the moon will appear close to the earth, and when it is long, it will appear high above the earth. The length of the arc of sighting [will determine] the height at which [the moon] will appear above the earth to the witnesses.

טו

ומחקירת העדים שאומרין להם כמה היה גבוה. ודבר זה יודע מקשת הראייה. שבזמן שתהיה קשת הראייה קצרה יראה הירח כאילו הוא קרוב מן הארץ. ובזמן שתהיה ארוכה יראה גבוה מעל הארץ. ולפי אורך קשת הראייה לפי גובהו מעל הארץ בראיית העינים:

16

Thus, we have explained all the calculations necessary for the sighting [of the moon] and the examination of the witnesses, so that everything will be comprehensible to men of understanding, and they will not lack awareness of any of the Torah's paths. [Therefore,] they will not venture forth in search of it in other texts. "Seek out of the book of God, read it. None of these will be lacking" [Isaiah 34:16].15

טז

הרי ביארנו חשבונות כל הדרכים שצריכין להם בידיעת הראייה ובחקירת העדים. כדי שיהיה הכל ידוע למבינים ולא יחסרו דרך מדרכי התורה ולא ישוטטו לבקש אחריה בספרים אחרים. דרשו מעל ספר ה' וקראו אחת מהנה לא נעדרה: סליק הלכות קדוש החדש

Footnotes
1.

Rosh HaShanah 23b, cited in Chapter 2, Halachah 4.

2.

In our previous notes, we explained that the constellations from Capricorn to Gemini were northerly inclined. There is no contradiction between those statements and the statements above; the difference is in the definition of the word "inclined." In the present context, the Rambam is using the word "inclined" to refer to the position of the ecliptic as it passes through these constellations: Is it located above or below the equator, and what is the extent of its variance from the equator?

Previously, we had used the word "inclined" to refer to the direction of the path of movement of the stars in the sky. In the constellations from Capricorn to Gemini, as the constellations move in their orbit, they will be moving northward. Conversely, in the constellations from Cancer to Sagittarius, as the constellations move in their orbit, they will be moving southward.

The inclination of the constellations can be observed by a careful observer with a field compass. In the spring and in the fall, the sun rises due east and sets due west. In the summer (i.e., when the sun is located in the constellations from Taurus to Virgo), it rises in the northeast and sets in the northwest. In the winter (i.e., when the sun is located in the constellations from Scorpio to Pisces), it rises in the southeast and sets in the southwest. Throughout the year, these constellations rise and set in the place where the sun rises and sets when it is in these constellations.

3.

I.e., at the vernal [spring] and autumnal equinoxes.

4.

I.e., the beginning of the constellation of Cancer. In these ninety degrees, we will have passed through three constellations, Aries, Taurus, and Gemini.

5.

See Chapter 13, Halachah 7, and Chapter 15, Halachah 7.

6.

See Chapter 16, Halachah 13.

7.

I.e., 110° has the same degree of inclination as 70°. For the angle of inclination proceeds in an even-balanced arc with 90 degrees as its center.

8.

I.e., the southerly inclination beginning from the constellation of Libra parallels exactly the northerly inclination beginning from Aries.

9.

Producing the inverse of the figures mentioned in the previous quadrant.

10.

E.g., if they are both northerly, the moon's latitude will cause it to appear further north than the constellation in which its true position is located.

11.

I.e., if the moon's true position is located in a northerly position and its latitude is southerly, the latitude should be subtracted from the angular distance of its true position.

12.

Actually, the true figure is a few minutes larger.

13.

Actually, the true figure is a few minutes less.

14.

The variance of two or three degrees will not produce a difference that is of consequence.

15.

With this halachah, the Rambam explains one of his motives for the inclusion of this section in the Mishneh Torah: so that a serious student would not have to resort to other texts, particularly those of the gentile scientific community, to obtain this knowledge. In this manner, he affirms one of the purposes for the Mishneh Torah stated in its introduction, to provide a text that includes every dimension of Jewish law.

Ta'aniyot - Chapter One

Introduction to Hilchos Ta'aniyot

[This text contains] one positive commandment: To cry out to God in the event of great distress that affects the community as a whole. This mitzvah is explained in the following chapters.

הלכות תעניות - הקדמה

מצות עשה אחת והיא לצעוק לפני ה' בכל עת צרה גדולה שלא תבא על הצבור: וביאור מצוה זו בפרקים אלו:

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.

א

מצות עשה מן התורה לזעוק ולהריע בחצוצרות על כל צרה שתבא על הצבור. שנאמר על הצר הצורר אתכם והרעותם בחצוצרות. כלומר כל דבר שייצר לכם כגון בצורת ודבר וארבה וכיוצא בהן זעקו עליהן והריעו:

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.

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.

ב

ודבר זה מדרכי התשובה הוא. שבזמן שתבוא צרה ויזעקו עליה ויריעו ידעו הכל שבגלל מעשיהם הרעים הורע להן ככתוב עונותיכם הטו וגו'. וזה הוא שיגרום להסיר הצרה מעליהם:

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.

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].

ג

אבל אם לא יזעקו ולא יריעו אלא יאמרו דבר זה ממנהג העולם אירע לנו וצרה זו נקרה נקרית. הרי זו דרך אכזריות וגורמת להם להדבק במעשיהם הרעים. ותוסיף הצרה צרות אחרות. הוא שכתוב בתורה והלכתם עמי בקרי והלכתי גם אני עמכם בחמת קרי. כלומר כשאביא עליכם צרה כדי שתשובו אם תאמרו שהיא קרי אוסיף לכם חמת אותו קרי:

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].

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."

ד

ומדברי סופרים להתענות על כל צרה שתבוא על הצבור עד שירוחמו מן השמים. ובימי התעניות האלו זועקין בתפלות ומתחננים ומריעין בחצוצרות בלבד. ואם היו במקדש מריעין בחצוצרות ובשופר. השופר מקצר והחצוצרות מאריכות. שמצות היום בחצוצרות. ואין תוקעין בחצוצרות ושופר כאחד אלא במקדש שנאמר בחצוצרות וקול שופר הריעו לפני המלך ה':

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.

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.

ה

תעניות אלו שגוזרין על הצבור מפני הצרות אינן יום אחר יום. שאין רוב הצבור יכולים לעמוד בדבר זה. ואין גוזרין בתחלה תענית אלא בשני בשבת ובה' שלאחריו ובשני שלאחריו וכן על הסדר הזה שני וחמישי ושני עד שירוחמו:

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.

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.

ו

אין גוזרין תעניות על הצבור לא בשבתות ולא בימים טובים. וכן אין תוקעין בהן לא בשופר ולא בחצוצרות ולא זועקים ומתחננים בהם בתפלה. אלא אם כן היתה עיר שהקיפוה עכו"ם או נהר או ספינה המטרפת בים. אפילו יחיד הנרדף מפני עכו"ם מפני ליסטים ומפני רוח רעה (מתענין עליהם בשבת ו) זועקין ומתחננים עליהם בתפלה. אבל אין תוקעין אלא אם כן תקעו לקבץ את העם לעזור אותם ולהצילן:

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.

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.

ז

וכן אין גוזרין תענית בתחלה בראשי חדשים. או בחנוכה ופורים או בחולו של מועד. ואם התחילו להתענות על הצרה אפילו יום אחד ופגע בהן יום מאלו מתענין ומשלימין היום בתענית:

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.

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.

ח

תעניות אלו שמתענין על הצרות אין מתענין בהן לא עוברות ולא מניקות ולא קטנים. ומותרין לאכול בלילה אע"פ שמתענין למחר חוץ מתעניות המטר כמו שיתבאר. וכל תענית שאוכלין בה בלילה בין צבור בין יחיד הרי זה אוכל ושותה עד שיעלה עמוד השחר. והוא שלא ישן אבל אם ישן אינו חוזר ואוכל:

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.

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.

ט

כשם שהצבור מתענים על צרתן כך היחיד מתענה על צרתו. כיצד הרי שהיה לו חולה או תועה במדבר או אסור בבית האסורין. יש לו להתענות עליו ולבקש רחמים בתפלתו. ואומר עננו וכו' בכל תפלה שמתפלל. ולא יתענה בשבתות ולא במועדות ולא בראשי חדשים ולא בחנוכה ופורים:

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.

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.

י

כל תענית שלא קיבלה עליו היחיד מבעוד יום אינו תענית. כיצד מקבלה כשיתפלל תפלת מנחה אומר אחר התפלה מחר אהא בתענית וגומר בלבו להתענות למחר. ואף על פי שהוא אוכל בלילה לא הפסיד כלום. וכן אם גמר בלבו וקבל עליו להתענות שלשה או ארבעה ימים זה אחר זה אע"פ שהוא אוכל כל לילה ולילה לא הפסיד תעניתו. ואינו צריך כוונה לכל יום ויום מבעודו:

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.

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.

יא

קבל עליו מבעוד יום להתענות למחר בלבד והתענה. ובלילה נמלך להתענות ביום שני. אף על פי שלן בתעניתו אינה תענית מפני שלא קבלה עליו מבעוד יום. ואין צריך לומר שהיה אוכל ושותה בלילה והשכים בבקר ונמלך להתענות שאין זו תענית כלל:

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.

יב

הרואה חלום רע צריך להתענות למחר. כדי שישוב ויעור במעשיו ויחפש בהן ויחזור בתשובה. ומתענה ואפילו בשבת. ומתפלל עננו בכל תפלה אף על פי שלא קיבלה מבעוד יום. והמתענה בשבת מתענה יום אחר מפני שביטל עונג שבת:

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.

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.

יג

מתענה אדם שעות והוא שלא יאכל כלום שאר היום. כיצד הרי שהיה טרוד בחפציו ומתעסק בצרכיו ולא אכל עד חצות או עד תשע שעות ונמלך להתענות בשעות שנשארו מן היום. הרי זה מתענה אותן שעות ומתפלל בהן עננו. שהרי קבל עליו התענית קודם שעות התענית. וכן אם אכל ושתה ואחר כך התחיל להתענות שאר היום הרי זה תענית שעות:

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).

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

יד

כל השרוי בתענית. בין שהיה מתענה על צרתו או על חלומו בין שהיה מתענה עם הצבור על צרתם. הרי זה לא ינהוג עידונין בעצמו ולא יקל ראשו ולא יהיה שמח וטוב לב אלא דואג ואונן כענין שנאמר מה יתאונן אדם חי גבר על חטאיו. ומותר לו לטעום את התבשיל ואפילו בכדי רביעית והוא שלא יבלע אלא טועם ופולט. שכח ואכל משלים תעניתו:

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

טו

יחיד שהיה מתענה על החולה ונתרפא. על צרה ועברה. הרי זה משלים תעניתו. ההולך ממקום שמתענין למקום שאין מתענין הרי זה מתענה ומשלים תעניתו. הלך ממקום שאין מתענין למקום שמתענין הרי זה מתענה עמהן. שכח ואכל ושתה אל יתראה בפניהם ואל ינהוג עידונין בעצמו:

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.

טז

צבור שהיו מתענין על הגשמים וירדו להן גשמים. אם קודם חצות ירדו לא ישלימו אלא אוכלין ושותין ומתכנסין וקוראין הלל הגדול. שאין אומרין הלל הגדול אלא בנפש שבעה וכרס מלאה. ואם אחר חצות הואיל ועבר רוב היום בקדושה ישלימו תעניתן. וכן אם היו מתענין על צרה ועברה או על גזרה ובטלה. אם קודם חצות לא ישלימו ואם אחר חצות ישלימו:

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.

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.

יז

בכל יום תענית שגוזרין על הצבור מפני הצרות. בית דין והזקנים יושבין בבית הכנסת ובודקים על מעשי אנשי העיר מאחר תפלת שחרית עד חצות היום. ומסירין המכשולות של עבירות. ומזהירין ודורשין וחוקרין על בעלי חמס ועבירות ומפרישין אותן. ועל בעלי זרוע ומשפילין אותן. וכיוצא בדברים אלו. ומחצי היום ולערב רביע היום קוראין בברכות וקללות שבתורה שנאמר מוסר ה' בני אל תמאס ואל תקוץ בתוכחתו ומפטירין בנביא בתוכחות מענין הצרה. ורביע היום האחרון מתפללים מנחה ומתחננים וזועקים ומתוודים כפי כחם

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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