THOUGHTS ON THE DAILY DAF
brought to you by Kollel Iyun Hadaf of Har Nof
Rosh Kollel: Rav Mordecai Kornfeld
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TA'ANIS 20 (15 Elul) - dedicated by Yechiel Wachtel l'Iluy Nishmas his
father, Reb Shimon Eliezer ben Reb Yechiel Wachtel (who passed away on 15
1) RAIN IN ONE CITY, DROUGHT IN ANOTHER
QUESTION: The Mishnah (18b) says that if one city in a province does not
receive any rain, then that city must fast and blow the Shofar, and its
surrounding areas must fast, but do not blow the Shofar. The Mishnah
demonstrates this scenario of one city not receiving rain while others
receive rain from the verse, "I will bring rain upon one city, and upon
another city I will not bring rain" (Amos 4:7).
The Gemara here explains that the verse in Amos means "Shneihem l'Klalah" --
when one city receives rain and the other city does not, it means that *both*
cities are suffering from a Divine punishment. The city that does not receive
any rain obviously suffers, because none of their fields produce any crops.
But even the city that receives rain suffers, because, as RASHI explains,
that city receives too much rain which ruins the crops. Thus, the verse means
that neither city has any food to eat (as the Gemara earlier (6b) mentioned).
This explanation, though, contradicts the words of RASHI in the Mishnah
(beginning of 19a). Rashi there says that the reason why the areas
surrounding the city that did not receive any rain must blow the Shofar is
because the people from the neighboring city which did not receive any rain
are going to come to the surrounding areas to buy their food, and there will
not be enough food for everyone, leaving both cities to starve.
Why did Rashi in the Mishnah not explain the same way that he explains in the
Gemara here, that the city that gets rain gets too much of it, and thus the
crops are destroyed?
ANSWER: Rashi understood that even though the verse means that "Shneihem
l'Klalah" -- one city suffers from no rain, and the other city suffers from
too much rain, the Mishnah cannot be discussing a case where one city
received no rain and the other city received too much. First, the Mishnah
does not mention anything about a catastrophe in the second city; it only
says that if it does *not rain* on one city that city must fast and blow the
Shofar and the surrounding cities fast. Second, if there is a second city
that received too much rain, then they should also have to fast and *blow the
Shofar* in that city as well, and yet the Mishnah says that the surrounding
areas only fast but do not blow the Shofar. It must be that the Mishnah is
discussing a different case than the verse that it quotes (as explained by
the Gemara) is discussing -- it did not rain at all on one city, and in the
other city it rained *normally*. In such a case, the suffering of the city
that received rain is not as serious as that of the city that received no
rain, and therefore the people of that city only fast and do not blow the
How does Rashi understand the Gemara earlier (6b) in which Rav Chisda says
that if rain comes down only on parts of a country but not on the rest, it is
not a sign of Divine punishment and the people *do not need to Daven* for the
situation to change? Even if the second city did not get flooded, our Mishnah
says that the city that was rained upon also has to fast!
The answer must be that there are three different cases according to Rashi:
(1) If it rains too much on the city, it is certainly a Klalah, and they must
fast and blow the Shofar. (2) If it rains normally on the city, as much as it
rains in other years, it is a bad sign, because they are going to have to
supply food to the other city, but it is not as bad as when the city gets
flooded. Therefore, they only fast, but do not blow the Shofar. (3) The case
of Rav Chisda (on 6b) is where it rained the amount of two cities on one
city, causing the second city to have enough crops to supply both cities. In
that case, it is good for both cities and neither one needs to fast.
(The other Rishonim here argue with Rashi, and assert that the city in the
Mishnah that was rained upon is not fasting due to their *own* plight.
Rather, they are simply fasting in sympathy for the brethren in the
neighboring city. According to them, there are only two different kinds of
cases, since in both cases (2) and (3) above there cause for suffering in the
city upon which rain fell.)
2) AGADAH: THE UGLY PERSON
QUESTIONS: The Gemara relates that one time Rebbi Elazar bar Rebbi Shimon was
riding his donkey proudly on the river bank after having learned much Torah.
He was greeted by a very ugly person and he did not reply to the greeting.
Instead, he said, "Empty one! How ugly are you! Are all of the people of your
city as ugly as you?"
The person replied, "I don't know. But go and say to the Craftsman Who made
me how ugly His handiwork is."
When Rebbi Elazar realized what he had done, he dismounted the donkey, spread
himself upon the ground before the person and begged for forgiveness.
(a) This incident poses some serious questions. Why did Rebbi Elazar not
return the greeting of the person to begin with? Just because a person is not
handsome is no reason to ignore his greeting!
(b) Second, how could he have said such an insulting comment to the person?
It is inconceivable that such a great Tana would insult someone just because
of his looks!
(a) The reason Rebbi Elazar acted so harshly when the person greeted him was
because Rebbi Elazar considered the person's greeting disrespectful, since we
are told that it is not respectful for a less-learned person to greet a more-
learned person (Berachos 27b and Shekalim 7a; see Insights to Shekalim 7:1).
Proper respect dictates that one should wait until the Chacham greets him,
and only then respond to the greeting.
Therefore, when the person greeted him, Rebbi Elazar did not answer him
because he maintained that the person did not conduct himself properly by
greeting the Rav.
(b) Rebbi Elazar's comment may now be understood as follows. The Gemara in
Shekalim says that different places had different customs as far as greeting
the Rav. Some places did not know about the custom to refrain from greeting
the Rav out of respect.
Rebbi Elazar simply said to the person, "Are all of the people of your city
*like this*?" Rebbi Elazar maintained that one may not greet someone greater
than he, but he realized that this person was oblivious to this practice. He
therefore asked whether the person had been brought up in a place where it
was considered acceptable to extend greetings to a greater person. He asked
in a disdainful manner to express that he considered such a custom
The person, though, was not know aware that there was any custom *not* to
greet a Rav, so when he was not greeting in return by Rebbi Elazar and he
heard Rebbi Elazar's statement, he understood Rebbi Elazar to be insulting
his physical features. "Are they like this," in his ears, meant "are they as
ugly as you!" Although the Gemara quotes Rebbi Elazar as asking, "Are all of
the people of your city *as ugly as you*," that is not what Rebbi Elazar
actually said, but how the person *heard* what he said. Rebbi Elazar actually
said, "Are all of the people of your city *like this*," but his relatively
disdainful manner bespoke the sort of statement that the person thought he
heard (see Tosfos in Nazir (10a), who says that the phrase "he spoke" can
also refer to something expressed by one's actions). After hearing the
response of the ugly person, Rebbi Elazar strongly regretted expressing
himself in such a way without specifying what he was upset about (i.e. the
way the person greeted him), and he regretted not having more tolerance for
the other person's custom.
This is why, in the end of the incident, Rebbi Elazar publicly taught that "a
person should be soft as a reed and not as hard as a cedar." He was
expressing his regret for the way that he had acted. According to the simple
way of reading the incident, the issue was one of haughtiness, as the
beginning of the incident implies. However, that has nothing to do with being
"soft" (and tolerant) or "hard" (and stubborn). According to this
explanation, though, the main issue was not haughtiness, but tolerance. Thus,
it was appropriate for Rebbi Elazar to talk about being "soft like a reed"
and tolerant and not "hard like a cedar" and intolerant. (Based on ideas
mentioned in the BEN YEHOYADA and IYUN YAKOV.)