1) HALACHAH: THE BLESSING FOR BLOSSOMING FRUIT TREES
Rav Yehudah says that one who sees blossoming fruit trees during the month of Nisan recites a special blessing. What conditions are necessary in order to recite this blessing?
(a) The HILCHOS KETANOS (2:28), cited by the BE'ER HEITEV (OC 226:1), rules that one recites this blessing only for a tree that bears edible fruit.
(b) Although the Gemara says that one recites the blessing when he sees the tree during the month of Nisan, the RITVA writes that the blessing is not limited specifically to Nisan. One may recite a blessing when he sees a blossoming fruit tree at the beginning of the season in which trees blossom in that particular region, such as in the month of Tishrei in the southern hemisphere. The Acharonim accept this ruling (MACHATZIS HA'SHEKEL). (However, the BIRKEI YOSEF writes that based on Kabalistic reasons one should recite the blessing specifically during the month of Nisan.) Why does the Gemara say that the blessing should be recited during the month of Nisan? Perhaps the Gemara means that one should not recite the blessing for trees that blossom early, but only for trees that blossom in the season in which most trees blossom.
Some Poskim rule that one may recite the blessing even after the fruit has grown (VILNA GA'ON OC 226:2).
(c) The Poskim point out that it is preferable to recite the blessing upon seeing at least two blossoming fruit trees together. This is based on the wording of the Gemara which says "when one sees trees blossoming," in the plural.
2) THE ASCENT AND DESCENT OF THE MAZALOS
QUESTION: The Beraisa quotes Rebbi Yehoshua who maintains that the flood occurred in the month of Iyar when the constellation of Kimah "sinks" ("Shoke'a") or descends during the daytime. In order to bring the flood upon the world, Hash-m changed its pattern and made it "rise" ("Oleh") during the daytime. According to Rebbi Eliezer, the flood occurred in Marcheshvan, when Kimah rises. Hash-m did not need to alter its pattern in order to bring the flood because Kimah was rising as usual at that time.
RASHI explains that Kimah is the tail of the constellation Tleh (Aries), which is also the head of Shor (Taurus). The Mazal of the month of Iyar is the constellation Shor. This means that in Iyar, Shor is in the "background" behind the sun (and thus Shor is not visible at night throughout the entire month, without taking precession into consideration). Consequently, the constellation Tleh -- which travels ahead of Shor -- rises just before the sun rises (and thus is visible at the end of the night), travels through the daytime sky, and sets at the western horizon just before sunset. Therefore, during the entire month of Iyar, Kimah -- which is the tail of Tleh -- is in the sky the entire day until a moment before sunset, when it sets (since it travels directly in front of the sun). Accordingly, why does the Beraisa say that in Iyar the constellation of Kimah is "Shoke'a" during the day. This implies that in Iyar it sinks, or sets, during the day, when it actually rises during the day.
Similarly, Rashi (end of 11b) writes with regard to Tleh that in Iyar "it is Shoke'a the entire day." Why does Rashi write that Tleh is "Shoke'a" during the day in the month of Iyar? It rises during the day (at least during the first half of the day). In fact, not only does Kimah not "sink" during the day in Iyar, but it does "sink" in Marcheshvan. Why does the Gemara say that according to Rebbi Eliezer Kimah rises during the day?
Rebbi Eliezer maintains that the flood occurred in the month of Marcheshvan. The Mazal of Marcheshvan is Akrav (Scorpio), which is six Mazalos away from Shor (and thus at the opposite point in the sky), just as Marcheshvan is six months away from Iyar. This means that in Marcheshvan, Kimah (the tail of Tleh) will be a little over six Mazalos ahead of the sun (Shor is six Mazalos ahead of Akrav, and a bit more is the tail of Tleh). Accordingly, Kimah sets by the time the sun rises; this is because there are only six Mazalos in the sky at a time, and Kimah is more than six Mazalos away from the sun. Kimah rises again twelve hours later, or just before the sun sets. According to Rebbi Eliezer, the Beraisa should say that Kimah is "Shoke'a" during the entire day. Why does the Beraisa say that Kimah is "Oleh" during the day according to Rebbi Eliezer, and "Shoke'a" during the day according to Rebbi Yehoshua, and not the opposite?
(a) RASHI understands that when the Beraisa says that Kimah is "Shoke'a" in Iyar, it means that it has already made its appearance in the sky. From the moment the Mazal fully appears in the sky it is considered to be descending (i.e., it is heading towards the western horizon) until it sets and completely disappears beneath the horizon. At that point, after it has set, it is considered to be commencing its ascent (i.e., it is heading towards the eastern horizon) and is "Oleh." It completes its ascent the moment that it rises and fully appears in the sky.
This also explains why the Beraisa says that, according to Rebbi Eliezer, Kimah is considered to be rising during the day in the month of Marcheshvan. By the time sunrise occurs, Kimah has completely disappeared below the horizon. Therefore, it is considered to be "Oleh" the entire day, as it makes its way up towards the horizon in order to rise and appear in the sky.
Rashi apparently learns that a Mazal is able to influence the world only during the time when it is "Oleh" (that is, when it is beneath the world), and, more specifically, when it is rising over the eastern horizon. After it has completely risen and begins to cross the sky, its power wanes. Hence, the only time during which the flood could have begun was when Kimah was rising and was above the world; at that time, the floodwaters could pour forth through the two stars that were removed from Kimah and inundate the world (as Rashi explains, the rain came through the holes that were made when two stars in Kimah were removed from their places). Therefore, according to Rebbi Yehoshua who says that the flood occurred in Iyar when Kimah rises before sunrise, without Hash-m's intervention the flood could not have occurred because Kimah had already begun its descent by the time the day began (sunrise). Hash-m had to change the pattern of the world and make Kimah rise later than usual so that it would rise when it was already day (after sunrise).
According to Rebbi Eliezer, there was a moment at the end of the day -- immediately before sunset -- at which Kimah was rising, and therefore the flood was able to be brought upon the world through Kimah at that time.
(b) TOSFOS, the BA'AL HA'ME'OR, and others reverse the Girsa of the Beraisa. According to their Girsa, Rebbi Eliezer maintains that Kimah is "Shoke'a" during the day (in Marcheshvan), Rebbi Yehoshua maintains that it is "Oleh" during the day (in Iyar). Accordingly, there is no question on either opinion, because Kimah indeed rises in the sky during the days in Iyar and descends beneath the world during the days in Marcheshvan.
The Ba'al ha'Me'or expresses astonishment at Rashi's assertion that the Girsa must be emended, when his emended Girsa complicates matters.
Perhaps Rashi was bothered by the wording of the Beraisa. Tosfos says that Kimah is up during the day in Iyar and down during the day in Marcheshvan. According to Tosfos' interpretation of the Beraisa, the words "Shoke'a" and "Oleh" are inappropriate. The Beraisa should say instead that Kimah is either "above" the earth or "below" it.
(c) The text of the ARUCH (Erech "Kimah," and as recorded in the addendum of Talmidei Rashi printed at the end of the Maseches, 35a) is the same as that of Tosfos, but the Aruch gives a different explanation. He explains that the Gemara's discussion of the Mazalos here is unrelated to the actual position of the constellations relative to the sun. Rather, the Mazalos mentioned here represent astrological formulae for predicting world events. They are similar to the seven Mazalos of the hours (Sha'os) described in the Gemara in Shabbos (156a), whereby each hour is represented by a different planet which has power over that hour, and which rotate in cycles of seven on an hourly basis.
According to this method of astrology, all twelve Mazalos "serve" during the daytime as well as during the nighttime. Each one "serves" one hour during the day and one hour during the night. Each month the night (and day) begins with a different Mazal. When the Gemara says that a Mazal is "Shoke'a," it refers to the Mazal whose turn arrives immediately after midday or midnight. A Mazal that is "Oleh" refers to a Mazal whose hour arrives during the first half of the day or night. Therefore, according to Rebbi Eliezer (who says that the flood occurred in Marcheshvan when Akrav is the leading Mazal), the hour of Shor (which includes Kimah, the tail of Tleh) comes six hours after the leading Mazal, Akrav, or the first hour after midday. Therefore, it is said to be "Shoke'a" because it rises to power only after midday. According to Rebbi Yehoshua, the flood occurred in Iyar when the leading Mazal is Shor, and thus the hour of Kimah occurred when the sun was on the rise, in the first half of the day, and thus it is said to be "Oleh."