TA'ANIS 20 - dedicated l'Iluy Nishmas Reb Aharon Dovid ben Elimelech Shmuel Kornfeld (Muncasz/Israel/New York), who passed away on 3 Av 5761, by his daughter, Shifra, and family. May his love for Torah and for Eretz Yisrael be preserved in all of his descendants.
1) RAIN IN ONE CITY, DROUGHT IN ANOTHER
QUESTION: The Mishnah (18b) states that when one city in a province receives no rain, the residents of that city must fast and blow the Shofar. Surrounding areas must fast but do not blow the Shofar. The Mishnah cites a verse which describes such a case: "I will bring rain upon one city, and upon another city I will not bring rain" (Amos 4:7).
The Gemara here says that the verse in Amos means "Shteihen l'Klalah" -- when one city receives rain and the other city does not, both cities suffer from a Divine punishment. The city that does not receive rain obviously suffers because none of its fields produce crops. The other city suffers because, as RASHI explains, it receives too much rain which ruins its crops. The verse means that neither city has any food to eat (as the Gemara earlier (6b) mentions).
This explanation, however, contradicts the words of RASHI in the Mishnah (beginning of 19a). Rashi there says that the reason why the areas surrounding the drought-afflicted city must blow the Shofar is because the people from the city which did not receive any rain will come to the surrounding areas to buy food, and as a result there will not be enough food for everyone. Both cities will suffer from famine.
Why does Rashi in the Mishnah not explain the same way he explains here in the Gemara (that the other city receives too much rain and as a result the crops are destroyed)?
ANSWER: Rashi understands that even though the verse means that "Shteihen l'Klalah" -- one city suffers from no rain and the other city suffers from too much rain, the Mishnah cannot be discussing a case in which one city receives no rain and the other city receives too much. The Mishnah mentions nothing about a catastrophe in the second city; it says only that when one city receives no rain it must fast and blow the Shofar and the surrounding cities must fast. Moreover, if there is a second city that receives too much rain, its residents should also have to fast and blow the Shofar, but the Mishnah says that the surrounding areas only fast but do not blow the Shofar. It must be that the Mishnah is discussing a situation different from that described in the verse which it quotes (as the Gemara explains). In the case of the Mishnah, one city received no rain and the other city received a normal amount of rain. In such a case, the suffering of the city which received rain is not as serious as that of the city which received no rain, and therefore the people of that city only fast and do not blow the Shofar.
How does Rashi understand the Gemara earlier (6b) in which Rav Chisda says that if rain falls on parts of a country but not on all of the country, it is not a sign of Divine punishment and the people do not need to pray for the situation to improve? The Mishnah says that even if the second city does not get flooded by the rains, that city still needs to fast!
The answer must be that there are three different cases according to Rashi:
1. When it rains too much in the second city, the rain certainly is considered a Klalah and the people must fast and blow the Shofar. (This is the situation expressed by the verse, as the Gemara says, "Shteihen l'Klalah.")
2. When it rains normally in the second city (as much as it rains in other years), it is a bad sign because the residents are going to have to share their food supply with the residents of the drought-afflicted city. Nevertheless, the situation is not as perilous as when the second city gets flooded. Therefore, the second city only fasts but does not blow the Shofar. (This is the case described by the Mishnah.)
3. In Rav Chisda's case (on 6b), the amount of rain fit for two cities fell on one city and caused that city to have enough crops to supply food to both cities. In such a case, neither city needs to fast because the rainfall of one city benefited both cities.
(According to both of Rashi's explanations, the residents of the city in which it rained must fast because of the threat which faces them. The other Rishonim here argue with Rashi and assert that the people of the city in which it rained do not fast due to their own plight, but they fast in solidarity with their brethren in the neighboring city. According to these Rishonim, cases 1 and 2 above are the same; in both cases, the residents of the city in which it rained fast out of empathy for the drought-afflicted city.)
2) AGADAH: THE UGLY PERSON
QUESTIONS: The Gemara relates that Rebbi Elazar bar Rebbi Shimon was once 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 do not 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 his donkey, spread himself upon the ground before the person and begged for forgiveness.
(a) Why did Rebbi Elazar not return the greeting of the person in the first place? Just because a person is not handsome is no reason to ignore his greeting.
(b) Second, how could Rebbi Elazar have made such an insulting comment to the person? It is inconceivable that such a great Tana would have insulted someone just because of his appearance.
The reason why Rebbi Elazar acted so harshly when the person greeted him was because Rebbi Elazar considered the person's greeting disrespectful. The Gemara teaches that it is not respectful for a less-learned person to greet a more-learned person (Berachos 27b, Shekalim 7a; see Insights to Shekalim 7:1
). Proper respect dictates that one should wait until the Chacham greets him first and then respond to the greeting.
Therefore, when the person greeted Rebbi Elazar, he did not respond because he maintained that the person did not conduct himself properly by greeting him first.
(b) Rebbi Elazar's comment may now be understood as follows. The Gemara in Shekalim says that different regions had different customs with regard to greeting the Rav. The people in some places were not aware of the custom to refrain from greeting the Rav out of respect.
Rebbi Elazar said to the person, "Are all of the people of your city like this?" Rebbi Elazar maintained that one may not extend a greeting to a more-learned person, but he realized that this person was unaware of this practice. He therefore asked whether the person came from 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 inappropriate.
The person, though, was not aware that there was any custom not to greet a Rav, so when he was not greeted in return by Rebbi Elazar and he heard Rebbi Elazar's statement, he misinterpreted Rebbi Elazar's statement to be an insult of his physical features. He understood the question, "Are all of the people of your city like this," to mean, "Are they all 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 rather what the person heard him say. 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 to Nazir 10a, who says that the phrase "he spoke" can also refer to something expressed by one's actions). After he heard the response of the ugly person, Rebbi Elazar strongly regretted having expressed himself in such a way without having specified 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 like a reed and not hard like a cedar." He was expressing his regret for the way 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, the trait of haughtiness is unrelated to being "soft" (tolerant) or "hard" (intolerant). According to this explanation, the primary issue was not haughtiness but tolerance. Hence, it was appropriate for Rebbi Elazar to talk about being "soft (tolerant) like a reed" and not "hard (intolerant) like a cedar." (Based on ideas mentioned in the BEN YEHOYADA and IYUN YAKOV.)