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  • Writer's pictureLeann Shamash

When the Rain Doesn’t Fall

What does a community do when the rains do not arrive when they should? What can a community do to change the natural course of weather?

Do they look up at the sky and shake their fists? Perhaps they change their actions.

Perhaps they blame, perhaps the pray.

Do they cover themselves with sackcloth and apply ashes to their faces?

As the earth continues to warm and weather patterns become unanticipated and wildly vary from norms, these questions shift from the theoretical to the real. Whereas other Masechtot delve into areas of Jewish law and norms that hold no relevance to or lives today, this one speaks to us directly and asks the pressing question, ”What can we do?”

In this Masechet the rabbi speak about what the Jewish community could do. They could do things like holding a variety of fasts going from individuals to communities. They could bring the ark out into the square and cover it with ashes. They could disrupt life, but not so much that the economy would be disrupted. And then there are people like Honi the Circle Maker, who drew a circle around himself and said that he would not leave the circle until God listened to his prayers.....and this is just the beginning of a meaningful look at the power of prayer.

This project acts as a visual and textual way for new learners like me to recall one small concept from the page. The pages fly by quickly and when you have covered on (which I do through podcasts and Sefaria) it is already time for the next!

This project is driven by three rules:

1. Each photo should be related to one concept on the page of Talmud being covered that day.

2. Each page should contain some text taken from the daf.

3. Each page should have a Hebrew word which goes along with one concept of the Daf (page).


Daf 7a is concerned with finding different types of rain. How is the first rain of the year compared to the last rains of the year? Do they compare in their intensity, in their ability

to harm or to help? Leckach, the word in the middle of the leaf translates as Torah.

Interspersed on many pages (Dapim) is assorted knowledge of all sorts of things. On page 8, in addition to talk of rain, the rabbis discuss the most appropriate way to study and retain knowledge. The Aramaic word is Arbain, which translates as 40.

Page 9- Does rain fall for the sake of the community or an individual?

The Hebrew word Yachid translates as individual. The page even mentions that rain can fall for the sake on one plant. Can you imagine that? Rain for one dandelion?

On page 10, the rabbis use their knowledge of science to describe the clouds. The image below illustrates this well. This is Cape Cod Bay this past summer and the clouds hang heavy with accumulated rain.

The Hebrew word here is a play on words where the rabbis combine two different words to come up with one meaning.

The rabbis spend a lot of time thinking about things that people can and cannot do on fast days. In addition, over the course of the pages of Ta'anit, the rabbis make a list of fast days,

many of which are no longer in existence. They also list times that people are not able to create fasts.

It also reviews when we should start fasts, when we should finish fasts and even whether we can use a fast as an excuse for not attending an event.

This photo tells us about not wearing shoes on the day of a fast. The Hebrew word in Sandal, which means sandal!

Page 13 speaks about what happens if a famine or another calamity takes place? Do you try to leave if you have the means? The G'mara says that you stay with your community through thick or thin. Stay with your community. Don't separate. That is a powerful lesson.

The Hebrew word is the word for separate.

By the way, this is a houseplant in a white pot....The hanging moss had created a beautiful profile.

More next week. I like the idea of not separating yourself from the community.

Just as water is a combination of different elements to create a spiritual whole, so I like to think about community. Each person is an element and together, with good spirit, they create a community!

Shabbat Shalom!

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