QUESTION: Rebbi Elazar (end of 14b) says that in the future, the kings ("Melachim") of the world will stand up in respect for the Jewish people, and the officers ("Sarim") will bow down, as the verse says, "... Melachim will see and they will rise; Sarim, and they will bow down" (Yeshayah 49:7).
The Gemara asks that the verse does not seem to support Rebbi Elazar's teaching. Had the verse said, "... and Sarim will bow down," it would have provided support for Rebbi Elazar's teaching by implying that only the Sarim will bow down and not the Melachim. However, the verse says, "... Sarim, and they will bow down," which implies that the Sarim will do both -- they will stand up in respect for the Jewish people and bow down to them.
The Gemara's question is difficult to understand. The previous Gemara (14b) says that Moshe's prayer was answered because he supplicated through "Nefilah" (prostration before Hash-m), while Yehoshua and Kalev were answered only through "Keri'ah" (tearing their clothes in supplication). The Gemara asks that the verse says, "and Yehoshua and Kalev... tore their clothes" (Bamidbar 14:6), which implies that they did what was mentioned in the previous verse ("Nefilah") "and" they also tore their clothes. How can the Gemara now ask that had the verse said, "and Sarim will bow down," it would have implied that they will only bow down and not stand up? The addition of the word "and" should link this part of the verse with the first part and imply that the Sarim will do both what the Melachim will do (stand) and bow down. (RASHASH)
ANSWER: The RASHASH and SEFAS EMES point out that the text of the Gemara as cited by the EIN YAKOV omits the word "Sarim" in the Gemara's question on Rebbi Elazar. According to that Girsa, the Gemara says that had the verse said "they will bow down," it would have meant that the Sarim will only bow down; but now that it says "and they will bow down," it means that the Sarim will do both -- stand up and bow down. Therefore, the Gemara here is consistent with the Gemara earlier.
OPINIONS: The Mishnah describes the "Seder Ta'aniyos" -- the order of the day on the last seven of the thirteen public fast days that are declared when no rain falls in the rain season. It describes how the Sefer Torah is brought into the public area where the people will pray, and how ashes are placed on the foreheads of the Nasi and Av Beis Din, as well as on the heads of all of the people. It describes the elder's words of rebuke, the six blessings added to the Shemoneh Esreh, and the blowing of the Shofar. In addition, the Mishnah later (26a) teaches that on a Ta'anis Tzibur a Tefilas Ne'ilah is recited, the fasts are 24-hour fasts, work is prohibited, and all five Inuyim (afflictions) of Yom Kippur are observed (12b).
The Gemara (14b, 19a) teaches that these fast days were practiced not only during times of drought, but whenever a life-threatening situation existed. The TUR and SHULCHAN ARUCH (OC 579) record these Halachos at length.
Is this series of thirteen fast days, and all of their related laws, observed outside of Eretz Yisrael when there is a drought or another life-threatening situation?
(a) The Gemara earlier (12b) cites Shmuel who says that "there is no Ta'anis Tzibur in Bavel except for the ninth of Av"; that is, the unique severity afforded to these fast days is not practiced in Bavel (Rashi 11b, DH Ein Ta'anis Tzibur). RASHI in Pesachim (54b) explains that since Bavel is a naturally wet land (see Ta'anis 10a), drought there is not a life-threatening situation and there is no need to treat Ta'aniyos for rain with such severity (or to decree fasts for rain in the first place).
The Rishonim point out that if the only difference between Bavel and Eretz Yisrael is that there is never a shortage of water in Bavel, then when a different type of life-threatening situation arises the people of Bavel should be obligated to observe the full severity of the fast days. Why does Shmuel say that there is no Ta'anis Tzibur in Bavel except for Tish'ah b'Av?
The RITVA (12b) explains that Rashi may rule like the RAMBAM (Hilchos Ta'aniyos 3:11, 4:1) who maintains that fast days instituted for any reason other than lack of rain are not as severe as fasts for rain. Only fasts for rain have the same degree of severity as the fast of Tish'ah b'Av. Since Bavel does not need rain, it has no severe fasts other than Tish'ah b'Av. This appears to be Rashi's view in Pesachim (50b, DH Ta'anis Tzibur; 54b, DH Ein Ta'anis Tzibur). Although it is clear from the Gemara that in other life-threatening situations the people of Bavel also decree fasts and blow the Shofar (as the Ramban here and Ritva (ibid.) prove), Rashi and the Rambam apparently distinguish between the requirement to blow the Shofar and the requirement to observe the Tish'ah b'Av aspects (that is, the five Inuyim, the prohibition against working, etc.) on a Ta'anis.
The Rambam and Rashi are not in complete agreement, however. Rashi's words imply that only in Bavel is the severity of these Ta'aniyos not practiced. The Rambam, however, implies that not only in Bavel but everywhere outside of Eretz Yisrael the fast days are not practiced with the severity of Tish'ah b'Av. Only for fasts for rain in Eretz Yisrael did the Chachamim institute such stringent laws.
(b) The other Rishonim reject this approach and assert that the full severity of these fasts applies whenever a fast is instituted because of a life-threatening situation. Why, then, is the severity of a Ta'anis Tzibur not observed in Bavel? The RAMBAN and RAN (end of the first Perek) quote the RA'AVAD who explains that the above-mentioned practices were not instituted in Bavel because they are too difficult for the people to observe.
Wearing shoes on fast days in Bavel is not prohibited because the ground there is very damp and the discomfort experienced there when walking without shoes is far greater than the discomfort experienced in Eretz Yisrael without shoes. The Chachamim did not institute 24-hour fasts or prohibit work on a fast day because the people of Bavel were poor and such enactments would affect them too severely (see end of Kidushin 29b and Rishonim). The Chachamim did not prohibit them from washing their bodies and smearing oil, since they were generally in a weak state of health and such enactments would have had detrimental effects on them. Since there was reason to suspend some of the Inuyim on fast days in Bavel, none of the other five Inuyim were enacted in Bavel. (The other laws of a Ta'anis Tzibur, such as Ne'ilah, Shofar blasts, and the six additional blessings of Shemoneh Esreh perhaps do apply in Bavel.)
According to the Ra'avad, only in Bavel is the severity of a Ta'anis Tzibur not observed, but other places in Chutz la'Aretz are considered like Eretz Yisrael with regard to a Ta'anis Tzibur. (The Ramban, however, suggests that the Ra'avad maintains that the severity of a Ta'anis Tzibur was not enacted in any country outside of Eretz Yisrael, because of the countries which are similar to Bavel.)
(c) The RAMBAN rejects the Ra'avad's explanation as "weak." Instead, he prefers the explanation of the RA'AVYAH who suggests an entirely different reason for why the laws of Ta'aniyos in Bavel are not as severe as the laws of Ta'aniyos in Eretz Yisrael. This is also the explanation of the RITVA, RAN, and ROSH (1:9).
The Yerushalmi teaches that the only time a Ta'anis is practiced with its full severity is when it has the status of a "Ta'anis Tzibur" by virtue of having been accepted unanimously by the entire congregation. However, such a unanimous acceptance of an enactment can be accomplished only through a central judicial authority or through a Nasi. Since there is no Nasi in Bavel and the members of the Jewish courts there do not have Semichah, any Ta'anis they accept upon themselves would have to be accepted individually by each person. In that case, however, by definition the Ta'anis would be only a Ta'anis Yachid! (Even though Rav (12b) says that a Ta'anis Yachid has the severity of a Ta'anis Tzibur, the Rishonim explain that this is true only in a time and place in which a Ta'anis Tzibur could be practiced.)
Accordingly, fast days instituted anywhere outside of Eretz Yisrael for any reason do not have the severity of Ta'aniyos in Eretz Yisrael. However, the Ramban cites a tradition from the Ge'onim (and for which he provides support from the Gemara) that this applies only to the requirement to fast for 24 hours, the five Inuyim, and the prohibition against working. The extra prayers (the Tefilah of Ne'ilah and the six additional blessings in Shemoneh Esreh) and the Shofar blasts should be observed even outside of Eretz Yisrael.
HALACHAH: What is the common practice today in Eretz Yisrael and in Chutz la'Aretz with regard to a Ta'anis Tzibur?
1. INUYIM. As mentioned above, many Rishonim agree that where there is no Nasi or qualified Beis Din, every Ta'anis is considered a Ta'anis Yachid and does not have the severity of a Ta'anis Tzibur. This is the accepted ruling (MISHNAH BERURAH OC 575:25). Therefore, outside of Eretz Yisrael the requirement to fast for 24 hours, the five Inuyim, and the prohibition against working are not observed. (See #4 below for the practice today in Eretz Yisrael.)
2. TEFILAH. All of the Rishonim seem to agree that the Tefilah of Ne'ilah, the six additional blessings in Shemoneh Esreh, and the Shofar blasts should be observed everywhere, even in Bavel and other lands outside of Eretz Yisrael. However, the RAMBAN and RITVA write that in their region, the only practices of a Ta'anis Tzibur that were observed were the addition of the six blessings to Shemoneh Esreh and the blowing of the Shofar (see also Ritva and Ran, beginning of 17a). Ne'ilah was not recited because it may be limited to the fast days which have the laws of Tish'ah b'Av, which are not practiced outside of Eretz Yisrael (as mentioned in (c) above).
The RAMBAM (Hilchos Ta'aniyos 3:11, 4:1), however, writes that the six additional blessings are recited only on a fast day for rain in Eretz Yisrael.
3. SHOFAR. The RITVA (later on 12b) mentions that the common practice in France was not to blow the Shofar on fast days (based on a ruling of Tosfos). Since the Mitzvah is to blow with Chatzotzeros on a fast day, and the Chatzotzeros do not exist nowadays (as it is unknown exactly how they are to be made), there is no Mitzvah to blow the Shofar. (See Insights to Ta'anis 14:1.)
The MAGEN AVRAHAM (beginning of OC 576) wonders why it is not the practice to blow the Shofar on publicly-decreed fast days today as the Torah commands. Although some Acharonim contend that the Mitzvah applies only in Eretz Yisrael (see RAN to Rosh Hashanah 26b; NESIV CHAIM, OC ibid.), the BIRKEI YOSEF writes that even in Eretz Yisrael the blowing of the Shofar is not currently practiced on a Ta'anis. Perhaps the reason why the Shofar is not blown is because we rely on the minority ruling of the French community mentioned by the Ritva. The PRI MEGADIM (cited by the MISHNAH BERURAH OC 576:1) answers that perhaps the Mitzvah to blow the Shofar applies in Eretz Yisrael only when Eretz Yisrael is under Jewish authority. Alternatively, perhaps it applies only when a majority of the Jewish people faces the same threat.
4. ERETZ YISRAEL. The PE'AS HA'SHULCHAN writes that the Seder Ta'aniyos are observed in Eretz Yisrael today exactly as they are described in the Gemara and recorded by the Shulchan Aruch. The BIRKEI YOSEF (OC 575, cited by the Mishnah Berurah ibid.) -- who lived around the same time as the Pe'as ha'Shulchan -- records that he actually met elderly Jews in Yerushalayim and Chevron who remembered observing such Ta'aniyos when they were young.
In practice, no Ta'aniyos with the unique severity, prayers, or Shofar blasts of a Ta'anis Tzibur have been observed in recent years even in Eretz Yisrael. This is consistent with the ruling of the RAMBAN and other Rishonim that when there is no Nasi, the Ta'aniyos do not have the severity of a Ta'anis Tzibur anywhere in the world. Although the BIRKEI YOSEF mentions the possibility that the Gedolim in Eretz Yisrael today are "the delegates of the original Semuchim," this apparently is not the present-day practice.
This explains why the laws of the Inuyim and Ne'ilah are not observed in Eretz Yisrael today. Why, though, are the 24 blessings of Shemoneh Esreh not recited today when the people in Eretz Yisrael observe a day of fast due to a drought? (Perhaps it is because today a drought does not pose the danger that it once posed, because today food and water can be imported with ease from other countries. In that sense, Eretz Yisrael today is like the Bavel of old.)
RAV YECHIEL MICHAL TUKACHINSKY zt'l (in SEFER ERETZ YISRAEL) writes that although in modern times the Seder Ta'aniyos are not observed, one part of the Ta'aniyos is observed today. During a time of drought in Eretz Yisrael, the prayer of "va'Aneinu [Borei Olam b'Midas ha'Rachamim...]" is added to the Shemoneh Esreh in the blessing of "Shome'a Tefilah." (This is the "Hasra'ah b'Peh" mentioned in the Gemara earlier (14a), which is recited in the Shemoneh Esreh in the blessing of "Shome'a Tefilah." The text of this prayer in most Sidurim differs slightly from the text recorded by the TUR, and there are different Minhagim as to which Girsa to follow.) No other changes to the Shemoneh Esreh are made, and no Teki'os are blown.