Rava was disheartened because Abaye received Divine greetings more frequently than he.
He was told that his own merit protected the entire (non-deserving) town.
R. Beruka Chaza'a would frequently be joined by Eliyahu ha'Navi. One day in the market he asked him if there was anyone present who was a Ben Olam ha'Ba and was told that there was not.
Later, Eliyahu pointed out a man wearing black (non-Jewish) shoes and no tzitzis.
R. Beruka asked the man his profession, and was told to return tomorrow.
The next day, the man told him that he was a jailer, and he imprisoned men and women separately, placing his bed between them.
He would endanger himself to help a Jewish girl who was in danger from her captors.
One betrothed Jewish girl in particular was in danger.
He put wine lees on her skirt and told the men that she was a Nidah.
He told R. Beruka that he dressed as a non-Jew so that he could pass amongst them undetected and learn of any decrees against the Jews in advance so as to warn them to pray.
That was why he first told R. Beruka to return tomorrow - as he had just learned of a decree and had to hurry to warn them.
Meanwhile, two other people happened along, and Eliyahu said that they too were Bnei Olam ha'Ba.
R. Beruka asked them their profession, and they replied that they were jesters who would cheer up unhappy people and smooth over disputes between people.
CROP-PLAGUE AND LOCUSTS
The Mishnah said that the procedure of fasting and Shofar is done in all towns if one town experiences plague on the crops, locusts, or wild animals.
(R. Akiva): this is true even for the slightest amount of plague; and for locusts, even if only one was seen in Eretz Yisrael.
ANIMALS ON THE RAMPAGE
(Beraisa): The crisis with wild animals spoken of refers to where they were on the rampage; otherwise, the procedure is not done.
"On the rampage" is defined as when they are seen in the town, but not if they are seen in the wild.
It is also defined as when they are seen by day, but not when they are seen by night.
If an animal saw two people and chased them, it is considered to be on the rampage, but not if it fled.
If it killed two people and ate one, it is considered to be on the rampage, but not if it ate both (in which case it is merely hungry).
If it climbed into a house and grabbed a baby from its crib, it is considered to be on the rampage.
Question: It first said that it is only on the rampage if it appears in the town, implying regardless of the time of day; yet it then says that it is only on the rampage if seen by day!?
Answer: It means that if it is seen in the town, it is considered on the rampage, but only if seen by day, whereas if seen by night or in the wild even by day it is not on the rampage.
Question: It said that if it chased the people, it is on the rampage, implying that if it stood still, it is not; yet then it says that if it flees, it is not on the rampage, implying that if it stood still, it is!?
Answer: The first refers to a field near marshland; it feels secure on home turf, and standing still does not signify that it is dangerous; the second rule refers to where it is not near marshland.
Question: The Beraisa said that it is only on the rampage if it killed two people and ate one of them, but the previous rule said that it is on the rampage if it just chases people!?
Answer: This rule refers to where it is in its marshland territory, and only killing them is a sign that it is unusually dangerous.
Question: The Beraisa said that if it climbed into a house and grabbed a baby from its crib, it is considered to be on the rampage - but is not this obvious?
Answer: It refers to a hunter's shack, which is not perceived as proper human habitation.
FOREIGN ARMIES PASSING THROUGH
The Mishnah said that the procedure is done in all towns if one town encounters a foreign army.
(Beraisa): This even includes an army that is travelling in peace to fight a different country.
For there was no better such example than the army of Pharaoh-Necho, and it brought Yoshiyahu to disaster.
Pharaoh-Necho said that he did not intend to fight the Jews and warned Yoshiyahu against starting trouble.
Yoshiyahu reasoned that since Pharaoh-Necho was trusting in idols, he could defeat him.
He was pierced with arrows like a sieve.
Yoshiyahu was punished for not consulting Yirmiyahu.
Yoshiyahu did not want to let them through as the Pasuk says that no sword shall pass through Eretz Yisrael, which must be referring to armies passing through in peace, as active warfare has already been ruled out by a different Pasuk.
Yoshiyahu's mistake was that his people were not as righteous as he thought (to merit being victorious).
When he was dying, Yirmiyahu saw him murmuring, and worried that his pain was causing him to say something inappropriate.
Bending down, he heard Yoshiyahu accepting the justice of Hash-m's punishment, and he praised him.
The Mishnah said that a fast was decreed because crop-plague in the amount of an ovenfull was seen in Ashkelon.
Question: Does this mean an oven full of produce, or the lesser amount of an oven's worth of bread?
Answer: A Beraisa speaks of an oven's mouth full, which refers to bread, placed on shelves near the opening.
Question: Does this mean a row of bread surrounding the opening, or reaching from the base until the opening?
The Mishnah said that a fast was once decreed because wolves ate two children.
It once happened that wolves swallowed two babies whole and excreted them.
The Chachamim ruled that the flesh (which was digested) would not cause Tum'ah, but the bones would.
(Beraisa): Whether a city is surrounded by non-Jews or a flooded river, or a ship is storm-tossed, or an individual is running from non-Jews or robbers or a demon possession, a person may inflict a fast upon himself.
(R. Yosi): A person may not fast, in case in his weakened state he requires the support of others and they do not have mercy.
His reason is that the Pasuk says that man became a living soul, which is a command to keep our soul alive.
The Mishnah stated that Shimon ha'Teimani said that the procedure is also done on Shabbos in the event of pestilence, but the Chachamim disagreed.
Question: Did they only disagree about doing it on Shabbos, or did they hold that it should never be done?
Answer: In a Beraisa, the Tana Kama states that it is done even on Shabbos.
(R. Chanan b. Pitam citing R. Akiva): It is never done for pestilence.
Question: The Mishnah said that the procedure is done to protect from all forms of suffering except an overabundance of rain - why?
Answer (R. Yochanan): As we do not pray about too much of a good thing.
This is learned from a Pasuk in which Hash-m promises too much Berachah.
(Rami bar Rav): In Bavel, however, they do pray about too much rain.
Likewise, a Beraisa states that in a rainy year, the men of the Mishmar would tell the men of the Maimad to pray on behalf of those in Bavel that their houses should not drown them.
Question: At what point do we pray that the rain should stop?
Answer (R. Eliezer): When a person can stand on the high stone of Keren Afel and dip his feet in the water (i.e. never).
Question: A Beraisa speaks instead of dipping his hands in?
Answer: When you can dip your feet in, you can also bend and dip your hands in.
(Rabah bar Chanah): Standing on Keren Afel, a merchant riding a camel and brandishing a spear looks like a worm.