Eighteen Treatises from the Mishna, by D. A. Sola and M. J. Raphall, , at sacred-texts.com
§ 1. The order of fasts above-mentioned applies only when the first fructifying rains do not descend; but when the sprouts degenerate, they shall immediately commence to sound an alarm. It is also to be sounded immediately if there be an interval of forty days between each rain; because it is a general plague on the land, causing dearth.
§ 2. If rain sufficient for the growth of sprouts and herbage has fallen, but not for the growth of trees; or sufficient for the growth of trees, but inadequate to the growth of herbage; or sufficient for both,
but not to fill the wells, cisterns, and caves, an alarm is immediately to be sounded,
§ 3. And thus if no rain should have fallen over any particular city similar to that which is written (Amos iv. 7), "I caused it to rain upon one city, and caused it not to rain upon another city, one piece was rained upon," &c., [the inhabitants of] such a city must fast, and sound an alarm, and those of the circumjacent places shall fast, but not sound. R. Akivah says, "they are to sound, but not to fast."
§ 4. And thus, when pestilence reigns in a city, or when the [sound] walls fall down, [the inhabitants of] such a city must fast, and sound an alarm: and those of the circumjacent places shall fast, but not sound. R. Akivah says, "they are to sound, but not to fast." What must be considered as a pestilence? When in a city, capable of furnishing five hundred able men, three persons die in three consecutive days, it is a pestilence; less than this is not a pestilence.
§ 5. An alarm is to be sounded in all places for the following plagues:—For a corn-blast, mildew, locusts, caterpillars, attacks of ferocious animals, hosts of armed men; for all these an alarm must be sounded, because they are spreading evils.
§ 6. It once happened, that some elders went from Jerusalem, each to his own place, and they decreed a fast, because a corn-blast, of a size to cover therewith the mouth of an oven, had been seen near Ascalon. They also decreed a fast on account of two children having been devoured by wolves on the other side of the Jordan. R. José says, "it was not because the wolves actually devoured [children], but because they had appeared [in the towns prowling for food]."
§ 7. For the following calamities an alarm is to be sounded even on the Sabbath:—For a city surrounded by enemies; for a flood threatening to inundate the country; for a ship in imminent danger of being wrecked at sea [in a storm]. R. José says, This sounding is to be, to obtain assistance [from men], not as an imploring cry [to God]." Simeon the Temanite says, "They shall also sound on the Sabbath in case of pestilence;" but the sages did not agree with him [in this].
§ 8. For every plague—which may the community never be visited with! 1—an alarm is to be sounded, except for a superabundance of
rain. 2 It happened once, that they said to Honee, המעגל, "Pray for us, that rain may fall." He told them, "Go and bring in the Passover ovens, 3 that they may not be spoiled by the rain." He prayed, and the rain did not descend. What did he then? He marked out a circle, 4 and placing himself within it, thus prayed, "Creator of the world! thy children have looked up to me as being peculiarly favoured by thee; 5 I swear, by thy Great Name, that I will not move from this place until thou wilt have compassion on thy children." The rain began to drop down [gently]. He said, "It was not for this that I petitioned, but for rain [sufficient to fill] wells, cisterns, and caves." The rain then fell in violent torrents; when he said, "Not for such rains did I petition, but for mild, felicitous, and liberal showers." The rain then fell in the usual manner, until the Israelites of Jerusalem were obliged to go from the city to the Temple mountain, on account of the rain. They came and said to him, "Even as thou didst pray that the rains might come down, thus pray now that they may cease." He said to them, "Go and see whether the stone טועים 6 is covered by the waters." Simeon, son of Shatach sent him word, "If thou wert not Honee, I would order thee to be anathematised; but what shall I do to thee? since thou sinnest against God, and yet he forgives and indulges thee like a favoured child, who sins against his father, and is yet forgiven and indulged. To thee may be applied the text, 'Thy father and mother shall rejoice, and they who begot thee shall be glad.' (Prov. xxiii. 25.)"
§ 9. If, while they are fasting, rain should fall before sunrise, they shall not continue to fast the whole day; but they must if after sunrise. R. Eleazar says, "If [it rains] before noon they need not continue to fast the whole day; but they must if the rain commenced after noon is passed." It happened once that a fast [for rain] was
ordered in Lydda [לוד], and it rained before noon; when R. Tarphon said unto them, "Go, eat and drink, and make a feast." They went, eat and drank, and made a feast; but in the evening they returned, and sang the great Hallel. (Ps. cxxxvi, &c.)
174:1 This is to avoid making use of an expression involving evil; but the real meaning is, "For every plague that may befal the community," &c.
175:2 If it does not spoil the growing corn. Observe, this Mishna applies exclusively to the Holy Land, and other mountainous countries, where they can scarcely have too much rain.
175:3 The ovens they used to roast the paschal lamb, which were moveable, and made of clay or slightly baked earthenware, and which were generally kept outside the house when not in use.
175:4 Some explain it, "He dug out a circular trench on which he placed himself."
175:5 In the original, "That I am like a son of the house before thee."
175:6 A high stone in Jerusalem was thus called, because those who had found any article deposited it thereon, and proclaimed through the city that they had found something. The owner of the lost article then applied, and if the description of the article he alleged to have lost was found to be correct, it was restored.