Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Why are These Nights DIfferent?

If we follow in the proper path then Hashem informs us that He will bestow upon us rain in their appropriate time. (VaYikra 26:4) Rashi, based on Taanis 23a, mentions that the "appropriate" times mentioned are Tuesday and Friday nights since nobody goes out on those nights. Although some newer texts do not mention Tuesday night, the older texts mention it and it is stated in the passage from Taanis that Rashi is citing. If Rashi had mentioned that it would rain at night instead of day then we would understand that that is because fewer people are out at night than in the day. If Rashi had only mentioned Friday night then we also would have understood what he was saying because many come home after davening and remain indoors to a lavish feast. Thus, fewer people are out on Friday nights than other nights of the week. However, once Rashi mentions that Tuesday night is also a night that many do not go out one must ask,"Why are these nights different than all other nights?"

Rav Yehonasan Eibshitz offers an answer, although I concede that it is one the has me more confused than when I started. Rav Eibshitz seems to understand that there are two issues being discussed in Rashi. One is that it is beneficial for the rains to come at night since people will be indoors. The second is that once the people are indoors then the best nights for rain are Tuesday and Friday nights. We are taught that Hashem's blessings are showered to earth via the astrological forces. There are seven items in the sky that move independent of the regular constellations and they are ordered as follows: Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, sun, Venus, Mercury, and the moon. Each of these items is considered to influence one day of the week. The reason why Tuesday and Friday nights are good for rain, says Rav Eibshitz, is that the production of grain is bestowed unto from Hashem via the astrological forces associated with the sun and moon as it is written (Devarim 33:14), "With the bounty of the sun's crops and with the bounty of the moon's yield." Thus we want the rain to fall on nights associated with these celestial bodies. Since the night precedes day in Judaism then Tuesday will be the fourth night from the beginning. If we look at the fourth item in the list above it is the sun and that corresponds to Tuesday night. The last item above is the moon and that corresponds to Friday night. Therefore, we want rain during these times because it is beneficial to the crops and we prefer it at night since fewer people will be outside. (Tiferes Yehonasan VaYikra 26:4)

The issue that I do not understand with this understanding is that it seems to contradict everything the earlier sources tell us with regards to astrological forces. The Gemara in Berachos clearly indicates that Tuesday night is Saturn's. (Berachos 59b) Rashi clearly mentions that these celestial bodies are ordered in the way Rav Eibshitz mentions them, but they switch influencing at an hourly rate not a daily rate. The nightly order (starting with Motzei Shabbos) is therefore: Mercury, Jupiter, Venus, Saturn, sun, moon, and Mars. (Rashi Berachos 59b) This idea is repeated by Rashi in Shabbos, as well. (Rashi Shabbos 156a) The Ibn Ezra cites this system throughout his work Reishis Chachma and delineates the days in the same fashion as the Gemara and Rashi, too. There is no source indicating a reordering of influences for the different nights and there are many that are consistent with the Gemara and aforementioned Rishonim. This is not the first time that I have noticed that Rav Eibshitz seems to be aware of a system that we have no record prior to him and it seems to be a recurring theme. (Click here for another post that refers to one other example)

Returning to our original question, why these nights? The answer seems to have already been addressed by Rashi himself. In Taanis Rashi refers the reader to see a passage from Pesachim in order to understand this idea. (Rashi Taanis 23a) In Pesachim we find that there are destructive angels that are allowed to inflict pain on Tuesday nights and Friday nights. (Pesachim 112b) Since more people woul dbe injured on these nights people would refrain from going outdoors. Interestingly, based on the older tradition of astrological force arrangement, these two nights are under the influence of Saturn and Mars. Saturn and Mars are considered to be the highly destructive forces. (See Ibn Ezra's Reishis Chachma)

I have noticed many examples of Rav Eibshitz possessing a different system of astrology and associated mysticism and I have yet to find a source. Any suggestions?

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