David Levine

A Temple Prayer for Fast Days

The description of a fast day prayer, its format and content, demands the attention of three different sources found in the second chapter of Mishnah Ta'anit. The editor of this text collated these sources in order to establish - and elaborate on - a structured prayer "complex". This paper will attempt to trace one element of this composite, a litrurgical text to be associated with the Temple precincts. Certain structural traits of this Temple ritual are explicitly described in other Tannaitic traditions (in the T. and B.T.). As presented in the Mishnah, this Temple prayer has already been integrated into the general daily "Prayer of Eighteen", the Shmoneh 'Esreh. Since the Mishnah most comprehensively describes the prayer under question, we will use it as a point of departure and later add other elements alluded to elsewhere.

The general picture emerging from the Mishnah is clear. The daily Shmoneh 'Esreh prayer (the weekday 'Amidah), is taken for granted by the editor of this composite text. The special fast-day blessings were added on to this routine structure. The format of these additional berakhot was unlike the regular ones, and is therefore described in detail. Each is composed of three parts:

[1] The main section of each Δ is comprised of a Biblical passage, typically from Psalms, or various individual verses with a common theme i.e. the ί•™ and ٯ™ .

[2] The concluding ڕ sentence alludes to a Biblical figure who was in distress and saved from it by divine intervention.

[3] The conventional ' blessing eulogy, the Ӕ - as can be expected - is the final element of each berakhah.

The Mishnah here does not describe the prayer text as a continuum, but presents two lists each dealing with a different part of the structure. Mishnah 3 enumerates the Biblical texts constituting the main part - Δ - of the added blessings [1], and Mishnah 4 details the concluding elements of each blessing, the ڕ sentence and the Ӕ [2], [3].

Mishnah 5, also dealing with the fast day prayer, is of a different nature and will be refered to later.

I will ultimately suggest that the fast-day prayer betrays a Second Temple setting. But for now we will postpone discussion of the sources of this text, focusing instead on the common elements and the emerging prayer as a whole.

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On the chart, the six Biblical references are presented in conjunction with the last six concluding formulae (#2-#7). This is the necessary connection because of the affinity of the ί•™ verses to the ί ș eulogy in the second berakhah; and the tie between the ٯ™ verses and the concluding ڔ in the third berakhah. In general, the cohesiveness acheived in combining the different elements is clear and coherent.

#2 - As mentioned, the ί ș eulogy echos the theme of the ί•™ verses that comprise the main section of the second blessing.

#3 - The verses gathered under the rubric of ٯ™ , in the third blessing are appropriate for Joshua and Israel camped at Gilgal anticipating the battle of Jericho, who are mentioned in the ڕ sentence. The description of this battle is characterized by the sounding of the ram's horn, the shofar: "the seven priests carrying the seven shofarot advanced before the Lord blowing their shofarot and the Ark of the Lord's Covenant followed them. The vanguard marched in front of the priests who were blowing the shofarot, and the rear guard marched behind the Ark, with the shofarot sounding all the time" - Joshua 6:13, as an example. The blowing of the shofar is mentioned several more times throughout this chapter in Joshua. The ڔ conclusion highlights this dimension.

#4 - Psalm 120 which comprises the main part of the fourth blessing, utilizes inter alia an idiom of battle: ¯ • "a warrior's sharp arrow", • "those who hate peace", Ӕ Ӕ "they are for war". Samuel's prayer at Mitzpah (I Samuel 7:5-9), mentioned in the ڕ part, antcipates the Philistine war. The manner of the prayer, as described - "and Samuel cried out - ڗ - to the Lord on behalf of Israel, and the Lord responded to him" - fits in with the ڗ ending.

#5 - The fifth blessing opens with the phrase ȕ ȷ ʯ "I turn my eyes to the mountains, from where will my help come?" (Psalm 121) and is appropriate in conjunction with Elijah on Mt. Carmel. The prayer offered on that occasion - Ȓ Ȕ ӫ - "The prophet Elijah came foward and said 'O Lord, God of Abraham Issac and Jacob, let it be known today that you are God in Israel' " - is calmer and more minoric than Samuel's prayer above. This is reflected in the ϔ conclusion (as against the ڗ , in the previous Ӕ ).

#6 - The setting implied in the verse ڗ ' "Out of the depths I call You, O Lord" (Psalm 130) opening the sixth blessing, fits in with "Jonah in the bowels of the fish" which is the reference in the ڕ sentence. The beginning of Jonah's prayer Ӗ ' ڕ "In my trouble I called to the Lord, and he answered me" (Jonah 2:3) is the source for the sixth Ӕ idiom • ڙ .

#7 - The body of the seventh blessing, Psalm 102, mentions Zion and Jerusalem several times thus tying it in with "David and Solomon in Jerusalem" appearing in the ڕ sentence toward the end of this benediction. Both David and Solomon are mentioned as taking action or beseeching the Lord for sustenance in times of drought and famine (II Samuel 21:14, I Kings 8:35-39). The phrase ڙ ϔ "God responded to the plea of the land", from the David narrative (ibid.) is akin to the ӯ eulogy of this blessing.

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Despite this apparently thoughtful and careful composition, three anomalies are apparent: [1] In the second berakhah, the connection between "Our forefathers at the Sea of Reeds" and the Zikhronot is rather forced, and a specific individual is not mentioned as being answered. In all other blessings the ڕ formulae refer to individuals whose distress was addressed. [2] All Biblical figures mentioned are ordered chronologically, except for David and Solomon. Instead of being last, they might have been placed between Samuel (#4) and Elijah (#5). The Yerushalmi picks on this and asks, ¯Δ “ ˜Ӕ Ȕ • , "Was it not necessary to have David and Solomon (mentioned first) and (then) Elijah and Jonah?!" (Y. Ta'anit 2:9 65d). [3] Most obvious is the discrepancy between the six Biblical passages and the seven conluding formulae. , wonders the Bavli (B. Ta'anit 16b) "These six are actually seven!". How can seven conclusions be appended to six berakhot?

It has been suggested that the last blessing - ӯ - had been added on at a later stage. This would solve both the numerical and chronological discrepancies. An additional indication of this late addition, was seen in the opposing opinion in the Tosefta which advanced an alternative formula - Ә - for the conclusion of this last blessing (T. Ta'anit 1:10 [p. 326], Y. Ta'anit 2:10 65d, B. Ta'anit 17a). However, there is no conclusive proof for this suggestion, and while it may be possible its probability is questionable.

The aformentioned Tosefta places the fast day prayer-text in the middle section of the weekday 'Amidah prayer, after the seventh berakhah of the eighteen: ӯ "Where does he recite them?" [i.e. the special additions] ϯ between Go'el and Rofe Holim" (T. ibid. B. 16b). Accordingly, six additional blessings were inserted, but the first of seven conclusions may have been intended for the Ș blessing of the regular 'Amidah, thereby yielding seven ڕ sentences and seven ™ . While this interpretation makes sense, it is not the only, or even the necessary way of understanding the Mishnah. It is not explicitly mentioned, and the text can easily be understood as refering to the eighteen regular benedictions with the six added at the end. This possibility is illustrated - indeed not proven, but illustrated - in a medieval piyyut for the 'Amidah of communal fast days. In this liturgical poem the six fast-day berakhot are added at the conclusion of the prayer, after the regular 19 (!) berakhot are recited.

The clarification of this issue requires an analysis of the composite nature of our text. Had this been a single source one might have expected an integral presentation of each berakhah-structure from its main part ( Δ), through the ڕ formula, ending with the specific eulogy (Ӕ). In addition, the gap between 6-berakhot and 7-conclusions seems to be a clear indication of diverse sources. This does not resolve the somewhat inelegant combining of the sources, but at least their origins are explained. Given this assumption each source must then be viewed and explained on its own. The first source actually encompasses Mishnayot 1-3 of the chapter, which deal comprehensively with the communal fast day ritual in the city square under the title of ғ ڕ™ Ȗat the beginning of the chapter. After setting the scene and describing the fast day sermon, the liturgical framework of the prayer in this source is stated explicitly as • ژ "the eighteen of every day" to which “ "another six" are added. In contrast, the second source, Mishnah 4, deals only with the fast day berakhot and identifies seven. This group of seven berakhot has no express link to the daily 'Amidah. If we add on the irregular structure of birkot hata'anit, we can conclude that these seven berakhot were originally a liturgical unit in-and-of-itself without being connected to other frameworks.

Essentially the same prayer text is preserved in two liturgical contexts: Mishnah 3 presents the fast day prayer as incorporated into the daily 'Amidah; Mishnah 4 describes the special fast-day prayer as an integral unit unto itself. I will now try to demonstrate that the fast day prayer - as described in-and-of-itself - is of Second Temple provanence.

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This assumption is borne out by the fast day liturgy in the Temple precincts alluded to in three Tannaitic sources (Mishnah Ta'anit 2:5; T. Ta'anit 1:9-10 & B.T. Ta'anit 16b). No where do these sources mention the fast day prayer as being connected to a shmoneh 'esreh framework. These descriptions deal solely with the birkot hata'anit (fast day blessings), their unique components, and the public/congregational responses to them in the Temple. This Temple prayer included a unique concluding formula. Instead of the prevalent ' , the conclusions were ' ϔ Ș ړ with the appropriate Ӕ idiom appended. The congregational responses included:

[1] a direct η“ ™ ړ response to each berakhah, explained as the Temple response parallel to the generic .

[2] a recitation of the ڕ sentence after the berakhah. (Whether this was repeated or said only at this juncture, depends on how we understand ʯ ӯ and also depends on the B.T.'s textual variants, issues we won't explore now)

[3] a call to blow the shofar - either ȗ Δ or - and then the actual sounding of the instrument.

The fast day liturgy گ ʯ · ș "at the Eastern Gate and on the Temple Mount", with prominent priestly participation, was a seven-part prayer, with each part consisting of a public recitation of a blessing with vocal and instrumental responses.

Morever, in the generation following the destruction of the Temple in the year 70, attempts were made to copy parts of the Temple fast day ritual in the Galilean towns of Tzipori and Sikhnin. The reasons this attempt was frowned upon need not concern us here, but the fact remains that rabbinic tradition preserves a Yavnean grappling with Temple precident, with different opinions as to its application outside of Jerusalem.

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A Temple or Jerusalem setting might explain another characterisic of this text. The first ڕ sentence mentions ¯Ȕ and the final ڕ notes the the two most famous Israelite kings in Jerusalem. Thus the prayer text bears a literary inclusio that focuses attention on Jerusalem and the Temple. The identification of Moriah - the site of the 'Akedah - with the location of the Temple might already be implicit in the Genesis story [22:14] and is explicit in II Chronicles 3:1, and subsequently retained in Second Temple and later tradition. This might provide an indication as to the provenance of the text, but we must first examine the significance of stressing the geographic location of each figure mentioned. Why is it important to state that Samuel was answered at Mitzpah and Elijah on the Carmel? This information comes at the expense of relating the type of distress and nature of divine intervention. Prayer or the performance of a specific liturgy are not necessary - or even mentioned - components of these past events. What we have are references to figures who were relieved of distress by divine intervention at given locations. There is no desire to create models or indicate precedents for contemporary behaviour on the basis of past exempla. The references deal with action taken by God on behalf of those in past danger and an expectation of parallel intervention now: He has answered in the past and is beseeched to do so now. The rhetoric of the prayer is not one of ™ ™ "merits of fathers". Good deeds and obedience of past generations are not mentioned. Here the expectation of divine action is direct and straightfoward: This has happened in the past to different individuals in several locations and under a variety of circumstances, without linkage to their merits or prayers. This accentuation of geographic locale yields that commencing and concluding with references to past prayer in Jerusalem is of significance, and should be interpreted as indicating the setting of the prayer text at hand. The context of the prayer as a whole is to be situated in Jerusalem - as in the days of David and Solomon; on Mt. Moriah - as with Abraham.

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We have mentioned several characteristics of this Temple prayer. I would like to suggest two addtional perspectives, one of form the other of content. The basic format of the special fast day berakhot is one of Biblical texts with liturgical conclusions. This is reminiscent of other Temple liturgies. M. Tamid 5:1 refers to a daily Temple prayer which is comprised of Biblical passages encompassed by prayer formulae. After the slaughtering and dismembering of the morning sacrifice, ȓ , the officiating kohanim would retire to lishkat hagazit, the Chamber of Hewn Stone, and recite the Ten Commandments and the three kri'at shma' passages. Here too, the recitation of the Biblical text is preceeded by one blessing and followed by three. M. Yoma 7:1 indicates that on the Day of Atonement, following the sacrificial rite, there was a public Torah reading by the High Priest. The reading and reciting of the appropriate passages is likewise said to have been concluded by eight berakhot. In a third instance, the king's public reading of the Torah after the conclusion of a Sabbatical year, a reading held in the ʯ - the Temple courtyard, is expressly likened by Mishnah Sotah 7:8 to the Yom Kippur format, just mentioned, with almost the same concluding berakhot.

This liturgical framing of selected Biblical texts, seems to be a characteristic element of Temple ritual (at least as presented in Talmudic tradition). The fast day prayer under discussion conforms to this pattern.

The thematic rhetoric of citing historical precedent as part of a supplication for deliverance, is a much attested theme in the literature of the Second Temple period. A more general review of the unraveling of Israelite-Jewish history in times of distress (for different purposes, some edifying some criticizing), is already present in the Bible and subsequent literature from Nehemiah 9 through the prayer found in I Baruch chapters 2-3 and Stephen's speech before his martyrdom in Acts 7. But more percise parallels - of itemized references to past persons or events, in prayers petitioning for rescue and deliverance - are found in several contexts in the literature of the period. The two prayers that are found in III Maccabees appeal for God's mercy and rescue while indicating that this divine intervention had been forthcoming in the past. In chapter 2, when the High Priest Simon prays for divine intercession in the face of Ptolemaic aggression, he says: "You destroyed men for their wicked deeds in the past among them giants relying on their own strength and self confidence, upon whom you brought an immeasurable flood of water. When the inhabitants of Sodom acted insolently and became notorious for their crimes, you burned them up with fire and brimestone and made them an example to later generations. You tested the proud Pharaoh, who enslaved the your holy people Israel, with many different punishments and made known to him your mighty power" (2:4-6). Later on in the book (chapter 6) when the Jews are incarcerated at the Alexandrian hippodrome, Elazar "a man of distinction among the priests/Jews" prays on their behalf. Elazar's prayer mentions God's smiting of Pharaoh's Egypt and Sennacherib's Assyria, and beseeches for rescue as in the cases of the three comrades in the Babylonian fire; Daniel in the lion's den; and Jonah in the belly of the whale (6:4-8). (Looser parallels are the lists of past heros found inter alia in Sirach 44-49 and Mattathias' deathbead scene in I Maccabees 2:51 ff. )

Different prayer texts found at Qumran are characterized by this type of historical recollection as part of their rhetorical scheme. The Divrei haMe'orot scroll incorporates an historical review with a quest for penitence and deliverance. Depending on how the scroll is reconstructed, we receive a sequence of references to Biblical history illustrating past promise, glory and downfall. These references are introduced by a formulaic ¯ ' or ¯ "Remember, O Lord". Most compelling, for the purposes of our comparison are the following excerpts from Divrei haMe'orot:

ژ Δ Β Δ ™ȕ ӯ™ Δ

"O Lord, may you act as Yourself, as the extent of Your might, that You have pardoned our fathers when they transgressed Your words" (4Q504 1-2 ii:7-8; DJD 7, p. 139).

• ژ™Δ ™ ړ Ș· Δ әΔ ӕ, ¯ [ȕ?•ȕ?] ϕ ȕ ”ϔ Δ Ș

"Please Lord, as you have done wonders from eternity to eternity, may Your anger and wrath turn away from us, and behold our impoverishment and servitude and subjugation and deliver Your people Israel" (4Q504 1-2 vi:10 - vii:2; DJD 7, p. 148).

Here too, the rhetoric beseeching for deliverance is based solely on the fact of past precedent, without employing present day merit or mitigating circumstance.

The enumeration of past deliverances found in the fast day prayer conforms to this general rhetorical pattern.

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In conclusion, I have claimed that Talmudic tradition has preserved remnants of a Temple prayer for fast days. The Mishnah incorporates a source presenting the seven blessing prayer as an liturgical unit, and other Tannaitic traditions place these berakhot in the Temple precincts on fast days. The prominence of the Jerusalem locale is attested by the opening and closing sections of this prayer which expect divine intervention on Mt. Moriah as in the days of old. The participation of the kohanim (or: bnei Aharon) also points to a ritual in the Jerusalem Temple. The high profile and lasting impression of this prayer is attested to by the desire to emulate at least some of its components in the Galilee during the decades following the Temple's destruction.

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