TA'ANIT (Heb. תַּצֲנִית; "Fast"), tractate of the order Mo'ed in the Mishnah, Tosefta, and Jerusalem and Babylonian Talmuds. In manuscripts and the editio princeps of the Mishnah, the Tosefta, the Jerusalem Talmud, and the works of the geonim, as well as in medieval rabbinic literature, it is called Ta'aniyyot ("Fasts").
The Mishnah contains four chapters. The first two discuss fasts decreed because of drought, including the determination of the time when the rain should descend; the prayers for those fasts; those exempt from the fasts; and the days when fasts may not be decreed. Chapter 1, from the middle of halakhah 2 onward, derives completely from the Mishnah of *Meir. Chapter 2:6–7 is a source dealing with the men of the *mishmarot and ma'amadot, an account given in its entirety although only the first part is relevant to the subject of fasting. The third chapter discusses fasts decreed for reasons other than drought. Chapter 4:1–5 deals with the recital of the priestly blessings on fast days. Although only the first halakhah is devoted to this subject, the whole of the source used by Judah ha-Nasi containing this halakhah is given. This too is derived from the Mishnah of Meir and also contains details of the description and the halakhot of the ma'amadot (4:2–4) during which the priestly blessings were uttered as they were on fast days. In connection with the ma'amadot, the times of the wood offerings of the priests and the people are described (4:5). Chapter 4:6–7 deals with the permanent fast days of the 17th of Tammuz and the Ninth of Av, their causes, and the detailed laws of the Ninth of Av and the preceding days. Chapter 4:8, dealing with the ancient ceremonies of betrothal on the 15th of Av and the Day of Atonement, is a supplement to 4:5 where the 15th of Av is mentioned. The tractate closes with a later aggadic addition about the Temple so as to end on a note of comfort.
The Tosefta of Ta'anit is greatly dependent upon the Mishnah and without it, it can be understood only with difficulty. Tosefta 1:1–2:7 parallels the first two chapters of the Mishnah, while chapter 3 of the Mishnah is possibly paralleled by Tosefta 2:8–17 (according to Mss. Erfurt and London to 2:8–3:2). Mishnah chapter 4:1–5 is paralleled by Tosefta 3:1–8, containing here beraitot in connection with the connotation of the mishmarot and the ma'amadot with the texts better than that of the Mishnah. There are also details of events that transpired in the time of the Greek kings (3:7–8), possibly in the time of the high priest *Jason. Mishnah 4:6–7 is paralleled by Tosefta 3:9–14, which also concludes with words of consolation. In the Jerusalem Talmud there are interesting references to Hadrian's persecution and particularly to *Bar Kokhba, as well as legends about the destruction of the Temple (TJ, 4:8, 68d–69b). Particularly well known is the third chapter of the Babylonian Talmud, which is almost completely aggadah and is called "the chapter of piety" because of the many stories about ḥasidim – men of piety and good deeds – that are scattered throughout it. Ta'anit is the only tractate of the Babylonian Talmud to be published in its entirety in a critical edition, according to manuscripts and the first edition, together with an introduction and philological notes by H. Malter (New York, 1930). Despite its faults and defects, this edition is of great value. Malter also published an editio minor together with an English translation.
Zunz-Albeck, Derashot, 303; Ch. Albeck, Untersuchungen ueber die Redaktion der Mischnah (19362), 135; Epstein, Mishnah, 686f.; Epstein, Tanna'im, 45f., 257.
Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2007 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.