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prepared by Rabbi Eliezer Chrysler
Kollel Iyun Hadaf, Jerusalem

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Ta'anis 23



(a) Initially, the Tana of the Beraisa explained the Pasuk in Bechukosai "ve'Nasati Gishmeichem *be'Itam" - to mean 'not too much rain and not too little' (though it is not clear how this is implied by the word "be'Itam").

(b) Alternatively - that it will rain on Tuesday night and Friday night. It is easy to understand why people do not go out on Friday night, but it is also a blessing for rain to fall on Tuesday night more than on any other night of the week - because that is one night when people stay indoors, in order to avoid meeting the demon Igras bas Machalas, who goes out haunting on Tuesday night.

(c) The Tana needs to demonstrate that this blessing actually occurred - to stress the fact that the blessing took place, despite the fact that it only rained twice a week.

(d) It happened in the days of Shimon ben Shetach, when the wheat grains subsequently grew to the size of kidneys, the barley grains to the size of olive stones, and the lentils, to the size of golden Dinrim.

(a) The above episode teaches us - the extent of Hashem's blessings when we do the will of Hashem, and that, when we do not experience them, it is because of our sins (demonstrating the devastating power of sin).

(b) The same happened in the days of Hurdus (Herod) - when the people were busy with the reconstruction of the second Beis Hamikdash.

(c) In the morning, the wind would blow and disperse the clouds. They then knew for sure - that their work was the work of Heaven.

(a) When Choni ha'Me'agel drew a circle and stood inside it - he took his cue from Chavakuk ha'Navi, who wrote "Al Mishmarti E'emodah ve'Esyatzvah al Matzor".

(b) When the rain fell excessively, the rain-drops were so large that they were able to fill barrels. The smallest estimated raindrops that fell on that occasion - were the size of a Log (six egg-volumes).

(c) When the rain began to gather in deep pools - the people ascended the Har Habayis.

(d) Choni ha'Me'agel ...

1. ... brought a bull as a thanks-offering - before he even began to pray for the rain to stop.
2. ... said to Hashem in his prayer for the rain to stop (as he leaned his two hands on the bull) - 'Ribono shel Olam; Your people whom You brought of Egypt can take neither too much good nor too much punishment ... May it be Your will that the rain stops'.
(a) Immediately, the rain stopped and the sun came out. The people knew that the rain was a true blessing - because they found mushrooms (ready for picking) growing in the fields.

(b) Shimon ben Shetach chided Choni ha'Me'agel for the way he spoke to Hashem. Imagine, he added, if Eliyahu had decreed that there should be no rain, and Choni, that there should! What a Chilul Hashem that would have caused (see also Agados Maharsha).

(c) Shlomoh wrote in Mishlei "Yismach Avicha ve'Imecha, ve'Sagel Yoladtecha" - about Choni ha'Me'agel, who was like a member of Hashem's close family.

(d) The Beraisa connects with Choni ha'Me'agel, the Pasuk in Iyov ...

1. ... "ve'Sigzar Omer ve'Yakem Lach" - because Choni decreed below, and Hashem carried out his decree above.
2. ... "ve'Al Derachecha Nagah Or" - the generation for whom it was dark, Choni caused it to become light with his prayers.
(a) Choni ha'Me'agel could not understand the Pasuk in Tehilim "Shir ha'Ma'alos be'Shuv Hashem es Shivas Tzi'on, Hayinu ke'Cholmim" - because Galus Bavel lasted seventy years, and who has ever heard of someone sleeping (and dreaming) for seventy years.

(b) When the old man entered the world, he found carob-trees that his fathers had planted for him - so why should he not plant carob-trees for his children to benefit from?

(c) Choni realized that he must have slept for seventy years - because he saw the grandson of the man (who had planted the carob-tree) picking carobs from the now fully-grown tree.

(d) Choni's son was no longer alive - but his grandson was.

(a) He heard the people in the Beis ha'Medrash say - that the Sugyos were as clear as they used to be in the days of Choni ha'Me'agel, who used to answer all the Kashyos that the Talmidim would ask.

(b) He became very sad when people did not acknowledge him (because they did not believe that he was Choni ha'Me'agel), and did not give him the respect that he deserved.

(c) He subsequently reiterated the words of Iyov 'Either friends or death'.




(a) Aba Chilkiyah, the grandson of Choni ha'Me'agel - was a laborer.

(b) He did not greet the Chachamim who had come to ask him to pray for rain - because he was paid to *work* and not to *talk* to people.

(c) He ...

1. ... placed the pile of wood on his bare shoulder rather than on top of the coat (which he placed on his other shoulder) - because the coat was a borrowed one, and the owner had lent it to him to *wear*, not to *place* bundles of wood on it.
2. ... walked bare-footed along the way, and put on his shoes when he came to the river - because walking along the pathway, he could see where he was going, and did not therefore need to wear them, whereas when he walked in water, he could not see what was lying in the water, so he put on the shoes to protect his feet.
3. ... raised his clothes when he came to brambles and prickly bushes - because scratches on the body tend to heal by themselves, tears on one's clothes do not.
(d) When Choni arrived home too, his behaviour puzzled the Talmidei- Chachamim. He ...
1. ... allowed his wife to greet him heavily made-up (unbecoming for a Talmid-Chacham) - so that, during the course of the day, he should not set his eyes on another woman.
2. ... let her enter the house first, and only then enter himself followed by his guests - because to enter first, as is the Minhag, would have meant leaving his wife outside with total strangers.
3. ... not invite his guests to join the family when they ate - because he could not afford to share his food with them, and he did not want the Chachamim to be grateful to him for an invitation which would not have been genuine.
4. ... served two loaves of bread to his younger son and only one to the older one - because the older son, who was at home, had already eaten during the day, whereas the younger one, who learned in Yeshivah, had not.
(a) After they had eaten, Aba Chilkiyah suggested that, seeing as the two Chachamim came to ask them to pray for rain, they should go up to the roof to pray for rain before they actually asked them. Perhaps Hashem will have mercy and send rain without them having to take credit for it.

(b) After the rain came and he descended from the attic - he asked his guests why they had come.

(c) The merit of a woman giving Tzedakah is often greater than that of a man - because she gives the poor man take-away food, which he can eat immediately; whereas the man generally gives him money, which he cannot eat.

(d) Alternatively, the clouds came first over Aba Chilkiyah's wife's side - because of the incident concerning those 'gypsies' living in the vicinity of Aba Chilkiyah who were causing them a lot of trouble. Aba Chilkiyah prayed for them to die, but his wife prayed that they should do Teshuvah, which they did. Consequently, *her* merits were greater than *his*.

(a) Chanan ha'Nechba - was Aba Chilkiyah's daughter's son.

(b) He was called by that name because he used to hide himself - meaning that, on account of his humility, he would hide when praying for rain, so that no-one should know about his righteousness.

(c) And if we accept the text 'she'Hayah Machbi Atzmo be'Veis ha'Kisei' - it means that he was so modest that, when he relieved himself, he would cover himself with his clothes (like Shaul Hamelech used to do).

(d) When the children would grab his cloak and say to him 'Father father, give us rain' - he would turn to Hashem and ask Him to give rain for the sake of the little children who are unable to distinguish between a Father who gives rain and a father who does not.

(a) According to one explanation, the difference between the tough men of Eretz Yisrael and the pious men of Bavel lay in the fact that the former hid their piety, whereas the latter did not. According to the second explanation - the difference between them was that, whereas the former were able to pray for rain individually, the latter could only do so in pairs.

(b) When there was no rain - Rav Huna and Rav Chisda said to each other 'Come, let us get together and pray for rain'.

(c) Rebbi Yonah the father of Rebbi Mani is referred to as 'the tough men of Eretz Yisrael'. When there was no rain - he used to ask for a sack and pretend that he was going to buy a Zuz-worth of produce. Then he would go and stand in a low (discreet) place (because of the Pasuk "mi'Ma'amakim Kerasicha Hashem"), and pray for rain.

(d) Upon his return with his sack still empty, he would tell his family that there was no point in buying the produce, because now that it had rained, he would be able to find it at a cheaper price.

(a) When the members of the prince's household constantly molested Rebbi Yonah's son Rebbi Mani - he prayed by his father's grave.

(b) As a result of his entreaties - the feet of their horses got stuck in the ground above Rav Yonah's grave, and the horses were una ble to move until they undertook to leave his son alone.

(c) Rebbi Yitzchak ben Elyashiv also possessed grea t powers. He prayed for the powerful men of Rebbi Mani's father-in-law's household to become poor so that they would leave Rebbi Mani alone. It was later necessary to ask Hashem to reinstate them to their former wealth - because after they became poor, they continually asked Rav Mani for alms.

(d) The Gemara tells of a similar story regarding Rebbi Mani's wife Chanah - where first, Rebbi Yitzchak ben Elyashiv prayed that she should become beautiful, so that she should appeal to Rav Mani; but then, when her beauty went to her head, and she became unbearably vain, Rav Mani went back to him and asked him to pray that Hashem should restore her to her former ugliness (which all goes to show, that Hashem allots a person with the pile of troubles that suit him best, and, at the end of the day, he will prefer to have those than an alternative pack).

12) When, later in life, two Talmidim who asked him to pray that their wisdom should increase - he replied that he no longer possessed the powers of prayer that he used to have in his younger years (see Agados Maharsha).

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