26 Av 5781 / Wednesday, August 04, 2021 | Torah Reading: Re'eh
 
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Choni Hama'agal    

Choni Hama'agal



Date of Passing: 3-Iyar. Choni "The Circle Drawer," was a sage in the Talmud. During a drought in Eretz Yisrael, the sages asked him to pray for rain...

 



Choni "The Circle Drawer," one of the sages in the 1st century, during the age of the Tannaim (sages who derived the Mishnah).
 

The Circle Drawer Story
 

During a drought in Eretz Yisrael, the sages asked Choni Hamaagal to pray for rain. Choni told them to bring in the Pesach ovens so they shouldn't get ruined. He prayed, but the rain did not fall. Then he drew a circle, stood inside of it, and proclaimed, "Master of the Universe! Your children have turned to me. I swear in Your Great Name that I will not move from here until you have mercy on your children!"
 
It began to drizzle. Choni was not satisfied, and said, "This is not what I asked for. I want rain that fills the wells and the caverns!"
 
It began to pour, flooding the countryside. Choni said, "This is not what I asked for. I want a good, and blessed rain." It continued raining until the Jews had to leave Jerusalem and ascend the Temple Mount. They said to him, "Just as you prayed that they should fall, also pray that they should stop."
 
Other variations of this story are in Taanit 19a and 23a.
 
 

The Extended Sleep Story

 
Choni fell asleep for 70 before awaking and finding a changed world. Two variations of this story appear - one in the Babylonian Talmud and one in the Jerusalem Talmud. 
 
Babylonian Talmud version (Taanit 23a)

Rabbi Yohanan said: "This righteous man [Choni] was troubled throughout the whole of his life concerning the meaning of the verse, 'A Song of Ascents: When the Lord brought back those that returned to Zion, we were like dreamers' (Psalms 126:1). [Choni asked] Is it possible for seventy years to be like a dream? How could anyone sleep for seventy years?" 

 

One day Choni was journeying on the road and he saw a man planting a carob tree. He asked, "How long does it take [for this tree] to bear fruit?" The man replied: "Seventy years." Choni then further asked him: "Are you certain that you will live another seventy years?" The man replied: "I found [already grown] carob trees in the world; as my forefathers planted those for me so I too plant these for my children." 

 

Choni sat down to have a meal and sleep overcame him. As he slept a rocky formation enclosed upon him which hid him from sight and he slept for seventy years. When he awoke, he saw a man gathering the fruit of the carob tree and Honi asked him, "Are you the man who planted the tree?" The man replied: "I am his grandson." Thereupon Choni exclaimed: "It is clear that I have slept for seventy years." He then caught sight of his ass which had given birth to several generations of mules, and he returned home. There he inquired, "Is the son of Choni the Circle-Drawer still alive?" The people answered him, "His son is no more, but his grandson is still living." Thereupon he said to them: "I am Choni the Circle-Drawer," but no one would believe him. 

 

He then repaired to the Beit HaMidrash [study hall] and there he overheard the scholars say, "The law is as clear to us as in the days of Choni the Circle-Drawer," for whenever he came to the Beit HaMidrash he would settle for the scholars any difficulty that they had. Whereupon he called out, "I am he!" But the scholars would not believe him nor did they give him the honor due to him. This hurt him greatly and he prayed for mercy, and he died. Raba said: "Hence the saying, 'Either companionship or death.'" 

 

Jerusalem Talmud version (Taanit 3:9)

Said R. Yudan Giria: "This is Choni the Circle Maker [of M. Ta. 3:9], the grandson of Choni the Circle Maker. Near the time of the destruction of the Temple, he went out to a mountain to his workers. Before he got there, it rained. He went into a cave. Once he sat down there, he fell asleep. He remained sound asleep for seventy years, until the Temple was destroyed and it was rebuilt a second time. At the end of the seventy years, he awoke from his sleep. He went out of the cave, and he saw a world completely changed. An area that had been planted with vineyards now produced olives, and an area planted with olives now produced grain. He asked the people of the district, "What do you hear in the world?" They said to him, "And don't you know what the news is?" He said to them, "No." They said to him, "Who are you?" He said to them, " Choni the Circle Maker." They said to him, "We heard that when he would go into the Temple courtyard, it would be illuminated." He went in and illuminated the place and recited the following verse of Scripture, "When the Lord restored the fortune of Zion, we were like those who dream" (Ps. 126:1). 





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