The Great Aba Chilkiya
Aba Chilkiya was a grandson of Choni
HaMaagal. When the Jewish people needed rain, the rabbis would send to him to
pray for rain. On one occasion, they sent two Torah scholars to him. They came
to his house, but did not find him at home. They then went to the fields and
found him working there. They greeted him, but he did not return the greeting. So
they stood respectfully at a distance, waiting for him to finish.
Towards evening, he started towards his home, picking up
pieces of wood along the way.
The wood and his hoe he carried on one shoulder, and his cloak on the other.
All the way, he carried his shoes, but when he crossed through a stream, he wore
them. When he walked through thorns, he raised his tunic that the thorns might
not tear it. As he reached home, his wife came out to greet him wearing fine clothing
and jewelry. As they entered the house, his wife walked in first, then Aba
Chilkiya, and after him the rabbis. Aba Chilkiya sat down to eat with his
family, but did not ask his guests to join them. To his oldest son he gave one
piece of bread, to his younger son he gave two pieces of bread.
Afterwards, in a low voice, he said to his wife, "I
know these rabbis have come to ask for rain. Come, let's go up to the attic and
pray for rain, that Hashem have mercy on us and send rain, without it appearing
that our prayers effected it." They went up into the attic. He stood in
one corner; she stood in another. Rain-clouds soon appeared on the side where
the wife was standing.
Once it started raining, he came down and asked the rabbis,
"What has brought the rabbis here?"
"Our teachers sent us to the rabbi that he may pray for
rain." they replied.
"Blessed be Hashem," he answered, that you don't need
to rely on my favors."
"We know this rain comes only on account of the rabbi's
prayers," they said to him, "still we should like to learn the reason
for several actions on his part that appeared surprising to us. Why, when we
greeted the rabbi, did he ignore us?"
"I hired myself out for the day," he replied, "and
my time was not my own. Therefore I didn't want to waste any of it."
"Why did the rabbi carry the
wood on one shoulder and his garment on the other?"
"I had borrowed the garment to wear, and not to use as
a pad for the wood."
"Why did the rabbi go barefoot all the way, and put on
his shoes when he came to the stream?"
"The entire way I could see what I was stepping on, but
in the water I could not."
"Why did the Master raise his dress when walking through
"If my flesh receives a scratch, it heals by itself,
but if the garment becomes torn, it does not heal by
"Why, when the rabbi came to the city, did his wife
come out to meet him dressed in fine clothing?"
"She acted like this that I do not look at any other
"Why did she enter the house first, then the rabbi, and
"I did not yet know anything about you."
"Why, when the rabbi sat down to eat, did he not invite
us to join his meal?"
"We do not have enough bread for all, and I knew you
would refuse my invitation. Therefore to ask you to eat would be gaining
undeserved and false gratitude."
"Why did the rabbi give the older child one piece of
bread and the younger two?"
"The older child was at home all day and probably
helped himself before, but the younger was at school all day and more
"Why did the rain-clouds appear first in your wife's
"My wife is always at home, and when a poor man begs
for a meal she gives it to him immediately. I, on the other hand, give him a coin
and he must buy his own food with it. Thus her charity is more effective than