Torah Wisdom
Shas Stories

   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.[1] 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."[2]

"Why did the Master raise his dress when walking through the thorns?"

"If my flesh receives a scratch, it heals by itself, but if the garment becomes torn, it does not heal by itself."

"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 woman."

"Why did she enter the house first, then the rabbi, and we last?"

"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 hungry."

"Why did the rain-clouds appear first in your wife's corner?"

"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 mine."

(Taanis 23a)


[1] These he would be able to use as firewood.

[2] He did not wish to wear out his shoes through excessive wear, but (Rashi) in the water there was a danger that a fish or snake may bite me.

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