Shas Stories Archive IV

The material here is in need of editing and arranging. Still, if you find something here that can help you for your personal reading or research, I would be privileged to have you use it.

Under a shaky wall

Rav and Shmuel would not pass under a certain old and shaky wall in Neharda'a. Even though it had stood thirteen years, it looked dangerous and as though it would fall at any moment. Therefore, they went to the trouble of encircling it and not passing under it.[1]

Once, the great Rav Ada bar Ahava visited Rav and Shmuel in Neharda'a.

As they walked together, Shmuel reminded Rav, "We need to walk around that old wall, and not under it."

"No," Rav answered, "today this isn't necessary. Rav Ada bar Ahava, who has many merits, is with us and we have nothing to fear.[2]

(Taanis 20b)

Relying on a Miracle

Rav Huna had barrels of wine in an old house. He wanted to remove them that he was scared of entering the building. There was a fear it might collapse on him. What did he do? He invited Rav Ada bar Ahava over, and entered a deep Torah conversation with him. As they spoke, workers removed the barrels. As they then left the old house, it collapsed. Rav Ada bar Ahava was angry with Rav Huna.

"How could you ignore the teaching of R' Yanai," he asked, "never should a person stand in a dangerous place, and rely on a miracle. For, he cannot know that the heavens will perform a miracle for him. And even if they do perform a miracle, they deduct this from his heavenly merits.

(Taanis 20b)

Good Deeds

"Tell me of Rav Huna's good deeds,"[3] Rava asked Rafram bar Papa.

"About the good deeds of his youth," Rafram bar Papa answered, "I can't remember, but I can tell you the good deeds of his old age.

"On cloudy stormy days when strong winds would blow, he would inspect the city's walls riding in a golden carriage. If he saw a wall that was shaky or cracked, he would have it dismantled, that the owner should rebuild it anew. If the homeowner could not afford this repair, Rav Huna would rebuild it at his own expense.

"Every erev Shabbos, towards evening, he sent a messenger to the market to buy up the remaining vegetables, and throw them in the river...

"Why did he not give these vegetables to the poor? He didn't want the poor to rely on this handout. For, certainly, some weeks the market would sell out its goods, and they would have no food for that Shabbos.

"Why then didn't he throw the vegetables to his sheep and goats? He felt that giving what Hashem has given as a gift to us to animals, belittled this gift; alternatively, he knew poor people lower down the river would find this food and eat it.

"Why then did he buy the food at all? He didn't want the merchants to suffer losses over their unsold produce. This would discourage them from bringing fresh vegetables the following week, and consequently, the holy Shabbos would suffer...

"Another great deed of his," Rafram bar Papa continued, "was when he sat down to a meal, he would open his door and announce, "Anyone who wishes to eat should join me."

"All these things," Rava told Rafram bar Papa, "I could also do, except for feeding passersby. They are so many paupers in Mechuza, they would eat all that I own.

(Taanis 20b)

A Missed Opportunity

Ilfa and R' Yochanan learnt Torah in great poverty and deprivation. At a certain point, their hunger became too much for the. They therefore, decided to leave the yeshiva and engage in business. Let us fulfill the verse that says, "There shall be no poor amongst you,"[4] which instructs us not to be poor.

They left. Later, as they sat under an old wall eating, R' Yochanan overheard two angels speaking.

"Let us knock over this wall, and bury them here," said one angel to the other, "for they have abandoned their Torah study, which ensures eternal life, to pursue mundane material pursuits."

"No, leave them alone," the other angel answered. "One of them is destined for greatness, and we may not kill him."

R' Yochanan overheard this conversation. Ilfa did not.

"Did you hear anything?" R' Yochanan asked Ilfa.

"No, nothing," Ilfa answered.

"If so," R' Yochanan said to himself, "the angels must have been talking of me. Let me hurry back to the yeshiva, and fulfill there the verse, "There will not cease to be paupers amongst you."[5]


R' Yochanan returned. Ilfa did not return. When eventually Ilfa did return, he found that R' Yochanan had been appointed Rosh Yeshiva.

"Had you remained learning here," the students told Ilfa, "you would have been appointed Rosh Yeshiva."

On hearing this, Ilfa climbed to the top of a tall ship's mast.

"If anyone here can challenge me on a teaching of R' Chiya or R' Oshiya that I cannot resolve, I will throw myself from this mast and drown."

An old man came, and asked a question. Ilfa answered it correctly.[6]

(Taanis 21a)

To Feel for Others

Nachum Ish Gamzu was blind in both eyes, without hands or legs, and boils covered his entire body. He lay in shaky house, the legs of his bed in buckets of water that ants should not climb over him. His students wanted to move him to a better house. They came to carry him out.

"Children," he told them, "first take out all the furnishings and utensils, then take out my bed. For, as long as I am in this house, it will not collapse."

They took out the furnishings and utensils. Then, they took out Nachum Ish Gamzu in his bed. As they completed this, the house collapsed.

"Rebbi," his students asked him, "if you are such a tzaddik, why do we see you so badly off?"

"I did it to myself," he told them. "Once, I traveled to my father-in-law's house. With me, I had three donkey loads, one of food, one of drink, and one with fruits and sweets. A pauper approached me, standing on the road.

"Rebbi, feed me," he cried.

"Wait until I unload the donkey," I answered him. However, before I could remove anything from the donkey, he died. Seeing this I fell on his face and prayed, "May my eyes that felt no compassion for your eyes, be blinded. May my hands that showed no compassion for your hands, be cut off. May my legs that had no compassion for your legs, be amputated. Still, I could not calm down until I had added, and may my whole body be covered in boils."

"Woe to us, that we see you this way," the students lamented.

"Woe, were you not to see me in such a way," Nachum Ish Gamzu responded.[7]

(Taanis 21a)

(See before 46, later 704)

This too is for the good!

Why was Nachum Ish Gamzu so called? For, about everything that happened to him, even that which was not good, he would say, "This too, "Gam zu", is for the good," as we see in the next story:

The Jewish people needed to buy Caesar's goodwill by sending him a gift. "Who should go as our representative," they wondered. "Surely, no one is better suited for this mission than Nachum Ish Gamzu, for whom the heavens perform miracles." They sent him with a chest of precious gems and pearls.

On the way, he spent a night at a hotel. While he slept, the owners stole the gems from his chest, replacing them with dust. In the morning, he noticed the sand in the chest.[8]

"This too is for the good," he said to himself, and continued on his mission.

He presented the chest to Caesar who opened it. Seeing the dust, he assumed that the Jews were mocking him. He was so angry, he decided to execute the entire Jewish people.

"This too is for the good," Nachum Ish Gamzu said to himself.

At that moment, Eliyahu HaNavi miraculously appeared in the guise of an important officer.

"Maybe," he said to Caesar, "this is the sand their ancestor Avraham used to fight and conquer the kings.[9] When he threw sand at them, they died as though slaughtered by swords. When he threw straw at them, they died as though pierced by arrows."

Caesar had a particular enemy state that had resisted all his attempts to conquer it. He therefore, took the dust and tested it in the next battle. He was victorious.

He then brought Nachum Ish Gamzu into his treasure house, filled his chest with precious gems, and sent him home in honor.

Going home, Nachum Ish Gamzu again stopped at the same hotel. Eagerly, the hotel owners asked him what important gift he had brought to the Caesar that he should return in such honor.

"What I took from here," he told them, "is what I brought to Caesar."

On hearing his story, they tore their hotel apart that they might bring all of its dust to Caesar. "We have brought you the same dust that Nachum Ish Gamzu brought you," they proudly reported. "That dust came from our hotel!"

The Romans tested the dust, but it failed to produce the same results. They then executed those hotel owners.

(Taanis 21a)

With Merit

A plague went through the town of Sura. However, it skipped the neighborhood of Rav. People said that since Rav has many merits, he had protected them. The heavens however, showed them through a dream that this was too small matter to require any of Rav's merits. Rather, the plague stayed away in the merit of a man who lent out tools to dig graves in the local cemetery.[10]

(Taanis 21b)

With Merit II

A fire spread through the town of Drokeres. However, it skipped over the neighborhood of Rav Huna. People said that since Rav Huna has many merits, he had protected them. The heavens therefore, showed them through a dream that this was too small matter to require any of Rav Huna's merits. Rather, the fire stayed away in the merit of a woman who kept her oven alight and hot, that her neighbors could use it freely.

(Taanis 21b)

See later 711.

A Time to Worry

Swarms of locusts entered the district of Rav Yehuda. People came to tell him. He decreed a fast day.

"But they're not eating any of our grain," the people protested.

"Did they bring food with them that they shouldn't touch your grain?" Rav Yehuda asked them.

(Taanis 21b)


They told Shmuel that in a distant place, Bei Chuzai, there was a plague. He decreed a fast day.

"Surely this place is far from us?" the people asked, "We have nothing to worry about."

"Do walls stand around the plague, stopping it from coming here?" Shmuel asked them.


A plague has hit Eretz Yisrael," people told Rav Nachman [who lived in Bavel]. Rav Nachman decreed a fast day.

"If the mistress [i.e. Eretz Yisrael] has been struck, how much the more so the maidservant [Bavel] stands to suffer! Therefore, we must take precautions."

(Taanis 21b)


A heavenly voice would greet Abba Umana each day. "Shalom Alecha," it wished him. This was a tremendous honor. Abaye, on the other hand, only merited to hear this heavenly voice once a week on Erev Shabbos. Rava would hear this heavenly voice once a year on Yom Kippur.

Abaye felt bad that the heavens regarded him so much less than Abba Umana.

"Don't feel bad about this," the heavens told him, "your good deeds do not match his good deeds."

What would Abba Umana do? He would let blood, a common form of healing in those days, and was careful to keep his male patients separate from his female patients for reasons of modesty. Also, he had a special garment to cover his female patients. It hid their entire body except for one small hole through which he would treat them. In this way, he avoided looking at them, and indulging in improper thoughts.

Outside, in a discreet place his patients would leave money to pay for his service. Those who could afford it would pay. Those who could not afford it could leave without feeling any embarrassment. Abba Umana himself did not know who paid him and who did not. Moreover, when he saw that his patient was poor he would give him money to buy food and revive himself after the operation. If his patient was a Torah scholar, he would refuse all payment.

Abaye sent to Torah scholars to test him. He brought them into his house, gave them food and drink, and made up beds for them to rest on. He folded special woolen cloaks under the sheets that they should sleep more comfortably. In the morning, the scholars took these cloaks with them, and set out to the market. There they met Abba Umana.

"Tell us," they said to him, "how much of these cloaks worth?" They wanted check him if he would accuse them of being thieves, or under evaluate them that he might buy them back cheaply.

"Such and such is their worth," he told him

"Maybe they are worth more?" the scholars asked him.

"This is what I paid for them," Abba Umana told them.

"They are yours," the scholars told him, "we only took them from you to test you. Tell us what you thought of us when you realized we had taken them?"

"I thought," he said, "you needed to redeem captives and for this you needed money, but you were embarrassed to ask me for the money. Therefore, you took these cloaks."

"Now, please take them back," the scholars said to him.

"I don't want to take them back," he told them, "the moment I realized you had taken them, I said they should be for charity. I will take nothing back from charity."


Rava felt bad that he received heavenly greetings only once a year, whereas Abaye received them once a week.

"Don't feel bad," the heavens told him, "be glad that your merits protect the entire city."

See later 734


Rav Broka of Bnei Chuzaa would frequent the market of Lapat. Eliyahu HaNavi was accustomed to meeting him there.

"Is there anyone in this market," Rav Broka asked Eliyahu, "worthy of the world to come?"

"No," said Eliyahu HaNavi. Then he spotted a certain man wearing black shoes, unlike the custom of the Jews, and no tzitzis in his garment.

"That man," said Eliyahu HaNavi, "is worthy of the world to come."

Rav Broka ran over to the man. "Tell me what you do," he said to him.

"Leave me today," the man answered, "and ask me tomorrow."

The next day Rav Broka spotted the man. "Tell me what you do," he said to him.

"I am a prison guard," he told him, "and I am careful to keep the men separate from the women. I place my bed between them that they shouldn't sin in any way. When I see that the non-Jews there are eying a Jewish girl, I go to great lengths to save her from them. One day, a betrothed young woman faced just such a difficulty. I took wine dregs, which look like blood, and splashed them on the bottom of her dress. She is bleeding, I told them, and they left her alone."

"Why don't you have tzitzis on your garment," Rav Broka asked him, "and why do you wear black shoes, unlike other Jews?"

"I mix with non-Jews," the man answered, "and I don't want them to recognize that I'm Jewish. In this way when I hear that the government is plotting against the Jews, I run to tell the rabbis that they may pray and nullify the decree."

"Yesterday, when I approached you," Rav Broka asked him, "you said, leave me today, ask me tomorrow. Why was that?

"I was hurrying to tell the rabbis of just such a decree," the man answered.


While they were talking, two brothers passed by. "They also," Eliyahu HaNavi whispered to Rav Broka, "are worthy of the world to come."

"What do you do?" Rav Broka asked them.

"We are happy, and we make others happy," they answered. "If we see someone sad, we make a special effort to cheer him up. Also, if we see people fighting, we make a special effort to make peace between them."

(Taanis 22a)

see 697


In the days of Shimon ben Shetach, the rains would fall on Wednesday and Shabbos nights, when people are at home.[11] The blessing was so great that wheat grains were the size of kidneys -- barley, the size of olives -- lentils, the size of golden dinarim.


Similarly, in the days of Hordos, when the people engaged in renovating the Beis HaMikdash, the rains fell only at night. The next morning, the wind scattered the clouds, the sun shone, and the people came to their work. They knew that their work was for the sake of heaven, and that the heavens had blessed their efforts.

(Taanis 23a)


Most of the month of Adar had gone by and the rains had yet fallen. The people called to Choni HaMaagal (the circle-maker) to pray for them.[12] He prayed, still, no rain fell. He then drew a circle on the ground and stood in it.

"Lord of the universe," he cried out, "your children look to me that I'm like a member of your household, to help them. I swear by Your great name, that I will not move from this circle until You have mercy on your children."

A small drizzle of rain began to fall.

"Rebbi," his students it to him, "it looks like we are all going to die. Such a rain cannot save us. The heavens are only sending it to release you from your oath.

"This is not the rain I asked for," Choni then prayed, "rather a rain that will fill wells, ditches and reservoirs." The rains then began to fall heavily, each drop like a barrel-full. The rabbis measured them, and found not one of them less than a log.[13]

"Rebbi," his students cried to him, "help us that we don't die. Such a rain will destroy the world.

"Not for such a rain did I ask," he then prayed, "rather a rain of good will, of blessing and peace." The rain then began to fall in the normal way. Soon, however, so much of it had fallen that the people needed to climb up the Temple Mount to escape the flooding.

"Rebbi," they said to him, "just as you prayed that they should come down, pray now please that they should stop."

"I have a tradition," he answered them, "that one doesn't pray to stop an abundance of goodness. Even so, bring a Thanksgiving offering that we may thank Hashem for His kindness."

He rested his two hands on the animal they brought, and prayed, "Lord of the universe, your people Yisrael who You brought out of Egypt cannot survive with an abundance of goodness, or an abundance of punishment. You were angry with us, but we could not live up to Your expectations. You sent your blessing, and again we couldn't live up to it. May it be Your will that these rains should stop and the world should again breathe easily."

Immediately the wind blew, scattering the clouds, and the sun shone. The people went out to the fields and brought home giant mushrooms that had sprung up from this rain and all knew that they had merited Heaven's blessings.

(Taanis 23a)


All his life, Choni HaMaagal was bothered by this verse, "Shir haMa'alos, when Hashem returns us to Tzion, we will have been as dreamers," (the Babylonian exile of 70 years, will all be like one long sleep). "Could it be," he asked, "that a person can sleep continuously for 70 years?"

One day, as he was walking, he saw a man planting a carob tree.

"How long will it be," he asked the man, "before this tree produces fruits?"

"Seventy years," the man answered.

"And are you certain you will still be alive then?" Choni HaMaagal asked.

"I was born into a world with carob trees," the man answered. "Just as my fathers planted trees for me to enjoy, so I plant trees for my children."


Choni HaMaagal then sat down a little distance away, to a meal. He ate, then dozed off. A wall of rock sprung up around him, and hid him from view. No one could find him, and so he slept for 70 years.


When he awoke from his sleep, he saw the same man picking carobs from the tree he had planted.

"Are you the man that planted this tree?" he asked him.

"no," answered the man, "I am his grandson."

"I see," said Choni HaMaagal, "that I must have slept for 70 years." He then noticed that his donkey had been given birth to donkeys, who in turn, gave birth to still other donkeys.[14] He went to his home.

"Is the son of Choni HaMaagal still alive?" he asked.

"No," they answered, "but his grandson is alive."

"I am Choni HaMaagal," he told them, but they would not believe him.

He went to the beis hamedresh. There he overheard the rabbis saying, this teaching shines as brightly as in the days of Choni HaMaagal. For when Choni HaMaagal would come to the beis hamedresh, he would resolve for them in an excellent way, any difficulties they had.

"I am Choni HaMaagal," he told them, but they would not believe him -- and did not honor him as a scholar of his stature needs to be honored. This hurt him deeply. He prayed to Hashem, and he died.


"This reflects what people say," said Rava, "if a person does not receive respect as he is accustomed to receiving, he is better off dead.

(Taanis 23a)


Aba Chilkiya was a grandson of Choni HaMaagal. When there was a need for rain, the rabbis would send to him to pray for rain. On one such occasion, they sent two Torah scholars to him. They came to his house, but did not find him at home. They went out to the fields and found him working there. They greeted him, but he did not return the greeting. 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 his one shoulder, his cloak on the other shoulder. All the way, he wore shoes -- but when he needed to cross through a stream of water, he removed them. When he walked in a place where there were thorns, he raised his tunic that the thorns might not tear it. As he reached home, his wife came out to greet him wearing pretty ornaments. As they entered the house, his wife walked in first, then Aba Chilkiya and finally 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.

When dealing out bread to his children, he gave the elder one loaf and the younger two. Afterwards he

p. 67

said to his wife in a low voice: "I know that these rabbis came on account of rain. Come, let us go up into the attic and pray for rain, and should the Lord have mercy on His children and cause it to rain, it will not appear as if it came about through us." They went up into the attic, and he stood in one corner, while she stood in another. The rain-cloud appeared in the direction where the wife was standing.

When he went down again, he said to the rabbis: "What hath brought the rabbis here?" And they replied: "The rabbis have sent us to Master that he may pray for rain." And he answered: "Blessed be the Lord, that ye no longer need Abba Helkyah's favor." Said they to him: "We well know that this rain is come only on account of Master, still we should like to know the reason for several actions on his part which appear to us surprising. Why, when we greeted the Master, did he not turn his face towards us?" He replied: "I hired myself out for the day and my time was not my own, hence I did not wish to waste any." "Why did the Master carry the wood on one shoulder and the garment on the other?" "Because the garment was borrowed by me to wear, but not to use as a pad for wood." "Why did the Master go barefooted all the way, and put on his shoes when coming to water?" "Because the entire way I could see what I was stepping on, but in water I could not." "Why did the Master raise his dress when walking in a thorny path?" "Because if my flesh should receive a scratch, it will heal; but if the garment should become torn it cannot be mended." "Why, when the Master came to the city, did his wife come forth to meet him, dressed in her best apparel?" "In order that I may not look at any other woman." "Why did she enter first, then the Master, and then we?" "Because I know nothing about you." "Why, when the Master sat down to eat, did he not invite us to partake also?" "Because there was not sufficient bread for all, and I did not wish to invite you merely to receive your thanks in vain." "Why did the Master give the elder child one loaf and the younger two?" "Because the elder was at home all day and probably helped himself previously, but the younger was at school all day and more hungry." Why did the rain-cloud appear first in thy wife's corner?" "Because my wife is always at home, and when a poor man begs for a meal she always gives it to him readily, while I can but give him a Zuz and he must first go and purchase food for it. Thus her charity is more effective than mine."


(Taanis 23a)


Chanan, the hidden one, was a grandson of Choni HaMaagal. When the community needed rain the rabbis would send schoolchildren to him, to soften his heart that his prayers might pour out for them.

The children would tug at his coat, begging, "Father, father, give us rain."

"Ribono shel Olam," he would then pray, "do it for the sake of these little ones who cannot discern between a father who gives them rain and a father that doesn't give them rain."


And why did they call him Chanan, the hidden one? For when he would pray for rains, in his humility, he would hide himself from public view.

(Taanis 23b)


R' Yona, father of R' Mani, when the community needed rain, would ask his family to give him a sack that he might buy grain for the house. Then when he was a distance away from the house he would lower himself into a ditch,[15] cover his head with the sack, and pray until rain began to fall. Once the rain was falling, he would go home.

"Did you buy grain," his family would ask him.

"No," he answered, "when I saw the rain falling, I thought to myself this will bring in new crops -- so why should I buy now when the prices are high?"

(Taanis 23b)


The governor's household would look for ways to trouble and hurt R' Mani, son of R' Yona (mentioned in the story above). He went and prostrated himself at his father's grave.

"Father," he cried, "these people are afflicting me."

One day these same people passed by the cave where R' Yona was buried. The feet of their horses stuck to the ground there and they were unable to move at all. The riders, realizing the reason for this phenomenon, accepted on themselves never to hurt with R' Mani again, and the ground released them.


R' Mani was a student of R' Yitzchak ben Eliyashiv. Once, he came crying to his rebbi.

"The rich members of my father-in-laws house," he complained, "trouble and afflict me."

"May they become poor," R' Yitzchak told him. A while later, he again came to complain before R' Yitzchak.

"Now, there are pressuring me to support them," he cried, "they tell me they have nothing to eat."

"May they become rich," R' Yitzchak prayed, and so it was.


At another time R' Mani came before R' Yitzchak.

"My wife is unattractive," he complained, "and I find it difficult to look at her."

"What is her name?" R' Yitzchak asked.


"May Chana become beautiful," R' Yitzchak prayed, and so it was.

A short while later, R' Mani again came with the complaint.

"She is beautiful now," he cried, "and treats me in an arrogant and offhand way."

"If so," R' Yitzchak said, "May she again be plain." And so it was.

(Taanis 23b)


Two students of R' Yitzchak ben Eliyashiv once asked him, "Rebbi, pray for us that we should be wise."

"Once, I could do this," he answered them, "whatever I would pray for, the heavens would grant me. Now, I have returned this power to the heavens, and my prayers are not accepted so easily." However, he told them this so as not to trouble the heavens too greatly.

(Taanis 23b)


R' Yosi bar Avin was a student in the house of R' Yossi of Yokeres. After awhile he left him, and came to learn from Rav Ashi.

"What made you leave R' Yosi for me?" Rav Ashi asked him.

"He has no compassion for his son or daughter," R' Yossi answered, "How then can I expect him to treat me?"

What happened with the son and the daughter that so upset this student?

His son: One day when R' Yosi of Yokeres had workers working his fields, he was late in bringing them their daily meal, a normal duty of every employer in those days.

"We're very hungry," the workers, resting under a fig tree, complained to his son. The boy took this very much to heart.

"Fig tree, fig tree," his son said, "bring out fruit that my father's workers can eat." The fig tree produced beautiful figs, and the workers ate well.

In the meantime, R' Yosi of Yokeres appeared, apologizing for his delay. "Please don't suspect me of forgetting you," he told the workers, "I was involved in a mitzva which I couldn't leave. This is why I am late."

"Don't worry at all," the workers blessed him, "Hashem will surely fill all your needs as He has filled ours."

"Where did you find food?" R' Yosi asked them. They told him what his son had done. R' Yosi then turned to his son. "My son," he said sternly, "you troubled your Master to produce fruit before its time; therefore, you too must die before your time."


His daughter: R' Yosi of Yokeres had an exceptionally beautiful daughter. One day he saw a man undoing part of the wooden fence around his house that he might stare at the girl.

"What are you doing?" R' Yosi asked the man, "What are you looking at?"

"Rebbi," the man answered, "if I cannot have her as a wife, can I not, at least, enjoy looking at her?"

"My daughter," he later said to her, "you are causing pain to others. It would be better then that you return to the dust, and not cause men to sin on your account."


R' Yosi had a donkey which he would hire out on a daily basis. In the evening, they would send her home with the rental money on her. She would then go home. But if they put on her more or less money than they should have, she would not move from that place.

Once, they forgot on her a pair of shoes, and she would not budge. The people were puzzled until at last they found the cause. They removed the shoes from her back, and she went home.

(Taanis 24a)

All for Hashem

When charity collectors would see Eliezer of Bartusa, they would hide themselves from him, for he always emptied out his pockets of all they held for tzedaka.

Once he came to the market to shop for his daughter's upcoming marriage. Again, charity collectors saw him and hid. However, he saw them first and ran after them.

"You must tell me," he ordered them, "what are you collecting for today."

"We are arranging a wedding between two orphans," they answered.

"Such a cause definitely comes before my daughter," he stated, and gave them his money. All he left for himself was one small coin with which he bought a little wheat. This wheat he threw into his storeroom, and went to learn Torah.

"What did your father buy?" his wife asked their daughter.

"I don't know," she answered, "but whatever it is, it's in the storeroom.

The daughter went to check the storeroom. The wheat so filled it that it was falling from the cracks and holes in the door. She couldn't even open the door.

She went to find her father in the beis hamedresh. "Come father," she said, "see what Hashem has done for you."

"This wheat is not to make you an extravagant wedding," he responded, "we will marry you like the Jewish poor marry, and the rest of it will go to charity.

(Taanis 24a)


Food from Heaven

R' Yehuda, on one occasion, was walking and saw people throwing bread to each other, as they would with a ball.

"I see there is an abundance of food in the world," he observed with disapproval. Shortly afterwards, a famine began.

"You are a close student of R' Yehuda," the rabbis said to Rav Kahana ben Nechunya, "invite him to go with you through the streets. That way he will notice how hungry the people are, and have mercy on them."

Rav Kahana did so. As they walked, they saw people crowding to buy dates. Even though, dates were the cheapest, most common food of those times, people were paying very high prices, and even buying the date pits.

"I see there is a famine in the land," R' Yehuda observed.

"Take off my shoes," he told his assistant, "that I may pray for Hashem's mercy." As the assistant removed the first shoe, the rain started falling. He was about to remove the second shoe, when Eliyahu HaNavi appeared.

"Stop," he cried out, "if you remove that second shoe, so much rain will fall that it will destroy the world.


"At that time," Rav Mari grandson of Shmuel later related, "I was standing on the wall overlooking the River Papa, and I saw angels in the guise of sailors bringing great quantities of sand and filling the ships there. All the sand turned into wheat, and people began to crowd around them to buy this marvelous grain.

"Don't touch that wheat," R' Yehuda instructed them, "heavenly miracles produced it, and we need to keep away from relying on miracles."

The next day, boats came from Parzania, carrying wheat, and some say, rice. All were able to buy much food, and at cheap prices.

(Taanis 24b)


Rava by chance, came to Hagrunia. There he decreed a fast and prayed that rain should fall, but no rain fell.

"No one should eat tonight," he told the people there, "that the heavens should have mercy on us." And so they did.

The next morning he asked of them, "If anyone here received some sort of omen in a dream, please will he report it." R' Eliezer of Hagrunia stepped forward.

"I saw in a dream myself reading the words "Good wishes of peace to the good leader of his community from the good Lord, from whose goodness the world flourishes."

"This is an omen that this is a time of good will," Rava said, "therefore, let us now pray again." They prayed and the rain fell.

(Taanis 24b)


Rava's court lashed a certain man for sins he committed. As a result of his punishment however, he died. This news traveled to the courts of King Shapur, the Persian ruler of the time. He wished to punish Rava for this, however his mother Imra Hormiz, warned him, "My son, have no dealings with the Jews for whatever they ask for from Hashem, he grants them."

"What does Hashem do for them?" he asked her.

"When they ask for rain, immediately He sends it to them," she answered.

"That's because they ask for rain in the raining season, and, even if they didn't pray for rain, it would fall," he answered, "Let me see them see them praying for rain in Tamuz, the dry season, then I will know that Hashem is with them.

She greatly admired Rava and sent him a message that he should pray intensely and ask Hashem to send rain. He did so, but no rain fell.

"Lord of the universe," he begged, "with our ears we heard it, our fathers told it to us, the great miracles you performed in the past. However we have never seen this. Show us then Your wonders." The rains then fell so hard that the gutters overflowed, washing away the courtyards and and pouring down to the River Chidekel.

Rava's father appeared to him in a dream. "Is there anyone who so troubles Hashem," he asked Rava, "as you have done? Therefore change your place, do not sleep in your regular bed tonight."

Rava did so. In the morning he saw that his bed was cut up with knives. Demons had tried to kill him for asking Hashem to change nature and send rain in Tamuz.

(Taanis 24b)


Rav Papa decreed a fast that rain should fall, but no rain fell. The fast was long and hard for him, and he felt weak. He ate something, and then again prayed. Still, no rain fell.

"If you sir, will eat another spoon of porridge," said Rav Nachman to him jokingly, "maybe then the rain will fall."

Hearing this, Rav Papa turned red with embarrassment. He then turned again to his prayer. This time the rain fell. The hurt of his embarrassment was even more effective than his fasting to appease the heavens and bring down the rain.

(Taanis 24b)


Rebbi Chanina ben Dosa was once walking along the way, and rain began to fall.

"Ribono shel Olam," he prayed, "the whole world sits comfortably in the shelter of their homes, and Chanina needs to suffer!" The rain then stopped falling.

When he arrived home, again he prayed, "Ribono shel Olam, the whole world is suffering, because they need rain, and Chanina (who had no fields) sits comfortably. The rain then began to fall.

"Of what use was the Kohen Gadol's prayer," R' Yosef said on hearing this story, "For the Kohen Gadol would pray on Yom Kippur that Hashem ignore the traveler who prays that the rains should stop, but R' Chanina's prayer over rid his request.

"Every day," Rav said, "a heavenly voice broadcasts: The entire world eats on account of Chanina, my precious son, yet Chanina, my precious son is so poor that he sustains himself on no more than a small quantity of carobs each week.

(Taanis 24b)


R' Chanina ben Dosa's wife would fire her oven on Friday, and place something in it that it may give off smoke. She did this so that her neighbors would think that she too was baking in honor of the coming Shabbos. The truth was however, that she had nothing to bake, and she only lit the oven so that she shouldn't feel embarrassment before her neighbors.

One of her neighbors was a nasty woman who resented her righteousness.

"What's all that smoke coming from R' Chanina's house," she asked herself, "they have nothing to bake." She went and knocked loudly on their door.


The wife of Hanina would make a fire in her oven on the eve of every Sabbath in order not to be ashamed before her neighbors. She had, however, one bad neighbor who said: "I know that Hanina and his wife have nothing to cook for the Sabbath, why does she make fire in her oven? I shall go and see." She went and knocked at the threshold, and Hanina's wife became ashamed and went into another room. In the meantime a miracle happened, and the oven became filled with bread. The neighbor, noticing the bread in the oven, called to Hanina's wife: "Bring the bread-shovel, or the bread will be burned!" And she replied: "I just went in for that purpose." We have learned in a Boraitha: Hanina's wife really did go into the next room for a shovel, because she was accustomed to have miracles happen to her.

One day the wife of R. Hanina said to him: "How long shall we yet be troubled with the want of our daily bread?" And he replied: "What can I do?" Said she: "Pray to God that He should give thee something." He accordingly went and prayed. A hand came forth and gave him a leg of a golden table. Subsequently his wife saw in a dream that all the righteous in heaven ate on golden tables having three legs, while her table only had two. Said she to Hanina: "Wouldst thou then like it, that all should eat at a table having three legs, while we should eat at one only having two? Pray to God that the golden leg may be taken back." He prayed, and the leg was taken back. We have learned in a Boraitha that this latter miracle was even greater than the former; for we have a tradition, that it is usual for heaven to bestow but not to take back.

One eve of Sabbath Hanina noticed his daughter in a despondent mood. Upon asking her what the trouble was, she replied: "I got the two vessels containing oil and vinegar mixed, and poured the latter into the Sabbath lamp and lit it." Said he: "My daughter! why should that trouble thee? He who hath ordained that oil should burn can also ordain that vinegar should burn." We have learned in a Boraitha that the vinegar in that lamp burned all night and all day, till some of it was used for the Habdalah prayer.

(Taanis 24b)


R. Hanina ben Dosa had a few goats, and he was told that his goats caused damage to others. Said he: "If my goats do damage, may wolves devour them; but if they do not, may they each bring a bear impaled upon their horns." That same evening, each goat really brought in a bear mounted on its horns.

How did Hanina happen to have goats? Was he not a poor man? Said R. Pinchas: "It once happened that a man left a few chickens at the house of Hanina, and the latter said to his wife: 'Do not use the eggs, for the chickens do not belong to us.'" Accordingly the eggs were left untouched, and in the course of time quite a number of chickens were produced, so that they became too troublesome, and Hanina sold them and with the proceeds purchased goats. Subsequently the man who left the chickens returned to claim them. He was asked for a description of his property, which he gave correctly, whereupon Hanina turned over the goats to him, and these are the goats that brought bears upon their horns.

(Taanis 25a)

The same Hanina had a neighbor who was building a house, and the beams were too short. So she came to him, and said: "I have built my house, but my beams do not reach far enough." And he asked her her name. And she answered: "Aikho." He then said: "Aikho, may thy beams become longer." We have learned in a Boraitha that they really became so long that they protruded an ell on each side, while others say that pieces were conjoined with the beams so that they attained the required length. We have learned in another Boraitha: "Plimo said: 'I saw that house and noticed that the beams protruded an ell on each side. And I was told that the house was the one for which Hanina prayed to have the beams become longer.'"

(Taanis 25a)


R. Hama bar Hanina ordered a fast-day, but no rain descended, and he was told: "Why, R. Jehoshua ben Levi would order a fast-day, and rain would commence to fall!" Said he: "That was the son of Levi, and not I!" And they said: "We meant to say, that we should again congregate, and perhaps, if we prove contrite of heart, the rain will descend." They did so, and still no rain descended. Said he to them: "Think ye that ye deserve rain to descend for you?" And they answered: "Yea." Said he to the sky: "Cover thy countenance." No results, however, were produced, and he exclaimed: "How impudent are the skies!" Whereupon they became covered, and rain commenced to fall.

Levi ordered a fast-day, but no rain descended. Said he: "Creator of the universe! Thou didst ascend to the heavens, and didst sit down, but hast no compassion upon thy children." Whereupon rain descended, but Levi fell and became lame.

(Taanis 25a)


The rabbis taught: It once happened that R. Eliezer ordered thirteen fast-days, but no rain descended. When the congregation dispersed after the thirteenth fast-day, he asked them if they had already ordered their graves, and they commenced to weep aloud, whereupon rain commenced to fall.

Another time it happened that R. Eliezer recited the twenty-four benedictions at prayer, but he was not answered. R. Aqiba followed him at the reading-desk, and said: "Father and King! we have no other king but Thee. Only for Thy sake have mercy upon us!" And his prayer was answered. The people then began to murmur (and say that R. Aqiba was a greater man than R. Eliezer). A heavenly Voice went forth and said: Not because R. Aqiba is a greater man than R. Eliezer was his prayer answered, but because he always gives in to another, while R. Eliezer never did that."

(Taanis 25b)


[1] They were strict to avoid any type of danger, thereby fulfilling the Torah command to carefully guard one's life, even where the danger was not that obvious.

[2] Rav endowed Rav Ada bar Ahava with a spiritual greatness that could protect them even in the mundane world. We see here also the humility of both Rav and Shmuel. While we regard them as the leaders of their generation, they attributed no special value to themselves.

[3] Rav Huna lived a generation before Rava. Both of them were Roshei Yeshiva.

[4] Devarim 16

[5] Devarim 15

[6] The old man thereby helped Ilfa retain his dignity. Still, it didn't help him in making up what he had lost. The lesson we learn here is that no matter how brilliant a person may be, there is no substitute for the genuine service of Hashem.

[7] Greater than living well, with health and comfort, is the need to improve ourselves, to be the people we are capable of being. Nachum Ish Gamzu preferred to suffer his entire life, if this could help him become a more sensitive, compassionate person. Now, while Torah living does not expect us to pray as Nachum Ish Gamzu prayed, still we should try to absorb the lesson from this story.

[8] It is surprising that he saw he no longer had the gems, only useless dust, yet he continued on to Caesar's palace. We must say though, that his faith in Hashem was so strong, he couldn't possibly imagine Hashem allowing anything to happen that would not be for his benefit.

[9] Breishis 14

[10] This follows Hashem's rule of judging the world "measure for measure". Since this person concerned himself with the needs of others, Hashem concerned Himself with the needs of this person and his environment.

[11] On Wednesdays, on account of Igras bas Machlas, a destructive spiritual-force (Rashi); on Shabbos, in honor of the Shabbos.

[12] The people themselves had fasted and prayed. Now in desperation, they turned to the tzaddik to help them.

[13] About half a liter, or a pint.

[14] Either no one had seen them all this time, or no one had taken him for fear of stealing.

[15] That he might pray "from the depths" (Tehillim 130) -- a low place helps a person feels lowly and helpless.

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