Thursday, December 30, 2010

Visiting Choni The Circle Maker

With the drought continuing in Israel, everyone is mighty worried. There are mass prayer rallies, childrens prayer rallies, even prayers with Arabs and Jews together, and even with secular and religious Jews together. (Hm, could this drought actually be bringing out something good in society?)
There are visits to graves of holy people throughout the country.
Recently Israel's Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi HaRav Yona Metzger traveled to Hatzor to visit the grave of Choni HaMe'agel, Choni The Circle Maker.
That's kind of an odd name, but it was well deserved.
During the time of the Mishna during the room of Queen Shlomtzion, there was a great sage named Choni. The Jewish people were suffering from a devastating drought and they way to the holy Choni to intercede on their behalf with G-d.
Choni prayed for rain, but nothing happened.
Suddenly, he took a stick and drew a circle with it. He stepped inside the stick and called out to Hashem that he would not leave the circle until it rained. Sputters of raindrops came down from the sky, but Choni called out again that this was not the kind of rain he desired. Then dangerous buckets of rain fell. Choni exclaimed again that this was not the kind of rain he wanted. And finally G-d made it rain just perfectly.
Therefore, now when the Jewish people are suffering so badly from years of drought, who better to aske to intercede on our behalf with G-d Al-Mighty than Choni himself.
Rav Metzger told the gathering I was attending (the Women's Kashruth Convention in Efrat) that the name Choni is a strange one. However, perhaps from this uncommon name, we can learn something of Choni's power. The name Choni has the same root as the word VAYACHAN. It is written in Exodus 19:2, "Vayachan sham Yisrael neged ha'har." (And Israel encamped there, opposite the mountain.) The famous commentator Rashi notes here, ""like one man with one heart".
HaRav Metzger said, "This is the lesson we must learn from Choni. It is time to stop fighting amongst ourselves. If we want the miracle of Choni, our nation must be like one man with one heart."
According to the Ascent of Safed website:

You can visit Choni's gravesite too.
To get to the gravesite of Choni by bus from Safed or Tiberias, one must first travel to Hatzor by Egged bus #459, which runs about every 40 minutes from 6 a.m. until 8:30 p.m. From Safed or Kiryat Shmona one can catch bus #511. At the "Canyon" or Hatzor's central bus depot you can catch the local #2 bus to near the gravesite. The #2 bus runs about every 20 minutes until 9 p.m.
Of course, private transportation along these routes will deliver one right up to the dirt path leading to Choni's kever. Take the main highway out of Tsfat east toward Rosh Pina, then Route 90 north for another five or ten minutes until you reach the main entrance to Hatzor. Follow the entrance road to the very end until it turns into a dirt road. The signs from there clearly mark the way to the burial site.

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