This year Shabbos falls on the 20th of Adar. Megillas Ta’anis (and Ta’anis 19a) states: “On the twentieth [of Adar], the people fasted for rain ... When they saw that the greater part of the month of Adar had passed and the rains had not come, they went to Choni HaMagel and told him to ‘Pray that rain may fall.’ He told them, ‘Go and bring in [to shelter] the Pesach ovens so that they should not rot [for these ovens were in the courtyard, and were made of clay]. He drew a circle, stood inside it ... and said: ‘Master of the universe ... I shall not move from here until You will have mercy upon Your children.’ Rain then began to fall in drops. His disciples said to him ... ‘We believe that these rains are falling merely to release you from your oath’... Thereupon He said, ‘Master of the Universe, it is not for this I have asked, but for rains [to fill] cisterns, ditches and caves.’ Rain then began to fall, every drop as big as the opening of a barrel. His disciples said to him, ‘We believe these rains are falling only to destroy the whole world.’ He said, ‘Master of the Universe, it is not for this I have asked, but for rains of benevolence, blessing and bounty.’ Rain then fell normally. They instituted that day (the 20th of Adar) as a festival, for the rains fall only in the merit of Israel.”
The Rebbe asks the following questions. As all matters of Torah, this episode serves as an eternal lesson in the service of Hashem. Choni HaMagel however lived in the times of the Bais Hamikdosh and was one of the greatest Rabbis of his time, of the Tanaim, to the extent that Shimon ben Shetach said to him; “Were it not that you are Choni I would have placed you under the ban ... But what shall I do to you who acts petulantly before Hashem as a son who acts petulantly before his father and still he grants his desires.” Therefore certainly Hashem listened to his prayers, but what relevance does this have to simple people such as us in this generation, how can we compare ourselves to Choni HaMagel?
Secondly, why did Choni’s prayer for rain not bring “rains of blessing” straight away? Why did rains first fall only in drops, and then in too much force, and it was only after his disciples pointed out that these were not beneficial to the world that Choni was forced to say that “It was not for this I asked” — and only after all this did rain come down normally?
Lastly, from Hashem’s ‘perspective’, certainly Hashem knows what type of rain is beneficial. Why then did Choni have to pray again and again for the proper rain?
Every Jew, man, woman and child has an obligation to ask Hashem for all that he or she needs on a daily basis. This story relates an essential message about how to pray. All of us are Hashem’s children, notwithstanding if we are a tzadik, a scholar or a simple Jew. When we stand in front of Hashem, our Father, we are all like Choni HaMagel about whom Shimon ben Shetach said; “Before Hashem (you) are as a son who acts petulantly before his father and still he grants his desires.” Although we are not the great Tanna, Choni HaMagel, nevertheless we are Hashem’s petulant children. When we ask for something once, twice and three times and our prayer is not fulfilled, we come before Hashem again without shame and as His child we request yet again until our requests are fulfilled. In this way Choni HaMagel taught us the proper approach and pathway of prayer. This answers the first question; although we are not on the level of Choni HaMagel or his generation, we are nonetheless Hashem’s petulant children and we can pray as he did.
The answer to the second question as to why the rain first came down in small drops etc. is the following. Choni HaMagel who lived on a high level, a few drops would have sufficed for his needs and would have fulfilled his prayer. Being however that the world is not on his level, he asked Hashem that his prayer be fulfilled in a way that the world could appreciate. When the rain came down in a torrent, even though he himself could have absorbed it himself, he saw that the world was incapable of absorbing such a great bracha . Although the torrent of rain was a great bracha, if it would not be good in revealed a way for the entire world its not what he desired. That’s why he then asked for rains of benevolence, blessing and bounty, open and revealed good for everyone.
After learning this story of Choni HaMagel we can now pray from the get-go to receive Hashem’s goodness in a fitting way. As we pray in Neila on Yom Kippur and on Hoshana Rabba “(Hashem, please) Open the gates of heaven, and for us open Your goodly treasures” meaning that the blessings should be in a way that we are able to appreciate and accept.
If all of this is true for our personal needs all the more so it is true regarding our heartfelt requests for the true and complete redemption. We cannot suffice with what has already been requested and prayed for nor can we overlook our essential need for the geula now. We keep repeating our request and prayer that the geula should come in the proper way and in the proper time, which is right now!
May we witness open and revealed good for each and every person according to their personal needs, a fulfillment of their most heartfelt requests in all areas, both spiritual and physical, with good health, good parnasah and nachas from all of their children.
(Adapted from a Sicha from parshas Parah the 20th Adar 2 5744-1984)
A Good Shabbos