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Chonon Hanechbo

Chonon Hanechbo

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Chonon, as you can guess, was his name. But "Hanechbo" means 'the hider,' and this title was bestowed upon him because he was very modest; he was always hiding in a corner of the Beth hamedrash (academy). And there was another reason why they called him so. For when the Jews of his community wanted to elect a President, they decided that there could be no more fitting man to be their religious leader than the pious and modest Chonon. A delegation of the most prominent members of the community was thereupon sent to Chonon to beg him to accept the high office. But Chonon was nowhere to be found. He had heard of the great honor that was about to be offered to him, and hid himself! Chonon thought he was not worthy of the honor.

There was nothing to be done but to elect another president, which they did. Then Chonon emerged from his hiding place and quietly made his way back to his humble corner in the Beth‑Midrash.

Chonon was so pious and modest that people believed he could have his every wish fulfilled through prayer. And, indeed, they soon discovered that this was true, the same as it was in the case of his great and famous grandfather, Choni Hameaggel (Honi the circle‑drawer). For it came to pass that there was a drought in the land, and not a drop of rain came down to soften the parched earth. There was nothing to drink, and everything that grew became dry and withered. And so the people came to Chonon and begged him to pray to G‑d to send them rain from the sky.

Chonon told them that it was a punishment for their sins, but he was so sorry for them that he prayed to G‑d at once. No sooner did he conclude his prayers, than the wind began to blow, and the sky became overcast, and big drops began to fall. The rain came down in torrents, and there was great rejoicing.

After that day the people stopped worrying about the rain. Indeed, they stopped worrying about anything at all, saying, 'Whatever the trouble, our pious Chonon will help us out.'

When Chonon heard of that, he became very sad. And when there was a drought again, and as usual the people came to him to pray for rain, the kindly Chonon said to them sternly: "My dear brethren! I will not pray for you any more. You have to pray for yourselves! Our good G‑d has withheld the rain to punish you because you stopped praying to Him. Instead of relying upon Him you have relied on me. Now go and pray to G‑d; He will listen to you if you pray hard and if you promise faithfully never to do evil again."

The poor people became frightened, and continued to beg Chonon to pray for them. But Chonon resolutely turned his head.

Then a strange thing happened. The little children, seeing the anguish and tears of their dear parents, rushed to Chonon and clung to his garments:

"Father, father, give us rain!" they cried and tears rolled down their little faces.

Chonon put his arm around them affectionately. He raised his eyes to heaven and prayed: "Merciful G‑d! Do it for the sake of these innocent little children who do not yet know the difference between Thee, the Father who can give rain, and me the father who cannot.

No sooner did he conclude his prayer than the wind began to blow, the sky became overcast, and the rain came down in torrents, and there was again great rejoicing in the community.

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