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Choni the Circle-Maker

Choni the Circle-Maker


It once happened that they petitioned Choni the Circle-Maker, “Pray that rain should fall.”

Said Choni to them, “Go, bring your Passover ovens indoors, so that they should not dissolve.”

Choni prayed, but no rain fell. What did he do? He drew a circle, stood inside it, and said to G‑d: “Master of the Universe! Your children turned to me because I am like a member of Your household. I swear by Your great name that I’m not budging from here until You have compassion on Your children!”

A rain began to drizzle.

Said Choni: “That’s not what I asked for. I asked for rains to fill the cisterns, trenches and reservoirs.”

The rains started coming down in torrents.

Said Choni: “That’s not what I asked for. I asked for rains of goodwill, blessing and generosity.”

A proper rain began to fall. But it continued to fall until the Jews went out of Jerusalem up onto the Temple Mount, because of the flooding caused by the rains. So they came to Choni and said: “Just as you prayed that the rains should fall, now pray that they should go away.” Said he to them: “Go and see if the Stone of Claims1 has dissolved yet . . .”

Shimon ben Shetach sent a message to Choni: “If not for the fact that you are Choni, I would have issued a decree of excommunication against you. But what can I do against you, who unburdens himself before the Almighty and He fulfills your wish, like a child who unburdens himself before his father and his father fulfills his wish . . .”

“There was a ‘Stone of Claims’ in Jerusalem: whoever lost an article went there, and whoever found an article did likewise. The latter stood and proclaimed, and the former submitted his identification marks and received it back . . .” (Talmud, Bava Metzia 28a)
Talmud, Taanit 19a
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Discussion (14)
December 29, 2015
So unless you have the kind of relationship with the Almighty that Choni did, or, a bit differently, like Moses or Elijah did, you had better not pray this way. Btw, wasn't Choni in fact excommunicated?
Staten Island
June 24, 2015
Let's be careful when asking G-d to make something happen lest we deserve that to be granted.
It's a blessing to read this story this year again. Today I thought it'd be worthy to search for the author and oh surprise, it's a tractate from the Talmud; Taanit: by definition, “(literally "fast day") Talmudic tractate that discusses the procedure for the communal fasts that courts would institute in the event of drought in the Land of Israel, as well as the laws for the annual public fast days, commemorating the destruction of Jerusalem". Today didn't have any doubt while reading the story and I thank G-d for that, perhaps this is so because this year I had to face an unsurpassable need and have come to the conclusion that better than pray to G-d to make something happen is to stand unburdened in His presence waiting for His Will to happen. I personally think it's a good idea to keep a fast day in order to get G-d's guidance on how to face up our ordeals.
Qro. Mexico
June 24, 2015
Thanks for posting! I like these Midrashim and lessons!
May 29, 2014
The stone of claims was where lost objects were put. it was much like a lost and found. it was a huge rock that would not have dissolved from the rain. Choni was saying just as that rock did not dissolve so to i should not pray for it to stop raining as you don't pray for something good to stop. and he was called circle maker, not because that was something people were called, but that was his nickname since he drew the circle and didn't move until the rain...and the reason Shimon ben Shetach sent him that message was because it was a little bit wrong of him to tell G-d how to answer his prayers...i actually just learnt this in the talmud in school so it's cool to see it online
May 28, 2014
Choni's grave
You can visit Choni's grave which can be found near the town of Hatzor HaGlilit in northern Israel.
Eilat on the Re(e)d Sea
January 26, 2014
Year after year, the mystery remains
It's good for me to read this again after more than a year has passed. All that was kept in my memory were: “Go and see if the Stone of Claims has dissolved yet. . .” And of course the title "The Circle-Maker". Now I've evolved a little and presently I think what really counts in life is to unburden myself before G-d if I want to be heard and helped. Ah... and one other thing Choni's answer still remains as a Kabbalistic answer i.e. it's an ineffable response.
January 7, 2014
The Stone of Claims
I feel that the Stone of Claims represents man's dominant behavior over Mother Earth. We are guests here. When the Claim disappears then our ego disappears and we become One with God.
:) Perhaps the earth would be more in harmony.
Sujata Holliday
January 4, 2014
To answer a question on "Circle Makers"
Circle makers were Jewish scholars believed to have miraculous powers, around the First Century, BC. These abilities were often were related to causing rain by drawing a circle in the dust, and asking G_d to cause the rains to come usually during a drought.

Hence the saying "draw a line in the sand".
November 3, 2012
I do not know if I am right but I do not think that G-d needs to be given instructions on how to grant our prayers. I believe we need only ask that our need be fulfilled, He can take it from there!
Susana Garmizo
October 29, 2012
A story with hidden meaning
I agree with the others, the sentence “Go and see if the Stone of Claims has dissolved yet . . .” brings about the confusion. If instead of claims we use complaints perhaps it would be clear that if the Stone hasn't yet dissolved it is there where the complaint has to be submitted. Or it is that complaints and claims are synonyms and one way or another I've failed in catching the meaning of the story.