Friday, 20 May 2011

Words of Prayer, Words of Kindness - 36

        Rebbi Meir Baal HaNeis

This week's Words of Prayer, Words of Kindness is sponsored in part
Le'Iluy Nishmat Shoshanah Baya bat Moshe a"h whose Yartzheit is on Pesach Sheni
It is also partly prepared in the merit of Rachel Chanah bas Esther
for a speedy and complete recovery

The period between Pesach and Lag B'Omer is a time of mourning for 24 000 students of Rabbi Akiva. Actually there is a Machloket (disagreement) as to when these great students began dying and when this epidemic came to an end.

After this period, Rabbi Akiva had a further 5 students, two of whom were Rebbi Meir (whose Yartzheit was on Pesach Sheini which fell on Wednesday of this week) and his friend and Chavrusa, Rebbi Shimon bar Yochai. It is said in one place (Eiruvin 13b) that Rebbi Meir was the greatest of his generation. Yet a fellow student of Rabbi Akiva – Rebbi Shimon bar Yochai whose Yahrtzeit is on Lag B'Omer the 33rd day of the counting of the Omer – was also considered the greatest of his generation.

Amongst the stories about Rebbi Shimon, is one that far exceeds any fantasy story or science fiction. On a certain day, Rebbi Shimon had discovered an angel, enclothed in a dramatic way, about to carry out a decree against the world. Upon hearing this, Rebbi Shimon instructed the angel to tell his Master that Bar Yochai is in the world. Thus, in the merit of Rebbi Shimon bar Yochai, an evil decree was overturned and the darkness turned to light.

If Rebbi Shimon was so great that his merit alone was enough to overturn an evil decree, how do we understand the other Gemara? The truth is, in today's time we cannot understand such statements. All we can do is examine the sources and ponder them.

Eiruvin 13b teaches us that Rebbi Meir is regarded as the greatest of the 4th generation of Tannaim, "Rebbi Acha bar Chanina said 'It is revealed and known before the One who spoke and the world came into being, that there was none in the generation of Rebbi Meir as great as he (i.e. as great as Rebbi Meir) '"

In contrast to this, the Yerushalmi Gemara 1:7 states that Rabbi Akiva told Rebbi Shimon bar Yochai "It is sufficient for you, that I and your Creator know of your power."

When faced with two Tzaddikim of such stature, who are we to decide which is greater?! Let us rather share further stories to come to appreciate how wonderful and beautiful our Torah is, and how wonderful the Tzaddikim who mastered it are - coming to teach us some of the magnitude of Torah.

Let us conclude with a story of how Rebbi Meir obtained his name Baal HaNeis – Master of Miracles.

One of the ten Martyrs, Rav Chananya ben Tradyon, was brutally burned and tortured by the Romans. Rav Chananya had two daughters. The eldest was Bruria who later became the wife of Rebbi Meir and was a Torah genius in her own right. Prior to marrying Rebbi Meir, an incident occurred with her younger sister, who was taken by the Romans to live a life of immodesty. The Romans placed her in a brothel where she was kept captive.

Bruria sought the assistance of Rebbi Meir in rescuing her sister. Rebbi Meir agreed to assist and, dressed in a disguise and taking with him a pouch of gold coins, set off to find and rescue the younger daughter of Rav Chananya, despite the risk to his own life. Rebbi Meir managed to locate where the girl was kept captive and after discovering she had managed to guard her chastity, he bribed the guard of the brothel with an amount of the gold coins with an additional amount for the guard to use to pay off any officials within the brothel to release Bruria's sister. When the guard asked what he should do if the money was not enough, Rebbi Meir responded that he should say "May the G-d of Meir answer me" and a solution would be provided.

The guard then asked how he could know to trust this prayer. In order to provide a satisfactory proof, Rebbi Meir crossed the street in the direction of some vicious, hungry dogs that were grouped there. As he approached the dogs, they came towards him as hungry animals. Without showing any fear, Rebbi Meir said out loud "May the G-d of Meir answer me," and the dogs that had been approaching him as hungry animals immediately became docile, to the amazement of the guard.

With new respect the guard agreed to assist, and so it was that Rebbi Meir was able to rescue Bruria's sister – a little traumatized but untouched – and return her to her sister and to Am Yisrael. It was through this heroic act of completely unselfish striving to protect and save a fellow Jew that earned Rebbi Meir the title of Rebbi Meir Baal HaNeis. It is also due to this scenario that we are taught that when a person needs assistance from Heaven, if they recite "May the G-d of Rebbi Meir answer me," three times and give Tzeddakah for the sake of Torah scholars in Eretz Yisrael (especially on his Yahrtzeit) that one's prayers will be answered.

May we merit to share more stories of Rebbi Meir Baal HaNeis and Rebbi Shimon bar Yochai.

The names for this week are to be found on

SPECIAL FOR THIS WEEK: If you'd like to "meet" me and hear a little about my husband's background, do tune in to the recently broadcast podcast of our interview with Judy Simon on Arutz Sheva this past week. The interview can be found by clicking here:

Thank you to those who have responded to our email and are participating in this special international Tehillim group. To those who have not yet responded, please read the email sent out at the beginning of the week and let us know whether you do recite your Tehillim and whether you read the names on the list each week. Our aim is for 1000 Jewish women who are dedicated to increasing unity and blessing for Am Yisrael rather than a list of names of women who are just names but not active participants.

Thank you to all who give of their time and interact – and to those who also take part by making donations in the merit of those in need of salvation. Your donations go towards aiding financially struggling newly weds to be able to set up their very own homes. We very much value all your efforts.

 Mazal Tov to one of the ladies, Aimee from Canada who was blessed with a baby girl a few days ago. We look forwards to hearing the name of the new bundle of joy. Mother and baby are Baruch Hashem progressing nicely.

 Once again, Refuah Sheleima to another Tehillim group member, Rachel Chanah who is about to undergo a procedure on Monday. We look forward to hearing good news.

Shabbat Shalom


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