Honi the Circle-Drawer
(ח) עַל כָּל צָרָה שֶׁלֹּא תָבֹא עַל הַצִּבּוּר, מַתְרִיעִין עֲלֵיהֶן, חוּץ מֵרוֹב גְּשָׁמִים. מַעֲשֶׂה שֶׁאָמְרוּ לוֹ לְחוֹנִי הַמְעַגֵּל, הִתְפַּלֵּל שֶׁיֵּרְדוּ גְשָׁמִים. אָמַר לָהֶם, צְאוּ וְהַכְנִיסוּ תַנּוּרֵי פְסָחִים, בִּשְׁבִיל שֶׁלֹּא יִמּוֹקוּ. הִתְפַּלֵּל, וְלֹא יָרְדוּ גְשָׁמִים. מֶה עָשָׂה, עָג עוּגָה וְעָמַד בְּתוֹכָהּ, וְאָמַר לְפָנָיו, רִבּוֹנוֹ שֶׁל עוֹלָם, בָּנֶיךָ שָׂמוּ פְנֵיהֶם עָלַי, שֶׁאֲנִי כְבֶן בַּיִת לְפָנֶיךָ. נִשְׁבָּע אֲנִי בְשִׁמְךָ הַגָּדוֹל שֶׁאֵינִי זָז מִכָּאן, עַד שֶׁתְּרַחֵם עַל בָּנֶיךָ. הִתְחִילוּ גְּשָׁמִים מְנַטְּפִין. אָמַר, לֹא כָךְ שָׁאַלְתִּי, אֶלָּא גִּשְׁמֵי בוֹרוֹת שִׁיחִין וּמְעָרוֹת. הִתְחִילוּ לֵירֵד בְּזָעַף. אָמַר, לֹא כָךְ שָׁאַלְתִּי, אֶלָּא גִּשְׁמֵי רָצוֹן, בְּרָכָה וּנְדָבָה. יָרְדוּ כְתִקְנָן, עַד שֶׁיָּצְאוּ יִשְׂרָאֵל מִירוּשָׁלַיִם לְהַר הַבַּיִת מִפְּנֵי הַגְּשָׁמִים. בָּאוּ וְאָמְרוּ לוֹ, כְּשֵׁם שֶׁהִתְפַּלַלְתָּ עֲלֵיהֶם שֶׁיֵּרְדוּ כָּךְ הִתְפַּלֵּל שֶׁיֵּלְכוּ לָהֶן. אָמַר לָהֶן, צְאוּ וּרְאוּ אִם נִמְחֵת אֶבֶן הַטּוֹעִים. שָׁלַח לוֹ שִׁמְעוֹן בֶּן שָׁטָח, אִלְמָלֵא חוֹנִי אַתָּה, גּוֹזְרַנִי עָלֶיךָ נִדּוּי. אֲבָל מָה אֶעֱשֶׂה לְּךָ, שֶׁאַתָּה מִתְחַטֵּא לִפְנֵי הַמָּקוֹם וְעוֹשֶׂה לְךָ רְצוֹנְךָ כְּבֵן שֶׁהוּא מִתְחַטֵּא עַל אָבִיו וְעוֹשֶׂה לוֹ רְצוֹנוֹ. וְעָלֶיךָ הַכָּתוּב אוֹמֵר (משלי כג), יִשְׂמַח אָבִיךָ וְאִמֶּךָ וְתָגֵל יוֹלַדְתֶּךָ:
(8) The mishna adds: In general, they cry out on account of any trouble that should not befall the community, a euphemism for trouble that may befall the community, except for an overabundance of rain. Although too much rain may be disastrous, one does not cry out over it, because rain is a sign of a blessing. The mishna relates: An incident occurred in which the people said to Ḥoni HaMe’aggel: Pray that rain should fall. He said to them: Go out and bring in the clay ovens used to roast the Paschal lambs, so that they will not dissolve in the water, as torrential rains are certain to fall. He prayed, and no rain fell at all. What did he do? He drew a circle on the ground and stood inside it and said before God: Master of the Universe, Your children have turned their faces toward me, as I am like a member of Your household. Therefore, I take an oath by Your great name that I will not move from here until You have mercy upon Your children and answer their prayers for rain. Rain began to trickle down, but only in small droplets. He said: I did not ask for this, but for rain to fill the cisterns, ditches, and caves with enough water to last the entire year. Rain began to fall furiously. He said: I did not ask for this damaging rain either, but for rain of benevolence, blessing, and generosity. Subsequently, the rains fell in their standard manner but continued unabated, filling the city with water until all of the Jews exited the residential areas of Jerusalem and went to the Temple Mount due to the rain. They came and said to him: Just as you prayed over the rains that they should fall, so too, pray that they should stop. He said to them: Go out and see if the Claimants’ Stone, a large stone located in the city, upon which proclamations would be posted with regard to lost and found articles, has been washed away. In other words, if the water has not obliterated the Claimants’ Stone, it is not yet appropriate to pray for the rain to cease. Shimon ben Shetaḥ, the Nasi of the Sanhedrin at the time, relayed to Ḥoni HaMe’aggel: Were you not Ḥoni, I would have decreed that you be ostracized, but what can I do to you? You nag [mitḥatei] God and He does your bidding, like a son who nags his father and his father does his bidding without reprimand. After all, rain fell as you requested. About you, the verse states: “Let your father and your mother be glad, and let her who bore you rejoice” (Proverbs 23:25).