Prayer Miracles

Rebbe Chanina Ben Dosa was a first-century tanna (rabbinic teacher quoted in the Mishna) who lived in the lower Galilee and was a disciple-colleague of Rebbe Yochanan Ben Zakkai. Rebbe Chanina was distinguished for his extreme piety, and for his zealous observance of religious precepts.

The sages applied to him the Biblical phrase "man of truth" and held him up as an example of a completely righteous man. Because of his righteousness, his prayers were regarded as being especially acceptable and potent, and as a result he was frequently requested to pray for the sick and those in trouble. The aggadah speaks extensively of the miracles that happened for him; in fact, more has been transmitted about his pious deeds and his wonders than about his religious rulings and dicta.

It was said that "when Rebbe Chanina Ben Dosa died, men of deeds ceased and piety came to an end." Of his wife, too, it was said that she resembled her husband in piety and like him was "accustomed to miracles." The following are selected tales from rabbinic literature about Rebbe Chanina Ben Dosa's miracles.

Rebbe Chanina Ben Dosa was carrying some salt when rain began to fall. He said in prayer: "Everybody feels pleasant, but Chanina does not." The rain halted. Entering his home, he said: "Everybody feels unpleasant except Chanina." The rain came down once more.

People came to Rebbe Chanina and said: "Your goats are doing damage." He replied: "If my goats are causing damage, may they be eaten by wolves! If not, may each one bring in a wolf on his horns." Each goat brought in a wolf.

Once a man left some hens at Rebbe Chanina's door. He set them on their eggs, and, when he had too many chicks, he sold them and purchased goats. When, after considerable time had passed, a man informed him that he had left some hens with him by mistake, Rebbe Chanina gave him the goats. These were the goats that brought in the wolves.

On one Sabbath eve at twilight Rebbe Chanina saw his daughter sad. He said to her: "Why are you sad?" She replied: "I exchanged my vinegar can for my oil can, and I kindled the Sabbath light with vinegar and it will be extinguished." He said to her: "My daughter, why should this trouble you? He who commanded the oil to burn will also command the vinegar to burn." The vinegar burned all day until after Havdalah, the end of the Sabbath.

Every Friday the wife of Rebbe Chanina Ben Dosa would heat the oven by burning smoke-producing fuel because she was ashamed to have it known that she had nothing to bake for the Sabbath. But she had a malicious neighbor who said, "I know that these people have nothing; let me go and see what causes that smoke." She went and knocked at the door. Embarrassed by the unexpected visit, the wife of Rebbe Chanina withdrew to an inner room. A miracle was wrought for her, so that the neighbor found the oven full of bread and the kneading trough full of rising dough. Seeing that, she called out to her: "Madam, madam, bring your shovel, for your bread is about to get charred." Chanina's wife called back, "Yes, I just went to the other room to fetch one."

Once Rebbe Chanina’s wife said to him: How long are we to go on suffering so much: He replied: "What shall we do?" She said, "Pray that some of what is stored up for the righteous in the world-to-come be given you here and now." He prayed, and [from above] there emerged the semblance of a hand which gave him a leg of a golden table.

That night in a dream he saw each of the other righteous men [in the world-to-come] dining at a table with three legs but he and his wife were dining at a table with only two legs. So he said to his wife: Are you content to have all of the righteous dine at three-legged tables, will you and I dine at a table with one of its legs missing?" She said: "What shall we do? You have no choice but to pray that the leg be taken away from you." He prayed and it was taken back.

The sages taught: The latter miracle was greater than the former; for we have a tradition that Heaven gives but never takes back.

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