Grave site of Rabbi Meir Baal Haness

Rabbi Meir Baal Haness

Rabbi Meir Baal Haness, of the fourth generation of Tannaim, belonged to that group of men who developed Torah instruction after Bar Kochva’s revolt.

His teachers were Rabbi Akiva, Rabbi Ishmael, and Elisha ben Abuya, and his manner of instruction consisted of one-third Halachah, one-third Aggadah, and one-third Proverbs. All classes of people appreciated his lessons.

His lineage was not well known. According to the Aggadah, Rabbi Meir Baal Haness stemmed from a family of converts to Judaism, descendants even of Emperor Nero himself.

They say that when Emperor Nero came to conquer Jerusalem, he shot divining arrows into the air and they all landed pointing in the direction of Jerusalem. Sensing that the event had been sealed and that he would only be an instrument of grief, he repented. From his descendants was born Rabbi Meir Baal Haness.

Rabbi Meir would say, “One should always teach his son a simple trade and pray to Hashem, Who is the source of all wealth. For wealth does not come by one’s trade, since each trade has its rich and its poor.”

He would also say, “There exist two types of friends: Those who rebuke you and those who do not. Love the first type above all.”

And again, he would say, “Where do we learn that the resurrection of the dead is explicitly mentioned in the Torah? It is written, ‘And Moses will sing’. The verb is in the future.”

We say that his father-in-law, Rabbi Hanania ben Teradion, was busy spreading Torah during that difficult time. The Romans ordered that he and his wife be burned. His daughter, the sister-in-law of Rabbi Meir, was sent to a brothel. Rabbi Meir’s wife, Bruria, told him, “It is an insult that my sister is in such a state.” Rabbi Meir took a sum of money with him and said, “If she has not sinned, may a ness [miracle] be done for her.” He disguised himself as a Roman and asked to meet her.

“Get away from me,” she told him, “I don’t feel well.” With this, Rabbi Meir understood that she was innocent. He presented himself to the guardian of the brothel and said, “Give me this one.” He then gave him the money and said, “Half of it is for you. The rest is to help her leave.” The guardian asked him, “And when the money is spent, what will I do?” Rabbi Meir told him that when this happens, he should say, “May the G-d of Rabbi Meir save me,” and assured him that in so doing he would be saved.

“Let us test what you say,” the guardian replied.

“Here are some vicious dogs,” Rabbi Meir said. He then threw a stone at them and the dogs ran to attack him. He immediately said, “G-d of Rabbi Meir, help me,” and the dogs calmed down.

The guardian then agreed.

Nevertheless, what the guardian did eventually became known, and he was ordered into prison. However, he uttered what Rabbi Meir had told him and was saved.

Amazed at what happened to him, he guardian told people of his encounter with Rabbi Meir. Drawings of Rabbi Meir’s likeness were affixed everywhere in the market, and one day someone eventually recognized him. When he saw him, he ran towards him. Rabbi Meir then spotted some non-kosher food and dipped one finger in it and put another finger in his mouth. The man who had recognized Rabbi Meir then thought that this could not be him.

He thereafter went into exile and died outside of the land of Israel. His bones were buried in Tiberius, the place where people still go to make a pilgrimage to his grave.




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