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Iyar 5768

Rabbi Meir Baal HaNes

Rewritten by students


1. The God of Rabbi Meir
2. Proper Intention
3. "Others" Refers to Rabbi Meir
4. Ate the Fruit and Discarded the Peel

The God of Rabbi Meir
Iyar 14 is the Hilulah (death anniversary) of the Mishnaic sage, Rabbi Meir Baal HaNes, may his merit protect us and the entire Jewish people. Some say that Rabbi Meir indeed died on this date; others say that the people of Tiberius, seizing upon the proximity to Rashbis Hilula and the many visitors it draws, established Rabbi Meir's Hilula at this time for convenience.

The Talmud (Avodah Zarah 18a) tells us that, once, Rabbi Meirs sister-in-law was seized by Roman authorities and jailed. Rabbi Meir sought to redeem her at any price. He offered a large sum of money to the prison guard to free her. He told the guard to use half of the sum to bribe whoever might inform on him.

"What will I do if the money runs out, and I am caught and thrown to the dogs?" the guard asked.
Rabbi Meir said, "If you find yourself in such a situation, say: May the God of Rabbi Meir answer my prayers and save me from all evil!"
"How can I be sure," asked the guard, "that this charm of yours will really work?"
Rabbi Meir threw a stone at some dogs and they came charging at him. He said, "May the God of Rabbi Meir answer my prayers and save me from all evil!" and he was instantly saved. When the guard saw this, he freed Rabbi Meirs chaste sister-in-law.

Some time later, word reached the Caesar about what the guard had done, and he ordered the man hung. And behold, as they were about to hang him he said, "May the God of Rabbi Meir answer my prayers and save me from all evil!" and they were unable to hang him. The Caesar was astounded. He inquired regarding the matter, and the guard related to him the entire story.

Proper Intention
Rabbi Meir had told the prison guard, when reciting this formula, to focus his thoughts in the manner that he himself did. Now the question arises, how did that Roman guard succeed in achieving the sort of lofty meditations Rabbi Meir achieved?

The answer to this is that he simply intended that Rabbi Meirs thoughts apply to his supplication. Likewise, whoever says, "May the God of Rabbi Meir answer my prayers and save me from all evil!" should state that he invokes the intentions of Rabbi Meir and the rest of the righteous sages.

The Maharasha asks another question: "How did Rabbi Meir attach Gods name to his own in his lifetime? After all, the sages teach: The Holy one Blessed be He does not assign His name to the righteous in their lifetime.

A possible answer to this question is that He only used the expression "the God of Rabbi Meir" as a figurative indication, with no intention whatsoever of himself. By "the God of Rabbi Meir" he meant the God of Earth and all of its inhabitants.

"Others" Refers to Rabbi Meir

Tradition tells us that wherever the opinion of "others" is mentioned in the Talmud, it is a reference to Rabbi Meir.

Some say that he is called such because he learned Torah from Elisha ben Abuya, who is called "acher" ("the other"). Others explain that Rabbi Meir is called "others" because of a particular incident:

When the Caesar heard that Rabbi Meir had saved the prison guard and fled, he immediately commanded that Rabbi Meirs likeness be engraved on a board and placed at the entrance to Rome. It was announced that whoever saw this person was to bring him to the Caesar.

On one occasion, Roman officers saw Rabbi Meir and began to pursue him. Rabbi Meir quickly went into a non-Jewish restaurant and requested a dish of pork. He stuck his finger into the gravy and put a different finger in his mouth so that it would appear as if he were tasting the dish. The officers saw this and figured that he could not be Rabbi Meir; he must be somebody "other" than Rabbi Meir. This is why Rabbi Meir is called "others."

Ate the Fruit and Discarded the Peel
The Talmud (Chagigah 15b) relates:
Rabbi Meir Rabba bar Shila said to Elijah: "What is God doing?"
He replied, "He is quoting novel Torah insights of the sages, but not the insights of Rabbi Meir."
"Why not Rabbi Meir?" Rabba asked.
"Because he learned Torah from Elisha ben Abuya," said Elijah.
Raba said, "Rabbi Meir found a pomegranate. He ate its fruit and threw out its peel!" (i.e., he knew what to learn from him and what not).
Elijah said, "Now the Almighty blessed be He also quotes the novel Torah insights of Rabbi Meir, and with particular fondness."

They say that the Ben Ish Chai explains that so long as it had not been explicitly expressed on earth that Rabbi Meir "ate the fruit and threw out its peel," the Almighty refrained from quoting him. Only after it hat been uttered "below" by Raba bar Shila before Elijah the Prophet, did the Heavens adopt a like position and begin quoting the insights of Rabbi Meir.

Tradition has it that Rabbi Meir Baal HaNes requested to be buried in an upright position so that when the Messiah comes and the dead are resurrected, he be able to run to greet him with no delay.

May we have the good fortune to see the coming of the Redeemer and the reconstruction of our Holy Temple speedily in our day, Amen.

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