Monday, March 19, 2012

Honi the Circle-maker

This religious boy with the fluffy peyot (side curls) took care of his little brother while his mother was inside praying; this was the first thing we saw when our tour group arrived at the site.

Tradition has it that Ḥoni the Circle-Drawer is buried in this tomb, not far from the graves of two of his grandsons.
Today it is near the town of Hatzor HaGlilit in the north of Israel.
The signs at the door directed men to the left and women to the right.

We reached a locked gate but the holes were just big enough to stick my lens through.

The camera captured the distant burial cave with its burning memorial candles.

Outside in the courtyard, a circle reminded us of the famous story.

See a cute animated video of Honi here.
Wikipedia explains it well:
"When God did not send rain well into the winter ..., he [Honi] drew a circle in the dust, stood inside it, and informed God that he would not move until it rained. When it began to drizzle, Honi told God that he was not satisfied and expected more rain; it then began to pour. He explained that he wanted a calm rain, at which point the rain calmed to a normal rain.
He was almost put into cherem (excommunication) for the above incident in which he showed "dishonor" to God. However, Shimon ben Shetach, the brother of Queen Shlomtzion, excused him, saying that he was Honi and had a special relationship with God."

Wiki also explains that "During the 1st century BC, a variety of religious movements and splinter groups developed amongst the Jews in Judea. A number of individuals claimed to be miracle workers in the tradition of Elijah and Elisha, the ancient Jewish prophets. The Talmud provides some examples of such Jewish miracle workers, one of whom is Honi ha-Ma'agel, who was famous for his ability to successfully pray for rain."

Honi was a zadik, a righteous man.
But zadik is sometimes translated "saint."
Then you get into terms like patron saints, pilgrimage, veneration of saints, intercession, devotees, shrines . . .
Remember, we are talking about Jews now, not Catholics.

The book Jews in Israel, contemporary social and cultural patterns talks of a "renewal of saint worship" in this country in recent years, citing Honi and others as examples.
If you look at the tombs of the zadikim in the North and South, you see how a whole "holy industry" has grown up around each one.
And pilgrims come by the busloads.
This is not the Judaism I grew up with in America; it is new (and strange) to me.
(A post for Taphophile Tragics, Our World Tuesday, and Monday Doorways.)


Cloudia said...

Wow- so informative on so may levels. Yes, seems "new" and strange to me also...

Aloha from Honolulu
Comfort Spiral

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Karen said...

Interesting Dina, thanks for sharing.

Julie said...

Your last plaintive paragraph puts this post into a modern perspective, Dina.

This plethora of 'saints' is a plea for economic survival, in my opinion. One of the locals - or a local organisation - has hit upon a way of attracting visitors - foreign or local - to their area. Who are we to deny them this, I think? It would be nice if the tourists and others, who flock to shrines (religious shrines are not alone in this) could step outside themselves for a moment and see what they are participating in.

YOu have directed me to think about an interesting ethical quandary this morning, for which I thank you Dina. I also thank you for contributing this post to Taphopile Tragics.

Sara said...

Dina, would you believe I just recently heard about Honi the Circle Maker only two weeks ago in a book I was reading, and here he is again! I was surprised to learn on your post that his/his grandsons' graves are a place of pilgrimage...I did not know about this aspect of Judaism.

Ann said...

Really interstering, particularly about the resurgence of saint worship.

TheChieftess said...

Your top shot is fabulous!!! And such an interesting glimpse into your world!

Mark said...

Really interesting post Dina.

Anonymous said...

I find the translation part, interesting. √

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Tatjana Parkacheva said...

Very interesting post.

Regards and best wishes

VP said...

What a strange story, I didn't know anything about Honi and now I want to learn something more...

Pia said...

Thank you for posting this, both pictures and text!! I really appreciate it!

Oakland Daily Photo said...

Interesting photos and commentary. Do you think this pursuit of the zadikim is related to the growing division in Israel between the ultra religious and the more secular citizens? There have been a number of media stories here about the political ramifications of this schism.

Anonymous said...

Thank you much for teaching me something I did not know before. Indeed interesting ! Please have a good Wednesday.

Sondra said...

Well I could use his services here we need some good rain....maybe there is something to the Rain Dances of the tribes in the west... It always amazes me how the Native Americans and other indigenous peoples were ridiculed for believing in mystical beings, skinwalkers, spiritual stories of creation etc..and yet in mainstream religions of the world there is little difference.

Louis la Vache said...

A most fascinating post, Dina.
Belatedly, «Louis» thanks you for this contribution to Monday Doorways.

crystal said...

It is interesting, kind of like Catholicism and saints - in the middle ages I guess having a saint in your town was really a financial boost and there was a lot of local saint promotion going on to attract pilgtims and their cash n :) The circle part is interesting too - a lot of magic starts with making a circle.

Pietro said...

Interesting images and text. Thanks for sharing this, Dina.

Emille said...

Much to think about - interesting that saint worship is making a "come back' (sorry for the secular interpretation of words), much as there is more of a focus in the secular world on "heroes."

Francisca said...

Complicated and interesting... (Hi Dina, hope you are well.)

Gene said...

Very interesting! I don't usually think of 'saints' outside of Catholicism and bits in the rest of Christianity, so food for thought.