Located outside the town of Hazor HaGlilit in the Hula Valley in the foothills of the Naftali Mountains, the Tomb of Honi Hame’agel is a popular religious site where visitors traditionally recite Psalms, believing that Honi’s spirit brings their prayer requests before God.
Who was Honi?
Honi Hame’agel was a Jewish scholar during the 1st century, before the age of the Tannaim, the scholars from whose teachings the Mishnah was derived. Honi ha-Ma’agel was famous for being a miracle worker and his ability to pray successfully for rain.
The Story of Honi Hame’agel
During the 1st century BC, various religious movements and splinter groups developed amongst the Jews in Judea. Several individuals claimed to be miracle workers in the tradition of the ancient Jewish prophets Elijah and Elisha. According to the Talmud, Honi Hame’agel was one of these miracle workers due to his ability to pray successfully for rain.
Also known as Honi the circle drawer, Honi Hame’agel was a great sage famous for speaking to God. One year, the Land of Israel experienced a terrible drought. Honi Hame’agel was asked to pray for rain. Honi prayed, but no rain fell.
So, he drew a large circle around himself in the dry dust, stood in the middle, and prayed to God a second time, saying that he would not move from his place inside the circle until the rain came.
Honi Hame’agel Keeps on Praying
A little rain fell, but not enough to dispel the drought. So, Honi prayed a third time, specifically asking God for enough rain to “fill wells, pools, and caves.” This time, vast amounts of rain fell, so much so that the people of the land implored Honi to get it to stop, as they were worried about the destruction it would cause.
Honi prayed to God for a fourth time, asking for normal rain that brings blessing. The average rain fell for such a long time, and the people of Israel had to escape to higher ground to avoid flooding. They once again asked Honi to pray that the rain should cease.
A fifth time, Honi prayed for the Jewish people. His prayer stopped the rain and brought out the sun. The people then realized that Honi had found favor in the Eyes of God.
Visiting the Tomb of Honi Hame’agel
The cave containing the tomb of Honi Hame’agel is located outside the town of Hazor HaGlilit. The cave is locked, but a small building was constructed over the cave to allow visitors to pray to Honi. The building outside the tomb contains a mikvah, a school for young boys, and a yeshiva for married men.
Follow the steps from the tomb up the nearby hill and soak up the incredible Hula Valley and Golan views.
The Meaning of His Name
Rabbi Tzemach Gaon interpreted that he was named after his city, while according to Rashi, Honi Hame’gal was named after the circle he drew around him.
Among the latest scholars were those who thought he was named after his profession, which was a maker of rollers (see photo), a tool intended to assist in tightening the roof plaster, or he was engaged in repairing the roofs using rollers.
Another hypothesis is that the appellation Honi Ha-Ma’akel is named after the circle he created, and it is not a title that includes an action or a profession. Because such nicknames are unusual, a misunderstanding arose. Because of the habit of pronouncing the adjectives of the name of their profession, people began to read the word as “the circle.”