Jewish Personalities

The Merit of Rabbi Meir Baal Haness

Today, the 14th of Iyar (Pesach Sheni) is the Yohrzeit (Anniversary of the passing) of Rabbi Meir, a scholar from the time of our Mishna. Rabbi Meir was also called Rabbi Meir Baal Haness, ‘the owner of the miracle’. He was a Tanna, one of the sages who authored our Mishna, part of our oral law. He was the preeminent student of Rabbi Akiva and one of 5 sages ordained by Rabbi Yehuda ben Baba.

There is a spiritual remedy to give a small amount of charity and /or light a candle and ask 3 times, ‘G-d of Meir, answer me’.  In this small sentence we turn to G-d asking for Him to help us in the merit of Rabbi Meir.

1. In the book Tavur Haaretz it states: “Rabbi Meir Baal Haness is the Tanna Rabbi Meir… and he’s called Baal Haness because his merit is great and can bring salvation and miracles and about him we say “G-d of Meir , answer me”.

2. The Chida says in his book ‘Petach Einayim’: “The custom in all parts of the Jewish nation is that if G-d forbid a theft or a loss happens or any pain, trouble or ailment, a person vows to light oil or give charity at his grave and they say “G-d of Meir, answer me” and G-d will answer and save them.”

3. Why was he called ‘Baal Haness’? The story is brought in Tractate Avoda Zara: The sister of Bruria Rabbi Meir’s wife who was the daughter of Rabbi Hanina ben Teradion was imprisoned. Rabbi Meir went to redeem her from the jail. He went to the prison warden to ask for her release. The warden said he’s liable to get killed for releasing her. Rabbi Meir gave him a considerable amount of Gold Denarii and told him: “Use half to bribe the government and keep half for you.” The warden asked “what happens when the money runs out?” “When that happens say ‘G-d of Meir answer me’.”

The Caesar eventually found out what this warden did and sentenced him to death. A rope was placed around his neck and he was hung… but it didn’t go; he wasn’t hung nor hurt attempt after attempt.  The Caesar asked what was going on and the warden explained him how G-d was protecting him in the merit of Rabbi Meir.

4. Rabbi Meir was descendant from the Caesar Nero.  Nero was sent by Vespasian to destroy Jerusalem and shot arrows in every direction. They all miraculously turned and flew towards Jerusalem. Nero took this as a sign that G-d wanted Jerusalem destroyed.  He then asked a young boy what verse he learned that day and the boy answered; “I will place my revenge on Edom (Rome, the descendants of Esau) through my nation, Israel.” Nero said; “G-d wants Jerusalem destroyed and then he’ll punish the destroyer.” He ran off into hiding and converted to Judaism. Rabbi Meir is his descendant.

5. The Jerusalem Talmud says a story of his humility. A woman came home late on Friday night after hearing the lecture of Rabbi Meir in synagogue. The husband was incensed and ordered his wife to go spit in Rabbi Meir’s eye and then he would forgive her. Rabbi Meir prophetically saw what took place and made himself as if his eye was hurting and announced any woman that can heal my eye should come. The women’s friends urged her to go to Rabbi Meir and spit in his eye to heal it. The woman went and when Rabbi Meir asked, “do you know how to heal my eye” she got scared and said no. Rabbi Meir then said: “Spit in my eye 7 times and that will help even more.” After she did it Rabbi Meir said: “Tell your husband, you asked me to spit only once, I spit in his eye seven times.”

His students asked ‘isn’t this an embarrassment to the Torah (as you are a Torah scholar)? If you want we can punish this man. Rabbi Meir asked back should Meir’s honor be more than his Master?  G-d said that to make peace between a man and his wife His holy name can be erased (in the parsha of Sotah) should I surely let my honor go to bring peace?”   


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