Honi The Circle Maker

72”x54” OIL ON WOOD PANEL 2005

Honi the circle-maker lived in the latter part of the first century BCE . He was renowned for his righteousness and for having an extraordinary power of prayer. During a time of great drought in the land of Israel, the people asked Honi to pray for rain.

Honi prayed, but no rain came. Honi then drew a circle in the dust and stood within it and said: ” Master of the Universe! I swear by Your great Name that I shall not move from here until You have mercy on Your children.” A mere trickle of rain came down, so Honi turned once again to heaven. “It is not for this that I have prayed, but for rain to fill cisterns, ditches and caves”. Immediately the rains came in great torrents, flooding the ground and overflowing the wells. The people ran to Honi crying for him to stop the floods of water.

Honi answered them, “ We may not pray on account of an excess of good. Despite this, bring me a bullock for a thanksgiving-offering.” Honi laid his hands on the animal and said: “ This people that you brought out of Egypt can take neither too much evil nor too much good. Please give them what they ask so they may be satisfied.” God sent a wind that blew away the rains, and the people gathered mushrooms and truffles.

The extraordinary rain in the story of Honi has a deeper meaning; it has been connected to the waters of the mist which we read about in the sixth day of Creation. Rashi explains that the water that God used to mold the dirt for man’s creation came from no ordinary rain, but from a unique mist which ascended from the waters of the impenetrable deep.

In the larger panel of this painting, torrents of rain water are suggested - rising upward from the earth. 
The two humble elements of water and dirt which God used to create man are also the framing elements of this narrative. Although Man is ultimately earth and water, he can reach up to heaven to beseech God and to demand of him compassion and mercy.

View Full Resolution Image