SEGULOT: The infalible Segula of Abba Hilqiya

SEGULOT: The infalible Segula of Abba Hilqiya

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In the Gemara, Ta’anit 23a, the Rabbis (without calling it “segula”, since this is a modern neologism) tell us the conditions that a person must have in order for his or her Tefilot (prayers) to be answered.

Around the year 100 of the common era, lived in Israel a very special man called Abba Hilqiya, the grandson of the celebrate Honi ha Me’agel. Abba Hilqiya was famous for his “power” to have his prayers received by HaShem. During a year of severe drought the prestigious Sages of Israel, the Tannaim, sent a delegation of two Rabbis to see Abba Hilqiya and ask him to pray for rain. Abba Hilqiya, who was an extremely poor man, was in the field, working. When the Rabbis arrived they greeted him but he did not respond to them, and did not interrupt his work until it was over. When he finished, he loaded his tools and went home. He placed his cloak over one shoulder and his tools on the other shoulder. On the way, when he left the pastures and entered a path of thorns, he lifted his clothes. When he arrived at his house, his wife came out, very well dressed, to greet him. When they sat down to eat, he took out a piece of bread and distributed some for his wife, for him and for his two sons. When he finished eating, he called his wife and told her that he knows the Sages came to ask him to pray. But that he prefers they do not know that the rain came for his merit. Discreetly, they both ascended to the attic and began to pray, each in a different corner. As soon as they began to pray, a cloud appeared on the side where the wife was praying and began to rain. At that moment, Abba Hilqiya went to the two Sages and said: Well, it began to rain. I think you do not need me anymore to pray for rain. The Rabbis said to him: We know that you have already prayed and that it is by your merit that HaShem brought down the rain. But before we leave we want to ask you a few questions. Off course, said Abba Hilqiya. Why when we said hello to you, you did not respond? I work by the hour, replied Abba Hilqiya, and it would not be fair to my employer that I interrupt my work to talk. And why you did not put your tools on the cloak, to protect them? Abba Hilqiya said: because the cloak is borrowed. And it was lent it to me to protect myself from the weather, if I use it with the tools I could ruin it. And why did you raise your clothes on the thorny fields? For if thorns rip my body, my body heals. But if my garments are broken, I would not be able to heal them. And why was your wife so well dressed when she came to greet you? Because my wife keeps her attraction exclusively for me, and for my part, my eyes are exclsuively for her. And why did not you offer us to have dinner with you? Because I had only that little piece of bread. And I did not want to falsely offer you to dine with me, knowing that you would reject my offer, and take the credit of having invited you. And why did you go straight to the attic? Because I did not want you to think that on my merit rain would come. And why did the first cloud come from your wife’s side? Because she is much better than me. When a poor person comes to our home and asks us for help, I would give him a coin to buy food. While my wife gives food already prepared, which they consume immediately. Another version says that Abba Hilqiya replied to this last question: There is a gang, a group of very bad people around here, who steal, kill, and so on. One day I prayed to HaShem to make them die. While my wife prayed to HaShem to inspire them to do Teshuba (repent and behave well).

This is, briefly, the story of Abba Hilqiya and his wife. We see then that there are people who DO have these “segulot”, that HaShem listens to them and answers their Tefilot. This power, however, is not transferable. We cannot pay for it. And it does not depend on superstitions, astrology, or amulets. What, then, was the “segula” of Abba Hilqiya? According to our Gemara, HaShem heard particularly the Tefilla of this man (and of his wife first) since they were extremely honest and righteous. They were very loyal to each other and concerned about strengthening their exclusive relationship. They behaved with great simplicity and were deeply humble, without any vanity. And in the case of Abba Hilqiya’s wife, she was a woman with limitless material and emotional generosity.

The Gemara teaches us this great lesson, which is consistent with what we saw yesterday in Yesha’ayahu. The greatest Rabbis of Am Israel knew that there are NO “tricks” or “shortcuts” to make HaShem listen and respond to our Tefilot. The “segula” that matters most to HaShem, and what gives us merit to make our prayers reaching Him, is our integrity, our humbleness and our good behavior.