The piety of the saint Rabi Chanina ben Dosa was so great that people would often request that he daven on their behalf. Once, the son of Rabban Gamliel became dangerously sick. He sent two talmidim to the home of Rabi Chanina with the message: “Pray to God that my son will get well.”
Rabi Chanina went to the upper chamber of his home and prayed for mercy. Shortly afterward he descended and said to the talmidim, “You may go home now, for the boy has come out of his coma, and the fever has left him.”
They looked at him in amazement and asked, “How do you know this, are you a navi?”
Rabi Chanina replied: “I am neither a navi nor the son of a navi, but from past experience I can say that if the tefillah comes readily to my tongue, it has been accepted; if it does not, then I know that it will not be.”
The talmidim decided to test his theory. They noted the exact time that Rabi Chanina had told them the fever had left the sick child. They then returned to Rabban Gamliel and told him what happened.
Rabban Gamliel replied with joy, “The timing was perfect. At that very moment, which you describe, the fever had left my son and he asked for a drink of water.”
The Servant Of G-d
Once when Rabi Chanina was studying in the Beis Medrash of Rabi Yochanan ben Zakkai, Rabi Yochanan’s son became ill. He came to Rabi Chanina and said: “Chanina, my son, daven that my son may live.”
Rabi Chanina put his head between his knees and prayed to God for mercy, and the sick boy recovered from his illness.
When word came to Rabi Yochanan that his son was well, he jubilantly announced: “Were I, Ben Zakkai, to have stuck my head between my knees for the whole day, no notice would have been taken of me.”
When his wife heard what happened she asked, “Is Rabi Chanina greater than you, that his tefillos are accepted?”
“No,” replied Rabi Yochanan, “he is not greater than I, but he is like a servant who is constantly in the presence of the king, and can ask for a favor at all times. I, however, am like an officer who occasionally appears at fixed times to plead before the king. Therefore, he has more intimacy.”
His Righteousness Saved His Child
In the days of Rabi Chanina ben Dosa there lived a very poor man, named Nechunia. Although he was extremely poor, he was so pious that he made it a practice to share his meager crumbs with other poor people. Many times poor people would avoid his neighborhood knowing that if he saw them he would give them his last piece of bread and thus harm his own health.
One day he was so disappointed that he couldn’t help someone, he went and dug wells all along the roads so that those being oleh regel might have water to drink while traveling. The travelers blessed the man who was so considerate of them, but they didn’t know who he was, for Nechunia made it a practice to dig the wells only at night, to avoid receiving any acclaim or honors.
One day his daughter was walking on the road and lost her footing near a large and deep well and fell into it. Crying out in despair, she soon attracted the attention of some passersby. They approached the well carefully, but they saw it was too deep for them to do anything.
“What is your name? Whose daughter are you?” they shouted to her.
“I am the daughter of Nechunia, the well-digger,” she replied. “Please help me for I do not know how much longer I can stay afloat.”
The people ran to Rabi Chanina ben Dosa and told him what happened. “Please tell us what to do,” they said, “Her moments are numbered and no one dares to descend into it for it is a very deep well.”
Rabi Chanina Prays
Rabi Chanina calmed them and said, “Fear not, I will daven to Hashem and He will surely help her.”
The people waited around in frustration, not knowing what to do. One hour passed and Rabi Chanina said to the people, “Fear not, you need to not have any anxiety, for she is well.”