Desert Truffle

Honi the Circle Drawer

selling truffles in the open market.  photo courtesy of M.M. MirrehThe story presents truffles and mushrooms as Divine blessing and a lavish reward to compensate his people for their suffering. The story takes place in ancient Judea, sometime in the 1st Century B.C.E., in spring, during a severe drought. It seems that in the Middle East so many stories begin with a severe drought. The story is not lacking in fine irony, and goes like this – a famous holy man, Honi, known for his successful interventions with God on behalf of the people, is commissioned by the people around Jerusalem to present their case to God and pray for rains to fall. Honi draws a circle around himself in the dust, thus earning the name Honi the Circle Drawer. He addresses God and vows not to move from it until God will send rain. The story evolves dramatically from here, and takes us through an insufficient drizzle, then exceedingly strong downpours, and finally to a pleasant rain, which falls gently down. But the blissful rain does not stop falling, major flooding occurs, and all the people around Jerusalem seek shelter from the flooding on the Temple’s mount. The people now beg Honi to beg God to stop his blessing. Reluctantly, Honi calls upon God to stop the gentle rain, and make his people happy. God grants his wish. This is how God made his people happy, “Immediately the wind blew, the clouds scattered away, the sun shone bright, and the people went down to the fields and brought back truffles and mushrooms for everyone”!

(Mishna, Massehet Ta’anit, page 13, verse 1)

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