By Rabbi Mordechai Levin
Years ago, my wife and I traveled to Israel. After visiting the northern city of Haifa, we spent the night and planned to leave the next day to visit Safed and Tiberias, on the western shore of Lake Kinneret (the Sea of Galilee).
When I awoke the next morning, the name Rabbi Meir Baal Hanes popped into my head. We went to breakfast and the name came to mind again. I remembered the name well. Rabbi Meir Baal Hanes was the name of a prominent rabbi, and the name of some Israeli charitable organizations. My grandfather Yankel used to donate to one of them.
Who was Rabbi Meir, for whom these charities were named? He was one of the leading sages of the Mishnah (second century). His name, Meir, means “one who enlightens.” His nickname, “Baal Hanes” (miracle maker), was given in reference to an old belief mentioned in the Talmud (Avoda Zarah 18a), that God answers the prayers of those who say the words, “God of Meir answer me.”
In the morning, we took a bus from Haifa to Safed. After touring the city, we took another bus to Tiberias. During the trip, the rabbi’s name came to my mind again. We had a travel guide, so I looked up the chapter about the city we would be visiting. To my surprise, one of the recommended places to visit was the tomb of Rabbi Meir Baal Hanes! I was moved by the coincidence that we would be so close to the resting place of the rabbi I had been thinking about.
In Tiberias, there were several interesting places to visit but we did not have enough time to see all of them. As we visited different venues, the name Rabbi Meir Baal Hanes kept popping into my mind over and over again. Several hours later, as we were preparing to leave the city, I told my wife about this recurring thought and that I wanted to visit the tomb.
The tomb of Rabbi Meir is not located in a cemetery, but inside a building which houses an educational and charitable institution. Was this the organization to which my grandfather contributed? I wasn’t sure, because there are other organizations bearing the same name. We entered the site and approached a simple tomb on the side of a big room. Cherished memories of my grandfather came back to me — moments we shared, wisdom he shared with me.
Several minutes later, I saw a man from the institution sitting at a nearby table with a sign saying that donations were welcomed. I wanted to do something in memory of my grandfather, so I made a donation in his name. On the receipt, the man wrote, “Yankel Feldman, may his memory be for a blessing.” Yes, his memory was truly a blessing for me.
That day, Rabbi Meir Baal Hanes (the miracle maker) produced a kind of small miracle for me. Unexpectedly, he made me remember my grandfather and prompted me to honor his memory in a way he would have appreciated.
Perhaps today another small miracle may happen for you: even in an unexpected moment and place, you can be reminded of your loved ones, their love, their words, and their good deeds.
May we always feel surrounded by precious memories of our loved ones, and may we be inspired to emulate their good deeds.