Psalm 1260

Psalm 126 begins 'Shir Hamaalos, B'Shuv Hashem es Shivas Tzion, Hayinu K'Cholmim', "A song of ascents, when G-d will return the captivity of zion, we will be like dreamers."
Rashi says that the reference in this verse is to the captives of Babylon being returned to tranquility in Israel. The Talmud, Taanis 23a, says that Choni HaMagil did not understand how a verse in Psalms could talk about waking up after an exile that lasted for 70 years, as if someone could sleep 70 years. One day Choni asked a man who was planting a carob tree why he would plant a tree that took 70 years to grow, since he would no longer be alive when it was grown. The man said, "When I came into the world I saw a carob tree my father planted for me. Now I will plant one for my son!"
Choni went to refresh himself nearby and fell asleep. The place was concealed by rocks and boulders and he slept undisturbed for 70 years. When Choni awoke, a man was gathering carob from the nearby tree. He asked the man if he planted the tree. "No my father's father planted this tree," came the reply... Choni realized he had slept 70 years.
Choni walked home. He asked, "Is the son of Choni here?" The inhabitants answered, "He no longer lives here, but his son is here." Choni revealed his identity but no one believed him.
Choni went to the Study Hall. The Rabbis there spoke in awe of Choni HaMagil. No one believed who he was, though, and he wasn't respected.
Choni prayed to die, and his wish was granted. The saying "Give me companionship or give me death" came from this story.
According to the Maharsha, Choni compared the Psalm to sleeping 70 years and couldn't comprehend it. The word Charov (Hebrew for Carob) is like Chorev, destruction, specifically of the Temple the Bais Hamikdosh. The exiled nation seems fruitless, like the 70 years that the carob does not bear fruit. In fact however, the nation is gathering strength in preparation for its awakening and rebirth.
Choni's death shows that it requires the true redemption to undo the terrible effect of the exile.

- Based on the Artscroll Psalms pg 1536-1537

back to home page: