Living Legacy: Rabi Meir Ba’al Haness
Friday, the 14th of Iyar, Pesach Sheni, marks the one thousandth nine hundred and second (1902) yohrtzeit of the holy Tanna Rabi Meir Ba’al Haness.
Rabi Meir was a foremost leader and most prominent Tanna in his generation, the generation after the Churban Hamikdash. In fact, the gamras in Eruvin proclaimed, “It is clear and revealed before the One who Created the universe that there is no one Rabi Meir’s generation like him.” The gemara further says, “Whenever we find that ‘a student said something in the name of Rabi Akivah,’ it is usually Rabi Meir, the most prized talmid of Rabi Akiva.”
Rabi Meir originated from a family of geirim, as it is known that he was a grandchild of Niron Caesar of Rome who ran away rather than be part of the Churban. His wife was the wise and pious Bruria, the daughter of the Tanna Rabbi Chanina ben Tradyon. He earned a living from writing sifrei Torah, tefillin, and mezuzos, and while living in Teveria, he would deliver a drashah at the Beis Haknesses of Chamos every Shabbos.
Great miracles occurred through Rabi Meir, hence he was called Ba’al Haness. Tzaddikim said that the reason he was zoche to be the conduit for yeshu’os was because he was always advocating for Yidden, and always seeing the good in his fellow Jew.
One of the most famous aspects connected with the legacy of Rabi Meir in modern history is the phenomenon of Kupas Rabi Meir Ba’al Haness, a vehicle through which Yidden in the diaspora supported their brethren—needy talmidei chachomim in Eretz Yisroel. For hundreds of years, Yidden have funneled funds from Hungary, Poland, Russia, America, and everywhere in Western Europe to merit the zechus of Rabi Meir; Elokoh d’Rabi Meir aneini.
The three largest ones of these are Kollel Chabad Tzedokas Rabi Meir Ba’al Haness, Kollel Chibas Yerushalayim Rabi Meir Ba’al Haness, and Kollel Shomrei Hachomos Rabi Meir Ba’al Haness—each one of these institutions being hundreds of years old, and still thriving today.
This association is likewise due to Rabi Meir’s great emphasis on tzedakah.
Historians derived from anecdotes in Chazal that Rabi Meir lived a very long life—based on the fact that he was alive in the times of Rabi Eliezer, and was still attended the wedding of the son of Rabeinu Hakodosh.
When he was niftar on Pesach Sheni of the year 3801, he was interred in Teveria, on the banks of the Kineret, where Yidden have come throughout the generations to merit yeshu’os by Rabi Meir Ba’al Haness.