In Shemot Rabbah 13 Parshash Bo there's a story involving Abba Yosef. He responds to an invitation of scholarship by Avnimus with "...I can't come down because I'm a salaried worker."

I remember hearing a shiur (Rabbi Yosef Mizrahi - divineinformation.com) of another Rabbi who was working in the field and was approached by a student with a question. He, too, said he couldnt answer while working but could on break or afterward. (The story continues with his wife beautified coming to meet him.)

Who was this Rabbi? What's the source for this story? I haven't had much luck using MiYodeya using keywords.


His name was Abba Chilkiya the grandson of Choni HaMe'agel. The story is in Taanis 23a-b.

אבא חלקיה בר בריה דחוני המעגל הוה וכי מצטריך עלמא למיטרא הוו משדרי רבנן לגביה ובעי רחמי ואתי מיטרא זימנא חדא איצטריך עלמא למיטרא שדור רבנן זוגא דרבנן לגביה למבעי רחמי דניתי מיטרא אזול לביתיה ולא אשכחוהו אזול בדברא ואשכחוהו דהוה קא רפיק יהבו ליה שלמא ולא אסבר להו אפיה בפניא כי הוה מנקט ציבי דרא ציבי ומרא בחד כתפא וגלימא בחד כתפא כולה אורחא לא סיים מסאני כי מטי למיא סיים מסאניה כי מטא להיזמי והיגי דלינהו למניה כי מטא למתא נפקא דביתהו לאפיה כי מיקשטא כי מטא לביתיה עלת דביתהו ברישא והדר עייל איהו והדר עיילי רבנן יתיב וכריך ריפתא ולא אמר להו לרבנן תו כרוכו פלג ריפתא לינוקי לקשישא חדא ולזוטרא תרי אמר לה לדביתהו ידענא דרבנן משום מיטרא קא אתו ניסק לאיגרא וניבעי רחמי אפשר דמרצי הקדוש ברוך הוא וייתי מיטרא ולא נחזיק טיבותא לנפשין סקו לאיגרא קם איהו בחדא זויתא ואיהי בחדא זויתא קדים סלוק ענני מהך זויתא דדביתהו כי נחית אמר להו אמאי אתו רבנן אמרו ליה שדרי לן רבנן לגבי דמר למיבעי רחמי אמיטרא אמר להו ברוך המקום שלא הצריך אתכם לאבא חלקיה אמרו ליה ידעינן דמיטרא מחמת מר הוא דאתא אלא לימא לן מר הני מילי דתמיהא לן מאי טעמא כי יהיבנא למר שלמא לא אסבר לן מר אפיה אמר להו שכיר יום הואי ואמינא לא איפגר ומאי טעמא דרא מר ציבי אחד כתפיה וגלימא אחד כתפיה אמר להו טלית שאולה היתה להכי שאלי ולהכי לא שאלי מאי טעמא כולה אורחא לא סיים מר מסאניה וכי מטי למיא סיים מסאניה אמר להו כולה אורחא חזינא במיא לא קא חזינא מ"ט כי מטא מר להיזמי והיגי דלינהו למניה אמר להו זה מעלה ארוכה וזה אינה מעלה ארוכה מאי טעמא כי מטא מר למתא נפקא דביתהו דמר כי מיקשטא אמר להו כדי שלא אתן עיני באשה אחרת מאי טעמא עיילא היא ברישא והדר עייל מר אבתרה והדר עיילינן אנן אמר להו משום דלא בדקיתו לי מאי טעמא כי כריך מר ריפתא לא אמר לן איתו כרוכו משום דלא נפישא ריפתא ואמינא לא אחזיק בהו ברבנן טיבותא בחנם מאי טעמא יהיב מר לינוקא קשישא חדא ריפתא ולזוטרא תרי אמר להו האי קאי בביתא והאי יתיב בבי כנישתא ומאי טעמא קדים סלוק ענני מהך זויתא דהוות קיימא דביתהו דמר לעננא דידיה משום דאיתתא שכיחא בביתא ויהבא ריפתא לעניי ומקרבא הנייתה [ואנא יהיבנא] זוזא ולא מקרבא הנייתיה אי נמי הנהו ביריוני דהוו בשיבבותן [אנא] בעי רחמי דלימותו והיא בעיא רחמי דליהדרו בתיובתא [ואהדרו

Translation from Sefaria.org

Abba Ḥilkiyya was the son of Ḥoni HaMe’aggel’s son. And when the world was in need of rain they would send Sages to him, and he would pray for mercy, and rain would fall. Once the world was in need of rain, and the Sages sent a pair of Sages to him so that he would pray for mercy and rain would fall. They went to his house but they did not find him there. They went to the field and found him hoeing the ground. They greeted him, but he did not return their greetings.

Toward evening, as he was gathering firewood, he placed the wood and hoe on one shoulder and his cloak on the other shoulder. Along the entire way he did not wear his shoes, but when he reached water he put on his shoes. When he reached an area filled with shrubs and thorns he lifted up his clothes. When he reached the city, his wife came out to greet him, adorned with finery. When he reached his house, his wife entered first, he entered afterward, and afterward the two Sages entered. He sat and ate bread, but he did not say to the Sages: Come and eat, as was customary and polite. He divided bread to his children; to the elder child he gave one piece and to the younger one he gave two.

Abba Ḥilkiyya said to his wife: I know that these Sages have come due to the rain. Let us go up to the roof and pray for mercy. Perhaps the Holy One, Blessed be He, will be appeased, and it will rain, and we will not receive credit ourselves for the rainfall. They went up to the roof. He stood in one corner and she stood in the other corner. Clouds began to form on that side where his wife stood.

When he descended, he said to the Sages: Why have the Sages come? They said to him: The other Sages have sent us to the Master, so that you should pray for mercy for rain. He said to them: Blessed is God, Who did not require you to petition Abba Ḥilkiyya, as the sky has filled with clouds and rain is certainly on its way.

They said to him: We know that the rain has come on the Master’s account. However, let the Master please say and explain to us these aspects of your behavior that are puzzling to us: What is the reason that when we greeted the Master, the Master did not return our greeting? He said to them: I am a day laborer, hired for the day, and I said to myself that I may not delay my work to answer you.

They further inquired: And what is the reason that the Master carried the firewood on one shoulder and his cloak on the other shoulder? He said to them: It was a borrowed robe. I borrowed it for this purpose, to wear it, and I did not borrow it for that purpose, to place wood on it.

The Sages continued to ask Abba Ḥilkiyya about his unusual behavior. What is the reason that the entire way the Master did not wear his shoes, but when he reached water he put on his shoes? He said to them: The entire way I can see and take care where I walk, and therefore there is no need for me to wear out my shoes, but in the water I cannot see. Therefore, I put on my shoes to avoid hurting myself.

They asked: What is the reason that when the Master reached shrubs and thorns, he lifted up his clothes? He said to them: This flesh will heal if it is scratched by thorns, but this garment will not heal if it is torn.

They further inquired: What is the reason that when the Master reached the city, the Master’s wife came out adorned in her finery? He said to them: She dresses that way so that when I walk through the city I will not set my eyes upon another woman. They asked: What is the reason that she entered first, and afterward the Master entered, and only afterward we entered? He said to them: Because you have not been checked by me. I cannot be sure how you will act, and therefore I did not want you to be alone with my wife.

The Sages were not done with their questions. What is the reason that when the Master ate bread, you did not say to us: Come and eat? He replied: Because there is not enough bread for guests, and I said to myself that I should not gain credit from the Sages for nothing, by offering you food I cannot serve you. They asked: What is the reason that the Master gave the older child one piece of bread and the younger child two? He said to them: This older child stays at home, and if he is hungry he can eat at any time, but this younger child sits and studies in the synagogue, and therefore he is hungrier.

The two Sages had one final set of queries for Abba Ḥilkiyya. And what is the reason that the clouds began to form on that side where the Master’s wife stood before your own side? He explained: Because my wife is frequently at home, and she gives bread to the poor, and therefore her provision of benefit to the needy is immediate, i.e., soon after the rains fall she is able to provide the needy with provisions. Accordingly, her prayers are answered without delay. In contrast, I give money to the poor, and consequently, the benefit of my gift is not immediate, i.e., it takes a lot of time before the rainfall results in my ability to give money to the poor. Alternatively, her prayers may have been answered first because when certain hooligans [biryonei] were living in our neighborhood, I prayed that they should die, but she prayed that they should repent. And indeed, they repented.

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