(Beraisa): The Pasuk about Hash-m giving rain in its proper time means that it will neither soak the people nor leave them thirsty but will be in the correct amount.
Too much rain washes away the soil and prevents produce.
(Alternate explanation): "In its proper time" means that on Tuesday and Friday nights.
Such rain fell in the time of R. Shimon b. Shetach and caused the produce to grow to great size.
They preserved samples as a lesson in what sin might be withholding.
Likewise in the days of Hurdus, when they were building the Beis ha'Mikdash, the rain fell by night.
By day, the sun shone, and the people knew that their work was for Heaven.
CHONI HA'ME'AGEL AND THE RAIN
(Beraisa): It happened once that most of Adar had passed and there was still no rain.
Choni ha'Me'agel was asked to pray for rain, but was unsuccessful.
He drew a circle, stood inside, and told Hash-m that he wouldn't move until rain fell.
The rain began to trickle, and his students said that the Heavens were trying to release him from his oath.
Choni asked for substantial rain, and it fell strongly in huge drops.
When his students said that it would destroy them, he asked for rain of blessing.
The rain fell appropriately, until everyone had to seek refuge on Har ha'Bayis.
When asked to pray that the rain should stop, Choni replied that one should not pray about too much good; but he took a cow as a thanks-offering and said to Hash-m that the people cannot accept too much good.
The rain stopped, the sun shone, and the people gathered mushrooms from the fields.
Shimon b. Shetach said that Choni deserved to be excommunicated; had Eliyahu decreed no rain, and Chon reversed it, it would have been a Chilul Hash-m.
But he said that he was powerless, as Choni was before Hash-m like a child whose father fulfills his every request.
The Sanhedrin sent praise to Choni, expounding Pesukim to speak of how his prayers had helped.
CHONI HA'ME'AGEL AND THE BIG SLEEP
(R. Yochanan): Choni was always troubled by the Pasuk which referred to Galus Bavel as a dream - how can one sleep for seventy years?
He once met a man planting a carob tree, and asked when it would bear fruit.
When the man replied that it would take seventy years, Choni asked how he expected to benefit.
The man replied that his ancestors planted it for him, and he was planting it for his descendants.
Choni fell asleep, and when he awoke, he saw a man harvesting the carobs.
The man turned out to be the grandson of the original man, and Choni realized that he had slept for seventy years.
Choni's son was no longer alive, but his grandson was.
Nobody believed who he was, despite his being able to answer all their difficulties.
Lacking the appropriate respect, he was grieved and prayed to die.
(Rava): Thus people say, "Either friends or death."
THE HABITS OF ABA CHILKIYAH
Aba Chilkiyah, Choni's grandson, would be asked to pray for rain when it was needed.
Once, the rabbis found him plowing in the field; he did not respond to their greeting.
Later, when collecting firewood, he placed it on one shoulder and his cloak on the other shoulder.
He did not wear shoes except when he had to cross water.
When he had to cross thorns, he lifted up his clothing.
Arriving home, his wife wore make-up to greet him.
She entered the house, then him, then the rabbis.
he did not invite the rabbis to join his family in their meal.
He gave his older son one loaf of bread and two to the younger son.
He told his wife that the rabbis had come about the rain, so they should go pray on the roof and perhaps be spared taking credit for it.
They went to the roof and stood in opposite corners; the clouds approached his wife first.
Upon descending, he asked the rabbis why they had come.
When they replied that they came to ask him for rain, he blessed Hash-m that he was not needed.
They said that they knew the rain fell in his merit, and asked him to explain all of his actions.
He did not respond to their greeting as he was a worker hired for his time.
He put the firewood on the shoulder without the cloak as the cloak was borrowed, and not for that purpose.
He only wore shoes while walking through water as only then was he unable to see what he was stepping on.
He lifted his clothes amongst thorns as flesh heals but clothing doesn't.
His wife wore make-up to greet him so that he should not think of other women.
His wife entered before him so that she should not be left outside with the rabbis (who he did not know).
He did not offer the rabbis food as he did not have enough and he did not want to take credit for an offer that he could not honor.
He gave more bread to the younger son as he had been away at yeshivah and had not eaten.
His wife's prayers were answered first as she gave food directly to the poor, whereas he only gave them money to buy food.
Alternately, he prayed that the local bandits should die, whereas she prayed that they should repent, which they did.
PEOPLE WHO COULD BRING RAIN
Chanan ha'Nichva was the grandson of Choni ha'Me'agel.
When there was a need for rain, the rabbis would send children to him; they would tug his cloak and beg for rain.
He would pray to Hash-m to give rain for the sake of the children that could not discern who was really giving it.
He was so called because he would conceal himself (Machvi) while relieving himself.
The difference between the mighty ones of Eretz Yisrael and the pious ones of Bavel is that the latter had to pray for rain in groups.
The former, such as R. Yonah, could pray for rain alone; he would say that he was going to buy grain, but would instead pray that rain should fall, and then tell his family that it was plentiful.
R. Mani, his son, was being molested by the people of the prince's house.
He prayed at his father's grave, and their horses legs became trapped until they consented to stop bothering him.
He told R. Yitzchak b. Elyashav that members of his father-in-law's householf were opressing him, and he prayed that they should become poor.
But when they grew overly dependant on R. Mani's charity, he prayed for them to grow wealthy again.
He told R. Yitzchak that he was not attracted to his wife, so he prayed for her to become beautiful.
But R. Mani told him that she had become conceited, so he prayed for her to return to her ugliness.
Two students of R. Yiztchak b. Elyashiv asked him to pray that they should become wiser, but he told them that he no longer possessed the power.