It once happened that in a certain place there was an Arod (- a crossbreed of a snake and a toad [1]) that was injuring people; so they came and informed Rabbi Chanina ben Dosa.

He said to them: “Show me its burrow.” –

They showed it to him and he placed his bare heel over the mouth of the hole. The Arod came out and bit him and died! So Rabbi Chanina ben Dosa carried the dead Arod over his shoulder and brought it to the Study House.

He said to the students: “See, my children, it is not the Arod that kills; rather, it is the sin that kills [2].

At that time, they said: “Woe to the man who encounters an Arod; and woe to the Arod that encounters Rabbi Chanina ben Dosa!” (Gemara Berachot 33a)

An obvious question arises from this Talmudic passage – how could Rabbi Chanina ben Dosa rely on a miracle? The Gemara famously teaches [3]: “A person should never stand in a dangerous place and say ‘A miracle will be performed for me’, because a miracle may not be performed for him!” So, why was Rabbi Chanina ben Dosa permitted to do so? Moreover, how could he feel confident that he would not come to harm?

Iyun Yaakov (a commentary on the legends of the Talmud) answers with reference to an earlier Gemara that states [4] that each day a voice comes forth from Heaven announcing that the entire world is nourished in the merit of Chanina. Aware of his Divinely appointed role as protector of the world, Rabbi Chanina ben Dosa was absolutely confident that he would not be harmed in coming to the rescue of the endangered public.

Rav Mendel Weinbach (a founder and dean of Yeshivat Ohr Somayach) presents another solution, based on Gemara Shabbat 151b. There we are taught that a wild animal can only overcome a man when he appears to it like an animal, as the result of his sins [5]. Completely confident that he was free of sin, Rabbi Chanina ben Dosa had no cause to fear the Arod and was not even in need of a miracle.


1. Rashi.

2. His message to the people was that rather than focus on the Arod, they would do better by concentrating on their sins.

3. Shabbat 32a

4. Berachot 17b

5. The verse in Psalms 49:21 is explained allegorically: “Nimshal (- If he is attacked), KaBeheimot Nidmu (- then it is because he resembled an animal).”