Rebbi Pinchas ben Yair was the son in law of
Rebbi Shimon bar Yochai. The gemorah (Chulin 7) tells that he was extremely careful never
to partake from someone else's meal. He also refused to accept support from others.
He was once on his way to redeem a captured prisoner (piyon shevuyim)
-one of the most important mitzvos-when he reached the Ginnai River. He asked the river to
please split so that he could cross to the other side. After it had split for him, he then
asked it to split twice more so that two others that he met would also be able to get
across, and the river obeyed his command.
Hearing this, Rebbi Yossi remarked, "He is even greater then
Moshe, for whom the sea split only once".
When Rabbeinu Hakodosh heard that Rebbi Pinchas was passing by, he
pleaded with him to be his guest and join him for a meal. Reluctantly Rebbi Pinchus agreed
and Rebbi was very happy. However Rebbi Pinchas told Rebbi that he was on his way to do an
important mitzvah and he would therefore stop by on his way back. Upon returning, he
noticed a wild white mule in front of Rebbi's house and therefore refused to enter despite
Rebbi's pleas and promises to get rid of it. He felt that such an animal may not be kept,
since it can cause great damage to others.
When his students once asked him if they would also be able to decree
that the water should split on their behalf, he told them that it would work only if they
are sure that they never hurt another persons feelings or harmed a person in any other
way during their entire life. (Yerushalmi)
He was convinced that every problem that occurred is on account of not
fulfilling the mitzvos properly.
He once came to a place where the people complained to him that the
mice were causing great damage and eating their grain. He told them that this was because
they didn't give proper ma'aser from their grain. As soon as they corrected the problem
and took the proper ma'aseros, the mice stopped eating their grain.
On another occasion, when the people complained to him that their wells
weren't supplying them with enough water, he told them that this was a punishment for not
fulfilling the mitzvos of trumos and ma'aseros. As soon as they began doing these mitzvos
properly, their water supply reached its proper level.
He lies buried at the bottom of the hill in Tzfas. There is a minhag to
circle his grave seven times.