Abba Sikra

views updated


ABBA SIKRA (or Sakkara ), talmudic name of one of the leaders in the defense of Jerusalem against the Romans in 66–70 c.e. "Abba Sikra" is regarded by some scholars as an epithet meaning "chief of the *Sicarii." Jastrow, however, believes the word sikra means "red paint" or the act of "leaping"; Sikr is also recorded as a name for Arabs. In the two parallel accounts of his activities, the Talmud (Git. 56a) calls him Abba Sikra whereas the Midrash (Lam. R. 1:5 no. 31), refers to him as Ben Batiah, but there is no doubt that both refer to the same person. The Talmud calls him "chief of the biryonim in Jerusalem," seemingly in a deprecatory sense, since this term is frequently used in connection with robbers and brigands (Sanh. 37a; Ber. 10a). He is linked with two episodes; the burning of the storehouses in Jerusalem, and the smuggling of his uncle, Johanan b. Zakkai, out of the city during the siege. The burning is recorded in connection with a dispute between the sages and the *Zealots. The sages wished to sue for peace, while the latter wished to do battle with the Romans. No conclusion was reached; but Ben BatiaḤ, who was in charge of the storehouses in Jerusalem, burnt them all, to R. Johanan's distress. The resultant famine led R. Johanan to seek the assistance of Abba Sikra in his plan to leave the beleaguered city. Abba Sikra proposed that R. Johanan feign illness and then death. He accompanied the coffin, borne by Eliezer and Joshua, the disciples of R. Johanan, and prevented the guards at the gate from stabbing the body.


S.J.L. Rapoport, Erekh Millin, 1 (1852), 1; Derenbourg, Hist, 280; Guttmann, Mafte'ah, 1 (1906), 115; Klausner, Bayit Sheni, 5 (1951), 229–30; Alon, Meḥkarim, 1 (1957), 249–50. add. bibliography: T. Ilan, Lexicon of Jewish Names in Late Antiquity. Part i: Palestine 330 bce–200 ce (2002), 397, s.v. Siqra.

[Lea Roth /

Shimon Gibson (2nd ed.)]