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Ben Bag Bag


BEN BAG BAG , tanna, apparently of the first century c.e. His most famous dictum: "Turn it and turn it [the Torah], for everything is in it, and contemplate it, and grow grey and old over it, and stir not from it, for you can have no better rule than this" (Avot 5:25) is elsewhere attributed to Hillel (arn 12, 11). A number of halakhic statements are reported in Ben Bag Bag's name in various baraitot (e.g., Er., 27b; Tosef., bk 10:38). On the question whether a person is permitted to take the law into his own hands he states: "do not enter your neighbor's courtyard in stealth to take what belongs to you without his permission, lest you appear to him a thief; rather break his teeth [i.e., enter openly] and say to him, 'It is my own property that I take'" (bk 27b). Some scholars identify Ben Bag Bag with Johanan b. Bag Bag, who sent a question to Judah b. Bathyra in Nisibis, and whom the latter eulogized as "an expert in the chambers of the Torah" (Tosef., Ket. 5:1). Some incline to the view that the name is symbolic like that of *Ben He He (Avot 5:26) with whom he has been identified, and that he was a proselyte (Ḥag., 9b and Tos., s.v.Bar He He). Some identify him with the proselyte who came to Hillel and asked to be taught the Torah "while standing on one leg," which occasioned the famous reply of Hillel: "What is hateful to thee do not do to thy fellow."


Bacher, Tann; Frankel, Mishnah, 100f.; Hyman, Toledot, 672 s.v.Yoḥanan b. Bag Bag.

[Zvi Kaplan]

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