Dostai ben Yannai

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DOSTAI BEN YANNAI (fl. second half of second century), Palestinian tanna. The name Dostai is a form of the Greek Δοσίθεος corresponding to the Hebrew "Mattaniah." Only one brief halakhah is ascribed to Dostai himself (Tosef. Git. 7:11 = bb 11:10). In addition he reported a number of traditions in the name of the later tannaim, R. *Meir (Eruv. 5:4, Avot 3:8, Tos. Ber. 6:8), and R. *Yose b. Ḥalafta (Tos. Ṭoh. 5:8), as well as in the name of earlier figures like R. Eliezer (Tos, Shab. 14:16) and Bet Hillel and Bet Shammai (Tos. Ṭoh. 8:11). Like many relatively obscure tannaitic figures, the later talmudic tradition relates many colorful details concerning his adventures. Together with R. Yose b. Kippar he once went on a mission to Babylonia where they were ill-treated by the authorities. After their return to Palestine he defended himself before R. Ahai b. Josiah for not having been able to protect his friend against the indignities they had suffered. This he did by giving a satirical description of the manners and vices of the Babylonian authorities (Git. 14a–b; tj, Git. 1:6, 43d; tj, Kid. 3:4, 64a). Some of the sayings ascribed to Dostai in the Talmud reflect a kind of humor, e.g., his answers to his pupils' questions on the differences between men and women (Nid. 31b). On the question "Why are the thermal springs of Tiberias not found in Jerusalem?" he replied that if Jerusalem had thermal springs the pilgrims would have come there for the pleasure of the baths and not for the sake of the pilgrimage (Pes. 8b). In another place, basing himself upon Psalms 17:15, he stated: "If a man gives but a penny to a beggar, he is deemed worthy of receiving the Divine Presence" (bb 10a).


Bacher, Tann, 5 s.v.; Hyman, Toledot, 326.