Eleazar ben Simeon

views updated


ELEAZAR BEN SIMEON , tanna of the end of the second century c.e.; son and pupil of *Simeon b. Yoḥai (Suk. 45b). He is mentioned by name very rarely in the Mishnah, though amoraim ascribe several anonymous mishnayot to him (Bek. 51b, et al.). He is quoted frequently in the beraitot, as well as approximately 75 times in the Tosefta, especially those of Zevaḥim and Menaḥot. His aggadic statements are few (e.g., Kid. 40b; Yev. 65b; Gen. R. 20:6). Later Palestinian sources state that after his death his contemporaries eulogized him as a biblical scholar, a student of the Mishnah, a preacher, and a poet (Lev. R. 30:1), this last remark causing him to be incorrectly identified with the paytan Eleazar *Kallir (Tos. to Hag. 13a). The Babylonian Talmud incorporates accounts of his youth into stories related to his father. According to the well known aggadah, he escaped with his father from the Romans by hiding in a cave for 13 years (Shab. 33b; bm 85a). This story, mentioned in the introduction to the *Zohar (1:11a), provided the literary framework for this pseudoepigraphic work of the 13th century, and caused its composition to be ascribed to them. According to the Talmud, Eleazar later became a noted scholar who engaged in halakhic controversy with his colleague, Judah ha-Nasi (bm 84b; et al.), as well as in halakhic and aggadic discussions with older scholars, such as Judah, Yose, and Meir (Sot. 34a; rh 4b; et al.). In contrast to his father's unyielding defiance of the Roman authorities, it is told that he accepted under compulsion a position in the Roman administration as an official responsible for the apprehension of thieves and robbers – a position that his grandfather, Yoḥai, had at one time held (Pes. 112a). Among others who reportedly censured him for this activity was his teacher, Joshua b. Karḥah, who reprimanded him by exclaiming: "Vinegar, the son of wine! How long will you continue to hand over the people of our God to be killed?" (bm 83b; et al.). It is related of his son Jose that he grew up without sufficient surveillance and was on the brink of turning to a life of crime. Judah ha-Nasi, however, placed him under the care of R. Simeon ben Issi, his maternal uncle, who directed and taught him, and he ultimately became the disciple of R. Judah ha-Nasi.


Bacher, Tann, 2 (1890), 400–7; Krauss, in: mgwj, 38 (1894), 151–6; Weiss, Dor, 2 (19044), 165; Gutmann, in: Zion, 18 (1953), 1–5; Alon, Meḥkarim, 2 (1958), 88–91.

[Shmuel Safrai]