Eliezer ben Jacob

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ELIEZER BEN JACOB , name of two tannaim.

(1) Tanna who lived during the period of the destruction of the Second Temple. He was intimately acquainted with the Temple and describes its structure, arrangements, and customs (Mid. 1:9; 2:6; Ar. 2:6; etc.). A tradition states that he was the author of the Mishnah *Middot on the structure and dimensions of the Temple (Yoma 16a; tj, Yoma, 2:3, 39d). It is reported that *Ben Azzai found in Jerusalem a genealogical scroll in which it was written that the opinions quoted in Eliezer's name are few "but well-sifted" (i.e., irrefutable) and that his statements everywhere represent the accepted halakhah (Yev. 49b). Since there was another tanna of the same name (see below), it is sometimes difficult to distinguish which of the two was the author of certain halakhot. It is, however, undoubtedly this Eliezer who is quoted in connection with laws dealing with the Temple and in discussions with R. *Eliezer b. Hyrcanus, R. *Ishmael b. Elisha, and R. *Ilai (Kil. 6:2; Kelim 7:3; Pes. 39a). One of his aggadic contributions is his interpretation of the phrase: "serve Him with all your heart and with all your soul" (Deut. 11:13), which he interpreted as an admonition to priests officiating in the Temple not to allow extraneous thoughts to enter their minds (Sif. Deut., Ekev. 41).

(2) Tanna of the second century. A pupil of R. *Akiva (Gen. R. 61:3; tj, Ḥag. 3:1, 78d), he was among the sages who participated in the synod at Usha after the Hadrianic persecutions (Song Rabbah 2:5). Talmudic sources quote halakhot on which he differed from his colleagues R. *Meir, R. *Judah, R. *Yose, R. *Simeon b. Yoḥai, and R. *Eleazar b. Shammu'a (Neg. 10:4; Tosef., Yev. 10:5; Tosef., bk 5:7). He is reported as saying: "Whoever provides lodging in his home for a scholar and shares with him his wealth has the merit of one who offers up a daily sacrifice" (Ber. 10b). His kindness is illustrated in a story which tells that once, when a blind man came to his town, Eliezer gave him a seat of honor above his own. When the people saw this, they maintained the blind man in honor. The latter, on learning the reason for his good fortune, offered a prayer on Eliezer's behalf saying: "You have dealt kindly with one who is seen but sees not. May He who sees but is unseen accept your prayers and deal graciously with you" (tj, Pe'ah 8:9, 21b).


Frankel, Mishnah, 76–78; Hyman, Toledot, 181–4; Halevy, Dorot, 1 (1923), 84–86, 181–5; Bacher, Tann, 1 (19032), 62–67; 2 (1890), 23 n. 3, 39f. n. 5, 76 n. 2, 151 n. 1, 191 n. 4.

[Yitzhak Dov Gilat]