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ILFA (tj: Hilfai ; third century c.e.), Palestinian amora. Ilfa attended the bet midrash of Judah ha-Nasi and studied under him and his pupils. His teacher in halakhah was *Judah b. Ḥiyya (Zev. 13b), and he transmitted the beraitot of Ḥiyya and Oshaya (Ta'an. 21a). Although R. Johanan was younger than Ilfa and transmitted halakhah in his name (Zev. 20a, et al.), as did Eleazar b. Pedat (tj, Ma'as. 2:4, 49d), Ilfa is reported as having turned to Johanan in a question of halakhah (tj, Naz. 6:10, 55c). It is related that he and Johanan were compelled to engage in business because of their great poverty; Johanan, however, returned to his studies and was appointed head of the yeshivah; when Ilfa later returned, they said to him: "Had you done likewise, you would have been appointed." Thereupon Ilfa suspended himself from the mast of a ship and announced: "If I am asked any baraita and cannot find an allusion to it in a Mishnah, I shall cast myself into the sea," and in fact he found all of them (Ta'an. 21a; tj, Kid. 1:1, 58d). That he was exceptionally sharp-witted is also clear from the problems he raised (Zev. 20a; Ḥul. 69a; 53b, et al.). He was also an aggadist and is often quoted in the Midrash. Ilfa was renowned for his exceptional piety and it is related that when he led the congregation in prayer and recited, "Who causes the wind to blow and the rain to fall," his prayer was immediately answered (Ta'an. 24a). This piety also finds expression in his view of God's conduct of the world and His relationship with His creatures. In practice uncompromising truth should have been the standard governing the world, not merely in relations between man and his neighbor, but also in relations between man and God. However, due to their moral frailty men would not have been able to endure this. In consequence God substituted the attribute of charity for that of uncompromising truth (rh 17b). Ilfa gives an original interpretation of Ecclesiastes 1:3: "'What profit hath man of all his labor, wherein he laboreth under the sun?' – His labor is under the sun, and the reward accumulates for him above the sun" (Eccles. R. 1:3, no. 1).


Hyman, Toledot, 150, s.v.; Ḥ. Albeck, Mavola-Talmudim (1969), 180f.

[Attilio Milano]