Ishmael ben Yose ben Ḥalafta

views updated


ISHMAEL BEN YOSE BEN ḤALAFTA (end of the second century c.e.), tanna. He is not mentioned by name in the Mishnah (apart from Avot, see below), and most of the halakhic sayings transmitted by him in the Tosefta are in his father's name (Tosef. Ter. 4:2, Maas. 1:2, Kel. bk 5:16; Oho.18:14; Nid. 4:12. Ṭoh. 10:12). He was mentioned as a member of a bet din (along with R. Eleazar Hakappar and R. Pinhas ben Yair) who discussed the establishment of halakhot and takkanot (Tosef., Oho. 18:18). According to the Talmud Ishmael was the eldest son of *Yose b. Ḥalafta (Shab. 118b) and succeeded him in the leadership of the town of Sepphoris (Er. 86b). The sources note Ishmael's extensive knowledge of the whole of the Bible (tj, ibid.). He was greatly occupied with civil law and much is related of his exceptional care to maintain his impartiality and not to allow any suspicion or hint of bribery to attach to him, so that to him was applied the verse (Isa. 33:15): "That shaketh his hands from holding of bribes" (Mak. 24a). His great experience as a judge made him say: "He who shuns the judicial office rids himself of hatred, robbery, and vain swearing; but he who presumptuously lays down decisions is foolish, wicked, and of an arrogant spirit." He used to say: "Judge not alone. For none may judge alone save God" (Avot 4:8). Ishmael was appointed by the government, against his will, to head the local police. He is criticized for not fleeing abroad in order to avoid having to deliver Jews to the government (bm 83b). According to the Talmud he died prior to the death of Judah ha-Nasi (Pes. 118b). The great pupils of Judah, such as *Ḥanina b. Ḥama in Ereẓ Israel and *Rav in Babylon, transmitted some of his teachings and customs (Kid. 71a; Ber. 27b). One of his aggadic sayings is: "The older scholars grow, the more wisdom they acquire … but as for the ignorant, the older they become the more foolish they become" (Shab. 152a).


Hyman, Toledot, s.v.; Epstein, Tanna'im, 181.

[Shmuel Safrai]