Jacob ben Korshai

views updated


JACOB BEN KORSHAI (second century), tanna. References in the Mishnah to "Jacob," without a patronymic, are to be identified with Jacob b. Korshai (or Kodshai) as is shown by the same Mishnah being attributed to "Jacob" in Avot 4:16 and to Jacob b. Korshai in Leviticus Rabbah 3:1. He is mentioned in disputes with pupils of Akiva, but was a disciple of Meir, and transmits halakhot in his name only (Tosef., Ma'as. Sh. 2:10; Yev. 102a etc.). Apart from the statements in his name in Avot, Jacob is mentioned only once more by name in the Mishnah (in a Ms. of Neg. 14:10), although several well-known and fundamental laws in the Mishnah are in accordance with his opinion (bk, 9:1; cf. tj, ibid., 6d; Ohol. 12:8; Tosef., ibid., 13:10). He is frequently mentioned, however, in the Tosefta and in other beraitot in the two Talmuds. According to the Jerusalem Talmud, Judah ha-Nasi was his outstanding disciple (tj, Shab. 10:5, 12c; tj, Pes. 10:1, 37b), and it is assumed that the material from Meir's Mishnah, which Judah incorporated in his Mishnah, was transmitted by Jacob, since Judah apparently did not study directly under Meir (Er. 13b).

Among his few aggadic statements are "This world is like a vestibule to the world to come – prepare yourself in the vestibule in order to enter the reception room" (Avot 4:16) and "One hour of repentance and good deeds in this world is better than all of the next world, but better is one hour of tranquility in the next world than all of this world" (Avot 4:17). According to the aggadah of the Babylonian Talmud, Jacob was the "tanna" (i.e., the teacher of mishnayot) in the school of R. Simeon b. Gamaliel, and once, when Jacob learned that on the following day Meir and Nathan were planning to depose Simeon from the office of nasi by putting questions to him on the tractate Ukẓin with which Simeon was not fully familiar, he proceeded immediately to teach the tractate (Hor. 13b) (but see: Goodblatt). Jacob is famous for the view that "there is no reward in this world for fulfilling mitzvot," interpreting the mention of tangible reward for the fulfillment of the commandments in Deuteronomy 5:16 and 22:7 as referring to the world to come (Tosef., Ḥul. 10:16). As a result of his position in this matter, the aggadot of both the Jerusalem Talmud (Ḥag. 77b) and the Babylonian Talmud (Ḥul. 142a; Kid. 39b) connect him indirectly with the figure of *Elisha b. Avuyah, who according to some legends became disillusioned as a result of the apparent lack of reward and punishment in this world, and so lost his faith in the Torah. In a late twist on this aggadah Rav Joseph even names Jacob as Elisha's grandson ("his daughter's son"), but there is no evidence, and it almost certainly reflects no more than the Babylonian Talmud's general inclination to posit family ties between characters in its aggadic narratives.


Bacher, Tann, s.v.; Hyman, Toledot, s.v.; J.N. Epstein, Mevo'ot le-Safrut ha-Tanna'im (1957), 191–3. add. bibliography: D. Goodblatt, in: Zion, 49 (1984), 349–74 (Hebrew).

[Shmuel Safrai /

Stephen G. Wald (2nd ed.)]

About this article

Jacob ben Korshai

Updated About encyclopedia.com content Print Article