Joshua ben Korḥa

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JOSHUA BEN KORḤA (middle of the second century c.e.), tanna. He is quoted four times in the Mishnah. In two of these cases (Ber. 2:2, Ned. 3:11) his statements have an aggadic character, and in two others (rh 4:4, San. 7:5) they are of a more halakhic nature. He is quoted dozens of times in the Tosefta and in the tannaitic midrashim, and here also his statements divide fairly evenly between halakhah and aggadah. He is often quoted together with students of Rabbi Akiva, and in one passage (Sifra, Shemini, parsh. 8:8) he discusses the impurity of drinks with R. Judah at length. He transmits two halakhot in the name of *Eleazar b. Azariah (Tosef., Kelim, bb 2:6; Neg. 7:3), and in the Jerusalem Talmud Rabbi Johanan relates a story connecting Joshua with *Johanan b. Nuri (tj, Kil. 4:4, 29b). He favored compromise in legal suits, rather than the strict application of judicial rulings, since the judge is thereby able to effect both truth and peace at the same time (Tosef., Sanh. 1:3). He laid down the rule (later accepted; cf. Av. Zar. 7a and Maim. Yad, Mamrim, 1:5) that when the sages differed over a matter of law, one follows the more stringent view with regard to biblical injunctions and the more lenient view with regard to rabbinic injunctions (Tosef., Eduy. 1:5). His testimony on the situation that prevailed in Ereẓ Israel in the aftermath of the Bar Kokhba war is instructive: "Joshua b. Korḥa said: We were once sitting among the trees when the wind blew and knocked the leaves against each other. We got up and ran, saying: Woe unto us! Perhaps the cavalry will overtake us; after a time we looked back and saw that no one was there, and we sat in our places and wept, saying: Woe unto us for whom the verse has been fulfilled [Lev. 26:36]: and the sound of a driven leaf shall chase them …" (Sifra, Be-Ḥukkotai 7:4).

The later aggadah describes him as sitting together with the nasi, *Simeon b. Gamaliel, while the latter's son, *Judah ha-Nasi, sat on the ground before them (bm 84b; Mid. Ps. to 1:8). According to the Talmud, Joshua lived to an exceptionally advanced age (which he attributed to the fact that he never looked into the face of a wicked man) and blessed Judah ha-Nasi that he should attain to half his age (Meg. 28a). According to a late aggadah he sired a son at the age of 100 and played with him in a spirit of abandon ("as though he had become crazy"; Mid. Ps. to 92:13). In a talmudic aggadah he referred to his pupil, *Eleazar b. Simeon, as "vinegar son of wine" for serving as a police officer under the Roman government (tj, Ma'as. 3:8, 50d; bm 83b; pdrk 92a), since, according to this tradition, Joshua was opposed to all collaboration with the Romans, even in the apprehension of criminals. In post-talmudic aggadic tradition he is described as roundly castigating the sectarians (possibly Judeo-Christians; arn2 3) with whom, as well as with non-Jews, he engaged in disputations (see Lev. R. 4:6; et al.). An aggadah in the Babylonian Talmud (Shab. 152a) reports an interchange between Joshua and a certain eunuch, in which the eunuch tries to ridicule Joshua's alleged baldness (a play on Joshua's name: Korḥa = baldhead). Joshua, of course, gets the upper hand in this exchange. For other late associations between the name Korḥa and baldness, see: Arukh s.v.qrh; in the name of Gershom b. Judah, Rashi to Bek. 58a, and Tosafot, Bek. loc. cit., Pes. 112a.


Hyman, Toledot, 648–50; Bacher, Tann; Frankel, Mishnah (19232), 187; S. Klein, in: Leshonenu, 1 (1929), 343; Alon, Meḥkarim, 1 (1958), 88–91.

[Moshe David Herr /

Stephen G. Wald (2nd ed.)]