Judah Bar Ezekiel

views updated


JUDAH BAR EZEKIEL (d. 299), Babylonian amora, founder of the academy at *Pumbedita. Judah's father was a famous amora and "wonder worker" (see Kid. 32a, 33b; tj, Ta'an 1:3, 64b). Judah's brother was the amora Rami b. Ezekiel, who appears to have gone to Ereẓ Israel and returned to Babylonia (Ket. 21a; Kid. 32a; Ḥul. 44a, etc.). According to the Talmud "on the day R. Judah ha-Nasi passed away … Judah [b. Ezekiel] was born," and on his deathbed Judah ha-Nasi said "today R. Judah is born in Babylonia" (Kid. 72a–b; cf. Guttmann, in: huca, 25 (1954), 241ff. for a discussion of the date on which this took place). Judah was a pupil first of Rav in Sura, then of R. Assi of Huzal, and finally of *Samuel in Nehardea, and he quotes many halakhot in their names (see Suk. 9a; bb 139b; Yev. 17a and Rashi ibid.; Av. Zar. 16b and Rashi ibid.). Notwithstanding Judah's boundless esteem for Samuel, he once directed an admonishing remark at him (see Shab. 55a), and in several instances took issue with him (Ber. 36a). Samuel's affectionate nickname for his pupil, "Shinena" (ibid.; Shab. 7a, 152a) is generally taken to mean "sharp in talmudic knowledge," although some interpret it as "bigtoothed" (Arukh, s.v. shen 2). So great was Samuel's admiration for his pupil that he said of him, "he is not of woman born" (Nid. 13a).

After the destruction of Nehardea by *Papa b. Neẓer in 259, part of the academy of Nehardea moved to Pumbedita, where Judah became its head (Git. 60b and Rashi ibid.). Pumbedita was considered the heir to Nehardea, in that it continued the tradition of being a purely "Babylonian academy," as opposed to *Sura, where the Palestinian influence – due to Rav's way of learning – remained very strong. However, throughout the lifetime of Huna, Sura remained the main center of learning. Only after Huna passed away in 297 did Pumbedita come to the foreground, where indeed it remained for the next 800 years. The main subject of study there was the order *Nezikin (Ber. 20a), the importance of which was emphasized by Judah (bk 30a). Judah's halakhah is extensively quoted in both the Babylonian and the Jerusalem Talmuds. His main disputant is Huna, and their discussions occupy a prominent place in the Babylonian Talmud. Judah was highly esteemed by the sages of his day, among them R. NaḤman (see Kid. 70a–b), and R. Eleazar "the master from Palestine" and Ulla, who were loath to give decisions in Pumbedita (Nid. 20b). Among his prominent pupils were Kahana and Joseph (Yev. 17a), Zeira (Ber. 39a) and Abba (Ḥul. 19b).

Judah was opposed to returning from Babylonia to Ereẓ Israel before the coming of the Redeemer (Ket. 110b–111a). When Zeira and Abba decided to do this, they had to do it clandestinely without his knowledge (ibid.; Ber. 24b). Nevertheless his devotion to Ereẓ Israel is attested (see Ber. 43a). He was accustomed to speak Hebrew, even in daily conversations with his servant (Shab. 41a). He considered the use of Hebrew mandatory for prayer and enjoined the Aramaic-speaking Jews of Babylonia, "Never should a person plead his needs in Aramaic" (Shab. 12b; see however Sot. 33a).

Judah was noted for his saintliness and piety (Ḥag. 15b; Nid. 13a), and in consequence wonderful powers were popularly ascribed to him. For example, it is stated that in times of drought he had but to remove one shoe (an indication that he was about to undertake a fast) and rain would immediately begin to fall (see Ber. 20a; Ta'an. 24b; Sanh. 106b). Judah was distinguished by the firmness of his convictions and his not indulging anyone (mk 17a; Kid. 70a–b). The amora Isaac b. Judah was his son (Yev. 63b; Kid. 71b). When, according to legend, Joseph, the son of R. Joshua b. Levi, ascended to heaven and returned, and was asked by his father what he had seen, he replied, "A world upside down; the exalted below and the lowly above" (bb 10b). This statement is interpreted by geonic tradition to refer to the fact that he saw Samuel sitting at the feet of his pupil Judah, who was thus honored because he had not refrained from admonishing his master (Arukh, s.v. neged 1; Tos. to bb 10b).


B.M. Lewin (ed.), Iggeret R. Sherira Ga'on (1921), 82–85; Neusner, Babylonia, 2–3 (1966–68), index; J. Heilprin, Seder ha-Dorot, pt. 2, Seder Tanna'im ve-Amora'im (Warsaw, 1905), 179–81; Frankel, Mevo, 91a; Hyman, Todedot, 542–52; Ḥ. Albeck, Mavo la-Talmudim (1969), 199–201.

[Zvi Kaplan]