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Judah ben Tabbai


JUDAH BEN TABBAI (first century b.c.e.), one of the *zugot, the colleague of *Simeon b. Shetaḥ. A disciple of Joshua b. Peraḥyah and Nittai of Arbela. According to one tradition he was the nasi (see *Sanhedrin) and Simeon b. Shetaḥ the av bet din, but another tradition reverses their roles (Ḥag. 2:2; Tosef., Ḥag. 2:8; cf. tj, Ḥag. 2:2, 77d and Sanh. 6:9, 23c; tb, Hag. 16b). According to one tradition (Tosef. Sanh. 6:6) Simeon b. Shetaḥ once criticized a halakhic decision of Judah b. Tabbai who thereafter accepted upon himself "never to make a halakhic ruling without Simeon b. Shetaḥ's consent." An attempt in the Babylonian Talmud (Ḥag. 16b) to use this tradition in order to determine which of them was nasi and which av bet din was inconclusive. Moreover, in the parallel version of this story (Mekh. Nezikin, 20), the roles of Judah b. Tabbai, and Simeon b. Shetaḥ are reversed, and S. Friedman has recently shown that the version in the Mekhilta is more original. A story is told of how Judah b. Tabbai fled from Jerusalem to Alexandria, and the people of Jerusalem wrote to Alexandria, "How long will my betrothed stay with you while I sit grieving for him," whereupon he returned (tj, Ḥag. 2:2, 77d; cf. tj, Sanh. 6:9, 23c). Judah's saying in Avot (1:8) contains advice for a judge: "Do not play the part of an advocate [or presiding judge]; while the litigants are standing before thee, let them be regarded by thee as if they were guilty; and when they leave thy presence [after] having submitted to the judgment, let them be regarded by thee as guiltless." In the well-known dispute regarding *semikhah ("the laying on" of hands on the head of the sacrifice on the festival), Judah held that it may not be done (Ḥag. 2:2). According to a Palestinian amora, Judah decreed, alone or together with Simeon b. Shetaḥ, the impurity of metal vessels (tj, Shab. 1:7, 3c; tj, Pes. 1:6, 27d, tj, Ket. 8:11, 32c). A baraita in the Babylonian Talmud, ascribes this decree to Simeon b. Shetaḥ alone (Shab. 14b).


Frankel, Mishnah (19232), 35–39. add. bibliography: S. Friedman, "If They Have Not Slain They Are Slain; But If They Have Slain They Are Not Slain," in: Sidra, 20 (2005).

[Moshe David Herr /

Stephen G. Wald (2nd ed.)]

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