Nathan De-Ẓuẓita Resh Galuta

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NATHAN DE-ẒUẒITA RESH GALUTA , Babylonian exilarch. According to a statement in the Talmud (Shab. 56b), he is identical with Ukban b. Nehemiah (320–340), but in the Seder Olam Zuta two different exilarchs are mentioned called both Ukban and Ẓuẓita: one, called Nathan Ukban (Nathan de-Ẓuẓita), lived in the third century, and the other, Mar Ukban de Ẓuẓita, a near contemporary of R. Joseph, in the fourth. Nathan seems originally to have lived a sinful life, but he later repented. The amora Joseph expressed the view that he must be regarded as one of the most celebrated of penitents of all time, and that he was much beloved in heaven. According to an old aggadah cited by Rashi (Sanh. 31b), Nathan (Masukba) was consumed by passion for a married woman and unfulfilled desire made him ill. On one occasion, in need of money, she paid him a visit of her own free will. Although he could now have had his desire, he restrained himself, and she departed untouched. From that moment his passion subsided, and a ray of light was seen to shine over his head. It is to this that the name Ẓuẓita (ray of light) refers. According to the geonim Zemah and Sa'adiah, however, the name derives from the fact that in his youth Nathan used to dress and curl the fringes (ẓiẓiot) of his hair (B.M. Lewin, Oẓar ha-Ge'onim (Shab.; 1930), pt. 2 24). Rashi identified him in that passage with Mar *Ukba the av bet din, a contemporary of Samuel (cf. also R. Aḥai Gaon. She'iltot, Va-Era 42; ed. by S.K. Mirsky, 3 (1963), 43). In the manuscripts of the She'iltot, however, the passage, "and his name is Nathan b. Ẓuẓita" does not occur. See also Ḥibbur Yafeh min ha-Yeshu'ah of Nissim Gaon (ed. by H.Z. Hirschberg (1954), 73–76), from which it appears that he lived in the tannaitic period.


Hyman, Toledot, 956f.; J.N. Epstein, in: mgwj, 63 (1919), 259–68; S. Abramson, Rav Nissim Ga'on (1965), 422f.

[David Joseph Bornstein]