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Samuel Ha-Katan


SAMUEL HA-KATAN (early second century c.e.), tanna. Some explain that the name ha-Katan ("the small") was given him because of his extreme modesty, while others maintain that he was so called because he was only a little inferior to the prophet Samuel (tj, Sot. 9:13). His modesty and greatness are best illustrated by the following incidents. When the patriarch *Gamaliel ii called a conference of seven scholars and eight appeared, he asked the outsider to withdraw. Samuel, not wanting the intruder to be embarrassed, rose and said, "I am the one without invitation." Nevertheless, Gamaliel understood that it could not be he and ordered him to sit, praising him in very high terms (Sanh. 11a). On another occasion, when a heavenly voice proclaimed at an assembly of scholars that "there is one here who is worthy that the Ru'aḥ ha-Kodesh [Holy Spirit] should descend upon him," everyone understood that the reference was to Samuel (ibid.). Samuel is best known for Birkat ha-Minim, which expressed anathema against Judeo-Christians, sectarians, and informers. It was composed at the request of Gamaliel ii and incorporated into the daily *Amidah (Ber. 28b). He explained the verse, "There is a righteous man that perisheth in his righteousness" (Eccles. 7:15) as meaning that the Creator of the world knows that the pious sometimes sin, therefore God says, "I will take him away in his righteousness before he has the opportunity to err" (Eccles. R. 7:15). Samuel was childless, and at his funeral Gamalielii and Eliezer b. Azariah eulogized him: "For Samuel it is proper to cry and mourn. Kings die and leave their crowns to their sons, wealthy men their riches to their children. Samuel died and took his treasures with him" (Sem. 8). It is told that before his death he prophesied the persecutions of Trajan and the killing of the Ten Martyrs (Sanh. 11a).


Hyman, Toledot; Bacher, Tann; I. Konovitz, Ma'arekhot Tanna'im, pt. 4 (1969), 115.

[Elliott Hillel Medlov]

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