Simeon ben Abba

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SIMEON BEN ABBA (third century), Babylonian-born amora. A pupil and kinsman of *Samuel, Simeon was a priest, the descendant of distinguished ancestors who were compared by *Johanan to the patriarch Abraham (tj, Bik. 3:3, 65d). When Simeon went to Ereẓ Israel, he studied under the great amoraim of the first generation such as *Ḥanina and *Joshua b. Levi, and he transmitted their dicta. His main teacher however was Johanan, whom he served as a disciple serves his teacher, learning from him not only formally but practically through his behavior. Simeon transmits many of the customs of Johanan. He was a poor man, and Johanan applied to him the verse (Eccles. 9:11): "Neither is there bread to the wise." Nevertheless he would not accept gifts, and it is stated that Johanan would scatter coins when out walking so that Simeon could acquire them as finder (Ruth R. 5:7). Johanan was distressed that he was not able to ordain Simeon, who was consequently unable to receive the high office that was his due. Abbahu received the appointment but acknowledged that it should have gone to Simeon (tj, Bik. 3:3, 65d). Since he could not establish himself in Ereẓ Israel he wished to leave and asked Ḥanina for a reference, but the latter refused, saying that in the world to come Simeon's ancestors would say, "We had one choice plant in Israel, yet you permitted it to depart from there" (tj, mk 3:1).

Simeon also suffered in his family life. On the advice of Ḥanina he married his kinswoman, a daughter of Samuel who had been taken captive and taken to Ereẓ Israel by her captors. She did not live long; after her death he married her sister, who also died during his lifetime. Simeon bore his sufferings with courage and accepted them with equanimity. He expressed his submission to divine judgement in his homily (Gen. R. 9:11): "'Behold it was very good' (Gen. 1:31) refers to the attribute of retribution."


Bacher, Pal Amor; Hyman, Toledot, 1152–55; Ḥ. Albeck, Mavo la-Talmudim (1969), 268.

[Israel Burgansky]