Simeon ben Eleazar

views updated


SIMEON BEN ELEAZAR (second century), tanna; a contemporary of *Judah ha-Nasi. He was probably the son of *Eleazar of Bartota. Simeon dwelt in Tiberias and Johanan remembered him from his youth there (tj, Ma'as. 1:2; cf. Gen. R. 9:5). Simeon was one of the pupils of *Meir and reported many halakhot in his name. He also served his teacher (Shab. 134a) and as a result learned many halakhot not known in the bet ha-midrash and ruled accordingly (tj, mk 3:1). Accompanying Meir on his travels, he testified about his rulings under special conditions.

Only a few of his halakhot are found in the Mishnah, most of them being cited in the beraitot. Many of his halakhot are formulated as general statements; an excellent example is the formulation of the four domains to which the different laws of torts apply (bk 14a). He is frequently quoted in the aggadah. Among his most famous statements are the following: "Have you ever seen a beast or a bird with a craft? Yet they are sustained without trouble. But they were created only to serve me, while I was created to serve my Master. Surely then I should make a living without anxiety! But because I have acted evilly I have thus affected my livelihood" (Kid. 4:14, Tosef, Kid. 5:15–16, and see: Flusser). Also the following two dicta: "Impulse, a child, and a woman should be discouraged with the left hand and encouraged with the right" (Sot. 47a); "Pacify not thy fellow in the hour of his anger … nor strive to see him in the hour of his disgrace" (Avot 4:18). The following dictum reflects the generation after the Hadrianic persecution: "Every precept for which Israel submitted to death at the time of the royal decree, such as idolatry and circumcision, is still held firmly by them; while every precept for which Israel did not submit to death at the time of the royal decree, such as tefillin, is now somewhat neglected" (Shab. 130a). Because of an unfortunate incident in which he was involved, grossly insulting an ugly man, Simeon b. Eleazar coined the well-known aphorism: "A man should always be as gentle as the reed and not unyielding as the cedar." (Ta'an. 20a).


Hyman, Toledot, s.v.; D. Flusser, Judaism of the Second Temple PeriodSages and Literature (Heb.; 2002), 326–36.

[Israel Burgansky]