Simeon ben Menasya

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SIMEON BEN MENASYA (second–third century c.e.), tanna; a contemporary of *Judah ha-Nasi. Simeon's statements both in halakhah and aggadah are found mainly in beraitot. At times he disagrees with the Mishnah and at times supplements it. Only one of his statements is mentioned in the Mishnah (Ḥag. 1:7): "Who is it 'that is crooked and cannot be made straight' [Eccles. 1:15]? He that has incestuous relations with a woman and begets by her a *mamzer," but the whole passage is taken from the Tosefta. He is also mentioned once in the sixth chapter of Avot (6:8) which is, however, a later addition to the Mishnah. He was a pupil of *Meir in whose name he transmits several halakhot. In a dispute with Judah ha-Nasi he fixed thehalakhah according to the stricter view in a dispute of tannaim of an earlier generation (Beẓah 26a). It is possible that there is here a hint of his method of deciding the halakhah. He himself said of Judah: "These seven qualifications which the sages enumerated as becoming to the righteous, were all realized in Judah ha-Nasi and in his sons" (Avot 6:8). Judah used to quote him in matters of piety and abstinence (Eccles. R. 9:9). He and his colleague *Yose b. Meshullam were called "holy brotherhood" (tj, Ma'as. Sh. 2:4; in tb, Beẓah 14b "holy community of Jerusalem" – see *Holy Congregation in Jerusalem). It seems that they were the heads of a movement which followed Pharisaic practices of a special stringency. The essence of their attempt to "combine Torah with a wordly occupation" (cf. Ber. 35b) is reflected in the following Midrash:

Judah ha-Nasi said in the name of the holy brotherhood: 'Acquire a craft for yourself together with Torah…' and why does he call them 'holy brotherhood'? Because it included Yose b. Meshullam and Simeon b. Menasya who used to divide the day into three parts – a third for Torah, a third for prayer, and a third for work. Others say that they labored in the Torah throughout the winter and in their work throughout the summer (Eccles. R. 9:9, no. 1).

More widely known is his homily that also testifies to a similar outlook on life, regarding the law that the saving of life overrides the Sabbath: "'And the children of Israel shall keep the Sabbath' [Ex. 31:16] – the Torah said, profane for his sake one Sabbath, so that he may keep many Sabbaths" (Yoma 85b). He also laid great emphasis upon the education of children in the study of Torah: "Even God is filled with love for him who has a son toiling in Torah…" (Gen. R. 63:1).


Epstein, Tanna'im, 182–3; S. Safrai, in: Zion, 22 (1957), 183–93.

[Israel Moses Ta-Shma]