views updated


SIMLAI (second half of the third century c.e.), amora. Simlai was born in Nehardea, in Babylonia, (tj, Pes. 5:3, 52a), but spent most of his life at Lydda, in Ereẓ Israel (Av. Zar. 36a). He also lived for some time in Galilee, where he ministered to Yannai the Great (bb 111a), and was the associate of young Judah iii (Bek. 36b). He seems to have been a prominent member of Judah ii's entourage (Av. Zar. 37a), and when the latter made a particularly controversial decision (tj, Shab. 1:4, 3d), Simlai was sent to *Nisibis, in Babylon, in order to transmit it to the local authorities (Av. Zar. 36a). His ruling at Antioch, in Syria, is also recorded (tj, Kid. 3:15, 66d). He transmitted sayings in the name of Eliezer b. Simeon (Sanh. 98a) and Samuel (pdrk 54b), and, despite Jonathan's initial scruples (Pes. 6:25), studied aggadah under him (tj, Pes. 5:3, 32a). Simlai was a renowned authority in aggadah (Ber. 32a–b). One of his teachings is that in the time to come God will take a scroll of law in his embrace and proclaim, "Let whoever has occupied himself herewith, come and take his reward!" All the nations of the world will rush to testify for themselves, but, ultimately, God will Himself testify on behalf of Israel (Av. Zar. 2b–3a). He also explained that Moses' desire to enter Ereẓ Israel was based not on a wish to taste its fruit or enjoy its goodness, but on his eagerness to fulfill all the Torah (Sot. 14a). Simlai is the author of the statement (Mak. 23b) that the Torah contains 613 *commandments – 365 negative corresponding to the number of days in the solar year and 248 positive, corresponding to the number of organs in the human body (cf. Oho. 1:8). These he reduced successively to 11 (based on Ps. 15), to six (Isa. 33:15–16), to three (Micah 6:8), and to two (Isa., 56:1) fundamental principles, and finally to the single credo expressed by Habbakuk (2:4), "the righteous shall live by his faith" (Mak. 23b–24a). He also taught that "the Torah begins and ends with the practice of lovingkindness" (Sot. 14a).


Bachir, Pal Amor; Hyman, Toledot, in: Ḥ. Albeck, Mavo la-Talmudim (1969), 190.