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Yose (Issi) ben Akavyah


YOSE (Issi) BEN AKAVYAH (second century c.e.), tanna. According to a tradition in the Babylonian Talmud (Pes. 113b), he is identical with Joseph of Huẓal (in Babylonia), Joseph the Babylonian, Issi b. Gur Aryeh, *Issi b. Judah, Issi b. Gamaliel, and Issi b. Mahalalel. The Jerusalem Talmud (bk 3:7, 3d) also identifies him with Yose Kittunta, of whom the Mishnah states that with his death the pious men (ḥasidim) came to an end (Sot. 9:15). Bacher disputes these identifications, and regards Issi b. Judah in particular as distinct from Yose b. Akavyah but identical with R. Yose b. Judah "of the Babylonian village" who deprecated study from young teachers, preferring instead "old, experienced masters" (Avot 4:20).

Yose's preference for older teachers is paralleled by the respect in which he held old people in general. In contrast to those rabbis who interpreted Leviticus 19:32, "You shall rise up before the hoary head" as referring to scholars, Yose explained it according to its literal sense (Kid. 32b). He also maintained that honoring one's father takes precedence over the performance of a precept which could be carried out by others (Kid. 32a). He stated that anyone superior in even a single accomplishment should be honored (Pes. 13b) and regarded the premature death of scholars as a divine punishment for lack of self-respect (arn 29, p. 88). In line with R. Eliezer's opposition to the education of women (Sot. 3:4), Yose excluded daughters from the commandment that a man should teach the Torah to his children (Sif. Deut. 46). In accordance with the ancient practice, he interpreted Deuteronomy 23:26 as applying to anyone, while other rabbis, aware of economic realities, restricted the right of picking ears of grain to laborers employed by the owner of the field (bm 29a). Likewise he insisted on the literal meaning of Exodus 21:14 to include non-Israelites under the provisions of the law of murder (Mekh. Nezikin 4). Yose summed up in brief, pointed phrases, the accomplishments of the leading contemporary scholars (Git. 67a). He took extreme care to check his traditions, and was highly praised by R. Eleazar b. Shammua (Men. 18a). To aid his memory, Yose wrote important traditions in private "secret scrolls" (Shab. 6b) which were not meant for dissemination. He failed to attend *Yose b. Ḥalafta's college for three days because Yose had failed to explain the reasons for his statements (Ned. 81a). Yose was also an expert in biblical exegesis, and his statement that "there are five verses in the Torah, the syntactical construction of which is undecided" (it being uncertain whether a word be read with the first or second section of the verse; Mekh. Amalek 1, Yoma 52a–b, et al.) was incorporated in the masorah.


Bacher, Tann: Hyman, Toledot, 151ff.

[Moses Aberbach]

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