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Eliezer Ben Hyrcanus (c.40-before 120 Ce)

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תוכן הפעולה

ELIEZER  BEN  HYRCANUS  (c.40-before 120 CE)

 

Rabbi sometimes called  Eliezer the Great; in Talmudic literature he is most

often  referred  to as Rabbi Eliezer. A native Jerusalemite,

he  first showed signs of genius after becoming a student in

his  twenties.  According to his teacher, Johanan ben Zakkai

(q.v.), Eliezer then outshone all other pupils in memorizing

traditional  sources  like  "a  plastered  well that retains

every  single  drop."  Together with Joshua ben Hananyah, he

was  responsible  for  Rabbi  Johanan's escape (in a coffin)

from Jerusalem when the Roman siege was at its height, after

which  the  Roman  general Vespasian gave permission for the

Sanhedrin's  reestablishment at Yavne. Eliezer became one of

Yavne's  foremost  sages after the destruction of the Temple

in  70  CE,  undertook  various  overseas missions, and once

accompanied  Rabbi  Johanan on a journey to Rome (c. 95 CE).

He  founded  an  academy of his own at Lydda, where the most

famous  students  were  Rabbi  Akiva  (q.v.)  and Aquila the

Proselyte  who  produced  a  Greek  version of the Bible for

Diaspora Jews.

 

A  dynamic  but inflexible personality, Eliezer ben Hyrcanus

seems  to  have followed the school of Shammai (q.v.) in his

legal  conservatism  and  anti-Roman outlook. While ready to

accept   genuine   proselytes,  he  distanced  himself  from

heathen,  advocated  minimal  social  contact with them, and

believed  that  his wrongful arrrest on one occasion was the

punishment  ordained  for  his  thoughtless  approval  of  a

Judeo- Christian  teaching.  When  Eliezer defied a majority

vote  by  the  Sanhedrin  on  a  legal issue (c. 97 CE), his

brother-in- law,  the  Patriarch  Rabban  Gamliel II (q.v.),

proclaimed   a  ban  excluding  him  from  the  company  and

deliberations  of fellow sages. This unusually severe decree

embittered Eliezer until his dying day.

 

Not  only  did  the sages mourn Eliezer's passing, they also

rescinded  the ban and reaffirmed many of his decision which

became authoritative legal rulings. Eliezer's great prestige

and   contribution   to   rabbinic   lawmaking   are  widely

demonstrated  by: the recurrence of his name in the Mishnah;

numerous  debates  in  the  Talmud  arising  from  his legal

opinions;  the support given to him by a heavenly voice (Bat

Kol) in his fateful controversy with Rabban Gamaliel and the

other  sages; and, centuries later, the ascription to him of

the midrashic work Pirke de-Rabbi Eliezer ("Chapter of Rabbi

Eliezer.")  One  of his memorable injunctions was to "repent

one  day  before  your  death,"  in  other words, as a daily

routine.  "Know  before Whom you stand!" (another celebrated

aphorism) is a text often displayed on the reader's platform

or  lectern in synagogues. J. Neusner, Eliezer Ben Hyrcanus:

The Tradition and the Man, 1973. Y. Gilat, Rabbi Eliezer ben

Hyrcanus: A Scholar Outcast, 1984.

Clemens, had embraced the Jewish faith.

 



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