ALEXANDRI (-DRA, -DRAY, -DROS, forms of ALEXANDER):
By: S. Mendelsohn
There were probably two amoraim of this name, unaccompanied either by patronymic or cognomen; and as both were Palestinians, and both cultivated the field of the Haggadah, it is impossible to distinguish their respective teachings except in a few instances.
1. Two Midrashim preserve the following anecdote: R. Jannai was expounding the Law, when a trader was heard inviting the people to buy an elixir of life. The people crowded about the trader, and even R. Jannai was curious to see such a medi-cament. The trader was invited to approach the rabbi and to exhibit his wares; but he told the rabbi that neither he nor the like of him stood in any need of it. Importuned, however, to exhibit the elixir, the supposed trader produced the Book of Psalms, and pointing to a passage therein (Ps. xxxiv. 12-14), he read aloud: "What man is he that desireth life and loveth many days, that he may see good? Keep thy tongue from evil, and thy lips from speaking guile. Depart from evil, and do good; seek peace and pursue it" (Lev. R. xvi.; Tan., Meẓora', ed. Buber, 5). Elsewhere ('Ab. Zarah, 19b) the same anecdote is related, but instead of R. Jannai's name, that of the trader is given as R. Alexandri. Putting the several versions of the anecdote side by side, it is evident that Alexandri flourished in the first amoraic generation (third century), contemporaneously with R. Jannai, a junior contemporary of R. Judah I.
In the name of this R. Alexandri, R. Joshua b.Levi reports an interpretation harmonizing certain seemingly contradictory passages in the Pentateuch. In one place (Deut. xxv. 19) the Lord is represented as commanding, "Thou shalt blot out the remembrance of Amalek"; and in another (Ex. xvii. 14-16, Heb.), as saying, "I will utterly put out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven. . . . Yea, a hand on the throne of Yah: the Lord will have war against Amalek from generation to generation." By the first, says Alexandri, we are to understand that, as long as Amalek lays no hand on God's throne, thou must strive against him; by the second, when he lays hands on God's throne, the Lord Himself will blot out Amalek's remembrance, waging war against him from generation to generation (Tan. Ki Teẓe, 11; PesiḲ. R. xii, 51a. Here the name appears as Alexandros).Interpretation of Prayers.
Another of R. Alexandri's interpretations reported by the same R. Joshua suggests a Biblical support for the rabbinic enactment of blowing the shofar (trumpet) during the musaf (additional service) of the New-year, and not during the shaḥarit (morning service), by pointing out that in his prayer (Ps. xvii. 2) the Psalmist said, "Let my sentence come forth from thy presence," only after using several terms expressive of prayer and meditation. These terms he construes as follows: "Hear the right, O Lord," represents the recital of the Shema' (the declaration of God's unity); "Attend to my cry," the reading of the Law; "Give ear to my prayer" refers to that part of the service generally called Tefillah (prayer); "which I offer with unfeigned lips" refers to the additional prayer (Yer. R. H. iv. 59c; compare PesiḲ. R. xl.; Midr. Teh. on the verse). It is the same R. Alexandri in whose name R. Huna b. Aḥa (Roba) reports this observation: Come and see how great is the influence of those who perform pious deeds: generally where the Bible uses the term hishḲif (to look toward or down, as in Gen. xix. 28, Ex. xiv. 24), a curse is implied, while when used in connection with the discharge of duty, it means blessing, as in the prayer recited after the offering of tithes (Deut. xxvi. 12-15), which concludes with the expression: "Look down from thy holy habitation, from heaven, and bless" (Yer. Ma'as. Sh. v. 56, where the author's name is written Alexandra. Compare Tan. Ki Tissa, 14; Ex. R. xli; see Frankel, Mebo, 64a; Weiss, "Dor," iii. 53).
2. In the legendary portrayal of R. Ḥanina (Ḥinena) b. Pappa's life and death, the following incident is told: R. Ḥanina b. Pappa was dead, and people were ready to pay him the last honors; but a pillar of fire suddenly appeared and impeded their approach to the remains. At last R. Alexandri came near, and addressing the deceased, said, "Order the obstruction away, out of respect for the assembled sages"; but the deceased paid no attention to this demand, not even when requested to grant it out of respect for his own father (whose memory also would be honored by reverence shown to him). "Then do it out of respect for thyself," said R. Alexandri, whereupon the pillar disappeared (Ket. 77b). This legend, evidencing the popular esteem in which Alexandri was held, is also of chronological interest, because of its reference to Alexandri's presence at the funeral of an amora of the third generation (fourth century). Elsewhere (Ned. 41a) Alexandri reports sayings of R. Ḥiyya b. Abba. It is this R. Alexandri, who reports some Haggadot and Halakot in the name of Joshua b. Levi (Yoma, 53b, Sanh. 98a), and it is probably the same in whose name R. Aḥa III. reports (Tan. Lek Leka, ed. Buber, 1; Midr. Teh. on Ps. cii. 18).Specimen of Haggadah.
Among the numerous homiletic observations coupled with the name of Alexandri, which may be the production of either of the two personages discussed above, are the following: The expression (Ps. x. 15), "Break thou the arm of the wicked," is applied to those who monopolize the market and raise the price of breadstuffs (Meg. 17b). From the tautology in the verse (Isa. xxvii. 5), "Let him take hold of my strength, that he may make peace with me: peace may he make with me," the doctrine is deduced, that, whosoever applies himself to the study of God's law—which is called strength—for its own sake, effects peace in heaven and peace on earth (Sanh. 99b). The reason for calling the same heavenly visitors "men" when in Abraham's company (Gen. xviii. 2), and "angels" when they visited Lot (Gen. xix. 1), is because with Abraham angels' visits were common occurrences, therefore the visitors were in his eyes only men; while to Lot—"the common man"—they were angels (Tan., Wayera, ed. Buber, 20; compare Gen. R.l.). The proverb (Prov. xi. 17), "He that is cruel troubleth his own flesh," refers to him who in hours of rejoicing neglects to invite his relatives because they are poor (Lev. R. xxxiv.). David is justified in applying to himself the term ḥasid (pious—Ps. xvi. 10, lxxxvi. 2) because whosoever hears himself reviled and resents not, when it is in his power to resent, is a partner of God, who is blasphemed by idolaters and resents not; and since David heard himself reviled when he could resent, and did not (II Sam. xvi. 5-12), he had the right to call himself ḥasid (Midr. Teh. lxxxvi. 1, and xvi. 10). With reference to the Psalmist's saying (Ps. li. 17), "A broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise," R. Alexandri remarks, "When a common man uses a broken vessel he is ashamed of it, but not so with the Holy One. All the instruments of His service are broken vessels." "The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart" (ibid. xxxiv. 19); "He healeth the broken in heart" (ibid. cxlvii. 3); "A broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise" (Ps. li. 17); therefore, Hosea exhorts the Israelites, saying (Hosea xiv. 1), "O Israel, return unto the Lord thy God; for thou hast fallen by thine iniquity" (PesiḲ. R. xxv. 158b).
Two Alexandris, one of whom is surnamed "b. Haggai" (or Hadrin) and the other "ḳarobah" (the liturgical poet), the former reporting a homiletic observation in the name of the latter, are also mentioned (Lev. R. xix., Cant. R. to v. 11). Their relation to the two Alexandris of this article must be a matter of conjecture only. As to the equivalent of the name, see Alexandra.
- Yer. Ber. ii. 5a;
- ibid. ix. 13b;
- Tan., ed. Buber, index;
- Midr Teh., ed. Buber, index;
- PesiḲ. R. 130a, 167b, 180b, 193b;
- PesiḲ. R., ed. Friedmann, index;
- Bacher, Ag. Pal. Amor. i. 195-204.