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PHINEHAS B. ḤAMA (generally called R. Phinehas, and occasionally Phinehas ha-Kohen):

Palestinian amora of the fourth century; born probably in the town of Siknin, where he was living when his brother Samuel died (Midr. Shemuel ix.). He was a pupil of R. Jeremiah, of whose ritual practises he gives various details (e.g., in Yer. Kil. 29b; Yer. Ḥag. 80b; Yer. Ket. 41a), and of R. Hilkiah. He seems also to have lived for a time in Babylonia, since a R. Phinehas who once went from that country to Palestine is mentioned in Yer. 'Er. 22d as conversing with R. Judah b. Shalom. This passage apparently refers to Phinehas b. Ḥama, as a conversation between him and Judah b. Shalom is also related elsewhere (e.g., Ex. R. xii.); and it likewise explains the fact that R. Phinehas transmitted a halakah by Ḥisda (Yer. Sanh. 25c). His haggadic aphorisms, mentioned in B. B. 116a, were, therefore, probably propounded by him during his residence in Babylonia, and were not derived from Palestine, as Bacher assumes ("Ag. Pal. Amor." p. 311, note 5).

When the purity of the descent of the Jewish families in Babylonia was doubted in Palestine, Phinehas publicly proclaimed in the academy that in this respect Palestine outranked all countries excepting Babylonia (Ḳid. 71a). Many halakic sentences by Phinehas have been preserved, most of which occur in citations by Hananiah (e.g., Yer. Demai 23b; Yer. Ma'as. 50c; Bik. 65d; Yer. Pes. 30d; and elsewhere). Phinehas himself occasionally transmitted earlier halakic maxims (e.g., Yer. Pes. 29c), and is frequently the authority for haggadic aphorisms by such scholars as R. Hoshaiah (Lam. R. proem xxii.; Cant. R. v. 8, end), Reuben (Tan., Ḳedoshim, beginning), Abbahu (Gen. R. lxviii. 1), and many others (comp. Bacher, l.c. p. 314, note 4).

Phinehas' own haggadah is very extensive, and includes many maxims and aphorisms, as well as homiletic and exegetic interpretations. The following citations may serve as examples of his style: "Poverty in the house of man is more bitter than fifty plagues" (B. B. 116a). "A chaste woman in the house protecteth and reconcileth like an altar" (Tan., Wayishlaḥ, on Gen. xxxiv. 1). "While other laws decree that one must renounce his parents on pledging his allegiance as a follower and soldier of the king [the reference may be to Matt. x. 35-37]. the Decalogue saith: 'Honor thy father and thy mother'" (Num. R. viii. 4). "Ps. xxvi. 10 refers to dice-players, who reckon with the left hand and sum up with the right, and thus rob one another" (Midr. Teh. ad loc.). "The name that a man wins for himself is worth more than that which is given him by his father and mother" (Eccl. R. vii. 4).

Bibliography:
  • Bacher, Ag. Pal. Amor. iii. 310-344.
E. C. J. Z. L.
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