JewishEncyclopedia.com

The unedited full-text of the 1906 Jewish Encyclopedia
- Phrase search: "names of god"
- Exclude terms: "names of god" -zerah
- Volume/Page: v9 p419
- Diacritics optional: Ḥanukkah or hanukkah
- Search by Author: altruism author:Hirsch
search tips & recommendations

BEBAI (; Biblical form . The readings are copyists' mistakes for ; and the variant is a clerical error for ):

Table of Contents

The Palestinian and the Babylonian Talmudim, as also the Palestinian Midrashim, frequently cite an amora named Bebai, sometimes as "Rabbi" and sometimes as "Rab," but without further designation; and as all the data relating to the name refer to the same age, rabbinic chronologists have always considered them as applying to one person. What is remarkable in this connection, but has been overlooked, is the fact that out of nearly fifty subjects treated in connection with the name, only one appears in both Talmudim (Yer. Sheḳ. iii. 47c and parallels; Men. 103b); from which it may be inferred that the doctrines and sayings appearing under the name of Bebai in the Palestinian sources do not emanate from the Babylonian Bebai, and vice versa. Probably it was this fact which first aroused Frankel's suspicion as to the identity of the Palestinian Bebai with the Babylonian, and accordingly both Frankel ("Mebo," 68b) and Bacher ("Ag. Pal. Amor." iii. 667 et seq.) refer to two Bebais, of Palestine and Babylonia respectively.

Bebai I., R.:

Palestinian amora of the third generation (third century). R. Zeira I., on his first arrival in Palestine, heard Bebai repeating a Halakah in the name of Malluk (Ḥul. 49a); and the same Zeira refers to a time when he and Bebai sat at the feet of R. Johanan (Nid. 25b, where the patronymic "b. Abaye" is undoubtedly a clerical error, inasmuch as Abaye himself could scarcely have been born before the death of R. Johanan, in 279). Bebai subsequently became a disciple of R. Assi II. (Yer. Ta'an. ii. 66b; Mak. 21b; Yalḳ., Deut. 932), although he also addresses R. Abbahu as his teacher (Yer. Ḳid. iv. 66b). He seems to have been outranked, however, by his former colleague, R. Zeira, for he is often found before the latter in the rôle of a reciter (Yer. Ma'as. Sh. v. 56a; Yer. Ḳid. iii. 64d); and it is known that he was once commissioned by Zeira to procure some cloth from the Saturnalian fair at Beshan ("Bethshean," Yer. 'Ab. Zarah i. 39c). Probably this was done with the purpose of affording Bebai some emolument; for he was poor, as is evident from the following anecdote: R. Bebai was engaged in explaining a Baraita, when R. Isaac b. Bisna interrupted him with a question on the subject, to which Bebai gave a peevish reply. R. Zeriḳan remonstrated with him; remarking, "Because he asks thee a question thou scoldest him!" Thereupon Bebai excused himself; pleading, "I am not master of myself; for, as R. Ḥanan has said, 'The Biblical dictum (Deut. xxviii. 66), "Thy life shall hang in doubt before thee," is realized in the one who purchases his yearly supplies from the market, he having no fields of his own; "Thou shalt fear day and night," represents the condition of him who draws his provisions for the week from the huckster in the market-place; "Thou shalt have no assurance of thy life," may be said of him who is obliged to procure provisions by the day from the shopkeeper,' as I do" (Yer. Shab. viii. 11a; Yer. Sheḳ. iii. 47c, viii. 51a; Men. 103b).

This Bebai is known in the Haggadah as well as in the Halakah; and while he often transmits the views of others, he as often advances his own. According to him, the sin of hypocrisy is alluded to earliest in the Decalogue. Seeing, he argues, that perjury is explicitly prohibited by the command (Lev. xix. 12), "Ye shall not swear by my name falsely," the prohibition (Ex. xx. 7), "Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain," must refer to one who leads a sinful life while parading such ceremonies of holiness as Tefillin and Ṭallit (Pesiḳ. R. 22). The divine order to number the Israelites (Ex. xxx. 12) he explains by the following illustration: "A king once had numerous flocks. Wolves attacked them and killed many; whereupon the king ordered the herdsman to number the remainder, that he might discover how many were missing. Thus, after the catastrophe of the golden calf, did the Lord say to Moses, 'Number the Israelites, and find out how many are missing'" (Pesiḳ. ii. 18a; Tan., Ki Tissa, 9). Bebai, it seems, never visited Babylonia, since we see him sitting at the feet of R. Johanan (who died about 279), studying under Assi II., and attending Zeira I.; and Dimi, who emigrated to Babylonia about fifty years after R. Johanan's death, reports (Shab. 74a), in illustration of a Halakah, an act of Bebai at a reception tendered to Ammi and Assi (Yer. Ber. i. 3b; ib. viii. 12a; Yer. Kil. v. 30a; Yer. Sheb. i. 33b; Yer. Ter. viii. 45c; Yer. Sheḳ. ii. 46c; Yer. Giṭ. v. 47b; Yer. Sanh. i. 18a; Yer. Nid. iii. 50d; Pesiḳ. R. 15; Pesiḳ., Haḥodesh, 50a; Midr. Teh., ed. Buber, Index; Frankel, "Mebo," 68b; Bacher, "Ag. Pal. Amor." iii. 66 et seq.).

Bebai II., Rab:

Babylonian amora of the third generation (third and fourth centuries). He was a disciple of R. Naḥman (Hag. 22b; Yeb. 12b; B. M. 23b), and, it seems, a fellow-pupil ("talmid-ḥaber") of R. Joseph ('Er. 23b, 75b). Adda b. Ahaba's host, a proselyte, and Bebai had some litigation about a certain public office to which both laid claim. They personally appealed to R. Joseph; and he decided that, as Bebai was a great scholar, he was entitled to the superintendence of the religious affairs of the community, leaving the management of the municipal affairs to the other (Ḳid. 76b). Elsewhere it is stated that to settle a scholastic dispute betweenBebai and others as to whether Rab (Abba Arika) had indorsed or disapproved a decision of R. Muna, R. Joseph threw the weight of his opinion on the side of Bebai (Meg. 18b).

Of his private life an interesting incident is preserved in the Talmud (Shab. 80b; M. Ḳ. 9b). Bebai was in the habit of using wine or beer at his meals—a luxury rarely indulged in by the Babylonian Jews—and he is also reported to have employed a certain paste to improve his daughter's complexion. A Gentile neighbor of Bebai tried the same experiment on his own daughter with a fatal result; whereupon he said, "Bebai has slain my daughter." R. Naḥman, hearing of the case, remarked, "Bebai indulges in strong drinks; therefore, his daughter needs skin-improving pastes: we are more abstinent; consequently we need no such cosmetics for our daughters" (Ket. 39a; Ḳid. 81a; B. B. 36b).

J. Sr. S. M.
Images of pages