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BEN LA'ANAH:

Author of an apocryphal book. The name occurs only once in Yer. (Sanh. x. 28a), where it is said that among the apocryphal books ("sefarim ha-ḥiẓonim") mentioned in the Mishnah (Sanh. x. 1) as forbidden to be read, the works of Ben Sira and of Ben-La'anah are included. "Ben Tagla," in Eccl. R. xii. 12, is probably only a variant of Ben-La'anah, since this Midrashic passage is taken from the Jerusalem Talmud. An author at the beginning of the sixteenth century writes the name "Ben Ya'anah" (), remarking that he has the latter's apocryphal works before him, and finds them full of riddles [fables] and stupidities (David ben Judah, Messer Leon's manuscript commentary on "Moreb," in Steinschneider, "Hebr. Bibl." vii. 65).

It may be inferred from the above-mentioned passage of the Talmud that Ben-La'anah's work was not reckoned among the profane books, but was, like the book of Ben Sira, included by some authorities in the Scripture, and that for this reason the Mishnah protested against reading it, or, more correctly, against including it in the canon (compare Akiba b. Joseph). M. Joel thinks that this apocryphal book was apocalyptic in nature, whence the name "Ben-Tagla" (from "galah," to reveal), and that Ben-La'anah characterized it as a work in which the word "wormwood" (= "La'anah") played an important rôle. Fürst, on the other hand, who emends the text of the Jerusalem Talmud, takes "Ben-La'anah" to be a corruption of "Apollonius," that is, of Tyana, the well-known pagan philosopher, and identifies Ben-Tagla with Empedocles. Perles takes "Ben-Ta'ala" to be the original form, from which the corruptions "Ben-Tagla" and "Ben-La'anah" arose. But "Ben-Ta'ala" means "the fox "; hence the book of Ben-Ta'ala would correspond to "Mishle Shu'alim" (The Fables of the Fox), which are also mentioned in Jewish sources. These are only a few examples of the various etymological explanations to which the names "Ben-La'anah" and "Ben-Tagla" have given rise.

Bibliography:
  • Fürst, Canon des Alten Testaments, pp. 97-99;
  • Joel, Blicke in die Religionsphilosophie, i. 75;
  • Kaufmann, in Revue Etudes Juives, iv. 161;
  • Perles, ib. iii. 116-118.
J. Sr. L. G.
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