A demon mentioned in the Talmud. When the Jewish sages, with Simon b. Yoḥai at their head, went to Rome to obtain the revocation of certain edicts hostile to the Jews, the demon Ben Temalion appeared before them and ofered his services. He proposed to enter into the body of a princess of the imperial house, and not to leave her until Simon b. Yoḥai was asked to cure her; for in her madness she would call for him. On Simon b. Yoḥai's whispering the name "Ben Temalion" into the ear of the princess, he would leave her, and as a sign of his departure all the glass in the palace would break. At first the sages did not wish to make use of his services; but as they could think of no other means of obtaining favor for their request, they could not dispense with his help.
Everything then took place as Ben Temalion had predicted. As a reward for the princess' cure, Simon b. Yoḥai received permission to take whatever he wished from the imperial treasure-house. He found the anti-Jewish edicts there, and, taking them, tore them up (Me'ilah 17b). In the Talmud this legend occurs only in shortened form; but a more elaborate version is given in the "Halakot Gedolot," ed. Hildesheimer, pp. 603, 604; in the apocalyptic Midrash, "Tefillat R. Simon b. Yoḥai"; in Jellinek, "B. H." iv. 117, 118; and in a MS. printed in ib. vi. 128, 129. Rashi also, in his commentary on the passage in Me'ilah, cites a Haggadah which gives the legend in a form essentially varying from the one in the Talmud. R. Gershon, in his commentary on the passage, and the so-called Rashi, in Ḥabib's "'En Ya'aḳob" on the passage, give an Aramaic version, which is probably the older form of the legend.
In more than one respect this legend is of great interest for comparative folk-lore, occurring, as it does, also in the Christian legends of the saints and in Buddhist tradition. It is related of the apostle Bartholomew that he went to India and there freed the daughter of the king from a devil which possessed her. Instead of accepting a reward, he caused a devil to enter an idol and then bade it leave the statue. Thereupon this statue and all others in the temple were broken (Fabricius, "Codex Apocryphus N. T." i. 674 et seq.; Tischendorf, "Acta Apostol. Apocrypha," 246 et seq.; Migne, "Dictionnaire des Apocryphes," ii. 153-157).
The kinship of this with the Jewish legend can not be denied. Yet it is highly improbable that the names of the demon Ben Temalion and Bartholomew are the same, the saint in the one story becoming the demon in the other. Such a metamorphosis, indeed, is not impossible; but, in this event, the demon would be expected to be hostile and not friendly to the Jews; and the fact that other etymologies suggested for the name "Ben Temalion" are hardly acceptable, provides no argument in favor of its identity with "Bartholomew." The Buddhist legend, which is probably the source of the Jewish and Christian legends, is as follows: A demon, desiring to please a man, promises to enter into a princess and not to leave her until bidden to do so by certain words spoken by the man. This happens; the man obtains the princess as his wife and receives one-half of the king's realm ("Panchatantra," ed. Benfey, i. 520; ed. Lancereau, p. 20).
The French Jews considered Ben Temalion a kind of "lutin" (goblin or brownie), who in French folk-lore is friendly and helpful to man, but teases him. The Tosafists (on Me'ilah l.c.) remark that Ben Temalion has the appearance of a child and is wont to have his sport with women. Whether this was the original representation of Ben Temalion is very questionable.
- Grünbaum, in Z. D. M. G. xxxi. 332;
- Halévy, in Revue Etudes Juives, x. 60-65;
- Israel Lévi, ib. viii. 200-202, x. 60-73;
- Lebrecht, in Geiger's Jüd. Zeit. xi. 273-278 (he holds that Ben Temalion was originally the name of a Senator friendly to the Jews);
- Schorr, in He-Ḥaluẓ, viii. 123.