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A Palestinian amora, of the fourth century. In the Talmud he is invariably cited by his prænomen alone; but in the Midrashim he is frequently cited with the addition of "ha-Kohen," and sometimes with the further addition of the title "Berebi" (compare Pesiḳ. ii. 21a, xii. 107b; Pesiḳ. 3 [ed. Friedmann, p. 8a]; Num. R. xiv. 3; Pesiḳ. R. 3 [ed. Friedmann, p. 9a]; Num. R. l.c.; Tan., Beha 'aloteka, 5; Num. R. xv. 7); and according to at least one Midrash (Lev. R. xxx. 1), his father's name was Ḥiyya (see also Tan., ed. Buber, Ḥayye Sarah, 6, note 35).

While Palestine may justly claim him as a citizen, Berechiah is probably a Babylonian by birth, since he not only cites teachings of Babylonian scholars ("Rabbanan de-Tamman," Gen. R. lvi. 11, xcviii. 3; Esther R. i. 1; compare Gen. R. xxxvii. 3, where this expression is converted into "Rabbi Ḥanin," and Mid. Teh. cv., beginning, where "de-Tamman" is omitted), but also shows himself quite familiar with the private history of Babylonian families (Yer. Ḳid. iii. 64c; Lev. R. xxxii. 7). Judging, however, from the insignificant number of his sayings recordedin the Babylonian Talmud as compared with his almost innumerable teachings preserved in the Palestinian Talmud and the Palestinian Midrashim, and considering also that his acknowledged masters were Palestinians, it is safe to say that he was in Palestine at an early age. Berechiah's acknowledged master in the Haggadah was R. Ḥelbo (Yer. Kil. ix. 32c; Lam. R. on iii. 23; Cant. R. on i. 2); but it seems that he personally knew R. Ḥelbo's predecessors, Levi and Abba b. Kahana, and witnessed a heated exegetical controversy between them (Gen. R. xlvii. 9). If this be so, Berechiah must have lived to an advanced age, for he was in a legal controversy with R. Mana (the Younger) (Yer. Ḳid. iii. 64d). Rapoport ("Briefe," ed. Gräber, p. 80) makes him a teacher of Jerome.

Berechiah is cited in both the Babylonian Talmud (Ber. 55a; Yoma 71a; Ta'anit 4a; Soṭah 13b) and the Palestinian, in the field of the Halakah (Yer. Ber. vii. 11b; Yer. Peah i. 15a; Yer. Ma'as. v. 52a; Yer. Suk. ii. 53a; Yer. Soṭah vii. 21b; Yer. Ḳid. iii. 64d; Yer. Sanh. xi. 30b) and in that of the Haggadah; but it is the latter which he cultivated mainly. Few names appear in the Midrashic literature as frequently as does Berechiah's. In Pesiḳta alone he is cited sixty-eight times, either as originator or as transmitter; in Pesiḳta Rabbati sixty-one times (see Friedmann, Introduction, p. 18), in Tan. (ed. Buber) seventy-three times (Buber's Introduction, p. 46), in Mid. Teh. eighty-five times (Buber's Introduction, p. 28), and correspondingly numerous are his remarks preserved in the other Midrashim. Some specimens of his teachings are here subjoined.

In accordance with the oneirological views of his days, he asserts that dreams, though realized partly, are never realized fully. "Whence do we learn this? From Joseph, who dreamed (Gen. xxxvii. 9), 'Behold, the sun, and the moon, and eleven stars made obeisance to me'; and at that time his mother, typified in his vision by the moon (ib. 10), was no more among the living" (Ber. 55a). He thus construes the Psalmist's saying, "The Lord knoweth the way of the righteous, but the way of the ungodly perisheth" (Ps. i. 6): "When the Holy One—blessed be He!—came to create man, He foresaw that pious and impious men would descend from him, and He said, 'If I create him, the impious will descend from him; if I create him not, how will the pious descend from him?' What did the Holy One—blessed be He!-do? He removed the ways of the impious out of His sight, and by means of His attribute of mercy ["middat ha-Raḥamim"] He created man. This is the meaning of the Scripture, 'God knoweth ["holdeth in view"] the way of the righteous'" (Mid. Teh. on l.c.; Gen. R. viii. 4). In commenting on Eccl. vii. 17, "Be not overmuch wicked," he says: "The Bible does not mean to teach that it is permitted to sin a little; but it means to say, if thou didst sin a little, say not, 'I am under the wrath of God on account of this little, and can be no worse off for sinning more'" (Eccl. R. on l.c.; Mid. Teh. on i. 1; compare Shab. 31b). With reference to the Scriptural saying (Ps. xxxii. 1), "Happy is he whose transgression is forgiven" (literally, "who is lifted above transgression"), he cites R. Simon [Samuel?] b. Ammi as remarking, "Happy is the man who is master over sin, that sin be not master over him" (Gen. R. xxii. 6). In the same strain is Berechiah's remark on Solomon's saying, "There is a time to be born, and a time to die" (Eccl. iii. 2): "Happy is he whose hour of death is like his hour of birth; who, as he was pure and innocent in the hour of his birth, is also innocent at the hour of his death" (Yer. Ber. ii. 4d; Eccl. R. on l.c.; Deut. R. vii. 6).

  • Bacher, Ag. Pal. Am. iii. 344-396.
J. Sr. S. M.
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