ELEAZAR I. (LAZAR) (Eleazar b. Shammua'):
Mishnaic teacher of the fourth generation, frequently cited in rabbinic writings without his patronymic (Ab. iv. 12; Giṭ. iii. 8, incorrectly "Eliezer"; compare Gem. Giṭ. 31b; Yer. Giṭ. iii. 45a, Mishnah and Gem.). He was of priestly descent (Meg. 27b; Soṭah 39a) and rich (Eccl. R. xi. 1), and acquired great fame as a teacher of traditional law. He was a disciple of Akiba (Zeb. 93a, 110b), but owing to the Hadrianic proscriptions of Jewish observances, was not ordained by him. After Akiba's death, however, R. Judah b. Baba ordained Eleazar, together with Meïr, Jose b. Ḥalafta, Judah b. Ila'i, and Simon b. Yoḥai, at a secluded spot between Usha and Shefar'am. The ordainer was detected in the act and brutally slain; but the ordained escaped, and eventually became the custodians and disseminators of Jewish tradition (Sanh. 13b; 'Ab. Zarah 8b).
Mention is made of a controversy between Eleazar and R. Meïr at Ardiska (Tosef., Naz. vi. 1; see Neubauer, "G. T." p. 106). He also maintained halakic discussions with R. Judah b. 'Illai and R. Jose (Tosef., Zeb. v. 4, x. 10), and quite frequently with R. Simon b. Yoḥhai (Sheḳ. iii. 1; Yoma v. 7); but he never appeared with them at the sessions of the Sanhedrin at Usha. Hence it may be assumed that he did not return to the scene of his ordination. Whereever he settled, he presided over a college to which large numbers of students were attracted ('Er. 53a; Yer. Yeb. viii. 9d; compare Mek., Beshallaḥ, Amalek, i.), among whom are named Joseph or Issi ha-Babli (Tosef., Zeb. ii. 17; Men. 18a), and the compiler of the Mishnah, R. Judah I. ('Er. 53a); and thus,while his name does not appear in rabbinic lore as often as the names of his colleagues at the ordination, Eleazar had an ineradicable influence on the development of the Talmud. Abba Arika styles him "the most excellent among the sages" (, Ket. 40a; Giṭ. 26b), and R. Johanan expresses unbounded admiration for his large-heartedness ('Er. 53a).His Motto.
Eleazar's motto was, "Let the honor of thy pupil be as dear to thee as that of thy colleague; that of thy colleague, as the reverence of thy master; and the reverence of thy master, as that of the Most High" (Ab. iv. 12; Ab. R. N. xxvii. 4). His disciples once requested him to tell them whereby he merited unusual longevity, when he replied, "I have never converted the Synagogue into a passageway [for the sake of convenience]; have never trodden over the heads of the holy people [i.e., come late to college and stepped between the rows of attentive students; compare Abdan]; and have never pronounced the priestly blessing before offering the benediction preceding it" (Meg. 27b; Soṭah 39a). When asked what merits will save man from the tribulations which are to precede the Messianic epoch, he replied, "Let him engage in the study of the Law and in deeds of benevolence" (Sanh. 98b). According to Eleazar, children as well as pious adults share in the glory of God (Midr. Teh. xxii. 31). He also taught that the world rests on a single pillar, the name of which is "Righteousness"; as the Bible says (Prov. x. 25, Hebr.), "The righteous is the foundation of the world" (Ḥag. 12b).
The following anecdote concerning Eleazar is twice told in the Midrashim (Lev. R. xxiii. 4; Cant. R. ii. 2): R. Eleazar visited a certain place where he was invited to lead the people in prayer, but he avowed inability to do so. "What!" cried the astonished people; "is this the celebrated R. Eleazar? Surely he deserves not to be called 'Rabbi'!" Eleazar's face colored with shame, and he repaired to his teacher Akiba. "Why art thou so crestfallen?" inquired Akiba; whereupon Eleazar related his unpleasant experience. "Does my master wish to learn?" asked Akiba; and, on receiving Eleazar's affirmative answer, Akiba instructed him. Later, Eleazar again visited the scene of his mortification, and the people again requested him to lead them in prayer. This time he readily complied with their request, whereupon the people remarked, "R. Eleazar has become unmuzzled" (, from = "to muzzle"), and they called him "Eleazar Hasma" (compare Geiger, "Schriften," iv. 343). The hero of this anecdote is doubtless the subject of the present article, and not, as is generally assumed, Eleazar Ḥisma. The latter was never Akiba's pupil. Indeed, he was Akiba's senior, and in the account of a halakic discussion between him and Eleazar b. Azariah and Akiba, his name precedes that of Akiba (Neg. vii. 2; Sifre, Deut. 16). Eleazar I. was an acknowledged disciple of Akiba, and the Midrashim explicitly state that he "went to Akiba, his teacher."
- Bacher, Ag. Tan. ii. 275 et seq.;
- Brüll, Mebo ha-Mishnah, i. 196 et seq.;
- Frankel, Darke ha-Mishnah, pp. 173 et seq.;
- Heilprin, Seder ha-Dorot, ii., s.v.;
- Weiss, Dor, ii. 164 et seq.;
- Zacuto, Yuḥasin, ed. Filipowski, pp. 45, 58.