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ELEAZAR BEN SIMON:

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Tanna of the second century. He was the son of Simon b. Yoḥai, and since he participated in many of his father's adventures, history and legend have woven an almost interminable tissue of fact and fiction concerning him (see B. M. 83b et seq.; Pesiḳ. x. 88b et seq.). His youth he spent with his father in a cave, hiding from the Roman persecutors of the Jews, who sought his father's life; and there he devoted himself to the study of the Torah (Shab. 33b: Gen. R. lxxix. 6, and parallel passages; compare Yer. Sheb. ix. 38d). After the death of Hadrian, when events took a somewhat more favorable turn for the Jews, father and son left the cave and returned to the busy world. Eleazar, grown too zealous during his protracted hermitage, often cursed those who devoted their time to things secular, and his father found it necessary to interfere, appeasing them and mollifying him (Shab. l.c.).

After Simon's death Eleazar entered the academy of the Patriarch Simon b. Gamaliel II., and became the colleague of the patriarch's son, Judah I., the compiler of the Mishnah; but no great friendship seems to have subsisted between these two scholars.

Medal Struck by the Amsterdam Community in Honor of Rabbi Eleazar ben Samuel.(In the collection of Albert Wolf, Dresden.)

Unlike his father, who hated the Romans and their rule, Eleazar accepted office under their government. In consequence thereof he grew very unpopular, and one of the rabbis remonstrated with him, saying, "Vinegar product of wine [= "Degenerate scion of a distinguished sire"], how long wilt thou continue to deliver the people of God to the hangman?" Eleazar, however, continued in office, excusing himself with the averment, "I but weed out thistles from the vineyard." His mentor answered that the weeding ought to be left to the proprietor of the vineyard—that is, that God Himself would visit punishment on the idlers and evildoers.

Later in life he regretted the part he had taken under the hated government, and is said to have imposed on himself the most painful penance. Still, fearing that the aversion engendered in his people by the aid he had rendered their persecutors would prompt them to deny him the last honors after his death, he enjoined his wife not to bury him immediately after dissolution, but to suffer his remains to rest under her roof. He died at Akbara, in northern Galilee, and his faithful wife carried out his injunction to the letter. Legend relates many miracles performed by the dead rabbi, one of which was that litigants plead their cases in the rabbi's house, and the verdict was pronounced from the mortuary chamber.

Place of Burial.

After many years his former colleagues resolved to bury him, but a new difficulty arose. The inhabitants of Akbara, believing that the sage's remains miraculously protected them against incursions of wild beasts, refused permission to remove the body. Ultimately, however, in compliance with the request of the rabbis people from the nearby town of Biria carried it off by stealth, and it was depositedat Meron beside that of his father (B. M. 84b). In consideration of his varied learning, his surviving colleagues cited the Scriptural verse (Cant. iii. 6), "Who is it that cometh out of the wilderness like pillars of smoke, perfumed with myrrh and frankincense, with all powders of the merchant?" and answered, "It is Eleazar b. Simon, who united in himself all noble qualities, he having been well versed in Scripture and in traditional law, and having been a [liturgical] poet, a leader in prayers, and a preacher" (Lev. R. xxx. 1; Cant. R. l.c.).

Bibliography:
  • Bacher, Ag. Tan. ii. 400 et seq.;
  • Brüll, Mebo ha-Mishnah, i. 236;
  • Frankel, Darke ha-Mishnah, p. 199;
  • Hamburger, R. B. T. ii. 159;
  • Jastrow, in Monatsschrift, 1882, pp. 195 et seq.;
  • Weiss, Dor, ii. 185;
  • Zacuto, Yuḥasin, ed. Filipowski, p. 52b.
S. S. S. M.
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