ELIEZER B. JOSE HA-GELILI:
Tanna of the fourth generation (second century); one of Akiba's later disciples (Ber. 63b; Cant. R. ii. 5; Eccl. R. xi. 6; see Eliezer b. Jacob). While he cultivated both the Halakah (Soṭah v. 3; Tosef., Sanh. i. 2; Sanh. 3b) and the Haggadah, his fame rests mainly on his work in the latter field. Indeed, with reference to his homiletics, later generations said, "Wherever thou meetest a word of R. Eliezer b. R. Jose ha-Gelili in the Haggadah, make thine ear as a funnel (Ḥul. 89a; Yer. Ḳid. i. 61d; Pesiḳ. R. x. 38b; compare Jastrow, "Dict." s.v. ). For, even where he touched on the Halakah, he always brought exegesis to bear upon the matter. Thus, arguing that after legal proceedings are closed the court may not propose a compromise, he says, "The judge who then brings about a settlement is a sinner; and he who blesses him is a blasphemer, of whom it may be said (Ps. x. 3) ' ["The compromiser he blesseth: the Lord he contemneth"; A. V. "Blesseth the covetous, whom the Lord abhorreth"]. The Law must perforate the mountain (i.e., must not be set aside under any considerations); for thus the Bible says (Deut. i. 17), 'Ye shall not be afraid of the face of man; for the judgment is God's'" (Tosef., Sanh. l.c.; Sanh. 6b; Yer. Sanh. i. 18b). He compiled a set of hermeneutic rules as guides in interpreting the Scriptures (see Baraita of the Thirty-two Rules), some of which are adaptations of those of his predecessors, and in so far applicable to Halakah as well as to Haggadah. Those specifically homiletical are based on syntactical or phraseological or similar peculiarities of the Biblical texts which constitute the substance of the Midrashim.
Like his colleagues, at the close of the first academic session after the Bar Kokba insurrection, Eliezer publicly thanked the people of Usha. He said, "The Bible relates (II Sam. vi. 12), 'The Lord hath blessed the house of Obed-edom, and all that pertaineth unto him, because of the ark of God.' Is this not very significant? If, for merely dusting and cleaning the Ark, which neither ate nor drank, Obed-edom was blessed, how much more deserving of blessings are they who have housed the scholars, have furnished them with meat and drink, and have otherwise shared with them their goods!" (Ber. 63b). Elsewhere (Cant. R. ii. 5) this is attributed to another speaker, while Eliezer is credited with the following: "It is recorded (II Sam. xv. 6), 'Saul said unto the Kenites . . . Ye showed kindness unto all the children of Israel, when they came up out of Egypt.' Was it not to Moses alone to whom Jethro ["the Kenite"; see Judges i. 16, iv. 11] had shown kindness? But the Bible here implies the rule that whoso deals kindly with any one of the spiritual heads of Israel, to him it is accounted as if he had done so to the whole people" (compare Lev. R. xxxiv. 8). With reference to the Biblical statement (Josh. xxiv. 32), "The bones of Joseph, which the children of Israel brought up out of Egypt, buried they in Shechem," he remarks, "Was it not Moses who brought up those bones (Ex. xiii. 19)? But this teaches that where one starts a good deed and fails to bring it to a finish, another party performing the unfinished part, the whole deed is credited to the latter" (Gen. R. lxxxv. 3; compare Soṭah 13b; Tan., 'Ekeb. 6). He counsels that one should advance or postpone a journey in order to enjoy the company of a good man; and likewise to avoid the company of a bad one (Tosef., Shab. xvii. [xviii.] 2, 3; ib. 'Ab. Zarah i. 17, 18).
- Bacher, Ag. Tan. ii. 292 et seq.;
- Brüll, Mebo ha-Mishnah, i. 212;
- Frankel, Darke ha-Mishnah, p. 186;
- Heilprin, Seder ha-Dorot, ii., s.v.;
- Weiss, Dor, ii. 167;
- Zacuto, Yuḥasin, ed. Filipowski, p. 57a.