JONATHAN BEN ELEAZAR:
Palestinian scholar of the third century; contemporary of Ḥanina b. Ḥama (Shab. 49a et seq.); disciple of Simon b. Jose b. Laḳonya. Rabbah b. Ḥana twice reports communications which he had with Jonathan in which the latter speaks of his intercourse with Simon (Pes. 5a; see Rabbinowicz, "Diḳduḳe Soferim," ad loc.; Bek. 38b). It is also related that Jonathan once propounded to Simon a ritualistic question, and thatthe teacher misunderstood it and chided him. But when Jonathan respectfully corrected his teacher, explaining his problem more clearly, Simon found it too difficult for him to solve, and invited his pupil to follow him to another school in quest of the needed solution, which they obtained from a baraita taught by Hezekiah (Yer. Hor. ii. 45d; comp. Sheb. 18b). Sometimes he is cited as "Jonathan b. Eleazar Sar [Ish] ha-Birah [Castellan]," or as "Jonathan Ish ha Birah" (Tan., Wayiggash, 12, ed. Buber; Gen. R. xcv. 3). Generally, however, he is cited without either patronymic or cognomen, and his name appears in this form quite frequently in both Talmuds.
Jonathan was a Babylonian by birth, and his first associates in Palestine were the foremost Babylonian immigrants, Ḥiyya Rabbah and Ḥanina b. Ḥama (Ḥul. 45a; Yer. Ber. v. 9a; Yer. Pes. vi. 33b). In company with the latter and Joshua b. Levi he once made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem (Yer. Ma'as. Sh. iii. 54b). He was very charitable; when a prominent official came to his city he would make him costly presents, in order, as he said, to pave the way for eventual intercession on behalf of a widow or an orphan whose suit might be subject to the decision of that official (Yer. 'Ab. Zarah ii. 41d). To him is also ascribed the halakah that a son may be compelled to support his parent; and it is related that once, while he was in the company of Yannai, he was humbly kissed by a stranger. Yannai asked whether he knew the man, and Jonathan informed him that the man had once appealed to him against his hard-hearted son, who would not support him, and that he had forced the son to do his duty toward his father (Yer. Peah i. 15d; comp.Ket. 49b).
As a halakist he paid due regard to expediency. According to him, one may do anything or use anything (otherwise forbidden) as a remedy against disease—idolatrous objects, lawless cohabitation, and bloodshed excepted (Yer. Shab. xiv. 14d; comp. Pes. 25a). He taught that "One must appear justified before men as well as before God." He based this doctrine on dicta in the Prophets and Hagiographa (Josh. xxii. 22; Prov. iii. 4), but mainly on Num. xxxii. 22: "Ye shall . . . be guiltless before the Lord, and before Israel" (Yer. Sheḳ. iii. 47c).
- Bacher, Ag. Pal. Amor. i. 58-88;
- Frankel, Mebo, p. 99a;
- Halevy, Dorot ha-Rishonim; ii. 149a;
- Weiss, Dor, iii. 52.