Patriarch; redactor of the Mishnah; born about 135; died about 220. He was the first of Hillel's successors to whose name the title of hereditary dignity, "ha-Nasi" (= "the prince"), was added as a permanent epithet; and accordingly in traditional literature he is usually called "Rabbi Judah ha-Nasi." In a large portion of such literature, however, and always in the Mishnah, he is simply called "Rabbi," the master par excellence. He is occasionally called "Rabbenu" (= "our master"; see Yeb. 45a; Men. 32b; comp. Abbahu's sentence, Yer. Sanh. 30a). The epithet "ha-Ḳadosh" (= "the holy") was occasionally added to "Rabbenu." Two of Judah's prominent pupils, Rab and Levi, in speaking of him (Pes. 37b; Shab. 156a), add to the term "Rabbi" the explanatory sentence, "Who is this?" "Rabbenu ha-Ḳadosh" (Frankel, "Darke ha-Mishnah," p. 191, erroneously considers this as a later gloss). The epithet "holy" is justified by Judah's singularly moral life (Shab. 118b; Yer. Meg. 74a; Sanh. 29c). It may have been borrowed from the terminology which was used by the inhabitants of the city of Sepphoris; for Jose b. Ḥalafta also praises his colleague Meïr as a holy and moral man (Yer. Ber. 5, below; comp. Gen. R. c., where the second term is missing). The epithet "holy" is by no means analogous to the epithet "divus," used to designate the Roman emperors ("He-Ḥaluẓ," ii. 93). It is likewise incorrect to interpret (as Levy, "Neuhebr. Wörterb." iv. 255) the sentence of Ḥiyya, a pupil of the patriarch, in Ket. 103b to mean that the title "holy" was not used after Rabbi's death, for Ḥiyya intends what is repeated elsewhere in different words (Soṭah, end), namely: "At Rabbi's death 'humility and the fear of sin' ceased." The three virtues holiness, humility, and the fear of sin occur in this sequence in the series of virtues enumerated by Phinehas b. Jair (Soṭah ix., end, and parallel passages).Birth and Education.
According to a statement handed down in Palestine (by Abba b. Kahana, Gen. R. lviii.; Eccl. R. i. 10) and in Babylonia (Ḳid. 72b), Judah I. was born on the same day on which Akiba died a martyr's death. The place of his birth is not known; nor is it recorded where his father, Simon b. Gamaliel II., sought refuge with his family during the persecutions under Hadrian. On the restoration of order in Palestine, Usha became the seat of the academy and of its director; and here Judah spent his youth. It may be assumed that his father gave him about the same education that he himself had received, and that his studies included Greek (Soṭah 49b; comp. Bacher, "Ag. Tan." ii. 325); indeed, his knowledge of Greek fitted him for intercourse with the Roman authorities. He had a predilection for this language, saying that the Jews of Palestine who did not speak Hebrew should consider Greek as the language of the country, while Syriac (Aramaic) had no claim to that distinction (Soṭah ib.). In Judah's house pure Hebrew seems to have been spoken; and the choice speech of the "maids of the house of Rabbi" became famous (Meg. 18a; R. H. 26b; Naz. 3a; 'Er. 53a).
Judah devoted himself chiefly to the study of the traditional and of the written law. In his youth he had close relations with most of the great pupils of Akiba; and as their pupil and in converse with other prominent men who gathered about his father at Usha and later at Shefar'am, he laid the foundations of that wide scholarship which enabled him to undertake his life-work, the redaction of the Mishnah. His teacher at Usha was Judah b. 'Ilai, who was officially employed in the house of the patriarch as judge in religious and legal questions (Men. 104a; Sheb. 13a). In later years Judah was wont to tell how when a mere boy he read the roll of Esther at Usha in the presence of Judah b. 'Ilai (Meg. 20a; Tosef., Meg. ii. 8).His Teachers.
Judah felt especial reverence for Jose b. Ḥalafta, that one of Akiba's pupils who had the most confidential relations with Simon b. Gamaliel. When, in later years, Judah raised objections to Jose's opinions, he would say: "We poor ones undertake to attack Jose, though our time compares with his as the profane with the holy!" (Yer. Giṭ. 48b). Judah hands down a halakah by Jose in Men. 14a. At Meron, in Galilee (called also "Teḳoa'"; see Bacher, l.c. ii. 76), Judah was a pupil of Simeon b. Yoḥai ("when we studied the Torah with Simeon b. Yoḥai at Teḳoa'"; Tosef., 'Er. viii. 6; Shab. 147b; comp. Yer. Shab. 12c). Judah also speaks of the time when he studied the Torah with Eleazar b. Shammua' ('Er. 53a; Yeb. 84a; comp. Men. 18a). Judah did not study with Meïr, evidently in consequence of the conflicts which had separated this famous pupil of Akiba from the house of the patriarch. He regarded it as great good fortune, however, to have beheld even Meïr's back, though he was not allowed to look him in the face, as one should regard one's teacher according to Isa. xxx. 20 ('Er. 13b; Yer. Beẓah 63a, where an anachronistic anecdote is connected with this saying of Judah's). Nathan the Babylonian, who also took a part in the conflict between Meïr and the patriarch, was another of Judah's teachers; and Judah confessed that once, in a fit of youthful ardor, he had failed to treat Nathan with due reverence (B. B. 131a; in different version Yer. Ket. 29a; B. B. 16a). In halakic as well as in haggadic tradition Judah's opinion is often opposed to Nathan's. In the tradition of the Palestinian schools (Yer. Shab. 12c; Yer. Pes. 37b) Judah b. Ḳorshai, the halakic specialist mentioned as assistant to Simon b. Gamaliel (Hor. 13b), is designated as Judah's real teacher. Jacob b. Ḥanina is also mentioned as one of Judah's teachers, and is said to have asked him to repeat halakic sentences (Sifre, Deut. 306). The R. Jacob whose patronymic is not given and in whose name Judah quotes halakic sentences is identical with one of these two tannaim (Giṭ. 14b; comp. Tosef., 'Ab. Zarah, v. 4). In an enumeration of Judah's teachers his father, Simon b. Gamaliel, must not be omitted (B. M. 85b). In the halakic tradition the view of the son is often opposed to that of the father, the latter generally advocating the less rigorous application (see Frankel, l.c. p. 184). Judah himself says ('Er. 32a): "My opinion seems to me more correct than that of my father"; and he then proceeds to give his reasons. Humility was a virtue ascribed to Judah, and he admired it greatly in his father, who openly recognized Simeon b. Yoḥai's superiority, thus displaying the same modesty as the Bene Bathyra when they gave way to Hillel, and as Jonathan when he voluntarily gave precedence to his friend David (B. M. 84b, 85a).His Academy at Bet She'arim.
Nothing is known regarding the time when Judah succeeded his father as leader of the Palestinian Jews. According to a tradition (Mishnah Soṭah, end), the country at the time of Simon b. Gamaliel's death not only was devastated by a plague of locusts, but suffered many other hardships. It was for this reason, it may be assumed, that Judah, on beginning his public activity, transferred the seat of the patriarchate and of the academy to another place in Galilee, namely, Bet She'arim. Here he officiated for a long time. During the last seventeen years of his life he lived at Sepphoris, which place ill health had induced him to select on account of its high altitude and pure air (Yer. Kil. 32b; Gen. R. xcvi.; Ket. 103b). But it is with Bet She'arim that the memory of his activity as director of the academy and chief judge is principally associated: "To Bet She'arim must one go in order to obtain Rabbi's decision in legal matters," says a tradition concerning the various seats of the directors of the academies (Sanh. 32b). The chronology of Judah's activity is based entirely on assumption. The year of his death is deduced from the statement that his pupil Rab left Palestine for good not long before Judah's death, in 530 of the Seleucidan era (hence 219; see "R. E. J." xliv. 45-61). He assumed the office of patriarch during the reign of Marcus Aurelius and Lucius Verus (c. 165). Hence Judah, having been born about 135, became patriarch at the age of thirty, and died at the age of about eighty-five.His Patriarchate.
It is difficult to harmonize the many anecdotes, found in Talmudic and midrashic literature, relatingto Judah's intercourse with an emperor named Antoninus (see
It is a curious fact, explainable by the nature of the sources, that only scattered data concerning Judah's official activity are to be found. These data refer to: the ordination of his pupils (Sanh. 5a, b); the recommendation of pupils for communal offices (Yeb. 105a; Yer. Yeb. 13a); orders relating to the announcement of the new moon (Yer. R. H. 58a, above); amelioration of the law relating to the Sabbatical year (Sheb. vi. 4; Yer. Sheb. 37a; comp. Ḥul. 7a, b), and to decrees relating to tithes in the pagan frontier districts of Palestine (Yer. Dem. 22c; Ḥul. 6b). The last-named he was obliged to defend against the opposition of the members of the patriarchal family (Ḥul. l.c.). The ameliorations he intended for the fast of the Ninth of Ab were prevented by the college (Meg. 5b; Yer. Meg. 70c). Many religious and legal decisions are recorded as having been rendered by Judah together with his court, the college of scholars (Giṭ. v. 6; Oh. xviii. 9; Tosef., Shab. iv. 16; see also Yeb. 79b, above; Ḳid. 71a).
The authority of Judah's office was enhanced by his wealth, which is referred to in various traditions. In Babylon the hyperbolical statement was subsequently made that Rabbi's equerry was more wealthy than King Sapor. The patriarch's house-hold was compared to that of the emperor (Ber. 43a, 57b). In connection with a sentence by Simeon b. Yoḥai, Simeon b. Menasya praised Judah I. by saying that he and Lis sons united in themselves beauty, power, wealth, wisdom, age, honor, and the blessings of children (Tosef., Sanh. xi. 8; Baraita Ab. vi. 8). During a famine Judah opened his granaries and distributed corn among the needy (B. B. 8a). But he denied himself the pleasures procurable by wealth, saying: "Whoever chooses the delights of this world will be deprived of the delights of the next world; whoever renounces the former will receive the latter" (Ab. R. N. xxviii.).His Redaction of the Mishnah.
No definite statements regarding the redaction of the Mishnah, in virtue of which Judah became one of the most important personages of Jewish history, are to be found either in the Mishnah itself or in the remaining voluminous traditional literature. The Mishnah contains many of Judah's own sentences, which are introduced by the words, "Rabbi says." The work was completed, however, only after Judah's death, sentences by his son and successor, Gamaliel III., being included also (Ab. ii. 2-4). But no proofs are required to show that the Mishnah, aside from this final revision, is Judah's work. Both the Talmuds assume as a matter of course that Judah is the originator of the Mishnah—"our, Mishnah," as it was called in Babylon—and the author of the explanations and discussions relating to its sentences. However, the Mishnah, like all the other literary documents of Jewish tradition, can not be ascribed to any one author in the general acceptance of that term; hence Judah is correctly called its redactor, and not its author. The Halakah, the most important branch of ancient Jewish traditional science, found its authoritative conclusion in Judah's Mishnah, which is based on the systematic division of the halakic material as formulated by Akiba; Judah following in his work the arrangement of the halakot as taught by Meïr, Akiba's foremost pupil (Sanh. 86a). Judah's work in the Mishnah appears both in what he included and in what he rejected. The mass of tannaitic Halakah sentences still found in the Tosefta and in the baraitot of both Talmudim shows that Judah had no small task in selecting the material that he included in his work. Also the formulating of halakic maxims on controverted points required both his unusual technical knowledge and his undisputed authority; and the fact that he did not invariably lay down the rule, but always admitted divergent opinions and traditions both of the pre-Hadrianic time and, more especially, of Akiba's eminent pupils, evidences his circumspection and his consciousness of the limits imposed upon his authority by tradition and by its recognized representatives. For questions relating to the Mishnah, including the one whether Judah edited it orally or in writing, see Mishnah.Contemporaries and Pupils.
Among Judah's contemporaries in the early years of his activity were Eleazar b. Simeon, Ishmael b. Jose, Jose b. Judah, and Simeon b. Eleazar, the sons respectively of Simeon b. Yoḥai, Jose b. Ḥalafta, Judah b. 'Ilai, and Eleazar b. Shammua'; their relations to Judah are discussed in the articles under their respective names. The followingamong his better-known contemporaries and pupils may be mentioned: Simon b. Manasseh, Phinehas b. Jair, Eleazar ha-Ḳappara and his son Bar Ḳappara, the Babylonian Ḥiyya, Simon b. Ḥalafta, and Levi b. Sissi. Among his pupils who taught as the first generation of Amoraim after his death are: Ḥanina b. Ḥama and Hoshaiah in Palestine, Rab and Samuel in Babylon.
Judah's motto (Ab. ii. 1) is divided into three parts. In the first he answers the question, what course a man should follow in life, with the words: "Let him so act that his deeds will be for his own glory [i.e., approved by his conscience] and praised by men" (another answer by Judah to the same question is recorded in Baraita Tamid 28a). In the second part he remarks that the least commandment should be as rigorously observed as the greatest. In the third he says that the most effective preventive of sin is the consciousness "that there is above us an eye that sees, an ear that hears, and a book in which all the deeds of men are recorded." His deep religious feeling appears in his explanation of certain passages of Scripture-I Sam. xxviii. 15; Amos iv. 13, v. 15; Zeph. ii. 3; Lam. iii. 29; Eccl. xii. 14-which reminded him of the divine judgment and of the uncertainty of acquittal, and made him weep (Yer. Ḥag. 77a; Lev. R. xxvi.; Midr. Shemuel xxiv.).His Character.
Judah was, indeed, easily moved to tears. He exclaimed, sobbing, in reference to three different stories of martyrs whose deaths made them worthy of future life: "One man earns his world in an hour, while another requires many years" ('Ab. Zarah 10b, 17a, 18a; for a sentence by Judah on the ranking of the pious in the future world see Sifre, Deut. 47). He began to weep when Elisha b. Abuya's (Aḥer's) daughters, who were soliciting alms, reminded him of their father's learning (Yer. Ḥag. 77c; comp. Ḥag. 15b). And in a legend relating to his meeting with Phinehas b. Jair (Ḥul. 7b) he is represented as tearfully admiring the pious Phinehas' unswerving steadfastness, protected by a higher power. He was frequently interrupted by tears when explaining Lam. ii. 2 and illustrating the passage by stories of the destruction of Jerusalem and of the Temple (Lam. R. ii. 2; comp Yer. Ta'an. 68d). Ḥiyya found him weeping during his last illness because death was about to deprive him of the opportunity of studying the Torah and of fulfilling the commandments (Ket. 103b). The following story shows his delicacy of feeling. He said to a calf, which, while being led to the slaughtering-block, looked at him with tearful eyes, as if seeking protection: "Go; for thou hast been created for this purpose!" To this unkind attitude toward the suffering animal he ascribed his years of illness, which he bore with great resignation. Once, when his daughter was about to kill a small animal which was in her way, he said to her: "Let it live, child; for it is written (Ps. cxlv. 9): 'His [the Lord's] tender mercies are over all'" (B. M. 85a; Gen. R. xxxiii.). His appreciation of animal life appears also in the prayer which he said when eating meat or eggs (Yer. Ber. 10b): "Blessed be the Lord who has created many souls, in order to support by them the soul of every living being." When wine seventy years old cured him of a protracted illness, he prayed: "Blessed be the Lord, who has given His world into the hands of guardians" ('Ab. Zarah 40b). He privately recited daily the following supplication on finishing the obligatory prayers (Ber. 6b; comp. Shab. 30b): "May it be Thy will, my God and the God of my fathers, to protect me against the impudent and against impudence, from bad men and bad companions, from severe sentences and severe plaintiffs, whether a son of the covenant or not." In regard to the inclination to sin ("yeẓer ha-ra'") he said: "It is like a person facing punishment on account of robbery who accuses his traveling companion as an accomplice, since he himself can no longer escape. This bad inclination reasons in the same way: 'Since I am destined to destruction in the future world, I will cause man to be destroyed also'" (Ab. R. N. xvi.). It is not unlikely that Judah was the author of the parable of the blind and the lame with which he is said to have illustrated in a conversation with Antoninus the judgment of the body and the soul after death (Mek., Beshallaḥ, Shirah, 2; Sanh. 91a, b; see a similar parable by him in Eccl. R. v. 10). The impulse to sin is the topic of another conversation between Judah and Antoninus (Gen. R. xxxiv.; Sanh. 91b). Judah's sentence, "Let thy secret be known only to thyself; and do not tell thy neighbor anything which thou perceivest may not fitly be listened to" (Ab. R. N. xxviii.), exhorts to self-knowledge and circumspection. On one occasion, when at a meal his pupils expressed their preference for soft tongue, he made this an opportunity to say, "May your tongues be soft in your mutual intercourse" (i.e., "Speak gently without disputing"; Lev. R. xxxiii., beginning). The following sentence shows a deep insight into the social order: "The world needs both the perfumer and the tanner: but happy he who engages in the fragrant trade; and wo to him who engages in the vile-smelling trade! The world needs both the male and the female: but happy he who has male children; and wo to him who has female children "(Pes. 65a; Ḳid. 82b; comp. Gen. R. xxvi.). He praises the value of work by saying that it protects both from gossip and from need (Ab. R. N., Recension B, xxi.). The administration of justice has taken its place beside the Decalogue (Ex. xx., xxi.); the order of the world depends on justice (A. V. "judgment," Prov. xxix. 4); Zion is delivered by justice (Isa. i. 27); the pious are praised for their justice (Ps. cvi. 3).Sayings on Study.
Judah sums up the experiences of a long life spent in learning and in teaching in the confession, which also throws light upon his character, "I have learned much from my masters, more from my colleagues than from my masters, and more from my pupils than from all the others" (Mak. 10a; Tan., Ta'an. 7a). Judah indicates that one can also learn from a young teacher: "Do not look to the jug, but to its contents: many a new jug is full of old wine; and many an old jug does not even contain new wine" (Ab. iv. 20). He forbade his pupils to study on the public highway (probably in order to put a stop to abuses), basing his prohibition on his interpretation of Cant. vii. 2(M. Ḳ. 16a, b); and he deduced from Prov. i. 20 the doctrine, "Whoever studies the Torah in secret will find public renown through his scholarship" (ib.). He connected with Deut. xi. 12 the question: "Why is it written, 'for whom the Eternal, thy God, cares'? Does not God care for all countries? The answer is: 'Scripture means to say that although God seems to care only for the land of Israel, yet for its sake He also cares for all other countries. God is similarly called the protector of Israel (Ps. cxxi. 6), although He protects all men (according to Job xii. 10), but only for the sake of Israel'" (Sifre, Deut. 38). According to Joshua b. Levi, Judah interpreted Jer. xlix. 20 to mean that the Romans, the destroyers of the Temple, will in time be destroyed by the Persians (Yoma 10a).
In Judah's Bible exegesis those portions may be noted in which he undertakes to harmonize conflicting Biblical statements. Thus he harmonizes (Mek., Bo, 14) the contradictions between Gen. xv. 13 ("400 years") and verse 16 of the same chapter ("the fourth generation"); Ex. xx. 16 and Deut. v. 18 (ib. Yitro, Baḥodesh, 8); Num. ix. 23, x. 35 and ib. (Sifre, Num. 84); Deut. xiv. 13 and Lev. xi. 14 (Ḥul. 63b). The contradiction between Gen. i. 25 and verse 24 of that chapter, in the latter of which passages among the creatures created on the sixth day is included as a fourth category the "living souls"—a category not included in verse 25—Judah explains by saying that this expression designates the demons, for whom God did not create bodies because the Sabbath had come (Gen. R. vii., end).
Noteworthy among the other numerous Scriptural interpretations which have been handed down in Judah's name are those in which he cleverly introduces etymological explanations, as of the following: Ex. xix. 8-9 (Shab. 87a); Lev. xxiii. 40 (Suk. 35a); Num. xv. 38 (Sifre, Num. 115); II Sam. xvii. 27 (Midr. Teh. to Ps. iii. 1); Joel i. 17 (Yer. Peah 20b); Ps. lxviii. 7 (Mek., Bo, 16).Use of Scripture.
David did not really commit sin with Bath-sheba, but only intended to do so, according to Judah's interpretation of the words "to do the evil" (II Sam. xii. 9). Rab, Judah's pupil, ascribes this apology for King David to Judah's desire to justify his ancestor (Shab. 56a). A sentence praising King Hezekiah (Ḥul. 6b) and an extenuating opinion of King Ahaz (Lev. R. xxxvi.) have also been handed down in Judah's name. Characteristic of Judah's appreciation of the Haggadah is his interpretation of the word "wa-yagged" (Ex. xix. 9) to the effect that the words of Moses attracted the hearts of his hearers, like the Haggadah (Shab. 87a). The anecdote related in Cant. R. i. 16 (comp. Mek., Beshallaḥ, Shirah, 9) indicates Judah's methods of attracting his hearers' attention in his discourses.
Judah was especially fond of the Book of Psalms (see 'Ab. Zarah 19a; Midr. Teh. to Ps. iii. 1). He paraphrased the wish expressed by David in Ps. xix. 14, "Let the words of my mouth . . . be acceptable in thy sight," thus: "May the Psalms have been composed for the coming generations; may they be written down for them; and may those that read them be rewarded like those that study halakic sentences" (Midr. Teh. to Ps. i. 1). In reference to the Book of Job he said that it was important if only because it presented the sin and punishment of the generations of the Flood (Gen. R. xxvi., end). He proves from Ex. xvi. 35 that in the arrangement of the sections of the Torah there is no chronological order (Sifre, Num. 64). Referring to the prophetic books, he says: "All the Prophets begin with denunciations and end with comfortings" (Midr. Teh. to Ps. iv. 8). Even the genealogical portions of the Book of Chronicles must be interpreted (Ruth R. ii., beginning). It appears from a note in Pesiḳ. R. xlvi. (ed. Friedmann, p. 187a) that there was a haggadic collection containing Judah's answers to exegetical questions. Among these questions may have been the one which Judah's son Simeon addressed to him (according to Midr. Teh. to Ps. cxvii. 1).His Death.
Judah's death is recorded in a touching account (Yer. Kil. 32b; Ket. 104a; Yer. Ket. 35a; Eccl. R. vii. 11, ix. 10). No one had the heart to announce the patriarch's demise to the anxious people of Sepphoris, until the clever Bar Ḳappara broke the news in a parable, saying: "The heavenly host and earth-born men held the tables of the covenant; then the heavenly host was victorious and seized the tables." Judah's testamentary wishes, which referred to his successor and to his family as well as to his interment, have likewise been handed down (ib.). In accordance with his express desire he was buried at Bet She'arim, where he had lived at one time and where he had long since prepared his tomb (Ket. 103b, below); but, according to the work "Gelilot Ereẓ Yisrael," his tomb was shown at Sepphoris.
- Hamburger, R. B. T. ii. 440-450;
- Bacher, Ag. Tan. ii. 454-486;
- Büchler, R. Jehuda, I. und die Städte Palästina's, in J. Q. R. xiii. 683-740;
- Moses Kunitz, Bet Rabbi, Vienna, 1805; and the bibliography to the article Antoninus.