The unedited full-text of the 1906 Jewish Encyclopedia

BE RAB ( = "teacher's house"):

A name which, in the Talmud, has various meanings and occurs in a variety of combinations. Its immediate signification, however, is "academy of a tannaite or amora" (compare 'Er. 73a), for which the Jerusalem Talmud substitutes the fuller form "Bet Rabbah"(house of the teacher; Yer. Sanh. x. 28a). The most frequent citations in Talmud and Midrash beginning with the phrase , "a tanna from the academy of Rabbi N. N." (Ḥul. 42a, and frequently), are taken from the collections of the tannaites Simon b. Yoḥai, Eliezer b. Jacob, Ishmael, Rabbi, and the semi-tannaim Ḥiyyah and Hezekiah. At the same time citations are found which are designated as emanating from the ("Haggadah collection"; Sanh. 57b); "sifra" (book; Ber. 11b, 18b); "she'ar sifre" (other books; Yoma 79a; B. B. 124b) of the academy, without stating which academy is meant. So far as Sifra and Sifre as cited are concerned, however, there can be no doubt that under these names are meant the wellknow nhalakic-haggadic commentaries upon Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy respectively.

It is doubtful which tannaitic Midrash was meant by the "she'ar sifre." That it was only another name for "Sifre" can scarcely be correct: it is far more likely that the ordinary Mekilta or that of Simon b. Yoḥai was meant, although the quotation in Yoma 74a agrees verbatim with Sifra, Emor, xiv. 102a, ed. Weiss. The meaning of the words "Be Rab" in these collections is open to question. That Akiba was not meant, as some suggest; that it was not he who was briefly styled "the teacher," and that the works mentioned were not those of this teacher, is evident from the fact that the principal parts of the Sifre to Numbers emanated from the school of Ishmael—a school directly opposed to that of Akiba. Another conjecture is that the "Rab" referred to in "Be Rab" is the celebrated amora Rab (Abba Arika), who is mentioned as the last editor of the Sifra. Nevertheless, despite Maimonides and many modern scholars who have followed him, the name of this amora can not be associated with Be Rab. This is evident from the phrase, "Tanna debe rab," which is occasionally cited in the Talmud, where, as Hoffmann shows, it can have no reference whatever to Rab. The explanation of "Be Rab" given by this scholar, and based upon Sherira Gaon's statements, is probably the only admissible one. "Be Rab," in all the before-mentioned instances, means only "academy," and "sifra" and "sifre" are simply the books of this academy—that is, such books as were officially recognized—while other baraita ("outside") collections (compare Baraita) were excluded therefrom. An authority of a tradition found in Sifra (Shemini, v. 50b, ed. Weiss) is quoted in the Talmud as Tana-de-be rab (Ḥul. 66a). See Mekilta, Sifra, Sifre.

  • Epstein, Mi-Ḳadmoniyot ha-Yehudim, pp. 53, 55;
  • Weiss, Dor, ii. 225-238;
  • Friedmann, in the introduction to his edition of the Mekilta, pp. 16 et seq., 55 et seq.;
  • Hoffmann, Zur Einleitung in die Halachischen Midrashim, pp. 15 et seq., 35 et seq., 40, 47, 52 et seq.;
  • idem, in Berliner's Magazin, xvi. 71;
  • Levy, Ein Wort über die Mekilta von R. Simon (Breslau Seminary Jahresbericht, 1889), pp. 1-3;
  • Levy, Neuhebräisches Wörterbuch, i. 215;
  • Kohut, Aruch Completum, ii. 53.
J. Sr. L. G.
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