A rich and prominent Palestinian of about the middle of the second century. He was the son-in-law of R. Judah ha-Nasi I., and is chiefly known in the Talmud as having been made a butt of on various occasions by Bar Ḳappara (Ned. 51a; Yer. M. Ḳ. iii. 81c). It was also said that Ben Elasah paid a large sum of money to a barber to have his hair cut after the fashion of the high priests (Ned. l.c.; Sanh. 22b). From these stories it appears that Ben Elasah was merely a rich man; and it is highly improbable that he was identical, as Heilprin asserts, with the R. Elasah mentioned in Midr. Teh. ix., where the following conversation is reported as having taken place between R. Elasah and a philosopher:

[Compare Pes. 78b; 'Ab. Zarah 10b].

"The philosopher asks the rabbi when the prediction of the prophet Malachi (i. 4), that the Edomites would build in vain, would be fulfilled; to which Ben Elasah replies that he interpreted the passage to mean that the evil intents of Edom [Rome] against the Jews are frustrated by Providence. The philosopher thereupon admits that the Romans annually plan to destroy Israel, but that 'an aged one' [a wise counselor] always comes to defeat their counsels."

The last words are very obscure and possibly contain an allusion to Antoninus, a contemporaneous emperor, whose friendship for the Jews is a frequent topic in Talmudic legends (see Antoninus in the Talmud). Assuming this to be true, there would be some, but by no means conclusive, reason for the identification of R. Elasah with Ben Elasah.

  • Heilprin, Seder ha-Dorot, ed. Maskileison, ii. 70.
J. Sr. L. G.
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