Palestinian amora of the third century (second and third generations). In the Midrashim he is frequently cited with his patronymic, Eleazar b. Pedat, but in the Talmudim only occasionally so. He was a Babylonian by birth (Yer. Ber. ii. 4b; Yer. Sheḳ. ii. 47a) and of priestly descent (Yer. Ber. v. 9d; M. Ḳ. 28a). In his native country he was a disciple of Samuel ('Er. 66a; B. B. 82b), and more especially of Rab (B. B. 135b; Ḥul. 111b), whom he in after years generally cited by the appellation "our teacher" (Giṭ. 9b; B. B. 152a), and whose college he revered above all others, recognizing in it the "lesser sanctuary" of the Diaspora, spoken of by Ezekiel (xi. 16) as promised to the exiles in Babylonia (Meg. 29a; Yalḳ., Ezek. 352). When and why he left his native country is not stated; but from the data extant it appears that his ardent love for "the land of Israel" (Ket. 111a), and the superior opportunities which Palestine afforded for religious practises (Yer. R. H. ii. 58b; Ket.112a), impelled him to emigrate thither—and at a comparatively early age, since some of Rabbi's contemporaries were still alive and active (B. B. 87a; Ḥul. 110a). Indeed, it seems that for a time Eleazar even attended the lectures of R. Ḥiyyah (Yer. Ket. ix. 33b; Yer. B. M. x. 12c) and of R. Hoshaiah (Yer. Yeb. iv. 5d). This was for him a period of hard study, which gave rise to the homiletic remark that the Biblical saying (Prov. v. 19), "Be thou ravished always with her love," was well illustrated by Eleazar b. Pedat at Sepphoris, who was so absorbed in his studies as to be unconscious of all worldly needs ('Er. 54b).

At Tiberias.

Later, Eleazar became attached to the college founded by R. Johanan at Tiberias (Yer. Ber. ii. 4b; Tem. 25b; Ker. 27a), where his scholarship procured him great honors. In the city he was associated with Simon b. Eliakim in the office of judge (B.Ḳ. 117b), and at the college he occupied the position of colleague-disciple () of Johanan (Yer. Sanh. i. 18b), who himself repeatedly admitted that Eleazar had enlightened him (Yer. Meg. i. 72c; Yer. Sanh. iii. 21b), once declaring that "the son of Pedat sits and interperts the Law as did Moses at the direct inspiration from the Almighty" (Yeb. 72b). After the death of Simeon b. Laḳish, Eleazar was chosen to fill the position of assistant to Johanan (B. M. 84a). When Johanan became disabled through grief at Simeon's death, Eleazar presided over the college (Yer. Meg. i. 72b), and after the death of Johanan succeeded him in the office of head master.

The fame of Eleazar as an expert expounder of the Law having reached Babylonia, his most prominent contemporaries there addressed to him intricate halakic questions, to which he returned satisfactory answers (Beẓah 16b; Yer. Ḳid. i. 60c; B. B. 135b; Ḥul. 86b). This happened so often that he became known in his native country as the "master [i.e., legal authority] of the land of Israel" (Yoma 9b; Giṭ. 19b; Niddah 20b); and anonymous decisions introduced in the Babylonian schools with the statement ("They sent word from there"; Beẓah 4b; Giṭ. 73a) were understood, as a matter of course, to emanate from Eleazar b. Pedat (Sanh. 17b).

His Views on Study.

Eleazar was averse to the study of esoterics (Ḥag.13a). With reference to this study, he would cite the saying of Ben Sira (Ecclus. [Sirach] iii. 21), "Seek not things that are too hard for thee, and search not out things that are above thy strength" (Yer. Ḥag. ii. 77c). He prized knowledge above all things; therefore he remarked," He who possesses knowledge is as great as if the Temple were rebuilt in his days" (Sanh. 92a); and from Job xx. 21 he teaches that he who does not contribute toward the support of scholars will not be blessed in his property (ib.). Eleazar was exceedingly poor, and often lacked the necessaries of life (Ta'an. 25a). He frequently sang the praises of charity. "The practise of charity," he was wont to say, "is more meritorious than all oblations; as the Bible says (Prov. xxi. 3), 'To do justice [Hebr.] and judgment is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice' [Suk. 49b]. He who practises charity secretly is greater [in the sight of God] than Moses himself; for Moses himself admitted (Deut. ix. 19), 'I was afraid of the anger,' while of secret charity the Bible says (Prov. xxi. 14), 'A gift in secret pacifieth anger'" (B. B. 9b). Benevolence and acts of loving-kindness, , extending to both rich and poor, are, according to Eleazar's interpretation, even greater than charity; as the Bible says (Hosea x. 12), "Sow to yourselves in righteousness [Hebr. ], reap in mercy []." With reference to , the Bible uses "sowing," indicating an operation that leaves it in doubt whether the sower will or will not enjoy the fruit; while with reference to mercy "reaping" is used, an occupation that renders the enjoying of the results very probable (Suk. 49b). From the same Scriptural expression Eleazar draws the lesson, "Charity is rewarded only in proportion to the kindness in it" (ib.); that is, the pleasant and thoughtful way in which it is given, and the personal sacrifice it involves.

Poor as he was, Eleazar would never accept any gifts, or even invitations to the patriarch's table. When any were extended to him, he would decline them with the remark, "It seems that ye do not wish me to live long, since the Bible says (Prov. xv. 27), 'He that hateth gifts shall live'" (Meg. 28a; Ḥul. 44b). His scant earnings he would share with other needy scholars; thus, he once purposely lost a coin in order that poverty-stricken Simon b. Abba, who was following him, might find it. When the latter did find it and offered to restore it, Eleazar assured him that he had renounced its ownership and forfeited all rights thereto, and that consequently it was the property of the finder (Yer. B. M. ii. 8c). It is also reported as his custom first to offer a mite to the poor, and then to offer prayer to God (B. B. 10a). Even to impostors he would never refuse charity. "Were it not for the existence of impostors, not a single refusal of charity could ever be atoned for; we therefore ought to show gratitude to them" (Yer. Peah viii. 21b; Ket. 68a).

There are no data to show how long Eleazar survived R. Johanan, but the probability is that he died about 279 C.E.

  • Bacher, Ag. Pal. Amor. ii. 1 et seq.;
  • Frankel, Mebo, pp. 111b et seq.;
  • Heilprin, Seder ha-Dorot, ii., s.v.;
  • Weiss, Dor, iii. 85 et seq.;
  • Zacuto, Yuasin, ed. Filipowski, pp. 113a et seq.
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