Tanna of the second century; martyred (at the age of seventy) during the persecutions under Hadrian. At that time the government forbade, among other things, the ordination of rabbis, an infraction of the law being punished by the death of both ordainer and ordained and by the destruction of the city in which the ordination took place. Judah b. Baba nevertheless called together five—according to others, seven—disciples qualified for ordination, took them to a defile between Usha and Shefara'm, and duly ordained them. They were detected, and while his disciples, at his urging, fled, he, too old and feeble to flee, was slain by the Roman soldiery, who hurled 300 javelins at his body (Sanh. 14a). So great was the fear of the Romans that people did not dare even to praise him publicly.

In the Haggadah he not only appears as an authority, but is the subject of many sayings and legends. He was known as "the Ḥasid," and it is said that wherever the Talmud speaks of "the Ḥasid," either he or Judah b. Ilai is meant; he was considered by his contemporaries as perfectly stainless (B. Ḳ. 103b). From eight (or eighteen) years of age until his death he enjoyed little sleep; he fasted for twenty-six years in succession; and he defied the Emperor of Rome in his presence (Jellinek, "B. H." ii. 69; vi. 25 et seq., 35).

In the Halakah, he was the author of some decisions; he also transmitted a number of important halakot ('Eduy. vi.), the most remarkable being that one witness to the death of the husband is sufficient to justify permitting the wife to marry again (Hamburger, "R. B. T." ii. 451). Akiba was his most powerful opponent in halakic disputes (Bacher, "Ag. Tan." i. 404).

  • Grätz, Gesch. iv. 59, 164;
  • Bacher, Ag. Tan. i. 403 et seq.;
  • Heilprin, Seder ha-Dorot, ii. 165;
  • Frankel, Darke ha-Mishnah, p. 129;
  • Brüll, Mebo ha-Mishnah, i. 133;
  • Weiss, Dor, ii. 119.
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