Yehudah bar Elaay

"Rabbi Judah" redirects here. For the redactor of the Mishnah, see Judah the Prince.

Judah bar Ilai, also known as Judah ben Ilai, Rabbi Judah or Judah the Palestinian (Hebrew: יהודה בר מערבא‎, translit: Yehuda bar Ma'arava, lit. "Judah of the West"), was a 4th generation tanna of the 2nd Century and son of Rabbi Ilai I. Of the many Judahs in the Talmud, he is the one referred to simply as "Rabbi Judah" and is the most frequently mentioned sage in the Mishnah.[1]

Judah bar Ilai was born at Usha in the Galilee. His teachers were his father, who had studied with Rabbi Eliezer and Rabbi Akiba. He was ordained by Rabbi Judah ben Baba at a time when the Roman government forbade ordination. Judah bar Ilai was forced to flee Hadrian's persecution.

Obadiah of Bartenura visiting his tomb wrote in 1495:

"About as far from Safed as one may walk on a Sabbath is the grave of the talmudic master Rabbi Judah bar Ilai; and there is a little village there called Ein Zetim. On the grave is a handsome tomb at which candles are lit..." [2]

Italian pilgrim Moses Basola (1523) wrote:

"They say that once a Muslim woman climbed the tree on the grave in order to gather almonds, upon which the other women told her to first ask the saint's permission. But she showered them with curses. She fell off the tree, breaking all her limbs. She then pledged the gold bracelets on her hands to the saint, purchasing olive trees with them. Subsequently others made pledges as well, and at present he [the saint] has four hundred olive trees. This episode of the woman took place about sixty years ago."[3]

Sources of his teaching

Judah taught the Mishnah of Eliezer, which he had received from his father (Men. 18a),

In his interpretation of the Scriptures and in the deduction of legal requirements from it Judah adhered strictly to the method of his teacher Rabbi Akiba.

Many of Judah's maxims and proverbs have likewise been preserved; they include:

  • "Great is beneficence: it quickeneth salvation" (B. B. 10a).
  • "Great is toil: it honoreth the toiler" (Ned. 49b).
  • "Who teacheth his son no trade, guideth him to robbery" (Ḳid. 29a).
  • "The best path lies midway" (Ab. R. N. xxviii.).

Judah lived to a ripe old age, surviving his teachers and all of his colleagues. Among his disciples who paid him the last honors was Judah ha-Nasi.


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