Johanan bar Nappaha

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Rabbinical Eras
See Yohanan for more rabbis by this name.

Johanan bar Nappaha (Hebrew: יוחנן בר נפחאYoḥanan bar Nafḥa); (also known as Johanan bar Nafcha, "Johanan son [of the] blacksmith") (lived 180 - 279 CE)[1] was a rabbi in the early era of the Talmud. He was born in Sepphoris in the Land of Israel. His father, a blacksmith, died prior to his birth, and his mother died soon after; he was raised by his grandfather in Sepphoris.

Judah the Prince took the boy under his wing and taught him Torah. Due to the disparity in ages, though — Johanan was only fifteen years old when Yehuda died — Johanan was not one of Yehuda's prime students; rather, he studied more under Yehuda's students. He studied Torah diligently all his life, even selling what he had inherited from his parents in order to be able to devote his time to study; after that was spent, he lived a life of poverty. When the time came to start teaching Torah, Johanan decided to move from Sepphoris to Tiberias, so as not to show disrespect to great rabbis in Sepphoris who did not have their own centers of Torah study. He was considered, however, the greatest rabbi in the Land of Israel, and was even esteemed in the other center of Rabbinical Judaism, Babylonia — so much so that after the deaths of Abba Arika and Samuel of Nehardea in Babylonia, Johanan was considered by Babylonian Jews as the greatest rabbi of the generation. He started a school in Tiberias, and let anybody in if they wanted to learn, a controversial move at the time. He laid the foundations for the Yerushalmi (Jerusalem Talmud). He cites many traditions relating to the destruction of the Second Temple.

His colleague, Shimon ben Lakish, was also his brother-in-law. Johanan's method in deciding halakha was to establish broad rules that apply in many cases; for example, he held that the halakha always follows a s'tam mishnah (an undisputed anonymous mishnah), and he had rules for which tanna ("Mishnah teacher") to follow in cases of dispute. He is believed to have never left Palestine in all his life, a rare feat for rabbis in those days, who frequently visited Babylonia. Johanan was known for being fat and beautiful and reportedly lived more than one hundred years. A Talmudic story about him relates that Johanan was accustomed to go and sit at the gates of the bathing place. He said: "Let the daughters of Israel look at me when they come up from the mikvah and their children will be as handsome as I am and they will learn Torah like I do." He then said a special verse so no jealousy or haughtiness would result from this.[2]

Eleazar ben Pedat succeeded Yohanan as head of the Tiberias school. Another student was Rabbi Isaac the smith.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Why We Pray What We Pray by Rabbi Dr. Barry Freundel, page 84
  2. ^ Bava Metzia (Talmud) 84a
  • Margaliyot, Mordekhai, ed. Entziklopedya l'chachme haTalmud v'hag'onim (2d ed., vol. 1). Jerusalem, 1945 or 1946.
  • Gross, Moses David. Avos hadoros: monografyot al avos haMishna v'haTalmud (5th ed.). Tel Aviv: Yavneh, 1966.