Judah ben Bathyra

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Rabbinical Eras

Judah ben Bathyra or simply Judah Bathyra (also Beseira, Hebrew: יהודה בן בתירא) was an eminent tanna. He must have lived before the destruction of the Temple, since he prevented a pagan in Jerusalem from partaking of the Paschal offering. Thereupon he received the message: "Hail to thee, Rabbi Judah ben Bathyra! Thou livest in Nisibis, but thy net is spread in Jerusalem" (Pes. 3b). Since R. Judah was not present himself at the Passover in Jerusalem, it may be concluded that he was far advanced in years, although as a citizen of a foreign land he was not bound by the law which demanded the celebration of the Passover at Jerusalem (Tosefot to Pes. l.c.). At Nisibis in Mesopotamia he had a famous college, which is expressly recommended together with other famous schools (Sanh. 32b).

Personal interactions[edit]

  • R. Eleazer ben Shammua and R. Johanan the sandal-maker started on a journey to Nisibis in order to study under Judah ben Bathyra, but turned back when they reflected that they were giving preference to an alien country over Israel (Sifre, Deut. 80).
  • R. Judah b. Bathyra himself undertook a journey to Rome with some colleagues. No sooner had they landed at Puteoli than they returned home weeping (ib.).
  • R. Judah once arrived at Nisibis just before the beginning of the fast of the Ninth of Ab, and although he had already eaten, he was obliged to partake of a sumptuous banquet at the house of the chief of the synagogue (Lam. R. iii. 17, ed. S. Buber; "Exilarchs" in other editions is incorrect).

Ambiguity of identity[edit]

The Mishnah quotes 17, the Baraita about 40, Halakot by R. Judah, and he was also a prolific haggadist. Since controversies between him and R. Akiba are frequently mentioned, these being chronologically impossible, the existence of a second R. Judah b. Bathyra must be assumed (Tosefot to Men. 65b; Seder ha-Dorot, ed. Warsaw, ii. 110), who was probably a grandson of the former, and therefore Akiba's contemporary; it is possible that there existed even a third R. Judah b. Bathyra, who was a contemporary of R. Josiah (Sifre, Num. 123) or of R. Judah I (Ḥul. 54a; Shab.) 130a; see also Midrash Shmuel x.); he also seems to have lived at Nisibis (Sanh. 96a; but the version "R. Judah ben Bathyra" is doubtful; see Rabbinowicz, Diḳduḳe Soferim, ad loc., note 10).

It is evident from the cases quoted in Tosef., Yeb. xii. 11 (compare Yeb. 102a), and Tosef., Ket. v. 1 (Yer. Ket. v. 29d; Bab. Ket. 58a; compare Weiss l.c., 158, and Ḳid. 10b), that R. Judah b. Bathyra (probably the earliest one by that name) did not quite keep pace with the Halakah as it was formulated in Israel, and represented rather the earlier standpoint. This R. Judah is probably also the one who now and again is mentioned simply as "Ben Bathyra"; compare Tosef., Pes. iii. (iv.) 8, where R. Judah and R. Joshua dispute with Ben Bathyra. Here again the first and last names, "R. Judah" and "Ben Bathyra," probably belong together, making one name, so that R. Joshua was the only other person concerned (compare Zeb. 12a). In Mishnah, Pes. iii. 3, the editions have "R. Judah ben Bathyra," while the Yerushalmi has only "ben Bathyra." There is one passage, however, where R. Judah b. Bathyra and b. Bathyra are reported as entertaining different opinions (Ta'anit 3a); hence Maimonides takes "ben Bathyra" to be identical with "R. Joshua ben Bathyra."

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