Jonah (Hebrew: רבי יונה) was a Palestinian amora of the 4th century, the leading rabbinical authority in the 4th amoraic generation. With Jose II, his early schoolmate and lifelong colleague and business partner, he studied under Ze'era I and Rav Ela (Bek. 30a; Yer. Ter. ii. 41d), and when, as young men, they called on Abbahu to express their sympathy with him in his bereavement, he treated them as prominent scholars (Yer. Sanh. vi. 23d). But Jonah's special master was Rav Jeremiah (Yer. Ḥal. i. 57c, ii. 58b). From these masters and others the youths acquired a thorough familiarity with the traditions, and gradually rose from pupils to fellows. Thus, it is said, "Haggai opened the discourse and Jonah and Jose closed it" (Yer. R. H. ii. 58b).
Finally they succeeded to the rectorate of the academy at Tiberias. In his office Jonah was distinguished by his paternal care for his pupils, to whom he gave both advice and material support (Yer. Beẓah i. 60c). According to the Biblical and rabbinical requirement he gave away the tithe of his income, but to those who studied the Law, not to priests or Levites, deriving his authority from II Chron. xxxi. 4 (Yer. Ma'as. Sh. v. 56b). When he discovered a worthy man who was poor, he would aid him in such a way as not to hurt his self-respect. "I understand," he would say to him, "that you have fallen heir to an estate" or "that your debtors will soon pay you; borrow some money of me, which you may repay when you come into possession of your fortune." As soon as the proffered loan had been accepted he would relieve the borrower from his promise by telling him, "This money is thine as a gift." This procedure he regarded as suggested by the Psalmist: "Blessed is he that considereth [Hebr. משכיל = "dealeth prudently with"] the poor" (Ps. xli. 2 [A. V. 1]; Yer. Peah viii. 21b; Midr. Teh. to passage).
Jonah also enjoyed a certain respect among the Romans (Yer. Ber. v. 9a; Ta'an. 23b). He was included among those styled ("the mighty ones of the land of Israel"), because, the Rabbis explained, of the efficacy of his prayers in times of drought. The following miracle is related of him: Once, on a Sabbath, fire broke out on his premises. A Nabatæan whose property adjoined Jonah's attempted to extinguish it, but Jonah would not permit him thus to profane the Sabbath. "Dost thou rely on thy good luck?" mockingly asked the Nabatæan, to which Jonah replied, "Yes"; whereupon the fire was quenched (Yer. Yoma viii. 45b). As rectors of the academy at Tiberias, Jonah and Jose had many disciples, some of whom became leaders in the next generation, and spread and perpetuated their master's doctrines. Jonah left a worthy son and successor in the person of Mani II.
Jewish Encyclopedia bibliography
- Bacher, Ag. Pal. Amor. iii. 220-231;
- Frankel, Mebo, p. 98a;
- Halevy, Dorot ha-Rishonim, ii. 183b;
- Weiss, Dor, iii. 110.