Dosa ben Harkinas

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Dosa ben Harkinas (Hebrew: רבי דוסא בן הרכינס‎) was of the first generation of the Jewish Tanna sages, proceeding from the era of the Zugot. Contemporary to Yochanan ben Zakai, he was active during the era of the Second Temple of Jerusalem, and lived to a ripe old age, even after the destruction of the Second Temple. He died approximately 60 years after the destruction of the temple.

The Babylonian Talmud[1] relates a story attributed to Rabbi Dosa ben Harkinas and how that he had received an oral teaching passed down from Haggai the prophet, who had said three things: (a) that it is not lawful for a man whose brother married his daughter (as a co-wife in a polygamous relationship) to consummate a levirate marriage with one of his deceased brother's co-wives (a teaching accepted by the School of Hillel, but rejected by the School of Shammai);[2] (b) that Jews living in the regions of Ammon and Moab separate from their produce the poor man's tithe during the Sabbatical year; (c) that they accept of proselytes from the peoples of Tadmor (Palmyra) and from the people of Ḳardu (Corduene).

In the days of Rabbi Dosa ben Harkinas, the general practice was as the teachings of the School of Hillel who prohibited a man of like status to consummate a levirate marriage with one of the co-wives of his daughter. The rabbis had heard that Rabbi Dosa ben Harkinas permitted it. They, therefore, came to question Rabbi Dosa's beliefs in this regard when it was reported in "Ben Harkinas' name" that he permitted such marriages. As it turned out, he explained that it was not him who permitted it, but rather his brother, Yonathan, who followed the teachings of the School of Shammai.

Dictums attributed unto Rabbi Dosa ben Harkinas[edit]

His best-known saying is cited in Pirkei Avot:

"Sleeping in the morning and drinking wine in the afternoon, the conversation of the children, and sitting in the churchs of amme ha'ares, can remove a man from this world".

— Pirkei Avot, 3:10


  1. ^ Yebamot 16a
  2. ^ A quintessential Jewish teaching, since it is lawful for a Jewish man to marry his brother's daughter, or his sister's daughter (Maimonides, Hil. Isurei Bi'ah 2:14; Rabbi Moshe Isserles, Shulhan Arukh Even ha'ezer 2:6). Likewise, polygamy was permitted under Mosaic law (Maimonides, Hil. Ishut 14:3), as also the biblical injunction to take in marriage the wife of one's deceased brother (Heb. yibbum = levirate marriage) when they had no offspring (Maimonides, Hil. Yibbum 1:1–2). The problem, however, that arises here is that a man whose daughter was married to his brother, had his brother died childless, he (the living brother who is the father of his brother's wife) could not consummate a marriage with his own daughter, a thing prohibited in Jewish law, and therefore even the co-wives of his brother assume the same prohibition and are forbidden for him to marry.