Eleazar Chisma (Ḥisma; Hebrew: אלעזר חסמא, "Eleazar Chasma", or אלעזר בן חסמא, "Eleazar ben Chasma") was a tanna (sage) of the second and third generations (2nd century); he was a disciple of Joshua ben Hananiah and Gamaliel II. (Ḥag. 3a; Hor. 10a).
In their use of the word "ben" in connection with his cognomen "Ḥisma" or "Ḥasma" (see Geiger, "Schriften," iv. 343, and Strack, "Einleitung in den Thalmud," 2d ed., p. 81), the sources are inconsistent; its insertion, however, seems justifiable. "Ḥisma," is not an adjectival cognomen (see Eleazar I.), but a locative, the place probably being identical with Hizmeh (see Luncz, "Jerusalem," vi. 67; Selbie, J. A. (1898). "Azmaveth". In James Hastings. A Dictionary of the Bible I. pp. page 208. ; hence "ben Ḥisma" means "son of [= "native of"] Ḥisma" (compare R. H. 17a; Meg. 19a; Ḳid. ii. 3).
Several halakot are preserved under Eleazar's name in the Mishnah (Ter. iii. 5; B. M. vii. 5), and he is met with in halakic controversies with Eleazar ben Azariah and Akiba (Neg. vii. 2; Sifra, Tazria', i. 2), and with Eliezer ben Jacob I (Pes. 32a; Yalḳ., Lev. 638); and to him is ascribed the economic rule that the employee is not entitled to a proportion of his employer's produce greater than the amount of his wages (B. M. vii. 5, 92a; Sifre, Deut. 266).
Some haggadot also are ascribed to him (Mek., Beshallaḥ Wayassa', 4; ib., Amalek, 1; Yoma 19b). Conjointly with Rabbi Joshua, he gives an allegorical reason for Amalek's attack on Israel (Ex. xvii. 8 et seq.) just at the time it occurred. Citing Job viii. 11, "Can a rush grow up without mire? Can the flag grow without water?" he remarks, "Even so is it impossible for Israel to flourish without the Law; and since they had neglected the Law [see Ex. xvii. 1-7], an enemy was ordered out to war against them" (compare Yalḳ. to Ex. l.c., § 262; anonymous in Yalḳ. to Job l.c., § 904). Again, he cites Isa. xliii. 22, "But thou hast not called on me, O Jacob," and applies it to those who are not devout in their prayers, but while reciting the "Shema'" communicate with their neighbors by sign language (compare Yalḳ. to Isa. l.c., § 318).
Not only was Chizma possessed of wide rabbinic learning, but he was also an adept in the sciences. Joshua, introducing him and Johanan b. (Gudgada) Nuri to the notice of Patriarch Gamaliel II, remarked of them that they could approximately calculate the number of drops contained in the ocean (Hor. 10a). As they were very poor, Gamaliel appointed them to remunerative offices in the academy (Sifre, Deut. 14; Yalḳ., Deut. 902; Hor. l.c.). Probably it was here—because the academicians sought from him instruction in secular science—that Eleazar remarked, "The laws concerning birds' nests and those concerning the incipient uncleanness of woman are elements of the Law, while astronomy and geometry are only condiments of wisdom" (Ab. iii. 18; Ab. R. N. xxvii. 2).
- Bacher, Ag. Tan. i. 374;
- Brüll, Mebo a-Mishnah, i. 149;
- Frankel, Darke a-Mishnah, p. 134;
- Geiger, Schriften, iv. 343;
- Heilprin, Seder a-Dorot, ii., s.v.;
- Weiss, Dor, ii. 122;
- Zacuto, Yuḥasin, ed. Filipowski, p. 41b.
This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Jewish Encyclopedia. 1901–1906.