Johanan ben Nuri

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Rabbi Yochanan ben Nuri (Hebrew: יוחנן בן נורי) was a tanna of the 1st and 2nd centuries.


He studied under the watch of Rabban Gamliel of Yavne and senior of Rabbi Akiva.[1] A great halakist, always provided with satisfactory answers to all questions, he was familiarly called "pedler's basket" or "bundle of halakot";[2] the number and diversity of halakot cited under his name in the Mishnah alone, about 40, justify those titles. Besides exhaustive rabbinical knowledge, he acquired familiarity with the general science of his time, especially geometry. It was said of him, as of his colleague R. Eleazar Chisma, that he could approximately state the number of drops contained in the sea.

Also like R. Eleazar Chisma, he was very poor. Through the influence of R. Joshua ben Hananiah both were appointed by Rabban Gamliel to remunerative offices.[3]

Rabbi Johanan showed himself grateful to Rabban Gamliel. When, after that patriarch's death, Rabbi Joshua proposed a change in a rule established by Rabban Gamliel, Rabbi Johanan opposed him: "I have observed that the head is always followed by the trunk; as long as Rabban Gamliel lived we observed the rule laid down by him, and now you propose to veto his directions. Joshua, we shall not harken to thee".[4] Intimate scholarly relations also existed between him and R. Halafta.[5]

He was very pious, and therefore later rabbis said that when one dreams of Rabbi Johanan b. Nuri one may hope to develop a wholesome fear of sin.[6]


In his discussions of halakhot, Rabbi Johanan considered expediency and economy as well as law and authority. When Rabbi Tarfon declared that only olive oil was appropriate for the Sabbath-lamp, Rabbi Johanan became impatient: "And what shall the Babylonians do where none but sesame-oil is to be had; and what shall the Medians do, who have nothing but nut-oil; and the Alexandrians, who have nothing but radish-oil; or the Cappadocians, who have only naphtha?".[7] On another occasion, when Rabbi Akiva suggested that a married woman who has become the common talk of the "spinsters by the moon" ought to be divorced, Johanan remarked, "In that case there is no chance for a daughter of Judah to live with a husband! Only where infidelity is fully established by legal evidence may a divorce be imposed".[8]

In the aggadah he is not often cited.[9]


  1. ^ Sifra, Ḳedoshim, 4:9; Arachin 16b; compare Sifre, Deuteronomy 1
  2. ^ Avot of Rabbi Natan 18; Giṭ. 67a
  3. ^ Compare Sifre, Deut. 16
  4. ^ Eruvin 41a
  5. ^ Compare Tosefta Bava Batra 2:10 with Bava Batra 56b and parallels
  6. ^ Ab. R. N. 40 [ed. S. Schechter, p. 64b]
  7. ^ Shab. 26a
  8. ^ Giṭ. 89a; see Deuteronomy 19:15, 24:1
  9. ^ Jewish Encyclopedia article for Yochanan ben Nuri, by Solomon Schechter and S. Mendelsohn.

Jewish Encyclopedia bibliography[edit]

External links[edit]

 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainSinger, Isidore; et al., eds. (1901–1906). "article name needed". The Jewish Encyclopedia. New York: Funk & Wagnalls.