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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

For other people named Judah, see Judah (disambiguation).
Tomb of Judah II and his court on Har Yavnit
Tomb of Judah II and his court on Har Yavnit

Judah II or Nesi'ah I was a Jewish sage who lived in Tiberias in the Land of Israel, in the middle of the third century CE.

He is mentioned in the classical works of Judaism's Oral Torah, the Mishnah and Talmud. There he is variously called "Judah," "Judah Nesi'ah" (= "ha-Nasi"), and occasionally "Rabbi" like his grandfather, Judah haNasi. As Judah III is also designated as "Judah Nesi'ah," it is often difficult, sometimes impossible, to determine which one of these patriarchs is referred to.



Various stories of Judah's youth, referring to him and his brother Hillel, have been preserved. As youths, Judah and Hillel visited Cabul and Biri, each time behaving in ways which offended the local population.[1]

Relations with other scholars

He had especially friendly relations with Hoshaiah.[2] Together with Rabbi Joshua ben Levi, he assisted at Laodicea in the reception of a female proselyte into Judaism.[3] Jonathan b. Eleazar was his companion at the baths of Gadara.[4] The relations between the patriarch and Rabbi Yochanan, the leader of the Academy of Tiberias, seem to have been friendly;[5] Yochanan accepted the regular material support offered to him by Judah.[6] Yochanan also induced Judah to visit Shimon ben Lakish, who had fled from Tiberias in consequence of having made offensive remarks in regard to the dignity of the patriarchate, and invite him to return.[7]

On another occasion, it was Shimon ben Lakish who succeeded in softening Judah's indignation toward a daring preacher, Jose of Maon, who had denounced the rapacity of the patriarchal house.[8] Shimon ben Lakish, moreover, seems to have exhorted the patriarch to unselfishness, saying "Take nothing, so that you will have to give nothing [to the Roman authorities]".[9] Simeon ben Lakish also reminded Judah of the need of providing for elementary education in the various cities, referring to the saying, "A city in which there are no schools for children is doomed to destruction".[10]

Standing among other scholars

Judah's authority as patriarch was not absolute: he could not carry out his intention of omitting the fast-day of Tisha B'Av when it fell on the Sabbath.[11] He was not regarded by his contemporaries as their equal in scholarship, as appears from a curious meeting between him and R. Yannai.[12]

However, Judah was not so unimportant as might appear from this, since Shimon ben Lakish (who was not his pupil) hands down a whole series of halakhic teachings in the name of "Judah Nesi'ah".[13] Shimon ben Lakish doubtless survived Judah and repeated his traditions. Shimon handed down also some of Judah's aggadic teachings.[14] The passage (Nazir 20c) referring to Simeon ben Lakish as "sitting before Judah" and explaining a midrash does not refer to him as a pupil, but as a member of the college. This view is supported by Avodah Zarah 6b, which speaks of Shimon as "sitting before Judah Nesi'ah"; here the patriarch asks Shimon what to do in a certain case, and Shimon clearly appears as the better halakhist, not as Judah's pupil.

Judah's relations to the scholars of his time appear from the following disagreement between Judah and the rabbis: "One said: 'The time is adapted to the leader [parnas]'; the other said: 'The leader is adapted to the time'".[15] It was probably Judah who said that the leader is adapted to the time, and that he must not be blamed for his own incapacity. In the above-mentioned meeting between Judah and Jose of Maon[16] it was Jose who said, "As the time, so the prince."

On another occasion, Judah openly confessed his incapacity. Once during a drought he had ordered a fast and prayed in vain for rain. Thereupon he said, "What a difference between Samuel of Ramah[17] and Judah, the son of Gamaliel! Woe to the time which has such a tent-peg, and woe to me that I have come at such a time!" Rain soon fell in consequence of this self-abasement.[18]

Relations with Origen

Grätz identifies Judah's brother Hillel, with the "patriarch Joullos" ('Ιοῦλλος πατριάρχης), with whom Origen conversed at Caesarea on Biblical subjects.[19] But as Hillel himself was not a patriarch, it may be assumed that it was Judah who conversed with Origen. Origen probably misread ΙΟϒΛΟΣ (Joulos) for ΙΟϒΔΑΣ (Joudas). This assumption agrees with the above-mentioned statement about Hoshaiah's close relations with the patriarch, for it may be assumed as a fact that Hoshaiah had intercourse with Origen at Caesarea.[20]


In halakhic tradition, Judah II was especially known by three ordinances decreed by him and his academy; one of these ordinances referred to a reform of the divorce laws.[21] Especially famous was the decree permitting the use of oil prepared by pagans, incorporated in the Mishnah with the same formula used in connection with decrees of Judah haNasi—"Rabbi and his court permitted".[22] This ordinance, which abrogated an old law, was recognized as authoritative in Babylonia by Samuel, and subsequently by Rav, who at first hesitated to accept it.[23] Simlai, the famous aggadist, tried to induce Judah to abrogate also the prohibition against using bread prepared by pagans. Judah, however, refused to do so, alleging that he did not wish his academy to be called the "losing court".[24]


  • If not for the breath of children in the house of their schoolmaster, the world could not exist.[25]

See also

Preceded by
Gamliel III
Judah II

Succeeded by
Gamliel IV


  1. ^ Tosefta Moed Kattan 2:8; Yerushalmi Pesachim 30d; Pesachim 51a
  2. ^ See Yerushalmi Yevamot 9b; Yerushalmi Beitzah 60d, bottom; Bava Kamma 19b; in another version Yerushalmi Bava Kamma 2d; Yerushalmi Megillah 70d; Megillah 7a,b; in Pesachim 87b, where Hoshaiah refutes an inimical opinion on heretics at the request of the patriarch, Judah I is probably meant; see Bacher, "Ag. Pal. Amor." i. 96
  3. ^ Yerushalmi Yevamot 8d
  4. ^ Yerushalmi Kiddushin 64d
  5. ^ Ta'anit 24a
  6. ^ Sotah 21a
  7. ^ Yerushalmi Sanhedrin 19d; Yerushalmi Horayot 47a; Midrash to Sam. 7
  8. ^ Yerushalmi Sanhedrin 20d; Genesis Rabbah 80
  9. ^ Genesis Rabbah 70
  10. ^ Shabbat 119b; see Bacher, l.c. i. 347
  11. ^ Yerushalmi Megillah 70b; Megillah 5b
  12. ^ See Bava Batra 111a,b; another version occurs in Yerushalmi Sanhedrin 16a, where Rabbi Yochanan accompanies Yannai
  13. ^ i.e., Judah II; see "Seder ha-Dorot," ed. Maskileison, ii. 177; Halevy, "Dorot ha-Rishonim," ii. 30 et seq.
  14. ^ See Shabbat 119b; Yerushalmi Moed Kattan 82c
  15. ^ Arachin 17a
  16. ^ Genesis Rabbah 80; Yerushalmi Sanhedrin 20d
  17. ^ Referring to I Samuel 12:18
  18. ^ Ta'anit 24a
  19. ^ Origen on Psalms, i. 414; see Grätz, "Gesch." 2d ed., iv. 250, 483; "Monatsschrift," 1881, pp. 443 et seq.
  20. ^ " Monatsschrift," l.c.; "J. Q. R." iii. 357–360; Bacher, "Ag. Pal. Amor." i. 92
  21. ^ Yerushalmi Gittin 48d; Gittin 46b
  22. ^ Avodah Zarah 2:9; compare Tosefta Avodah Zarah 4:11
  23. ^ See Yerushalmi Avodah Zarah 41d; Avodah Zarah 37a
  24. ^ Avodah Zarah 37a
  25. ^ Shabbat 119b

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

  • Grätz, Gesch. 2d ed., iv. 241 et seq.;
  • Frankel, Mebo, pp. 92a et seq.;
  • Weiss, Dor, iii. 65 et seq.;
  • Halevy, Dorot ha-Rishonim, ii. 36 et seq. and passim;
  • Bacher, Ag. Pal. Amor. iii. 581.
This page was last edited on 3 April 2021, at 13:13
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