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Alleged tomb of Levi and Yossi Bar Sisi, Sasa, Israel
Alleged tomb of Levi and Yossi Bar Sisi, Sasa, Israel

Levi ben Sisi or Levi bar Sisi (Sisyi, Susyi, Hebrew: לוי בר סיסי) was a Jewish scholar, one of the semi-tannaim of the late 2nd century and early 3rd century.

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  • Why Are Things Creepy?
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Hey, Vsauce, Michael here. Fear gives us life. Being afraid of the right things kept our ancestors alive. It makes sense to be afraid of poisonous insects or hungry tigers, but what about fear when there is no clear and obvious danger? For instance, a Teddy Bear with a full set of human teeth...or a smile.jpeg. There's something a little off about these images- too much mystery, and strange-ness, but no obvious threat, the way there is with a gun or falling rock. But, yet, they still insight fear, because they are creepy. But why? What gives us the creeps? What causes something to be creepy? We are now in my bedroom- the bedroom I grew up in, in Kansas. Like a lot of children my age, I was terrified of "Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark." But the very first book that ever scared me was "The Curse of the Squirrel." To this day, I still haven't finished the book...but that's just me. Psychologist James Geer developed the "Fear Survey Schedule II" which he used to find out what scared us the most, combined with the results of a more recently Gallup poll, these are the things that scare most of us, the most. All of these things are scary, but are they creepy? Let's get more specific. I love the way Stephen King delineates three types of scary stuff. The first is the "gross-out"- this is something disgusting, morbid, diseased. The second is "horror"- horror, to King, is the unnatural- a giant spider, or being grabbed in the dark when you thought you were alone. The third: "Terror" is different, creepier. He says terror is coming home to find that everything you own has been replaced with an exact copy. Terror is feeling something behind you- it's breath on your neck. Knowing that you will be grabbed, but then turning around to find that there was never anything there in the first place. Not a lot of research has been done on that feeling- the creeps- but many theories and ideas involve vagueness, ambiguity. For instance, masks, and why clowns are creepy. Claude Levi-Strauss wrote that the facial disguise temporarily eliminates, from social intercourse, the part of the body which reveals personal feelings and attitudes. Part of the reason even a neutral or happy mask can be creepy may have to do with ambiguity. A mask hides the true emotions and intentions of the person underneath. I don't know if the person wearing that mask is a threat or not. Vagueness is creepy when it comes to the human form. This is the famous Uncanny Valley. On a chart of humanness there's a zone where something can be almost entirely human, but off by just a little. Not so wrong that it's clearly fake or funny, or so good that it's indistinguishable. Instead, it's just troubling. The creepiness of the Uncanny Valley is wonderfully demonstrated by John Bergeron's Singing Androids. Watch these videos when you're alone... A similar uneasy feeling comes from ShayeSaintJohn, a character created by Eric Fournier. Funny to some, nightmare fuel to others. Uncanny humanoids, like all creepy things, straddle a line between two regions that we can understand and explain with language. Francis T. McAndrew and Sara Koehnke describe being "creeped out" as an adaptive human response to the ambiguity of threats from others. Creepy things are kind of a threat, maybe, but they're also kind of not. So, our brains don't know what to do. Some parts respond with fear, while other parts don't, and they don't know why. So, instead of achieving a typical fear response, horror, we simply feel uneasy, terror, creeped out. Between the mountains of safety and danger, there is a valley of creepiness where the limits of our knowledge, and trust, and security aren't very clear. Will looking at this cause you to die one week later? Impossible, right? Maybe that's the terror of ambiguity. We don't do well with ambiguity. When it involves our own intentions, it can make us lie. And when it involves danger, but no recognizable threat, it can make us think and feel some pretty weird things. Have you ever peered over a ledge, a railing, way high-up, like, so high-up it made you feel nervous and dizzy, and felt something pushing you? Maybe even an urge to jump? Have you ever stood on the ledge with a loved one and realize that you could push them? It would be that easy. You really could do it, and maybe you do want to do it, or maybe it's just cognitive dissonance- the fact that your brain is having to deal with ambiguity. A recent study by Jennifer Hames at Florida State University dubbed this the High Place Phenomenon. When approaching a ledge and a dangerous drop, your survival instinct kicks in and you pull yourself away. But, your balance and motor systems don't get it. Nothing is pushing you, and you don't normally fall or leap randomly. So, what's going on? The part of your brain that processes intention might resolve this by determining that something must be pushing you. Or, that you might actually want to jump or push your friend, even if none of that is true. Now, we're not done with ambiguity yet because our language reflects the gray area of terror and creepiness. Take a look at the word "terror," itself. We have "horrible" and "horrific." "Terrible" and "terrific." Why is that? Well, through history, we never really figured out what to call powerful experiences, because they're both. They are full of awe...awesome. And, they are full of aw...awful. We need them to survive. We need fears, and the creeps, to understand our size, our weaknesses. But, on the other hand, avoiding them is pretty great too...The creeps is a physical reminder that the world is vague and full of ambiguity, but that we are cunning- always trying to figure things out. But, nonetheless, fragile. Is that terrible or terrific? Well, it's both. Which, as a creepy ghost would say, is kind of boo-tiful. And, as always, thanks for watching.


He was a student of the patriarch Judah haNasi, and studied together with Judah's son Simeon.[1]

He assisted Judah in the compilation of the Mishnah, and composed his own collection of baraitot.[2] Many of Levi's baraitot were eventually embodied in a compilation known as Kiddushin de-Bei Levi.[3]

In the Babylonian Talmud Levi is seldom quoted with his patronymic, and neither in the Babylonian nor in the Jerusalem Talmud nor in the Midrashim is he quoted with the title of "Rabbi". Thus, one can determine whether the name "Levi" without a patronymic refers to Levi bar Sisi or to a younger namesake (Levi II) who is almost always cited as "R. Levi".

Although Levi bar Sisi is not given the title "Rav," he was highly esteemed among scholars. Where an anonymous passage is introduced with the statement למדין לפני חכמים (= "it was argued before the sages"), the implication is that the argument was advanced by Levi before Judah haNasi.[4]

Judah haNasi later spoke of Levi bar Sisi as of an equal. At the request of a congregation at Simonias to send a man who could fulfill the duties of a preacher, judge, beadle, scribe and teacher, and supervise general congregational affairs, Judah sent Levi. When Levi took up his position, he failed to satisfy the first requirement. Questions of law and of exegesis were addressed to him, and he left them unanswered. The Simonias congregation charged the patriarch with sending someone unfit for the job, but he responded that Levi was as able as himself. He summoned Levi and asked the same questions, which Levi answered all correctly. Judah inquired why he did not do so before and Levi answered that his courage had failed him.[5] A late midrash speaks of him as a Biblical scholar and fine preacher.[6]

Several stories are told of his prayers in times of distress, which were immediately answered.[7]

After Judah haNasi's death, Epes the Southerner was made head of the academy, which led Levi and Hanina bar Hama to avoid the academy. When Epes later died and Hanina became head of the academy, Levi moved to Babylonia, whither his fame had preceded him.[8] He died in Babylonia, and was greatly mourned by scholars. Abba bar Abba eulogized him, saying that Levi alone was worth as much as the whole of humanity.[9]


  1. ^ 19a
  2. ^ Yoma 24a
  3. ^ Kiddushin 76b; Bava Batra 52b
  4. ^ Sanhedrin 17b; compare Menachot 80b; Meilah 9b; see Rashi and Tosafot ad loc.
  5. ^ Yerushalmi Yebamot 12 13a; compare Yebamot 105a; Genesis Rabbah 81:2
  6. ^ Pesikta Rabbati 25 165b
  7. ^ Yerushalmi Taanit 3:8; Taanit 25a; see also Megillah 22b
  8. ^ Shabbat 59b
  9. ^ Yerushalmi Berachot 2 5c

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

Jewish Encyclopedia citations

  • Bacher, Ag. Tan. ii. 536;
  • Frankel, Mebo, p. 110b;
  • Halevy, Dorot ha-Rishonim, ii. 60a;
  • Seder HaDoroth, ii.;
  • Weiss, Dor, ii. 192.
This page was last edited on 16 December 2020, at 12:36
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