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Rabbi Jonathan

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Rabbi Jonathan (Hebrew: רבי יונתן, Rabi Yonatan) was a tanna of the 2nd century and schoolfellow of R. Josiah, apart from whom he is rarely quoted.

Jonathan is generally so cited without further designation; but there is ample reason for identifying him with the less frequently occurring Jonathan (or Nathan) b. Joseph (or "Jose").[1]


In consequence of the Hadrianic religious persecutions he determined to emigrate from Israel, and with several other scholars started on a journey to foreign parts. But his patriotism and innate love for the Holy Land would not permit him to remain abroad.[2]

Jonathan and Josiah were educated together at the academy of Ishmael ben Elisha,[3] whose dialectic system, as opposed to that of Rabbi Akiva, they acquired. It is even reported that Jonathan all but converted Ben Azzai, a "fellow student" of Akiva, to Ishmael's system, and made him deeply regret his failure to study it more closely. Ben 'Azzai then exclaimed, "Woe is me that I have not waited on Ishmael".[4] Nevertheless, in later years, probably after Ishmael's death, both Jonathan and Josiah adopted some of Akiva's principles. Of Jonathan it is expressly stated that "he followed the system of his teacher Akiva".[5]


Together, Jonathan and Josiah devoted their analytical minds to midrash halachah, interpreting laws as they understood them from the corresponding Scriptural texts, but not suggesting them. Only one halakhah unconnected with a Scriptural text bears their names. Their argumentations are mostly embodied in the Mekhilta (about thirty) and in the Sifre to Numbers (over forty).[6] Neither Jonathan nor Josiah appears in Rebbi's compilation of the Mishnah, with the exception of a single teaching, in the name of Jonathan[7] Of other ancient compilations, the Tosefta cites these scholars once,[8] while the Sifra mentions them twice[9] by their names; once[10] "Jonathan ben Joseph" occurs; and some of R. Josiah's midrashim are cited, but anonymously.[11]

Contrary to the astrological views of his times, Jonathan taught the Scriptural idea of natural phenomena; quoting Jeremiah 10:2, he added: "Eclipses may frighten Gentiles, but they have no significance for Jews".[12] To the question as to the permissibility of profaning the Sabbath to save human life he answered, "The Law says[13] 'The children of Israel shall keep the Sabbath, to observe the Sabbath throughout their generations'; but one may profane one Sabbath in order to preserve a man that he may observe many Sabbaths".[14] According to him, an am ha'aretz is one who has children and does not train them in the knowledge of the Law.[15] Jonathan contradicted the general opinion of earlier and contemporaneous rabbis that a "rebellious son" (Deuteronomy 21:18-21) never was and never will be executed, and that the ir nidachat never did and never will occur; he declared that he himself had sat on the grave of an executed rebellious son and had seen a ruined ir nidachat.[16]


Jonathan was the author of many aphorisms, among them:

  • He that observes the Torah in poverty shall in the end observe it in wealth; and he that neglects the Torah in wealth shall in the end neglect it in poverty.[17]
  • The angry man is controlled by many and variegated manifestations of hell.[18]
  • Consoling the mourner, visiting the sick, and practical beneficence bring heavenly grace into the world.[19]


  1. ^ Compare Mekhilta Yitro Baḥodesh 10, with Sifre, Deuteronomy 32; Mekhilta Ki Tissa 1, with Yoma 85b; Tosef., Niddah, 2:2, Ket. 60b, and Yer. Soṭah 7 19c
  2. ^ Sifre, Deuteronomy 80
  3. ^ Men. 57b
  4. ^ Hullin 70b et seq.
  5. ^ Jerusalem Talmud Ma'as. 5 51d
  6. ^ See D. Hoffmann, Zur Einleitung in die Halachischen Midraschim, p. 38
  7. ^ See "Quotes", infra
  8. ^ Tosefta Shevuot 1:7; the text has "Nathan," but the context shows unmistakably that "Jonathan" is meant
  9. ^ Sifra, Ḳedoshim, 9:5,11
  10. ^ Sifra Behar 1:9; compare Ket. 60b
  11. ^ Compare Sifra Vayikra Hovah 20:8, with B. M. 54a; Sifra Aharei 4:9, with Yoma 57b
  12. ^ Mekhilta Bo 1; compare Yalkut Shimoni Exodus 188
  13. ^ Exodus 31:16
  14. ^ Mekhilta, Ki Tissa; compare Yoma 85b
  15. ^ Sotah 22a; compare Berachot 47b
  16. ^ Sanh. 71a
  17. ^ Pirkei Avot 4:9; cf. Abot de-Rabbi Nathan 30:1 [ed. S. Schechter, pp. 41b, 45a].
  18. ^ Nedarim 22a
  19. ^ Ab. R. N. 30:1

 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainSolomon Schechter and S. Mendelsohn (1901–1906). "Rabbi Jonathan". In Singer, Isidore; et al. (eds.). The Jewish Encyclopedia. New York: Funk & Wagnalls.CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link) Its bibliography:

This page was last edited on 15 November 2020, at 12:20
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