JONAH


JONAH (mid-fourth century C.E.), Palestinian amora. Jonah and his associate Yose (Yosi) were the heads of the "Beit Va'ad" (the Sanhedrin) in Tiberias. The Jerusalem Talmud is replete with the halakhic discussions of these two scholars; there is not a single tractate in which they are not mentioned. However, whereas Jonah is frequently referred to in the order Zera'im and progressively less and less in the succeeding orders until in Nashim and Nezikin he is hardly talked of at all, his associate Yose, who outlived him (TJ, Ma'as. Sh. 4:9, 55b), is consistently mentioned throughout. Jonah, a pupil of Johanan's pupils, such as Ilai and Ze'ira, established original principles for the study of the Talmud and the understanding of the Mishnah. For instance, he established that the minimum quantities given by the Talmud, such as an olive's bulk or that of an egg, are of rabbinic and not biblical origin (TJ, Pe'ah 1:1, 15a); that when the Mishnah introduces a law with the comprehensive word "all" or "these," it does not imply that the laws referred to are of permanent validity (TJ, Yev. 2:5, 12d), and that many incidents related in the Bible and the Mishnah are given not in order to establish the halakhah for future generations, but mainly to provide information about how they were practiced in earlier generations (TJ, Shev. 1:7, 33a). In many cases he rejects the formula of the Mishnah and the order of its statements, preferring that of the Tosefta. He emends the Mishnah in various ways and asserts that it should be taught accordingly, in contrast to Yose who endeavors to justify the text of the accepted Mishnah (TJ, RH 2:1, 57d; Pes. 1:2, 27c). One of his novel interpretations is in the story told of him that he gave his *tithes to Aḥa b. Ulla, not because he was a priest but because he was occupied with study (TJ, Ma'as. Sh. 5:5, 56b). Many of the amoraim of the succeeding generation, including some of the "scholars of the south," were his pupils.

Jonah is also mentioned several times in the Babylonian Talmud, and in one place is referred to as one of "the resolute men of Palestine" who are "more saintly than the pious of Babylon" (Ta'an. 23b). Jonah, like Yose, was not only the head of the Sanhedrin, preaching in public and teaching halakhah, but was also politically active. During their time, the rebellion of Gallus broke out (351) and some of their halakhic rulings are connected with this event. While the Roman armies were stationed in the country they both permitted the Jews of Galilee to bake bread for the army of Ursicinus on the Sabbath because, in demanding this, "the aim [of the soldiers] was not to apostatize, but merely the desire for fresh bread" (TJ, Shev. 4:2, 35a). They forbade the inhabitants of Sennabris, whose Sefer Torah had been burnt by Ursicinus, to use a defective scroll. The Talmud adds that they gave this ruling not because it was the halakhah, but so that the people of the locality should purchase another scroll (TJ, Meg. 3:1, 74a). Another tradition tells of their journey to Antioch, their meeting with Ursicinus, and the great honor he showed them (TJ, Ber. 5:1, 9a). It is possible that this visit was not during the revolt but during Ursicinus' second journey to Syria in 361 for the Parthian war (but see Lieberman, in JQR, 36 (1946), 341 n. 89). Very little of Jonah's aggadah has been preserved, but accounts of many of his pious deeds have been transmitted, particularly his deeds of charity. When a person of good family became impoverished he said to him: "My son, I have heard that you have been left a legacy, take this money; you can repay it when you receive the legacy." When he had taken it he would say: "Let it be a gift" (TJ, Pe'ah 8:9, 21b). He was succeeded by his son Mani *II as head of the council of the Tiberias community.

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

Frankel, Mevo 98–99; Graetz, Gesch, 4 (1908), 304ff.; Weiss, Dor, 3 (19044), 98–100; Z.W. Rabinowitz, Sha'arei Torat Bavel (1961), 433, 435; Epstein, Mishnah, 395–9.

[Shmuel Safrai]


Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.