NEHORAI (end of second century C.E.), tanna. Nehorai is referred to three times in the Mishnah, once in Nazir 9:5, mentioning that Samuel was a Nazirite; once in Avot 4:14, where he says, "Exile thyself to a place of Torah; and say not it will come after thee or that thy companions will assist thee to maintain it; and lean not upon thine own understanding"; and lastly in Kiddushin 4:14, where he states, "I would disregard all other crafts and teach my son only Torah. For man enjoys its reward in this world, while its principal remains to him for the world to come." In Nazir he engages in discussion with R. Jose; the Mishnah at the end of Kiddushin is a late addition from Tosefta Kiddushin 8:16, where his words appear between those of Rabbi and of R. Simeon ben Eleazar. Similarly, in Avot 4:14 his statement is placed in the context of 4th and 5th generation tannaim. On the other hand he is quoted as transmitting traditions in the name of R. Joshua (Seder Olam 22, Nazir 5a). The reference to Nehorai in Tosef. RH 1:16 has been identified with the tanna Nehorai ben Shinai mentioned in Tosefta Ma'asrot 1:1 (see Lieberman, Tosefet Rishonim, 4, 194). If these two figures are one and the same, then the notion that Nehorai dealt almost exclusively with aggadah would have to be modified somewhat.
The Talmud asserts (Shab. 147b) that his name was not Nehorai at all, and that he is actually to be identified with the far better known tanna R. *Nehemiah, or perhaps even with the famous figure *Eleazar b. Arakh, and he was called Nehorai ("light") because he enlightened the eyes of his colleagues in knowledge of halakhah. This assertion, however, should be understood in the light of the general tendency of the Talmud, both when retelling biblical stories and when elaborating the biographies of early talmudic sages, to identify obscure and little known figures with more famous and well known figures. The further statement (Er. 13b) that Meir is the same as Nehorai is little more than a play on words (both names being derived from words denoting "light"), and cannot be taken as reflecting a serious historical tradition, since Nehorai is found together with Meir in Avot 4:10 and in Kiddushin 4:14 they are both mentioned in the same Mishnah.
Hyman, Toledot, 918f.; Bacher, Tann, 2 (1890), 377–83.
[David Joseph Bornstein /
Stephen G. Wald (2nd ed.)]
Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.