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(Third Century C.E.)

BENA'AH (Benaiah; third century C.E.), Palestinian scholar in Tiberias at the end of the tannaitic and the beginning of the amoraic era. Most of his dicta are transmitted in the Talmud by his disciple *Johanan Nappaḥa , but some are also cited in collections of tannaitic literature. His extant sayings are chiefly of an aggadic character: e.g., "Whoever occupies himself with the Torah for its own sake makes learning an elixir of life" (Ta'an. 7a); "The Pentateuch was given scroll by scroll" (Git. 60a). Bena'ah acquired a great reputation for wisdom, juridical ability, and the unraveling of complex legal cases, as a result of which the Roman authorities appointed him a judge. He was the author of an enactment according to which any judge found guilty even in a civil case was deemed unworthy of continuing in his judicial office (BB 58a–b). According to the biographer of the emperor Alexander Severus, the introduction of a similar statute in Roman law was the result of the Jewish precedent (Scriptores Historiae Augustae, Alexander Severus, 45:7). Bena'ah used to mark burial caves to keep the unsuspecting from defilement. In this connection, the talmudic aggadah relates some wondrous tales such as that of his visit to the grave of Adam (BB 58a). Bena'ah was the head of an academy in Tiberias, which apparently continued to function after his death. His disciple, Johanan, taught there (TJ, Shab. 12:13c). Some scholars maintain that it was because of this college that Tiberias was selected as the site of the central academy in Palestine.


Bacher, Tann; Hyman, Toledot, 280–1.

[Zvi Kaplan]

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