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Johanan ben Torta

JOHANAN BEN TORTA (first half of the second century), tanna, a contemporary of *Akiva. Only one statement by him is known, in which he gives the reasons for the destruction of the Temple. "Why was Shiloh destroyed? Because of the contempt in which the sacred objects there were held. Why was the first Temple destroyed? Because of three evil things which prevailed then – idolatry, immorality, and bloodshed. But in the period of the Second Temple we know that they labored in Torah and were careful to give tithes; why then were they exiled? Because they loved wealth and hated one another. This is to teach thee that hatred of one's fellow men is considered by God as grave as idolatry, immorality, and bloodshed" (Tosef. Men. 13:22, cf. Yoma 9a, b). Johanan b. Torta vigorously opposed Akiva's acceptance of Bar Kokhba as the Messiah, saying to him, "Akiva! Grass shall grow from your jaws before the son of David appears" (TJ, Ta'an. 4:8, 68d). According to a late aggadah, Johanan was a proselyte who became converted when he saw that the cow he bought from a Jew refused to work on the Sabbath (PR, Parah, 56b–57a). This, however, would appear to be merely a homiletical interpretation based on his name (torta, "cow") which, in fact, refers to his birthplace.


Bacher, Tann.; Alon, Toledot, 2 (1957), 42.

Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2007 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.