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Nakdimon ben Guryon

NAKDIMON BEN GURYON (first century C.E.), mentioned in one version of a tannaitic story (Sifre Deut. 305; cf. Mekh. Bahodesh 1) concerning *Johanan b. Zakkai, as the aristocratic and wealthy father of a young woman reduced to abject poverty and humiliation in the aftermath of the destruction of Jerusalem. Like many figures mentioned in passing in the early tannaitic sources, the later talmudic and post-talmudic aggadah transmits many elaborate legends concerning his life and the dramatic events in which he reportedly took part. According to the Talmud (Git. 56a) he was one of three celebrated wealthy men of Jerusalem during the last years of the Second Temple. Like his affluent associates *Ben Ẓiẓit ha-Kassat and *Ben Kalba Savu'a, Nakdimon studied under the rabbis and was highly regarded by *Johanan b. Zakkai (cf. PdRE 2). Legendary accounts are given of his wealth and philanthropy. On his daily journey to the house of study (the texts of that period often confuse the house of study with the Temple), he had the whole way covered with woolen carpets which he left lying there for the poor to take (Ket. 66b). Other accounts speak of his daughter's excessive use of cosmetics (ibid.) and his daughter-in-law's expenditure on her kitchen (Ket. 65a). He was also regarded as a wonder-worker. During a water shortage he borrowed 12 cisterns filled with water from a wealthy Roman official on condition that by a certain day he would either return the cisterns full of water or pay 12 silver talents. On the evening of the last day of the appointed time, in answer to his prayers, rain fell and filled the cisterns. When the Roman objected that the sun had already set and the appointed time had passed, Nakdimon caused the sun to shine by means of his prayer (Ta'an. 19b). During the siege of Jerusalem, he and his two associates promised to supply the city for 21 years with all necessary provisions. The Zealots, however, burned all the provisions so that need would induce the people to fight against the Romans (Git. 56a). With the fall of Jerusalem, Nakdimon lost all his wealth, and Johanan b. Zakkai met his daughter (Miriam; Lam. R. 1:16, no. 48, cf. Sifre Deut. 305) picking out barley corns from cattle dung (Ket. 66b; Lam. R. ibid.). According to a talmudic tradition his proper name was not Nakdimon but Boni (Ta'an. 20a).


Hyman, Toledot, 948–9; J. Neusner, Development of a Legend: Studies on the Traditions Concerning Yohanan Ben Zakkai (Studia Post-Biblica, vol. 16) (1970), 21–22, 235–38.

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