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Reuben ben Strobilus

REUBEN BEN STROBILUS (mid-second century C.E.), tanna. Little is recorded of Reuben's scholarly activities. He is best known for his visit to Rome in an attempt to persuade the authorities to rescind certain decrees against the Jews. Disguising his Jewish identity by cutting his hair in the Roman fashion, he suggested to the Romans that if the Jews were allowed to refrain from working on the Sabbath, they would be impoverished; if they were authorized to practice circumcision, they would become enfeebled; and that if they were permitted to observe the laws of family purity, they would decrease in number. The authorities initially were persuaded by his reasoning and repealed the decrees, but they reinstated them when they discovered that he was a Jew (Me'il. 17a). Reuben is quoted as engaging in a dispute with a heathen philosopher in Tiberias, in which he claimed that the most despicable man on earth is he who denies his Creator, and that disregard of the moral laws of the Decalogue constitutes a denial of their author (Tosef. Shev. 3:6). He also taught that, "Suspicion does not come upon a person unless he has done the thing suspected; if he has not done it wholly, he has done it partly; if he has not done it partly, he had the intention of doing it; if he had no such intention, he has seen others doing it and enjoyed the sight of it" (MK 18b). He had two sons, who studied under *Judah ha-Nasi (TJ, Kil. 9:3). It is possible that one of them was Abtolumus b. Reuben, who mingled freely in Roman society.


Bacher, Tann; Hyman, Toledot; I. Konovitz, Ma'arekhot Tanna'im, pt. 4 (1969), 113.

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