Rabbi Eleazar ben Azariah

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Rebbe Eleazar ben Azariah
Rabbi Eleazar ben Azariah
רבי אלעזר בן עזריה
Elazer, Elazar, Eleazer, Azarya, Azaryah
Other Names:
Eleazar Hanasi,
Meaning of Name:
G-D helped, G-D help
Alma, Israel
15th of Iyyar
Second generation Tana from a priestly family who temporarily served as Nasi.

Rabbi Eleazar ben Azariah was a second / third generation Tana who was temporarily appointed as Nasi at age 18 when Rabbi Gamliel was expelled from his position. Rabbi Eleazar ben Azariah was a Kohen and a tenth generation descendant of Ezra Hasofer whom inherited great family wealth. He is well known for his role early in the Pesach Hagadah. Rebbe Eleazar ben Azariah studied under Rabbi Yossi Haglili and then moved to Yavneh joining the Sages of the Mishna. He is buried in Alama, Northern Israel right near his father Rabbi Azarya.


[edit] His Father Azariah

Kever Rabbi Eleazar.
Rabbi Eleazar was born a few years before the destruction of the Second Temple to Rabbi Azariah, a wealthy and respected Kohen. Rabbi Azariah was a 9th generation, direct descendent of Ezra Hasofer. Quite knowledgeable in Torah, Rebbe Azarya was called a 'friend' by Rabbi Dosa ben Hurkenes, a leading elder of the generation. Rabbi Azariah was very wealthy and supported his brother Shimon, allowing him to spend all his time learning Torah, subsequently this Tana is always referred to as 'Shimon brother of Azaria'.

Rabbi Eleazar ben Azariah was around 13 years old when Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakkai passed away.

[edit] Teachers

Rabbi Eleazar studied Torah under his father Rabbi Azayah during his early youth and later under Rabbi Yossi Haglili.

[edit] Rabbi Yossi Haglili

Sign leading to Kever.
Predicting the upcoming doom and destruction of the Temple, Rabbi Azariah gathered all his wealth and family and moved out of Central Eretz Yisroel, heading North, where conditions were slightly better. In the North, young Eleazar became a student of Rabbi Yossi Haglili.

Rabbi Yossi Haglili had a nasty wife but could not afford to divorce her and pay the Ketuvah. Rabbi Eleazar ben Azariah offered his teacher to pay the Ketuvah from his father's wealth. His teacher took his offer and divorced his wife.

Rabbi Yossi Haglili is considered a third generation Tana while his early student Rabbi Eleazar ben Azariah is listed amongst the second generation Tanaim. This is because Rabbi Yossi Haglili did not leave the North until years later when he traveled down to Kerem Byavneh and revealed his great wisdom in front of Rabbi Akiva and Rabbi Tarphon. His main activity was therefore amongst the third generation Tanaim, while his younger student was appointed as Nasi years before and his main correspondences were with the second generation Tanaim.

[edit] Yavneh

Tomb in Alama.
After the destruction of the Second Temple, Rabbi Yochanan ben Zaki gathered all the surviving Sages and reestablished the Sanhedrin in Yavneh. Rabbi Azariah gathered his family and they moved to Yavneh, the new center of Torah. His son Rabbi Eleazer was now able to study in the Bais Medrash of the Sages.

Even before he was appointed as Nasi, Rabbi Eleazar ben Azariah was very respected in the eyes of the Sages. We find him along with Rabbi Eliezer ben Hurkenus, Rabbi Akiva, Rabbi Yehoshua and Rabbi Tarphone reciting the story of the Exodus from Egypt on the night of the Seder in Beni Brak. Rabbi Eliezer ben Hurkenus was excommunicated before Rabbi Eleazar ben Azariah was appointed as Nasi, making him only 16 - 17 years old at the time of this Pesach Seder. There are however opinions that say it was referring to Rabbi Eleazar be Aruch who has the same exact abbreviation of his name.

[edit] Nasi

Buried right near father.
In the aftermath of the destruction of the Bais Hamikdash, Rabbi Gamliel was determined to unify the Sages into one central authority to prevent the Jewish nation from splintering into factions. He felt that by strengthening his position as Nasi, he would be able to do that. When he felt strong Halachic controversy from the Av Bais Din, Rabbi Yehoshua ben Chanaya, he openly degraded him on three separate occasions. After the third time, his fellow Sages were unable to watching the continuous humiliation of Rabbi Yehoshua. Together they decided to remove Rabbi Gamliel from his position as Nasi.

Now the Sages were faced with the dilemma of finding a replacement Nasi. They could not appoint Rabbi Yehoshua since such a move would be too painful to Rabbi Gamliel due his personal involvement in this incident. Rabbi Eliezer ben Hurkenus had already left the Sages and started his own Yeshiva in Lud. Rabbi Tarphone lacked the generosity needed to be a leader of the Jewish Nation. Rabbi Akiva was a descendent of converts and lacked the parental merit needed to protect him from the spiritual wrath of Rabbi Gamliel. Rabbi Tzadok was too physically weak from fasting forty years to prevent the destruction of the Temple.

The Tziyun.
With no other choices eyes fell upon Rabbi Eleazar ben Azariah, a young prodigy. Rabbi Eleazar ben Azariah, despite his young age of 18 had already attained deep wisdom and knowledge. He had inherited tremendous wealth from his father and would therefore be respected by the ruling Roman government. His Yichus was very strong, being the tenth generation from Ezra the Scribe.

His appointment was particularly impressive considering all the great Sages of Yavneh whom were alive at the time. This was a sign that even at that young age Rabbi Eleazar ben Azariah had already attained great knowledge and had perfected almost all his attributes. Some of the Sages had been eying him since he was 16-17 years old, from the first time Rabbi Gamliel had humiliated Rabbi Yehoshua.

[edit] Appointment as Nasi

Once the Sages agreed upon the appointment of Rabbi Eleazar ben Azariah, they all came to visit him as he was not part of the meeting due to his young age. When they asked him if he was willing to accept the position of Nasi, head of the Sanhedrin and Rosh Misivta, Rabbi Elazar ben Azarya replied that he first had to consul his wife. One reason for this was the change in the Mitzva of Onah for a Nasi which is only once a month as apposed to a Talmid Chacham who has this obligation from Shabbos to Shabbos.

His wife told him that the Sages would eventually reconcile with Rabbi Gamliel and he would be returned to his former position. Rabbi Eleazar ben Azariah replied that it is worth using a valuable goblet for a one day, even if it were to break afterwords. Meaning, he should assume the position of Nasi although he did not expect it to last long term.

[edit] Like Seventy Years Old

Sign leading to the kever.
Rabbi Eleazar ben Azariah's wife also pointed out that he looked very young and would not be respected. However that night a miracle took place and eighteen strands of his hair turned white giving him an elderly appearance. It is for this reason that Rabbi Eleazar ben Azariah said "I am like seventy years old". Additionally Rabbi Eleazar ben Azariah used to study Torah day and night with all his energy, this weakened his physical strength and brought about early effects of aging.

[edit] On That Day

The day Rabbi Eleazer ben Azarya was appointed as Nasi was a historically significant due to the changes he instituted in the Bais Medrash and the great Torah debates that took place, leading to many important Halachic conclusions. It was on this day that the discussions of Maseches Adiyus took place. Whenever it says in the Talmud "on that day" it is referring to this day, other then the few times it is referring to the great debate between Bais Shami and Bais Hillel that took place in the attic of Chanaya ben Chizkyah ben Gurion. It also happened to be Rabbi Eleazer ben Azarya's birthday.

[edit] Torah Open to All

Raban Gamliel had established a rule, only allowing into the great Bais Medrash of the Sages students that had been screened and found worthy. When Rabbi Eleazer ben Azarya became Nasi, he removed the guards from the Bais Medrash and allowed all Torah students to enter. On that day a few hundred benches were added to the Bais Medrash to accommodate the new students. According to some opinions 400 benches were added and other opinions say as many 700. This was in accordance with Eleazer ben Azarya's teaching that studying Torah even for other intentions will eventually lead to Torah studied for its sake.

[edit] Presidency Reverted to Rabbi Gamliel

On that day Rabbi Gamliel also came to participate in the Torah debates that took place in the Bais Medrash, despite having just been impeached from his position of Nasi. During a debate with Rabbi Yehoshua regarding Yehudah the Amonite convert, Rabbi Gamliel acknowledged his supremacy in Torah and apologized for publicly degrading him. After the apology was issued, the Sages sent a committee which included Rabbi Eleazar ben Azariah, to once again reinstated Rabbi Gamliel as Nasi. From then on he had to partially share this position with Rabbi Eleazar ben Azariah. Rabban Gamliel would give the presidential sermon two out of every three Shabbasim, leaving the remaining Shabbos for Rabbi Eleazar ben Azariah. According to some opinions Rabbi Eleazar ben Azariah was also appointed as Av Bais Din, a position formally held by Rabbi Yehoshua. Rabbi Gamliel and Rabbi Eleazar ben Azariah shared their positions in friendship and peace, often working together for the benefit of the Jewish nation.

[edit] Trips to Rome

Rabbi Eleazar ben Azariah made a number of trips to Rome with his fellow Sages including Rabban Gamliel, Rabbi Akiva and Rabbi Yehoshua to nullify harsh decrees against the Jewish Nation.

[edit] Bar Kochva Revolt

When the Bar Kochva revolt started all the Sages fled Yavneh. Rabbi Eleazar ben Azariah moved to Tzippori where he hid some of his surviving friends including Rabbi Chutzpis Hameturgimun, Rabbi Yeshvav Hasofer, Rabbi Chalafta and Rabbi Yochanan be Nuri.

[edit] One of the Sages

Rabbi Eleazar ben Azariah was a second / third generation Tana and was considered one of the Sages of Yavneh. He was counted amongst the Sages that went to visit Rabbi Eliezer ben Hurkenus on his death bed to appease him for his excommunication due to the incident of the 'Oven of Achnai'.

[edit] In the Mishna

Rabbi Elazer ben Azarya is mentioned roughly 37 times throughout the Mishna. He argues mostly with Rabbi Eliezer, Rabbi Eleazar Chasma, Rabbi Tarphone, Rabbi Yehoshua, Rabbi Yishmoel and Rabbi Akiva.

[edit] Neighbors Cow

Rabbi Eleazar ben Azariah's neighbor would allow her cow to walk around on Shabbos with a ribbon tied between its horns. In accordance with his personal opinion in the laws of Shabbos which permits such action, Rabbi Eleazar ben Azariah did not protest, despite the fact that all the other Sages disagreed with his opinion. At one point the Sages approached him and gave him an ultimatum to either get rid of the ribbon or separate himself from their midst. Rabbi Eleazar ben Azariah ended up regretting his lack of protest to uphold the Sage's opinion so much that he fasted until his teeth darkened.

[edit] Masser Rishon to Cohen

Rabbi Eleazar ben Azariah held that one may give masser rishon to Cohanim in place of Leviem if he so wishes. Rabbi Akiva argued and held that it was forbidden. When Rabbi Eleazar ben Azariah himself went to collect masser rishon from a certain field owner, Rabbi Akiva approached the owner and made him seal off one of the two entrances to the field, leaving one entrance that was only accessible by passing through a cemetery. Rabbi Eleazar ben Azariah took the hint and conceded, returning all the masroes that he had taken to that point.

[edit] Darshan

Rabbi Eleazar ben Azariah was a big Darshan. So great was he in Drush, that he was able to push away Rabbi Akiva when it came to expounding on Agadah.

[edit] Contemporaries and Friends

Rabbi Eleazar ben Azariah was friends with many of the Second and Third Generation Tanaim including Rabbi Eleazer Hamodai, Rabbi Eliezer ben Hurkanus, Rabbi Eleazar Chasma, Rabbi Tarphone, Rabbi Yehoshua ben Chananya, Rabbi Yishmoel, Rabbi Akiva, Shimon Ben Azzai, Rabbi Masyah ben Cheresh, Rabbi Chutzpis Hameturgimun, Rabbi Yeshvav Hasofer, Rabbi Chalafta, Rabbi Yochanan be Nuri and Shimon Ben Zoma.

[edit] Approbations

  • After hearing a student recite the Shabbos drasha just given by Rabbi Eleazar ben Azariah, Rabbi Yehoshua declared "The generation that has Rabbi Eleazar ben Azariah amongst it are not orphans".
  • When the Sages came to inform the eder Rabbi Dosa ben Hurkanus about the appointment of Rabbi Eleazar ben Azariah as Nasi he said "I recognize him to be the tenth generation and his eyes are similar to the eyes of Ezra". Rabbi Dosa ben Hurkanu according to some opinions was over four hundred years old at the time and has seen Ezra. According to other opinions he owned a portrait of Ezra or had seen him in visions or mystical revelations.
  • Ben Azzai said "All the Sages of Israel are like the peal of a garlic upon me with the exception of this bald one". According to some opinions he was referring to Rabbi Eleazar ben Azariah.
  • Issey ben Yehuda praised Rabbi Eleazar ben Azariah calling him a chest of fine fragrance herbs. This was a way of exclaiming that he was knowledgeable in many sections of Torah.
  • Similarly Rabbi Yehuda Hanasi praised him comparing him to a venders chest that contains everything in it. Torah scholars were able to ask Rabbi Eleazar ben Azariah regarding Chumash, Medrash, Mishna, Halacha and Aggadah and receive satisfying answers. This is a step up from the praise of Issey ben Yehuda since merchants carry more wares with them as their livelihood depends on it.

[edit] Wealth

Rabbi Eleazar ben Azariah inherited great wealth from his father. He also invested in the wine and oil markets. Each year he would give 12,000 calves as masser from his live stock, until masser behama was nullified at one point after the Churban. Subsequently he was required to give a similar amount in taxes to the government. So great was his wealth that the Sages used him as an example of certain levels of wealth. A person who sees Rabbi Eleazar ben Azariah in a dream should expect to come across wealth.

[edit] Family

Kevarim of Rabbi Elazar and Rabbi Azariah.
Rabbi Eleazar's father, Rabbi Azariah was a wealth and respected Kohen. His uncle was the Tana Shimon Achi Azariah. Rabbi Eleazar ben Azariah was known to have had at least one son, the Tana Rabbi Yishmoel ben Eleazar. A tenth generation descendent of Rabbi Eleazar ben Azariah was the Amorah Rabbi Ezra grandson of Rabbi Avtilimus.

[edit] Passing

Rabbi Eleazar ben Azariah lived around seventy years, passing away after Rabban Gamliel and Rabbi Eliezer but before Rabbi Akiva. This was considered a very long life for a person who attained a position of power at such a young age. At the time of his passing, his students sat around him and asked him to teach them one final teaching. Rabbi Eleazar ben Azariah replied that they must be respectful to one another and while praying they should know before whom they are praying, due to this they will all merit to enter the life of the Next World.

When Rabbi Eleazar ben Azariah passed away, wealth ended from the Sages and the crowns of wisdom were nullified since the crowns of the Sages is their wealth.

[edit] Kabbalistic Reincarnations

Rabbi Eleazar ben Azariah was a reincarnation of his ancestor Ezra the Sofer. He was later reincarnated in Rabbi Avraham Iben Ezra.

[edit] Kever Rabbi Elazar ben Azarya

Tzion Rabbi Eleazar ben Azariah.
Rabbi Eleazar ben Azariah is buried in Alama right after the Kevarim of Rabbi Yossi Hakohen, Rabbi Eleazar ben Aruch, Rabbi Shimon ben Nisanel and according to some opinions Rabbi Eliezer ben Hurkanus. A few feet away from Kever Rabbi Eleazar is the Kever of his father Azariah. Location of Kever Rabbi Eleazar ben Azariah being in Alama, is mentioned as far back as 1000 years ago in Migilas Evyasar. Almost all the early description of the Kever say that it was in the vicinity of a large tree, which still exists to this day.

[edit] Hillula of Rabbi Eleazar ben Azariah

Local residents of the area created a Hillulah for Rabbi Elazar ben Arach on the 15th of Iyyar. Later they added Rabbi Yossi Hakohen and Rabbi Eleazar ben Azariah to the hillula of the day.

[edit] Directions

Geographic Coordinates

  • Latitude: 33.054905
  • Longitude: 35.489823
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