- ELEAZAR (in TJ usually Lazar) BEN PEDAT (d. 279), third century amora. He is the amora Eleazar mentioned without a patronymic. Scion of a priestly family (MK 28a), Eleazar was born in Babylon (Ber. 2:1, 4b). There he studied under samuel (Er. 66a), and more particularly under rav (Hul. 111b). After the latter's death, he migrated to Ereẓ Israel. It was in Ereẓ Israel that he referred to the academy of Rav as the "little sanctuary" (Meg. 29a; cf. Ezek. 11:16). He was still unmarried when he went to Ereẓ Israel, and R. Ammi and R. Assi participated at his wedding in Tiberias (Ber. 16a). He emphasizes his great fortune in having had the privilege to migrate to Erez Israel and resume semikhah there, as well as being one of the scholars who was entrusted with the intercalation of the calendar (Kil. 112a). In Ereẓ Israel he studied under Ḥanina, the av bet din of Sepphoris (Kil. 9:4, 32c). He quoted so many halakhic decisions and even more aggadic sayings in Ḥanina's name (Ber. 27b; Meg. 5a; et al.) that the Talmud remarks, "Everywhere Eleazar relies upon Hanina" (Ter. 8:5, 45c; et al.). In Caesarea, he studied under Hoshaya Rabbah (Ber. 32b), whom he refers to as the "father of the Mishnah" (Kid. 1:3, 60a; et al.). The Jerusalem Talmud also frequently cites traditions transmitted by Eleazar in the name of Ḥiyya b. Abba (BM 10:4, 12c), and in one instance even states that the opinions of the two scholars cannot be regarded as those of separate people since "Eleazar is the pupil of Ḥiyya Rabbah" (Kid. 1:4, 60b). It cannot mean that he was his actual disciple, since Ḥiyya had probably died by the time Eleazar migrated to Ereẓ Israel. The intensity of Eleazar's study often made him oblivious to all worldly events (Er. 54b). Although the Babylonian Talmud describes Eleazar as Johanan's "pupil" in Tiberias (BB 135b; Tem. 25b), the Jerusalem sources see the relationship rather as that of a typical "pupil-associate" (TJ, Sanh. 1, 18b; cf. TJ, Ber. 2:4b). Moreover, the phrase "both Johanan and Eleazar say," is often found in the Babylonian Talmud itself (Yoma 9b, et al.). Eleazar was, in fact, appointed Johanan's associate in the leadership of the council after the death of Simeon b. Lakish, Johanan's previous colleague (BM 84a), but the appointment was not a happy one, Eleazar being distinguished by his extensive knowledge in contrast to the profound acumen of Resh Lakish (Sanh. 24a). He was also one of the communal leaders of Ereẓ Israel (Pe'ah 8:7, 21a), and he is sometimes referred to as serving as dayyan, in which capacity he consulted Johanan on difficult cases (Sanh. 3:13, 21d; BB 7b). During his last years Johanan took no active part as head of the council and it appears that Eleazar took his place (Meg. 1:13, 72b). During this period he became widely known as the "master (i.e., legal authority) of the land of Israel" (Yoma 9b), and on many occasions sent rulings and decisions to Babylon which were transmitted by the Neḥhutei (Sanh. 63b). In fact it is stated that the words "they sent from there," i.e., from Ereẓ Israel to Babylon, refers to Eleazar (ibid. 17b). Among those to whom he sent his decisions were Mar Ukva the exilarch, and Judah the principal of the academy of Pumbedita (BK 1:1, 2c). After the death of Johanan in 279, Eleazar was appointed head of the council in Tiberias, but he died in the same year (see Iggeret Sherira Gaon). -Private Life Eleazar was extremely poor (Ta'an. 25a). He was, nevertheless, loath to accept any gifts from the house of the nasi . He excused himself by quoting the verse (Prov. 15:27), "He that hateth gifts shall live" (Meg. 28a). Moreover, despite his poverty, he sought to support other needy scholars. This he did in an honorable manner, supplying their needs in secret to save them embarrassment (BM 2:3, 8c). All but one of Eleazar's children died during his lifetime (Ber. 5b), his surviving son, Pedat, acting as an "amora" ("interpreter") in the bet hamidrash of Assi (Meg. 4:10, 75c). -Teaching Eleazar was one of the great exponents of the Oral Law, and the Mishnah. He quoted numerous statements of both early and late tannaim and several beraitot, particularly in midrash halakhah , without indicating their source. It was with regard to one of his interpretations (Sifra 4:1) that Johanan once remarked to Simon B. Lakish, "I saw the son of Pedat sitting and interpreting the Law, like Moses in the name of the Almighty" (i.e., he expounded the verse in the manner of the tannaim, cf. Rashi). He was also a great halakhist who profoundly influenced the methods of mishnaic exegesis. Although he naturally preferred to follow the text of the Mishnah rather than that of the various beraitot, he nevertheless examined the wording of each mishnah in the light of the earliest sources (BB 87a). He often employed the technique of dividing the mishnayot, saying, "The author of this section is not the author of that section" (Shab. 92b; Ker. 24b; et al.). He would reject a mishnah whose source he could not find, with the words, "I do not know who taught this" (BM 51a). He thus considerably corrected and explained the Mishnah. He is the author of the rule that whenever Judah ha-Nasi transmits a case, first as subject to a difference of opinion and then in an undisputed form, the halakhah is in accordance with the second form (Yev. 42b) (see conflict of opinion ). Eleazar was also an exceptionally prolific and profound aggadist, whose sayings are frequently quoted in the Midrash and in both Talmuds. Among them may be mentioned, "In seven places in the Bible, God equates Himself with the lowliest of creatures" (Tanh. Va-Yera, 3); "The performance of charity is greater than all sacrifices" (Suk. 49b); "Let us be grateful to cheats (mendicants who are not in need), for were it not for them we would sin daily by becoming unused to giving charity to the poor" (Ket. 68a); "Let my sustenance be as bitter as the olive, providing that it is from Thy hand, rather than as sweet as honey if I have to depend upon man" (Sanh. 108b); "Even when a sharp sword rests on his neck, man should not abandon hope of mercy" (Ber. 10a); "An unmarried person is less than a man … as is he who owns no land" (Yev. 63a). Many of his sayings are devoted to fostering the sanctity and love of the Land of Israel: e.g., "Whoever resides in Israel lives without sin" (Ket. 111a); "Those who die outside Israel will not be resurrected" (ibid.). When told that his associate Ulla had died during one of his frequent visits to Babylon, he quoted Amos 7:17 and declared "Thou Ulla, 'shalt die in an unclean land'" (ibid.). He also ruled as a matter of halakhah, "Books which have merited to come to Israel, may not be taken out of the country" (Sanh. 3:10, 21). Although Eleazar's aggadic sayings embrace many spheres of Torah, he avoided esoteric study. He refused to receive instruction in this field from either his teacher Johanan or, many years later, from his friend Assi, who wished to attract him to the subject (Hag. 13a). His teachings were transmitted by numerous contemporaries and later scholars, particularly Abbahu, Rabbah b. Hana, and Zera (Shab. 12b, 134b; Suk. 43a; et al.). -BIBLIOGRAPHY: Bacher, Pal Amor, S.V.; Epstein, Mishnah, 292–307; Frankel, Mevo, 111b–113a; Halevy, Dorot, 2 (1923), 327–32; Hyman, Toledot, 192–9; Weiss, Dor, 3 (19044), 76–80. (Shmuel Safrai)
Encyclopedia Judaica. 1971.