Jose ben Halafta

Jose ben Halafta or Yose ben Halafta (or Halpetha) (Hebrew: רבי יוסי בן חלפתא; IPA: /ʁa’bi ‘josi ben xa’lafta/) was a tanna of the fourth generation (2nd century CE). He is the fifth-most-frequently mentioned sage in the Mishnah.[1] Of the many Rabbi Yose’s in the Talmud, Yose Ben Halafta is the one who is simply referred to as Rabbi Yose.

2nd century Talmud rabbi and tanna
Rabbinical eras

. . . Jose ben Halafta . . .

He was born at Sepphoris; but his family was of Babylonian-Jewish origin.[2] According to a genealogical chart found at Jerusalem, he was a descendant of Jonadab ben Rechab.[3] He was one of Rabbi Akiva‘s five principal pupils, called “the restorers of the Law,”[4] who were afterward ordained by Judah ben Baba.[5] He was also a student of Johanan ben Nuri, whose halakhot he transmitted[6] and of Eutolemus.[7] It is very likely that he studied much under his father, Halafta, whose authority he invokes in several instances.[8] But his principal teacher was Akiva, whose system he followed in his interpretation of the Law.[9]

After having been ordained in violation of a Roman edict,[10] Jose fled to Asia Minor,[11] where he stayed till the edict was abrogated. Later he settled at Usha, then the seat of the Sanhedrin. As he remained silent when his fellow pupil Simeon bar Yohai once attacked the Roman government in his presence, he was forced by the Romans to return to Sepphoris,[12] which he found in a decaying state.[13] He established there a flourishing school; and it seems that he died there.[14]

Jose’s great learning attracted so many pupils that the words “that which is altogether just shalt thou follow”[15] were interpreted to mean in part “follow Jose to Sepphoris”.[16] He was highly extolled after his death. His pupil Judah ha-Nasi said: “The difference between Jose’s generation and ours is like the difference between the Holy of Holies and the most profane.”[17]

Owing to Jose’s fame as a saint, legend describes him as having met Elijah.[18] Jose, complying with the levirate law, married the wife of his brother who had died childless; she bore him five sons: Ishmael, Eleazar, Menahem, Halafta (who died in his lifetime), and Eudemus.[19]

He exemplified Abtalion‘s dictum, “Love work”;[20] for he was a tanner,[21] a trade then commonly held in contempt.[22]

. . . Jose ben Halafta . . .

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. . . Jose ben Halafta . . .

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