Rabbi Meir (Hebrew: רַבִּי מֵאִיר) was a Jewish sage who lived in the time of the Mishnah. He was one of the Tannaim of the fourth generation (139-163). He is the third most frequently mentioned sage in the Mishnah[citation needed] and is mentioned over 3,000 times in the Babylonian Talmud.[1] His wife Bruriah is one of the few women cited in the Gemara.[citation needed]

Biography

He was born in Asia Minor. According to the Talmud, his father was a descendant of the Roman Emperor Nero who, it is said, escaped death at the time of his deposition and became subsequently a convert to Judaism.[2] According to Rambam, Nero was his Father.[3]

Twenty four thousand students of Akiva died in a plague. He found five new students, including Meir and Rabbis Judah ben Ilai, Eleazar ben Shammua, Jose ben Halafta, and Shimon bar Yochai.[4]

Meir entered the school of Rabbi Akiva, then went to the school of Rabbi Ishmael. During this time, Meir held the profession of a scrivener, copying principally sacred script, for which he was admonished: "My son, pay particular heed to your profession, since your profession is the work of heaven; lest perhaps you leave out one letter, or else you add one superfluous letter, and in so doing you find that you have destroyed thereby the entire world."[5] He then returned to Akiva, who, recognizing his dialectical powers, ordained him over the heads of his other disciples.[6] This ordination, which was considered invalid on account of Meir's youth, was confirmed by Judah ben Baba.[7]

Unlike Akiva, Meir seems to have kept aloof from the revolutionary movement of Bar Kokhba.[8] Nevertheless, he suffered greatly from its consequences. His father-in-law, Hananiah ben Teradion, was killed in the Hadrianic persecutions, and his sister-in-law was taken to Rome and sold to a brothel.

During the Hadrianic persecutions Meir lived abroad, but he returned to Judea after the repeal of the oppressive edicts, and took part in the reestablishment of the Sanhedrin in the city of Usha. Shortly afterward Simeon ben Gamaliel II was elected patriarch, and Meir became a hakham, in which office he was charged with the duty of preparing the subjects to be discussed in the Sanhedrin.

In the later part of Meir's life in one day he lost two sons, who died suddenly on a Sabbath while he was at the house of study.[9] Shortly after the death of his sons his wife died. According to a legend, she committed suicide after having been dishonored by one of her husband's pupils.[10]

The last years of Meir's life were passed in Asia Minor. He was induced to leave Judea because of the conflict that arose between him and the patriarch over the change introduced by Simeon in the ceremonial of the Sanhedrin. Custom required its members to rise when the president, the judge, or the reader entered the academy. Simeon issued an order that the assembly should rise as a body only on his own entrance, while on the entrance of the judge only the first row, and on that of the reader only the second row, should rise. Meir and Nathan (the judge) felt offended at this new arrangement and determined to show Simeon's unfitness for his office by puzzling him with difficult halakic questions which he would be unable to answer. Informed of this, Simeon expelled them from the Sanhedrin, but he could not prevent them from writing difficult questions and distributing them among its members. Compelled to readmit both Nathan and Meir, he contrived that their names should not be recorded in the ordinances enacted by him. Nathan submitted, but Meir continued to embarrass the patriarch by addressing to him difficult questions. When, at last, the patriarch threatened excommunication, he answered, "I do not care for your sentence unless you can prove to me on whom, on what grounds, and under what conditions excommunication may be imposed," and left the Sanhedrin.[11]

A different story in the Babylonian Talmud indicates that he was forced to flee to Babylonia due to pursuit by the Roman authorities, or due to other unclear circumstances.[12]

Name

"Meir" may have been a sobriquet. The Babylonian Talmud asserts that his actual name was not Meir but Nehorai, and that the real name of Nehorai was not Nehorai but rather Nehemiah or Eleazar ben Arach.[13] This passage is ambiguous regarding whether Meir was renamed twice (from Nehorai and previously from another name), or whether two rabbis (Meir and Nehorai) were each renamed.

According to Yeshayah Berlin, Meir and Nehorai were separate rabbis.[14] This reading is supported by several of the oldest Talmud manuscripts.[15]

In contrast, modern scholar John McGinley assumes that Meir was renamed twice. To explain the renaming, McGinley notes that Eleazar ben Arach is elsewhere is described as being the greatest of the Sages,[16] and a student of Yohanan ben Zakkai who (at an early age) had mastered the meaning of the mystical revelations which are associated with "the Work of the Chariot."[17] McGinley suggests that the virtual disappearance of Eleazer Ben Arach from rabbinic ways[further explanation needed] allowed the usage of this name as a cognomen for Meir, acceptably to rabbinic officialdom[further explanation needed] who permitted this cover name to honor him but with sufficient indirectness so as not also to honor his checkered history with Rabbinic officialdom.[18] The book also says that Yochanan Ben Zakai set up a bet midrash at Bror Hayil after he left Yavneh. Meir was not a student of Zakai at Yavneh.

Teachings

Halacha

First a disciple of Elisha ben Abuyah and later of Rabbi Akiva, Meir was one of the most important Tannaim of the Mishnah. Akiva's teachings, through his pupil Meir, became the basis of the Mishnah.

According to the Babylonian Talmud, all anonymous Mishnas are attributed to Meir.[19] This rule was required because, following an unsuccessful attempt to force the resignation of the head of the Sanhedrin, Meir's opinions were noted, but not in his name, rather as "Others say...".[20] However, in a few places the opinion of "Others" is recorded alongside a contradictory opinion of "Rabbi Meir", suggesting that this identification is not universal.[21]

Meir "was able to give 48 reasons to prove a thing legally clean, and as many more reasons to prove it unclean".[6] This excess of dialectics is given in the Talmud as the only reason why his halakhot did not receive the force of law; the pros and cons offered by him were so nearly equal in strength that one never knew his real opinion on a subject.

In the deduction of new halakhot from the Biblical text, Meir used with great caution the hermeneutic rules established by his teacher Ishmael, regarding them as unreliable; and he rejected Akiva's method of deducing a new halakhah from a seemingly superfluous particle in the Scriptural text.[22]

Quotes

Other maxims of his, on study and the fear of the Lord, have been transmitted by Johanan: "Learn the ways of the Lord with thy whole heart and with thy whole soul"; "Watch at the gates of the Law"; "Keep the Law in thy heart"; "Let the fear of the Lord be always before thine eyes and keep thy tongue from evil words"; "Cleanse and make thyself pure that thou mayest stand without sin before the Lord, and He will be with thee" [28]

Meir reproved those who run after riches:

Meir's experience of the world was wide and varied, and the aggadah records several of his social maxims:

Meir was fond of discoursing upon traveling:

Tomb

The Tomb of "Meir", view from the seashore of the Sea of Galilee

According to the Jerusalem Talmud, Meir died in Assos and asked that his tomb be placed on the seashore.[34]

Tomb by the Sea of Galilee

A tomb by the Sea of Galilee has been associated with a certain "Rabbi Meir" since at least 1210 CE, when Samuel ben Samson recorded that "Before we arrived in [Tiberias] we saw the tomb of Rabbi Meir"; however it cannot be the tomb of the tanna, who died in Assos and was buried by the sea. Samuel b. Samson also recorded the tomb of another Rabbi Meir, near Safed.[35] Jehiel of Paris (13th century) said that the tomb was that of the otherwise unknown "Meir Katzin", and the anonymous student of Nachmanides (14th) said that it was the tomb of the otherwise unknown "Meir Tatzun". Moses Bassola (16th) recorded that "Near [Tiberias], a grave marked by standing stones. They are always gathering to pray there, and they say that it is the grave of a certain Rabbi Meir who vowed never to sit down until the Messiah arrives, and he is buried standing up. He is not the Rabbi Meir of our Mishnah."[36][37] Nachmanides' well-known emigration to the region confused matters further, as his acronym RMBN was mistakenly associated with the occupant of the tomb and misinterpreted as Rabbi Meir Baal haNes ("Rabbi Meir of the Miracle") in the nineteenth century.[38][39]

Nonetheless, some eventually began to claim that the tomb of "Meir" by the Sea of Galilee was in fact that of Rabbi Meir the tanna of the Mishnah. In this view, pilgrims visit his grave and recite Tehillim and a special prayer, especially on his yahrtzeit (anniversary of his death) the 14th of Iyar,[40] which is also Pesach Sheni.[41] Other opinions say that the real hilula is on rosh chodesh teves, which coincides with chanukah.[42]

Charities have been named for "Meir of the Miracle", including Colel Chabad Rabbi Meir Ba'al HaNes' charity founded by Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi in 1788, Kolel Ahavas Zion Siebenburgen founded in 1824, 'Rabbi Meir Baal HaNeis Salant' charity founded in 1860 by Rabbi Shmuel Salant[43] and Kolel Chibas Yerushalayim/Meir Baal HaNess.

See also

References

 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainSinger, Isidore; et al., eds. (1901–1906). "MEÏR (MEÏR BA'AL HA-NES = "Meïr the miracle-worker")". The Jewish Encyclopedia. New York: Funk & Wagnalls.

  1. ^ Rabbi Alfred J. Kolatch, Masters of the Talmud: Their Lives and Views, Jonathan David Publishers, Middle Village, NY, 2003, p. 260
  2. ^ Gittin 56a
  3. ^ hakdomah of mishneh torah, madah
  4. ^ Talmud Bavli Yevamot 62b.
  5. ^ Babylonian Talmud (Eruvin 13a)
  6. ^ a b Eruvin 13b
  7. ^ Sanhedrin 14a; see Rashi ad loc.
  8. ^ Jewish Encyclopedia, Meir
  9. ^ Quoted in Yalkut Shimoni, Prov. 964
  10. ^ Rashi to Avodah Zarah 18b s.v. Ve'ikah De'amrei
  11. ^ Yerushalmi Moed Kattan 3 81a
  12. ^ Brand, Ezra. "R' Meir's Suspicious Brushes with Sexual Indiscretions, and His Encounters with Roman Troops, as Depicted in the Talmud". www.ezrabrand.com. Retrieved 2023-12-28.
  13. ^ Eruvin 13b
  14. ^ In Mesorat HaShas, his notations on Talmud. See Emet L' Yaakov ([Rabbi Yaakov Kamenetzky) to Eiruvin 13b for an explanation on the symbolism of the two names Meir and Nehorai.
  15. ^ The Munich, Vatican 109, and Vatican 127 manuscripts, as well as the text of Rabbenu Hananel, preserve a slight different wording of the passage: it states that Meir's actual name was Meisha (מיישא), while Nehorai's actual name was Nehemiah or Elazar ben Arach. Thus Meir and Nehorai are distinct people.
  16. ^ Avot 2:8, Avot of Rabbi Natan 2:8
  17. ^ Haggigah 14b
  18. ^ McGinley, 'The Written' as the Vocation of Conceiving Jewishly, 2006; pages 408-409.
  19. ^ Gittin 4a
  20. ^ Babylonian Talmud, Horayot 13b-14a
  21. ^ See Tosafot to Brachot 9a, Sotah 12a, Avodah Zarah 64b
  22. ^ Sotah 17a; Sifre Balak 131
  23. ^ Beitzah 25b
  24. ^ Pirkei Avot 6:1
  25. ^ Pirkei Avot 4:14
  26. ^ Avot of Rabbi Natan 21
  27. ^ Kiddushin 82a
  28. ^ Berachot 17a
  29. ^ Ecclesiastes Rabbah 1
  30. ^ Compare Berachot 7a where the same maxim is given in the name of Rabbi Yose
  31. ^ Avot of Rabbi Natan 29; compare Avot of Rabbi Natan 36. and Pirkei Avot 4:18, where these maxims are given in the name of Simeon ben Eleazar
  32. ^ Genesis Rabbah 48:14
  33. ^ Ecclesiastes Rabbah 4
  34. ^ y. Kil'ayim 9:3
  35. ^ אוצר מסעות, עמ' 63
  36. ^ Noy, Dov; Ben-Amos, Dan; Frankel, Ellen (2006-09-03). Folktales of the Jews, Volume 1: Tales from the Sephardic Dispersion. Jewish Publication Society. ISBN 978-0-8276-0829-0.
  37. ^ מסעות ארץ ישראל p. 157
  38. ^ מאיר בעל הנס", באנציקלופדיה יהודית"
  39. ^ הרב ראובן מרגליות, ר' מאיר בעל נס, לחקר שמות וכינויים בתלמוד, ירושלים תש"ך, עמ' כ"ה
  40. ^ Saltiel, Manny. "Today's Yahrtzeits and History – 14 Iyar | Matzav.com". Matzav.com. 26 April 2021. Retrieved 26 April 2021.
  41. ^ JewishBless
  42. ^ ben ish chai, hilchos chanukah
  43. ^ "Rabbi Meir Baal Haneis endorsements".