NEHEMIAH


NEHEMIAH
NEHEMIAH (middle of second century C.E.), tanna. Nehemiah was considered one of Akiva's outstanding disciples and is mentioned in all the talmudic traditions that described the reestablishment of the center of learning in Galilee after the Bar Kokhba revolt. Thus it is reported that on the easing of the Hadrianic persecution he took part in the activity for the renewal of the teaching of the Torah (Gen. R. 61:3; Eccles. R. 11:6). Similarly, Nehemiah was listed as one of the five ordained by judah b. bava at the cost of his life (Sanh. 14a), and also among the scholars who gathered at Usha to reconstruct the religious life of the people (Song R. 2:5, no. 3). He was also described as having been active at Bet Rimmon when the renewed calendar arrangements were made (TJ, Ḥag. 3:1), and as having taken part in the convention of Jabneh (Ber. 63b). Though these traditions have been viewed by some as representing distinct historical events, they should more properly be viewed as a family of related traditions with definite lines of literary dependence between them, as has been recently argued convincingly (Oppenheimer, 78–79). The Talmud (Sanh. 86a) ascribes to R. Johanan the statement that סְתָם תּוֹסֶפְתָא ר׳ נְחֶמְיָה (setam tosefta Rabbi Neḥemyah), apparently ascribing to Nehemiah the authorship of all anonymous statements in the Tosefta. Both the authenticity and the exact intent of this statement are unclear (see: tosefta ), and in any case it is clear that R. Nehemiah is neither the author of our Tosefta (nor of any earlier version of the Tosefta which may have once existed), nor do his traditions take up any considerable percentage of this work. His name is mentioned 20 times in the Mishnah and about 60 times in the Tosefta, and given the fact that the Tosefta is between three to four times longer than the Mishnah, the two figures correspond almost exactly. Nehemiah is also mentioned about 60 times in the midrashei halakhah and is well represented in both tannaitic halakhah and aggadah. The Talmud attributes to him the grammatical rule that the suffix ה to a noun is equivalent to the prefix ל (Yev. 13b). According to the printed edition of the Talmud, Nehemiah's name is associated with the study of Merkabah mysticism (Shab. 80b), but in the manuscript readings of this passage (Oxford, Vatican 108, Munich 95) Nehemiah is not mentioned. Similarly, the Talmud ascribes to him a statement on the creation, transmitted in the name of his father (Pes. 54a). A tannaitic source ascribes to him the following aggadic saying:   "Beloved is suffering. For just as sacrifices bring atonement so does suffering" (Sif. Deut. 32). In a much later aggadic saying he is reported to have said: "A single individual is as important as the whole of creation" (ARN1 31, p. 46). According to the Jerusalem Talmud (Ta'an. 4:2, 88a) he was descended from the biblical Nehemiah. He lived in great poverty and on one occasion shared his pottage of lentils with a poor man, who died from eating such scant fare (Ket. 67b). He worked as a potter (TJ, BM 6:8, 11a). -BIBLIOGRAPHY: J. Bruell, Mevo ha-Mishnah, 1 (1876), 198–200; Frankel, Mishnah (19232), 185f., 222 n. 5, 324; Bacher, Tann; Hyman, Toledot, 924–6; Ḥ. Albeck, Meḥkarim ba-Beraita ve-Tosefta (1944), 63–65, 183; Epstein, Tanna'im, 241f.; A. Oppenheimer, in: Z. Baras, S. Safrai, M. Stern. Y. Tsafrir (eds.), Eretz Israel from the Destruction of the Second Temple to the Moslem Conquest (Heb.) (1982). (Stephen G. Wald (2nd ed.)

Encyclopedia Judaica. 1971.