Rabbi Ishmael ben Elisha ha-Kohen

Rabbi Ishmael ben Elisha ha-Kohen (Hebrew: רבי ישמעאל בן אלישע כהן גדול‎, "Rabbi Ishmael ben Elisha Kohen Gadol"

Born: 90
Died: , 135 CE

Rabbi Ishmael ben Elisha ha-Kohen (Hebrew: רבי ישמעאל בן אלישע כהן גדול‎, "Rabbi Ishmael ben Elisha Kohen Gadol", lit. "Rabbi Ishmael ben (son of) Elisha [the] Kohen Gadol (High priest)"; sometimes in short Ishmael ha-Kohen, lit. "Ishmael the Priest") was one of the prominent leaders of the first generation of the Tannaim. His father served as Kohen Gadol in the Second Temple of Jerusalem as well. Ishmael ha-Kohen was also one of the Ten Martyrs, and was executed along with Shimon ben Gamliel.

The tomb of Ishmael ben Elisha ha-Kohen is located in the Druze village of Sajur in the Upper Galilee

abbi Ishmael "Ba'al HaBaraita" or Ishmael ben Elisha (90-135 CE, Hebrew: רבי ישמעאל בעל הברייתא) was a Tanna of the 1st and 2nd centuries (third tannaitic generation). A Tanna (plural, Tannaim) is a rabbinic sage whose views are recorded in the Mishnah.

Ismael son of Elisha was alleged to have been a young boy during the Destruction of the Second Temple (in 70 C.E.), which militates against his claimed year of birth in 90 C.E. by two generations. He was redeemed from captivity by Rabbi Neḥunya ben ha-Ḳanah, whom Tractate Shevu'ot (26a) lists as his teacher. He was a close colleague of Rabbi Joshua. He is likely the grandson of the high priest of the same name. He is buried at Parod in the Galilee.

Ishmael's teachings were calculated to promote peace and goodwill among all. "Be indulgent with the hoary head;" he would say, "and be kind to the black-haired [the young]; and meet every man with a friendly mien" (Avot 3:12).

What he taught he practised. Even toward strangers, he acted considerately. When a heathen greeted him, he answered kindly, "Thy reward has been predicted"; when another abused him, he repeated coolly, "Thy reward has been predicted." This apparent inconsistency, he explained to his puzzled disciples by quoting Gen. 27:29: "Cursed be every one that curseth thee, and blessed be he that blesseth thee" (Yerushalmi Berakhot, chapter 8, page 11c; Gen. R. 66:6).

Ishmael was fatherly to the indigent, particularly to poor and plain maidens, whom he clothed attractively and provided with means, so that they might obtain husbands (Nedarim 9:10; 66a). One Friday night, while absorbed in the study of the Bible, he inadvertently turned the wick of a lamp; and he vowed that when the Temple was rebuilt, he would offer there an expiatory sacrifice (Shabbat 12b).

Views on marriage
Ishmael manifested the same spirit of hope in declining to countenance the refusal of the ultra-patriotic to beget children under the Roman sway (Tosefta, Sotah, 15:5; Bava Batra 60b). Even under the conditions then existing, he recommended early marriage. He said, "The Scripture tells us, 'Thou shalt teach them [the things thou hast seen at Horeb] to thy sons and to thy sons' sons;' and how may one live to teach his sons' sons unless one marries early?" (Deuteronomy 4:9; Yerushalmi Kiddushin, chapter 1, page 61a. See also Bavli Kiddushin 29b.)

Halakhic exegesis
Ishmael gradually developed a system of halakhic exegesis which, while running parallel with that of Rabbi Akiva, is admitted to be the more logical. Indeed, he established the principles of the logical method by which laws may be deduced from laws and important decisions founded on the plain phraseology of the Scriptures. Like Akiva, he opened up a wide field for halakhic induction, but, unlike Akiva, he required more than a mere jot or a letter as a basis for making important rulings (compare Sanhedrin 51b).

Ishmael was of opinion that the Torah was conveyed in the language of man (Yerushalmi Yevamot, chapter 8, page 8d; Yerushalmi Nedarim, chapter 1, page 36c), and that therefore a seemingly pleonastic word or syllable can not be taken as a basis for new deductions. In discussing a supposititious case with Akiva, he once exclaimed, "Wilt thou indeed decree death by fire on the strength of a single letter?" (Sanhedrin 51b). The plain sense of the Scriptural text, irrespective of its verbal figures, was by him considered the only safe guide.

May the merit of the tzadik  Rabbi Ishmael ben Elisha ha-Kohen protect us all. Amen

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