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YIẒḤAḲ BAR JOSEPH:

Palestinian amora of the third and fourth centuries. He was a pupil of Abbahu and of Johanan, and transmitted almost entirely in the name of the latter. It is related that he was once about to be killed by a spirit to which he was speaking, when a cedar-tree saved him (Sanh. 101a; Rashi on the passage). It was said to be due to him that the Samaritans were declared to be a heathen people, the following narrative being told in this connection: "Yiẓḥaḳ was once sent into the Samaritan district to purchase wine, and met there an old man who told him that no one in that region observed the laws. The amora returned with this report to Abbahu, and the latter, together with Ammi and Assi, declared the Samaritans to be heathens" (Ḥul. 6a; comp. also Rashi and the Tosafot on the passage).

In his teacher's company Yiẓḥaḳ often visited Usha, by whom the taḳḳanot were enacted; and he attended lectures in a yeshibah in that city (Ḳid. 50a; Pes. 72a). It was he who brought most of these taḳḳanot to the knowledge of the Babylonians; he was in fact one of the most prominent intermediaries between Palestine and Babylonia in matters pertaining to religious decisions, and was greatly respected in the latter country, being on terms of intimate friendship with Abaye (Ber. 42b).

Thirteen halakic decisions transmitted by Yiẓḥaḳ in the name of Johanan have been preserved: regarding circumcision on Yom Kippur (Yeb. 64b); on an undecided question (Shab. 45b); on the differencebetween Palestine and Babylonia with reference to 'erub ('Er. 22a); on the ḥaliẓah (Yeb. 104a); on the testimony of two witnesses before a court of law (Sanh. 4a); five sentences regarding ṭerefah (Ḥul. 43a); on sexual intercourse (Niddah 65b); on sacrifices (Tem. 26a); and on the gall and liver of slaughtered animals (Ḥul. 48a). He transmitted also three halakic maxims in the name of Yannai: two on the custom of washing the hands (Ḥul. 105b) and one on Nazir (Naz. 42b).

In addition to his occasional journeys in Palestine in the company of Abbahu, Yiẓḥaḳ is once mentioned as undertaking a journey to Babylonia, where he associated with Abaye, as well as with Rabin and Pappa, the sons-in-law of Yiẓḥaḳ Nappaḥa (Ḥul. 110a). Yiẓḥaḳ relates that Judah I. had a private entrance to his yeshibah in order to spare his pupils the inconvenience of rising when he entered (Men. 33a).

Bibliography:
  • Bacher, Ag. Pal. Amor. i. 420; ii. 96, 211; iii. 99, 402, 520;
  • Heilprin, Seder ha-Dorot, ii. 240.
J. S. O.
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