The Author’s Introduction
Thus said Abraham, the
son of Rabbi Samuel son of Rabbi Abraham Zacuto, may he be
remembered in the World-to-Come: The people of Israel are
compared to the stars by name and number, akin to gold
implements and the most precious stones. Even more so are the
wise and pious ones, for it is said, The wise men shine like the
brilliance of the firmament and those who lead others to
righteousness [shine] like stars forever and ever.
That is the great difference between those who provide
themselves with merit and those who lead others to righteousness
and provide others with merit.
The star is the light of the heavenly orb; likewise the soul in
the body is its most important part, and that is surely so.
They, I mean the sages of the Mishna and Talmud and all those
who came after them, who composed books to dispense merits among
us, they illuminate our souls.
In order to provide others and myself with
merit, I arose to compose this small book. I intend to present
by name and by date the sages of the Mishna and the
Talmud as we have it. But I am leaving out the sages of the
as I do not know them and their dates. I shall mention the Gaons
and the authors of books and their times whenever I find it. I
shall not glorify myself by saying that ‘this is great wisdom’,
for because of my sins and due to persecutions and captivity and
the need for food I have lost my strength. I have neither wisdom
nor knowledge. For my taste has not lingered and my scent is
However, in order to obtain merit I shall remember the important
traditions and principles as cited and performed by the sages.
I composed this book and I am deserving of
composing it, as it charts the generations from the Creation,
which is when the world was created. [The Creation] is the tenet
of the Torah, as it contains all the miracles that explain the
Creation of the world and the true Present Force, which alone
makes miracles. He alone helps in hard times and is very much
present. Although there are angels but they are exist by Him and
their existence depend on Him and His presence and one cannot
speak properly of Presence but of the presence of the Blessed
Creator whose presence is certain. This book is similar to [the
one I wrote on] the science of mathematics and astronomy, as one
fulfilled precept causes another precept to be fulfilled.
At first, I contemplated on the title for the
book. If I were to call it Sefer Zadikim, The Book of
The Righteous, it would diminish the honour due to
Hasidim, the Pious who certainly were sages. An ignorant
person cannot be pious, explained Rashi, (though he can fear
sin), as he deals with trade. Although the prophet Samuel is
called Samuel the Righteous at the end of Ch. Bame Behema.
There is also Simeon the Righteous. In the beginning of Ch.
Rashi explained that the pious are punctuous in fulfilling the
In Ch. Hameniach,
it is said: He who wishes to be pious must [first of all]
observe the [civil] laws of Nezikin, and some say, the
matters dealt with in Berachoth. Others say, the [ethics]
dealt with in Aboth. In Ch. Kol Kitvei,
Raba says: Will the pious man take payment for Sabbath work? But
Raba said that here we are dealing with a God-fearing person who
does not wish to benefit from others but also would not wish to
bother himself [for nothing]. Rashi explained: If they are pious
men, they would rather give away their own in order to avoid
even a hint of transgression. Even though it is not to be
considered as payment for work that had been done on the
Sabbath, as he did not agree to do the work on certain
conditions but received it as abandoned property, still, he is
not called a pious man unless he does give up what is his [by
right]. However, here we are dealing with a God-fearing man and
not a pious man who would rather give up his own, as he is not
comfortable by gaining ownership of somebody’s abandoned
property. He understands that [the owner] gave up his goods
unwillingly [due to fire] yet he does not wish to trouble
himself for nothing for he is not a pious man who would
relinquish what is [rightfully] his. End of quote.
Therefore, it is apparent that the merit of a
pious man is on a higher scale than the God-fearing one. In
and in the beginning of Ch. Hagozel:
A man is not called a pious one, unless he abstained from sin
practically all his life. That is why I was afraid to call the
book – The Book of The Pious, because of my
respect for the sages that were [specifically] called ‘pious’,
such as Jose b. Joezer, R. Jose the Priest, R. Judah b. Baba and
R. Judah b. Ila’i who was ordained by him; and King David, Ezra
the Priest, Hillel, Baba b. Buta, R. Akiba, Samuel the Lesser
and Simeon the Pious who are mentioned in Talmud and those akin
to them. For I was afraid they would burn me with their fiery
breath, as for them silence is their glory.
Therefore, I called my book, Sefer
Yohassin - The Book of Lineage, such as the book that was
read by the sages obm. In Pesachim, Ch. Tamid
R. Simlai came into the presence of R. Johanan and asked him: My
master, please teach me Sefer Yohassin. Rashi explained
it as the historical chronicles. [R. Johanan] asked, Where you
from? He replied: From Lydda. - Where is your [original] home? -
In Nehardea [in Babylonia]. He said: We do not teach people of
Lydda or of Nehardea, even more so with you who are of
Lydda and originally of Nehardea. Rashi explained that he
wished to put him off.
Still, he pressured him and he agreed. May my master teach it in
three months, he said. [R. Johanan] replied: Even Beruriah, wife
of R. Meir and daughter of R. Hanina b. Teradion who studied 300
laws from 300 teachers in one wintry day, could not pass it in
years and you wish to do it in three months! and he took a clod
and threw it at him.
This expression is also used in Ch.
‘He took a clod and threw it at him.’ Also in the Ch. One, AZ
(in regard to R. Meir) and in Ch. Misheahazo
we find that [Asmodeus]
threw Solomon for 400 parasangs.
As he was hastily leaving, [R. Simlai] asked him, What is the
difference between a Passover sacrifice, which is offered for
its own sake and for a different purpose and the Passover
sacrifice for those who can eat it and cannot eat it? He said,
As you are a scholar, come and I shall tell you: When it is
slaughtered for its own sake and for different purpose, its
disqualification is in respect of itself. When he slaughtered
for those who can eat and who cannot eat, its disqualification
is not in respect of itself, etc. It is [not] possible to
distinguish its prohibition, etc. In the PT,
R. Simlai came to R. Jonathan and said to him, Teach me Aggada.
He said, My ancestors kept a tradition, not to teach Aggada to
Babylonians or to Southerners, as they are uncouth and lack
Torah [knowledge]. And you are a Nehardean who lives in the
South! There, he also asked to be taught the difference between
the Passover sacrifice, which is offered for its own sake and
for a different purpose and the Passover sacrifice for those who
can eat and those who cannot eat it, etc.
Rami b.R. Judan
said, Since the day the Sefer Yohassin was hidden,
the sages lost their strength and the light of their eyes was
dimmed. For Mar Zutra said, between Azel and Azel
they would load 400 camels with exegetical interpretations.
Rashi expounds hidden to mean that the explanations
between the mention of Azel and Azel in two verses
in the Chronicles were forgotten. The author of the Aruch
explained that they refer to a single verse that begins with
Azel and ends with Azel. Even so, it required 400
camels to carry the explanations. This explanation was given in
the Aruch under the entry Azel. In Genesis
Rabah, Exodus Rabah and in Midrash Ruth it is
said, the Chronicles are included [in the Scripture canon] just
for exegetic purposes. You can see how they made it so
obm said in the Introduction [to Mishna] that it is not
too useful to mention the names of the sages and their lineage,
but this is not so. It is extremely useful as it supports our
study of the Oral Law; it supports the transmission of the
Tradition from Moses, Master of the Prophets who received [the
Law] from The Holy One, blessed be He. For it tells how it was
transmitted from one pious sage to another pious sage, until [it
was received by] the Light of the Universe, Our Saintly Master
[R. Judah the Prince].
‘Ask your father and he will tell you, ask your elders and they
will explain it to you’.
Rambam obm himself explained in the
Introduction [to the Mishna], why Rabbi [Judah the Prince]
compiled Aboth: In order to inform us of the transmission
of the true tradition from one sage to another, etc. Rashi
explained this as an important tenet [of faith]. At the end of
entry Hadar, he explained the expression ‘Run to the
Mishna’ as follows: He feared that the Mishna teachings would be
forgotten and the names of the sages confused. Wherever it said
‘Liable’, people will say ‘Not liable’, and wherever it is said
‘Forbidden’ people will say, ‘Permitted’.
Not for naught was the Genesis made the first
book [of the Pentateuch], but for the important purpose of
providing us with the order of generations and their names. The
fourth book [of Pentateuch], though it contains many
commandments (on Nazirites, adulterous women, the priestly
blessing; the bulk of sacrifice rules; of marital purity; of
fringes; of vows and the laws of purity and impurity) is not
called after them but [is called] Numbers, after the
[Israelites who were] numbered in the census that [the
book] begins with. That is the important tenet as it is stated
in the Mishna of Yoma:
He recites by heart ‘and on the tenth’
(which is in the Book of the Numbered). As you are aware,
many times it is said, ‘Whoever recites a saying in the name of
the source, brings deliverance into the world’.
It is quoted in Kol Habasar
and in the Ch. One, Megilah,
and in the sixth, additional chapter of Aboth.
How angry R. Johanan became at R. Eliezer b. Pedath because [he
recited his tradition and failed to mention his name as the
source], in Yevamoth, in the PT Shekalim and in
I wonder who permitted the authors to write
the dicta without giving the reference; why did they not follow
the example of R. al-Fasi
and Our Master Asher
obm? Probably they relied upon the elucidation of R. Jacob b.
Idi who wished to pacify R. Johanan, as R. Eliezer was his
disciple. [He said], his quotation without reference refers by
default to R. Johanan, as R. Johanan was his master. That is the
way with the authors that they are assumed to be quoting the
sages of the Talmud. However, the masters of old did better [and
gave references]. Rambam
was questioned on this and he replied that this was the approach
of Our Saintly Master, [who established a stam, default
reference system]: a Mishna stam dictum is by R.
So-and-So by default, and the name of the originator is not
mentioned except in the case of a difference of opinions; or in
case of doubt; or in order to refute an opinion, as [R. Judah]
said in Eduyoth. In addition, it is useful to know who
the sages were, so that we can critically compare their sayings,
as quoted in Talmud and posit questions. It is said in the
‘I recite this [name] neither [as] Gidal b. Menassia nor Gidal
b. Manyumi but simply Gidal. What difference does that make? In
order to oppose [one statement] of his to another statement] of
his’. This is also said about Abin, that it is [Abin] stam.
In the Ch. One, Hulin,
Rab Joseph extolled [and defended] himself against Rab Zeira. He
reminded that he learnt his tradition from R. Judah his master,
who took care to mention everyone [in his statements of law] who
could possibly have been the source. Another great usefulness
[of the knowledge of Sages] is that it helps to determine the
law against those who disputed them. That is a tenet in the
Torah. Also, from the order of generations the transmission of
tradition is revealed [to facilitate the rule that the law
follows the latter master] from Abaye onwards.
In Ch. Rabbi Eliezer Demilah [in
Shabbath] the Rosh wrote: I wonder at R. al-Fasi! Why did he
say, The Halacha is according to Rabah versus Rab, as Rabah is
later than Rab? Elsewhere he wrote, the Halacha follows the
latter sage from Abaye onwards. However, before Abaye, the
Halacha is according to Rab, as of master versus disciple. Now,
if there should be a disagreement between Raba and Rab Joseph,
the Halacha would all the more so follow Rab, as he was the
master of Rab Judah, [who was] their master.
In the Ch. Two, Eiruvin, the Rosh
wrote that R. Meir ruled as Raba, Rambam ruled as Rabah;
apparently, the Halacha is not according to a disciple before
his master. From Abaye and Raba onwards, the Halacha follows
those who followed them but one cannot say so with Abaye and
Raba versus their masters.
In the beginning of Ch. Gid Hanashe,
regarding the white substance of the kidney, from the Rosh and
in Tosafoth, you can see the opposite, that the Halacha follows
Abaye versus Rabah, his master. In the beginning of Sukkah,
the Halacha follows Raba versus his master Rabah. However, in
Ch. Hamadir, the Rosh obm wrote that the Gaons were in
doubt whether it will be understood that the Halacha does not
follow Rabah, though he is the master of Abaye and Raba and we
go by the stricter interpretation.
It is also useful to mention where they [the
Sages] lived, as it helps to determine the law. At the end of
on the matter of paying attention to the rumour, whether the
Halacha follows Rab Shesheth
since he lived in Nehardea, the place of Samuel, as it is stated
in Bene Hair.
Our master Samson
wrote in Sefer Kerithuth: one of the most important
things in the study of Talmud is the knowledge of Tanna and
Amora masters; who they were and when they lived. That is the
rule: the Halacha follows the master if his disciple disagrees
with his master while he was alive. The exception is the
disagreement of R. Akiba with his master R. Eliezer, as is found
in Ch. Ketzad Mevarchin,
where we found that [R. Eliezer] tended to follow the School of
Shammai, according to the PT. See also in Ch. Rabbi
R. al-Fasi obm, the author of Halachoth
Gedoloth, and Rambam ruled as Raba, that one cleans his feet
against the wall but not upon the ground. R. Zerachiah ha-Levi
ruled as Rab Papa, since he was the last [to decide]. Ramban
obm objected to this since Raba was the master of Rab Papa and
the Halacha is not according to the disciple versus master. The
Rashba obm wrote that we do not say that it is not a proof, that
he is last; for R. Nahman was the master of Raba and even then,
whoever did not study before R. Nahman, followed the ruling of
Raba. It is indicated by these words that wherever we find it
stated, ‘So said Raba to R. Nahman’, we consider it as if a
disciple is sitting before his master and we do not rule
according to him. However, if the two sages differ as two people
who have a difference of opinion, the Halacha follows Raba. Here
too, if Rab Papa disputed with Raba, it is possible that since
he was the last, we accept his ruling. Also, the Rosh ruled as
Rab Papa, as he was the last.
[The Sages] insisted on quoting the law in
the [exact words] of the master. As they said, Hillel said,
‘An in [instead of hin] full of drawn water
renders a ritual bath unfit’. For one must state [a
dictum] in the master’s language. Rambam obm explained: [Hillel]
said [in instead of hin] in the name of his
[masters], Shemaiah and Abtalion, for [they] were proselytes and
could not pronounce Heh and they said in instead
of hin. He also said, ‘Some interpreted it, that they
said hen instead of hin, with a Yud’. And
Rashi explained in the Ch. One, Shabbath,
that is not the language of Mishna but the language of Torah and
that is how [Hillel] heard it from his masters Shemaiah and
Abtalion. The author of the Aruch in the entry lashon
[language] explained that [Hillel] did not use the words kab
but hin, in the language of Our Master Moses pbuh or in
the tongue of Shemaiah and Abtalion. I wonder about the words of
the Aruch, as a log of oil is mentioned in the
Torah. Also, in the Prophets regarding the famine in Samaria the
word kab as in ‘a fourth of a kab of seed pods’
is used. Still, those who pronounced hin with a Heh, not
with an Alef, and with a Yud, etc., were careful
to mention their source. In Ch. Shelosha Sheachlu,
R. Safra sat and stated: The dictum had it, ‘may not taste’.
Rabina said to him, ‘may not eat’. What difference does it make?
[It teaches that] one must repeat the exact words of his master.
Also in the Ch. One, Bechoroth,
and in Ch. Rabbi Ishmael,
R. Assi asked R. Johanan: What is [the law] if wine is mixed
[msk] by a goy? He said to him, Use the verb mzg!
He replied: But it is written [in the Scripture], ‘she hath
mingled [msk] her wine’.
He said to him, The language of the Torah is distinct and so is
the language of the Sages.
Also, in Ch. Reshith Hagez,
R. Johanan was exacting with Rab Issi b. Hini,
and stressed the difference between the language of the Torah
and the language of the Sages, and corrected R. Issi b. Hini.
According to Rashi’s version, R. Issi b. Hini said to his son,
‘ewes’. He used the plural [form] written in the Scripture,
rechelim [ewes] and R. Johanan told him to employ the plural
used by the Sages, recheloth [ewes]. However, in the
R. Johanan studied with his son [and said, etc.] but
Rashi was prudent in his commentary, as we do not encounter the
sons of R. Johanan for they had all died. Still it is possible
[that it was R. Johanan’s son] as he may have died at age ten or
more, as it is said, ‘At ten – study the Mishna’. Perhaps, he
had a son in his old age who stayed with the daughters he had.
We know he said to R. Eleazar [b. Pedath], ‘if it is because of
And yet, R. Eleazar had a son called R. Pedath, [named] after
As we have remarked, they were careful with
the names of the Sages. Accordingly, we have found in Yoma,
R. Hanan, the son of Raba, repeated to Hiyya, the son of Rab [in
the presence of Rab]: R. Zechariah the son of Kefutal.
Whereupon, Rab said to him that it should be read with a Beth
- Kebutal. In the PT,
A priest [said to] Rab, How shall we read it, Kebutar or
Kebutal? and because he was praying, he drew with his finger
to indicate that it was Kebutar. So too in Ch. Ketzad
[or perhaps it is] MeAbrin as R. Johanan said that he
studied with his master R. Oshaia for 18 years
and learned from him only one thing in the Mishna, that
Meabrin is written with an Alef [instead of an
Ayin]. And in the same place, it says: People of Judea who
were careful about their language, retained their learning but
not so the people of Galilee.
R. Rehaba of Pumbeditha was praised [by the sages] at the end of
Ch. Ein Omdin,
for he was careful to quote the words and the names of the
sources as received from his master Rab Judah, for [Rehaba]
said: The Temple Mount was surrounded by a stoa.
He used the word stoa,
instead of iztaba or iztabanith as in the Ch. One,
and in many other places. There is an opinion that he was
careful to quote the name [of the source], as there was doubt
whether he heard the law from R. Judah b. Ila’i or from Rab
Judah. That is the explanation given by R. Zemach the Gaon, as
it is stated in the entry Rehaba. However, Rashi in Ch.
said there was a doubt whether he heard the law from R. Judah or
from R. Judah Nesi’ah,
as he was a contemporary. That is also the interpretation of
Rashbam obm. However, in the Ch. One, Beitzah,
Rashi reconsidered and said it is after all, Rab Judah, not R.
Judah Nesi’ah, as Rehaba never met R. Judah Nesi’ah, though they
were contemporaries, since he lived in Pumbeditha, while R.
Judah Nesi’ah lived in Palestine. The Aruch, under the
entry Rab deals with this question at length and quotes
Our Master Hananel. Still, the Tosafoth in Hulin
in Ch. Elu Treifoth
and in the beginning of Beitzah did not agree to this
explanation but the commentators did give [such an explanation].
We also saw in Kiddushin,
that R. Judah was very meticulous with R. Nahman, when he was
summoned to be judged by him, even in the use of mundane words.
In Ch. Hagozel,
R. Ashi said to Mar Keshisha: Did I not tell you that you should
not transpose the names of sages? That statement was made in the
name of R. Elai.
Ramban obm wrote to his son: The first of the
rules of Talmud, according to R. Campanton; know who the Tanna
was, etc. Bear their names on your lips like a banner. In this
small book of mine, I will endeavour to bring along an
explanation of a law or some useful item that appears to me to
be an innovation. I ask assistance from the Blessed Lord to show
me the way of truth and to allow me to complete my work and to
write, Blessed are those whose ways are blameless who walk
according to the law of the Lord,
then I will answer one who taunts me for I have trusted in Your
words. I have more understanding than the elders, for I have
obeyed your precepts, turn to me and have mercy upon me, as you
do for those who love your Name. Amen.
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