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Rabbi Elozor Ben Pedos

Rabbi Elozor Ben Pedos

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Rabbi Elozor ben Pedos, or as he is generally called, simply, Rabbi Elozor, was born in Babylon, where he studied Torah under Rav in Sura, and under Samuel in Nehardea. As was the custom at that time, Rabbi Elozor also went up to Eretz Yisroel to study Torah under the disciples of Rabbi Judah HaNosi (the Prince). There were many Yeshivos at that time in Eretz Yisroel; in Kisrin, under the leadership of Rabbi Oshia; in Zippory under the leadership of Rabbi Chanina, and in Tiberias under Rabbi Jochanon. Rabbi Elozor studied under all three "giants" of Torah, but especially under Rabbi Jochonon, who was the youngest of the three, and who was the acknowledged Torah authority, after Rabbi Oshia and Rabbi Chanina had died. Rabbi Elozor learned under Rabbi Jochonon for a great many years, and he was regarded as Rabbi Jochonon's greatest disciple, apart from Resh Lokish. Rabbi Jochonon, in later years, regarded him more as a colleague than as a pupil. Rabbi Jochonon held him in such high esteem that he once exclaimed:

"I once saw Rabbi Elozor teaching the people, and it appeared to me as if Moses himself was repeating the Torah that he had heard from the Almighty Himself."

When Resh Lokish, Rabbi Jochonon's closest friend, died, Rabbi Jochonon mourned for him for a long time, and Rabbi Elozor was the only one who could console him by means of his Torah. Rabbi Jochonon did not teach his pupils for a long time, because of his great sorrow, and, during this period, Rabbi Elozor became Rosh Yeshivah (Dean of the Academy) in Tiberias. He held this position for less than one year, because he himself died in the same year.

2.

Rabbi Elozor was a very poor man. He actually went hungry. Once, when he fainted from hunger, he asked the Almighty how long he would have to struggle in hunger and need. The Almighty told him that he was destined to suffer in this world, but that his reward in the "World to come" would be very great indeed.

In spite of his great poverty he refused to accept gifts from people. Even when the Prince used to send him presents, he did not accept them, and when he was invited to eat at the Prince's table, he used to refuse.

When he was asked why he refused, he used to reply: "Do you not want me to live? It is written: 'Whosoever hates presents will live.' How difficult it should be to accept presents can be seen from the dove: When Noah sent out the dove from the ark, to see if the waters of the flood had fallen off, the dove flew around for a whole day long and returned in the evening with a leaf from an olive branch in her mouth, as if to say: 'Better a bitter leaf from the Hand of G‑d than the tastiest food from the hand of man.'"

Rabbi Elozor's personal poverty did not prevent him from helping other learned Rabbis in need.

Once he dropped a golden coin. Rabbi Simeon bar Abba found it and wished to return it to him. Rabbi Elozor told him that he may keep it, as he, Rabbi Elozor, had given up hope of finding it.

Rabbi Elozor was a money-exchanger, and from this business he derived his livelihood, but few coins he did himself own. He was always ready, however, to give away his last penny to anyone poorer than himself.

Rabbi Elozor was steadfast in his faith and trust in G‑d, and he always tried to comfort and encourage others. "Even when a sharp sword is pointed at your throat, you must not despair of Divine help," he used to say. Rabbi Elozor used to experience outright miracles. At one time he lit his last small candle before Shabbos and it was still burning at the departure of the Shabbos.

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Very many laws and sayings of Rabbi Elozer have remained with us in the Talmud Bavli and Jerushalmi (Babylonian and Palestinian) and in Midrash. In his teachings, his wonderful virtues and deep-rooted love of his fellow-Jew come to light.

"Charity is comparable to a shield," he used to say. "Just as a shield is composed of many small parts, so the meager pennies that a person gives for charity combine to make a large amount and create a shield for the person!" He also said that charity is even more important than sacrifices. A Jew, who refuses to give charity will eventually lose his wealth in a bad way, he warned. "Hurting a person with words is worse than stealing money from him," was another of his teachings.

When he once sent a message to Babylon, he mentioned three things: "Take care of the cleanliness of your body; try to learn in company with others; be very careful in your dealings with poor children, because from them will rise learned scholars of Torah."

During the lifetime of Rabbi Jochonon, Rabbi Elozer carried on his own Yeshiva in Zippory, where he had many disciples. He was a judge in Tiberias.

Rabbi Elozer was especially accepted by the Babylonian Jews. They gave him the honorary title of "Chief Rabbi of Eretz Yisroel." He used to send to Babylon many directions pertaining to Jewish Law.

Rabbi Elozer lived for about seventy years. He belonged to the second and third generations of Amoraimi (teachers of the Talmud) in Eretz Yisroel. He left a son, a great Talmudic scholar, whose name was Pedos. His son was also an Amora.

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