YANNAI, or Yannai Rabbah (the Great), early third century Palestinian amora. It seems highly likely that the late "tanna" Yannai, who is mentioned in Avot 4:14, and Tosefta Sanhedrin 2:5, is to be identified with the early amora Yannai (S. Friedman, Language and Terminology in Talmudic Literature). According to a genealogical scroll found in Jerusalem, Yannai was descended from the high priest, Eli (TJ, Ta'an. 4:2, 68a). Yannai transmitted some halakhic rulings in the name of Judah ha-Nasi (TJ, Ḥag. 3:2, 79b), but his main teacher was Ḥiyya, whom he consulted in difficult cases, and who predicted that Yannai would one day to be a leader in Israel (TJ, Dem. 7:1, 26a). Yannai's daughter married a son of Ḥiyya (Ket. 62b), and he also had a son, Simeon (TJ, MK 2:2, 81a). Though Yannai is recorded in one place as having prayed in Sepphoris (TJ. Ber. 4:6, 8c), Halevi maintains that he always lived in Akbara in Upper Galilee. There he established an academy (TJ, Er. 8:4, 25a), where his pupils lived as a family and tilled the land in addition to their studies (TJ, Shev. 8:6, 38b). The rulings of the academy of Yannai are frequently quoted in the Talmud. His best known pupils were oshaiah (Ket. 79a), aibu (Kid. 19a), and above all, Johanan and Resh Lakish, who transmitted many of his halakhic decisions (TJ, Kil. 8:1, 31b; BK 52a and 115a; et al.). After his death his pupils turned to Yohanan for guidance (TJ, Shev. 8:6, 38b). Yannai was noted as both a halakhist and an aggadist. An important principle enunciated by Yannai has become part of the general Jewish outlook: danger may not be incurred in the expectation of a miracle (Shab. 32a). He counseled submission to the ruling power (Zev. 102a), and permitted the fields to be sown in the sabbatical years (regarding its force as only rabbinical) to meet the government's heavy taxation (Sanh. 26a). He also ruled leniently with regard to tithing (BM 87bf.). Yannai was a wealthy man (Kid. 11a), owning an orchard (MK 12b) and vineyards (BB 14a). He was very charitable and at one time, for certain religious reasons, declared the fruit of his orchard free to all for one year (MK 12b). His sensitivity to the feelings of the poor is indicated in his dictum, "Better not to give charity at all, than to shame the recipient by giving it to him in public" (Ḥag. 5a). He compared the man who studies without fear of God to one who makes his door before erecting the building (Shab. 31b). The commandments would retain their validity, he held, even after the resurrection of the Dead (Nid. 61b). According to a tradition in the Babylonian Talmud, in his last testament he enjoined his children not to bury him in white, lest his place be among the wicked and he would appear like a bridegroom amid mourners, nor in black, lest his place be amid the righteous, and he would appear like a mourner amid bridegrooms (Shab. 114a). Apart from Yannai the Great, there were several other amoraim of this name. Since the name is often given without patronymic or title, it is not always clear to whom it refers. Yannai b. Ishmael, a Palestinian amora of the late third century, is mentioned several times. Laws are quoted in his name concerning liturgy (Ta'an. 14a) and in several aggadic passages, one concerning the tragic victims of Bethar (Git. 58a) and others dealing with biblical themes (BM 86b). A general plea for tolerance may be read into the reply he attributes to Abraham's visitors, who, when he invited them to wash their feet (Gen. 18:4), rebuked him: "Do you take us for Arabs who worship the dust of their feet? Ishmael (who does likewise) has already issued from you" (BM 86b). -BIBLIOGRAPHY: Hyman, Toledot, 758–64ff.; Frankel, Mevo, 103a–104a; Bacher, Pal Amor; Weiss, Dor, 3 (19044), 45f.; Halevy, Dorot, 2 (1923), 273–80; Ḥ. Albeck, Mavo la-Talmud (1969), 161f. (Benjamin Cohen)

Encyclopedia Judaica. 1971.

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