Rabbi Ishmael

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Tanna (see TANNAIM AND AMORAIM) who lived in the first half of the second century ce and contemporary of Rabbi Akiba, with whom he often engaged in debate. He is sometimes referred to as Rabbi Ishmael ben Elisha but usually simply as Rabbi Ishmael. That a Rabbi should have the name of a biblical villain is probably to be explained on the grounds that since it was believed that eventually Ishmael repented and was, after all, the son of Abraham, Jewish parents saw no objection to giving this name to their sons. There are references to the ‘school’ or ‘house’ of Rabbi Ishmael, meaning no doubt a group of disciples who followed his teachings. Unlike Rabbi Akiba, who held that every word of the legal passages in the Torah must be interpreted to convey its own nuances, Rabbi Ishamel held that some words have a purely stylistic significance because ‘The Torah speaks in the language of men’.

Subjects: Judaism and Jewish Studies.

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