R. Simeon B. Yohai - Wonder worker and magician scholar, saddiq and hasid

Ben Zion Rosenfeld

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


This paper attempts to demonstrate by means of a socio-historical analysis the existence of a type of complex personality which was not unknown in second century C.E. Jewish society. Its characteristics have been considered in the literature as varied, and even contradictory. One such character was Rabbi Simeon Bar Yohai, an important Halachic sage in the generation after Bar Kokhba's Revolt, frequently mentioned in literature of the Mishnaic and Talmudic periods. The sources attribute to him not only Halachic wisdom, but additional characteristics as well: he is a miracle worker, and righteous and pious. The characteristics are considered in the literature to be different, being attributable to people who are not sages. Rabbi Simeon Bar Yohai was active mainly in the Upper Galilee, and it seems that the geographical environment and its own historical background contributed to the development of the stories about him. He was known in the Middle Ages primarily as a central figure in the Zohar and the world of Kabbalah. This paper examines the pre-Kabbalah personality of this figure. It is shown that the historical development of the description of his personality in Mishnaic and Talmudic literature already portrays him as a complex and miraculous religious character. The special use made of his personality in the Kabbalah, therefore, is not unjustified.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)349-384
Number of pages36
JournalRevue des Études Juives
Issue number3-4
StatePublished - 1999


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