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Recently, I found that there are some academics that identify the Tanna Rabbi Elazar ben Chananyah with Elazar ben Chananyah, one of the rebel leaders during the Great Revolt.

Prof. Ephraim Urbach in "Chazal - Pirkei Emunot V'De'ot", pg. 532-533 based this view on the fact that REB"Ch was a student of Beit Shammai and in Sifrei Zuta, Y.N. Epstein edition, it says that there were Idumean students in Beit Shammai, and according to Josephus, Elazar ben Chananyah led a group of Idumean rebels during the Revolt.

Ben Tzion Luria in "Megillat Taanit", pg. 9-10 wrote that Solomon Zeitlin held this view, and brings another possible basis, in that according to Megillat Taanit, its author was R' Elazar ben Chananyah, which suggests that he held zealous views of liberty, much like Elazar ben Chananyah.

Another basis for this may be that Chananyah ben Nedavai, father of Elazar, one of the last High Priests of the Second Temple, is called in the Talmud "Yochanan ben Nedavai/Nerbai/Garbai", and according to Rabbi Dr. Shmuel Klein in his essay "לחקר השמות והכנוים", per the Talmud, is probably a nickname referring to his generosity: He made sure to feed many priests from the remains of the sacrifices and offerings. In the gemara in Pesachim 57a, it says: "They said about Yoḥanan ben Narbbai that he and his household would eat three hundred calves, and drink three hundred jugs of wine, and eat forty se’a of doves for dessert."1 This seems similar to what it says about Chananyah ben Chizkiyah, father of Rabbi Elazar ben Chananyah: "What did he, Ḥananya ben Ḥizkiya, do? They brought him three hundred jugs of oil, for light and food, up to his upper story, and he sat isolated in the upper story and did not move from there until he homiletically interpreted all of those verses in the book of Ezekiel that seemed contradictory, and resolved the contradictions." (Shabbat 13b) If Nedavai/Nervai/Garbai is a nickname rather than his father's name, then it would still be plausible that Chananyah's father was really called Chizkiyah.

Therefore, I was wondering whether there were any Orthodox sources that identify one with the other, or discuss why they are not the same person?


1 According to this, all three variants of the nickname make sense: Nedavai - because he was נדיב, generous. Nervai - as in ריבוי, either because of the plentiness of the offerings in his time or because of the many priests he managed to feed. Garbai - after the hundreds of jugs (גרבים) he and his household consumed.

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While I believe that Prof. Ephraim Urbach was Orthodox, I'm forced to disagree with his conclusion that they were the same person; for the simple reason, that the two people apparently had different grandfathers.

The Tanna Rabbi Elazar ben Chananyah’s father, was Chananyah, the son of Chizkiya, the son of Garon/Gurion.

The “Elazar ben Chananyah” who was one of the rebel leaders during the Great Revolt of Judea, was the son of the Chananyah, the son of Nedebai/Nedavai.

This argument is also presented by Rabbi Nosson Dovid Rabinowitz, in an article in the Torah journal, "Ohr Hamizrach" (Volume 30, No. 3-4, p. 246), where he attacks the historian H. Graetz; for his position of identifying Rabbi Elazar ben Chananyah ben Chizkiya, as Elazar the rebel leader.

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  • I explained in my question why Nedavai was probably a nickname rather than the father's name. I'll try to clarify more. – Harel13 May 25 at 19:07
  • @Harel13 In effect, you’re saying that the thesis identifying the two Elazars as being one and the same, hinges on two far out baseless suggestions: 1. That Chizkiya=Nedavai. 2. That Chananyah ben Nedavai, father of Elazar, is the person called in the Talmud, “Yochanan ben Nedavai”. – IsraelReader May 25 at 19:31
  • I didn't say that Chizkiyah=Nedavai, rather, Nedavai is a nickname for Chanayah. I can link you tomorrow the essay by Rabbi Klein where he explains that many of the "ben ___" names in Chazal are really nicknames. The other point sounds questionable on the face of things, but Yochanan was clearly a high priest and so was Chanayah according to Josephus, and there are many examples of people, in particular kohanim having more than one name. Again, I could list some examples tomorrow. – Harel13 May 25 at 20:44
  • Don't get me wrong, I'm not pushing for any particular view, just trying to lay out the facts and the bases of the hypothesis. – Harel13 May 25 at 20:44
  • @Harel13 A hypothesis that hinges on so much monkeying around of the primary texts; is hardly a sign of good scholarship. – IsraelReader May 25 at 21:16

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