The Mishna in Avot (1:2) says:

שִׁמְעוֹן הַצַּדִּיק הָיָה מִשְּׁיָרֵי כְנֶסֶת הַגְּדוֹלָה. הוּא הָיָה אוֹמֵר: עַל שְׁלשָׁה דְבָרִים הָעוֹלָם עוֹמֵד, עַל הַתּוֹרָה וְעַל הָעֲבוֹדָה וְעַל גְּמִילוּת חֲסָדִים׃

The previous mishna describes the full chain of receipt of Torah learning, and the remaining mishnayos seem to go into the tannaim. Does this mean Shimon HaTzaddik is the first tanna?

Does anyone have a source that says this explicitly? I remember seeing this once, but cannot locate it now.

  • 3
    How is that the clear conclusion?
    – Double AA
    Jun 23, 2014 at 15:07
  • I have seen elsewhere, that based on the passing on of the tradition from Moshe down, as delineated in Pirkei Avot 1:1, and the next mishna, goes to Shimon hatzaddik, that he was considered the first of our sages to begin the tannaic period. I was asking for a source.
    – AKayser
    Jun 23, 2014 at 16:09
  • 1
    That could be but it seems irrelevant to my comment. In the question you claimed it was clear that "Shimon was the first person to say a teaching of his own accord." This is hardly clear to me
    – Double AA
    Jun 23, 2014 at 16:11
  • 1
    @DoubleAA good thing you are here to catch the irrelevant parts of the question. Please feel free to edit. It seems clear to me you understood the question very well.
    – AKayser
    Jun 23, 2014 at 16:16
  • I guess the real question is why you included irrelevant parts in your question?
    – Double AA
    Jun 23, 2014 at 17:03

1 Answer 1


Depends on what you mean by "Tanna".

Generally, in classic sources, the Anshei K'nesses HaGedola refers to the generation of Ezra and Nechemya that built the new community in Israel. Then Shimon HaTzaddik was the last surviving member of that generation. (This creates some chronology problems, but let's take this as a given anyway.)

The Tannaim is the name for the Sages of the Mishna. That is, the earliest point that can be considered a source for the statement compiled into the Mishna. What results is that this whole thing is a matter of classification. Shimon HaTzaddik was the bridge between the Anshei K'nesses HaGedola (which would be the end of the Biblical/Prophetic era) and the Tannaim (the Mishnaic era). So which does he belong to?

The Rambam seems to count him as the first of the tannaim (or "Chachmei HaMishna"). Abarbanel considers him part of the previous generation (that of Nechemya) and starts the generations of Tannaim with Antignos. Machzor Vitry doesn't start considering anyone Tannaim until Hillel and Shammai; everyone before is just "the Sages that lived from generation to generation" between Biblical and Mishnaic times.

The point is, though, that it doesn't really matter. Everyone cited above agrees about who Shimon HaTzaddik was, when he lived, and what he said. It's just a matter of when do I start calling people "Tannaim"? And that's just about keeping track of classifications.

  • 1
    +1. Aside from the teaching in Avos, another of Shimon HaTzaddik's teachings (regarding the appropriate circumstances for making a nazirite vow) is recorded in the Tosefta (Nazir 4:7, and quoted in the Bavli on Nazir 4b).
    – Fred
    Jun 24, 2014 at 0:12

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