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Pesachim 110b and Bava Metzia 86a mention ההוא טייעא‏ in the midst of aggadic stories. Professor Jastrow translates this word as a traveler, esp. an Arabian caravan merchant. Soncino Translates it just as Arab. Berachot 56b connects the word to Ishmael.

In both of the above passages, these Arabs are described as being of some spiritual stature and awareness.

In Pesachim the Arab recognizes the peril of sorcery about a man and warns him of it.

In Bava Metzia, after being buffeted across a river by a great storm, the Arab investigates the matter, discovers that it is due to the death of Rabbah bar Nahmeni, beseeches God to relent, and avails upon Him to quell the storm.

In spite of their eminence, we are given no information whatsoever about these Arabs, not even a name!

Who were these nameless, yet remarkable travelers? Were they Jewish? Are they the same person? What was special about them that they were so in tune, meriting mention in the Talmud?

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    Megilah 18a – Double AA Jul 31 '14 at 17:47
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    arabs in the talmudic times included jews as well. they were actually called arabian jews for they lived in the arabia. real arabs are those who come from arabia. those who accept arabic culture and speak arabic and so on, are only arabized but come from different peoples. being an arab means living a nomadic lifestyle like the bedouins in the dessert. – MoriDowidhYa3aqov Jul 31 '14 at 18:03
  • I don't really understand what you're asking, especially the "Who were these... travelers?" part. – msh210 Jul 31 '14 at 18:25
  • @msh210 I added a sentence. Basically it seems strange that they are essentially no names who have such important roles. I want to learn more about them, even if it is why these nameless arabs are in aggadah, (hence the second sentence). – Baby Seal Jul 31 '14 at 20:10
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    @BabySeal I would translate the phrase into modern English as: "that guy". – Double AA Jul 31 '14 at 20:20
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+50

The Maharal says that these were Arab merchants he does not understand the word טייעא‏ to mean traveler.

מצינו פעמים הרבה בישמעאלים שהם סוחרים, שבכל מקום שאמר בתלמוד ההוא טייעא רוצה לומר סוחר ישמעאלי

[גבורות ה' פרק יא]

"We find many times that Arabs are merchants, for in every place in the Talmud where it says "there was a merchant" the meaning is an Arab merchant"

The Maharal in the Chidushei Aggadatot on Baba Basra in the stories of Rami Bar Chama says that reason why a "merchant" was used as the it's the nature of a merchant to go from place to place to look for and sell his wares. The Maharal undersatnds this as a metaphor to a persons intellect.)

In the Gevorus the Maharal mentions that Arabs (Bnei Yishmael) share a certain spiritual closeness to the Jewish people as we are considered Bnei Ya'acov and they are Bnei Avraham.

So it would seem according to the Maharal that:

1) They were Merchants not travelers

2) They were Arabs Not Jews

3) They were chosen more for their profession i.e it involved wandering around a lot more than for their spiritual level or name

3b) Arabs to share a spiritual connection to the Jewish people so perhaps that is why they were chosen over a general "merchant" to be mentioned in the Talmud.

  • Thank you! Does the Maharal discuss their exceptional spiritual qualities at all? I was looking for a little more detail. See the paragraph before the bolded line in my question. – Baby Seal Aug 7 '14 at 12:39
  • I have edited so what I seek is more clear. – Baby Seal Aug 7 '14 at 14:47
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    I revised my answer to address your questions. – eramm Aug 7 '14 at 15:12
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Its none other than Eliyahu Hanavi as you can see from Berachos 6b : ההוא גברא דקא מצלי אחורי בי כנישתא ולא מהדר אפיה לבי כנישתא חלף אליהו חזייה אידמי ליה כטייעא ,that Eliyahu appeared as an Arab merchant. There are more sources which indicate him as such.

The gemara in Bava Basra 73b brings this story: ואמר רבה בר בר חנה זימנא חדא הוה קא אזלינן במדברא ואיתלוי בהדן ההוא טייעא and the Etz Yosef says the Arab merchant was Eliyahu Hanavi.However he also mentions that its the Yetzer Harah later on. I tried to find the Ein Yaakov with the Eitz Yosef online,but cannot find it,check your local shul.

  • DoubleAA cited megilah 18a that could lend support to this answer. Toward the Bottom, R' Zeira relates a story that transpired with that arab. – Baby Seal Jul 31 '14 at 20:20
  • See the Yalkut Reuveni who says its him ,why would the gemara call him hahu Saba just says its him – sam Jul 31 '14 at 20:21
  • See first Tosfos on daf 6a in chullin regarding hahu Saba,very similar idea – sam Jul 31 '14 at 20:24
  • that's a fair point. When you have time, could you edit in more sources? I agree with you conceptually and I trust you, but the current text of your answer doesn't address the seemingly local instance of Elijah turning in to an Arab. Citing the place where he is called hahu saba would be helpful too! – Baby Seal Jul 31 '14 at 20:24
  • @BabySeal ,see this Ben Yoyadah(last piece on pg) if you have a sec: hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=14472&st=&pgnum=27 – sam Aug 1 '14 at 1:32
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On the story in Bava Basra 73b (towards the bottom of that page), another story is told about "that taya," where he served as a guide to Rabbah bar bar Channa in the desert.

JD Eisenstein writes on that story that the taya

is a philosopher, or as some aver, the prophet Elijah, who plays so many roles in the destiny of Jewry.

Note: in the introduction to that work, he writes that some of his interpretations come from other works, but largely are his own....it is unclear what part of the above statement is his, or who the some ("some aver...") are.

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R. Hershel Schachter records R. Joseph B. Soloveitchik as stating that based on the Zohar "טייעא" is a term to refer to a Torah scholar, not an Arab merchant (at least in some of the cases):

Nefesh Harav p. 54

וכמדומה לי' שלזה השיב רבנו תיכף ומיד דאיתא בזוהר (לפ' ויקהל) בקשר לפסוק את שבתותי תשמורו שלא הבינו מ"ט כתוב בלשון רבים עד שסח להם ההוא טייעא דהך לשון רבים מרמז לשבת דלעילא ולשבת דלתתא וכו' הרי שהטייעא לא ר"ל איזה סוחר ישמעאלי אלא כינוי הוא לת"ח וה"נ י"ל בהך גמ' דהכא

It should be noted, though, that R. Soloveitchik asserted this to answer a compelling question that the audience asked on what he was saying. Indeed, I have heard R. Shachter reference this in several lectures and he did not seem especially convinced by his Rebbe's claim.

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