One question I have been researching is on the Jewish attitude towards secular occupations to complement Torah learning. There is even a statement in the Talmud about how it is preferable to flay carcasses in the marketplace, indicating that having a job, any job, is condoned by halacha (BB 110a). Is there any list of the various people mentioned in the talmud with their occupations? (That will help me understand if talmudic occupations informed the development of Jewish law or if they provided any context for talmudic statements.) I know that there is this paragraph

The sages of the Talmud worked at many diverse occupations. For instance, Hillel was a woodchopper before he became the Nasi (President of the Sanhedrin) and Shammai the Elder was a builder. Abba Chilkiyah was a field laborer; Rabbi Yochanan b. Zakkai was a businessman for forty years; Abba Shaul was a gravedigger; Abba Chilkiyah was a field worker; Abba Oshiya was a launderer; Rabbi Shimon P’kuli was a cotton dealer; Rabbi Shmuel b. Shilas was a school teacher, Rabbi Meir and Rabi Chananel were scribes; Rabbi Yosi b. Chalafta was a tanner; Rabbi Yochanan Hasandlar was a shoemaker; Rabbi Yehoshua b. Chananiah was a blacksmith; Rabbi Safra and Rabbi Dimi of Nehardea were merchants; Rabbi Abba b. Zavina was a tailor; Rabbi Yosef b. Chiya and Rabbi Yannai owned vineyards; Rabbi Huna was a farmer and raised cattle; Rabbi Chisda and Rabbi Papa were beer brewers; Karna was a wine smeller (he determined which wine could be stored and which had to be sold immediately); Rabbi Chiya b. Yosef was in the salt business; Abba Bar Abba, (father of Mar Shmuel) was a silk merchant; and (Mar) Shmuel was a doctor.

But I don't know if it is an exhaustive list and if it is limited to "jobs" or includes (or doesn't include) other hobbies/areas of expertise.

  • "For instance, Hillel was a woodchopper before he became the Nasi" . . . implying that once he did, he quat woodchopping. I wonder if he was just too busy or if nasi hood paid the bills.
    – WAF
    Commented Sep 29, 2016 at 19:41
  • @WAF I would hope that a leadership position like that would pay. It would seem to be in the community's best interest to let the Nasi focus on leadership (and Torah) and not have to independently worry about feeding his family.
    – Isaac Moses
    Commented Sep 30, 2016 at 14:47
  • 4
    This question is explicitly about how the Amoraim practiced Judaism - the requirement for derech eretz qua that requirement. It is thus explicitly about the history of Judaism.
    – Isaac Moses
    Commented Sep 30, 2016 at 14:50
  • RE @msh210 " Is there any list of the various people mentioned in the talmud with their occupations" – Danno Sep 29 '16 at 17:31, this was answered above, but see here: jlaw.com/Articles/idealoccupa.html And also see here, while we're at it! - "Readings on Traditional Jewish texts on Labor and Worker Rights," at jewishlaborcommittee.org/2006/01/… courtesy the Jewish Labor Committee Commented Jan 11, 2017 at 3:16
  • Isn't this list going to be kind of long (too broad)? At least make it a community wiki Commented Feb 10, 2017 at 6:25

2 Answers 2


I have not done my own detailed analysis by compiling an exhaustive and definitive review of the various rabbis mentioned in the Talmud and their respective vocations although a good reference is the responsum of the rishon, R. Shimon b. Zemah (Tashbatz, Vol. 1 §147) who provides quite a lengthy list.

Meir Ayali in his ‘Poalim VeUmanim - Melachtam Um’amadam BeSifrut Chazal’ (243ff.) has an appendix listing all personages and their occupations. Of importance is how he differentiates between those whose occupation is documented and those which are not (an example of the latter: The first name listed by OP is Hillel; famously known as a wood-chopper while no contemporaneous sources explicitly informs as such and likely transmitted from Rambam [Comm. Avot 4:5]. Ayali references Hyman [here] who cites a Geonic variant of Yoma 35b which contains “בטרפיז” - Aramaic for ‘table-maker’. This might be related to ‘carpenter/y’ and the basis for Rambam. Alternatively, Rivash [§153] posits Hillel was a wood-gatherer*. Ayali suggests the latter as it fits better with the texts.)

Another useful sketch, not so exhaustive in content but further supplies information on certain families (guilds) of the Talmudic era, is provided in Mark Wischnitzer’s article in HUCA Vol. 22 Part 2, 245ff. (viewable here).

*חוטב עצים and מקושש עצים are dissimilar.


Who's who in the Talmud by Shulamis Frieman is the book you are looking for . It's quite pricey ,but was done very well ,you probably can get it at a library.



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