Simeon ben-Lakish

(Resh Lakish)
(3rd century)
   Palestinian amora. Simeon may have been born in Tiberias. He was a well-built, strong young man who earned his living sometimes as a gladiator and sometimes as a watchman for fruit trees. One day he met Rabbi Jochanan, head of the Tiberias academy, who suggested that he put his strength to the service of the Torah. Rabbi Jochanan became his teacher; later he married Jochanan’s sister. He rose to become an associate of Rabbi Jochanan, and then joint head of the Tiberias academy. They became recognized as the greatest halachic authorities in the Land of Israel. Simeon was always respected for his acumen and his integrity. It was said of him that if he stopped and spoke to someone in the market place, that person could be trusted and could borrow money without witnesses.
   Simeon demanded a high moral standard from all sages and rabbis, including the nasi. He insisted that even the patriarch who sinned deserved to be punished (with lashes). When Judah ha-Nasi II heard this, Simeon was forced to flee, but Jochanan’s intervention restored him to favour and he was able to return to his post.
   Rabbi Lakish believed that all Babylonian Jews should have returned with Ezra and Nehemiah and harshly criticized any Jews who did not live in the Land of Israel. He also taught the importance of good deeds and felt that though the study of the Torah was a divine task and should not be neglected, doing a kindness was as important. He was always ready to serve others. Once when Rabbi Ami was captured by robbers and Jochanan had given up hope of saving him, Rabbi Lakish determined to rescue him, using his own great strength if necessary. He managed, however, to persuade the robbers to free Ami without use of force.

Who’s Who in Jewish History after the period of the Old Testament. . 2012.

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