Honi the Circle Drawer: “A Member of the Household” or “A Son Who Implores His Father”?

In: Journal for the Study of Judaism
Isaiah Ben-Pazi Hemdat Hadarom Netivot Israel

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This article analyzes the meaning of two short metaphors used in the legend of Honi the Circle Drawer that define Honi’s relationship with God: Honi referred to himself as a “ben bayit” and Shimon son of Shatah called him “a son who implores his father” (m. Taʿan. 3:8). Explaining these metaphors contains the key to understanding the conflict between Honi and Simeon son of Shatah who criticized him harshly. Most of the explanations for this exchange suggested previously involve imposing philosophical issues that are not suggested by the text. This article examines the use of the key term “ben bayit” and shows that it indicates a position of a slave who has decision-making powers in God’s “house.” This is what Honi presumed to be, and Shimon rejected.

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