Ishmael ben Elisha ha-Kohen

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Who is Ishmael ben Elisha ha-Kohen?

Ishmael ben Elisha ha-Kohen was one of the prominent leaders of the first generation of the Tannaim. His father served as Kohen Gadol in the Second Temple of Jerusalem as well. Ishmael ha-Kohen was also one of the Ten Martyrs, and was executed along with Shimon ben Gamliel. The tomb of Ishmael ben Elisha ha-Kohen is located in the Druze village of Sajur in the Upper Galilee.

A reasonable case can be made that there never was an Ishmael ben Elisha Ha Kohen or an Ishmael ben Elisha, High Priest of a High Priest. The name "Ishmael ben Elisha" is the Rabbinically sanctioned name by which to enter into The Record the vast Halakhic and Hermeneutic achievements of the apostate "Elisha ben Abbuya." Rabbi Meir and Rabbi Judah ha-Nasi were key for this quasi "rehabilitation" of "Akher" through the adage: "Remember his Torah but not his name." As in the New Testament, the Bavli allows for obfuscation with a range of motivations. The obfuscation is "doubling" of a name with an adjustment. The Priesthood "Ishmael" is thus a cognomen for a cognomen.

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Submitted
on July 23, 2013

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