Sunday, August 17, 2008

Shim'on HaAmsuni

Pesachim 22b (et. al.), in describing a tanna who recanted his method of expounding all instances of the preposition es in the Torah upon reaching the passuk describing fear of HaShem, "Es HaShem Elokecha tira", provides two versions of his name, Shim'on HaAmsuni and Nechemiah haAmsuni. Josh W. pointed out to me some months back that a similar sugya in the Yerushalmi (Y. Sotah. 25b) refers to him as only Nechemiah, while also arguing that the similar letters that appear in Shim'on and Amsun may suggest that the latter version may have arisen from a copying mistake.

Encyclopedia l'Chachmei HaTalmud v-ha-Geonim identifies Nechemiah haAmsuni with Nachum Ish Gamzu. This is supported by the close phonetic similarity between the two names, their both being well-known for darshening all the esin in the Torah, and the fact that NIG is known to be a rebbe of R' Akiva, who also plays a role in in the NhA story. This latter being the case, the parallel sugya in the Yerushalmi, which calls NhA a talmid of R' Akiva, is curious (and a little remniscent of a similar set of sugyos which conflict over whether R' Shimon ben Yochai was the father-in-law or the son-in-law of R' Pinchas ben Yair - I recall hearing a suggestion that there were two men of the same, latter, name).

On the other hand, R' Chaim Vital passes down separate mesoros from the Arizal regarding where each of NIG and NhA are buried. According to Sha'ar HaGilgulim, Hakdama 37 (cited in HaMekomos HaKedoshim, by R' Yechiel Mechal Stern), NIG is buried in Tzfas[1], while Nechemia haAmsuni is buried near Parod, approximately 10 miles south of Meron.

[1] At the entrance to Tzfas, continue on R. HaPalmach until the intersection, turn right on R. HaNasi, and then left on R. Gamzu. The marker is approximately 100 meters down.

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