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2nd Temple History and more

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Persian and Hellenistic Periods (538-142 BCE)
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Following a decree by the Persian King Cyrus, conqueror of the Babylonian empire (538 BCE), some 50,000 Jews set out on the first return to the Land of Israel, led by Zerubbabel, a descendant of the House of David. Less than a century later, the second return was led by Ezra the Scribe. Over the next four centuries, the Jews knew varying degrees of self-rule under Persian (538-333 BCE) and later Hellenistic (Ptolemaic and Seleucid) overlordship (332-142 BCE).

The repatriation of the Jews under Ezra’s inspired leadership, construction of the Second Temple on the site of the First Temple, refortification of the walls of Jerusalem, and establishment of the Knesset Hagedolah (Great Assembly) as the supreme religious and judicial body of the Jewish people marked the beginning of the Second Temple period. Within the confines of the Persian Empire, Judah was a nation whose leadership was entrusted to the high priest and council of elders in Jerusalem.

As part of the ancient world conquered by Alexander the Great of Greece (332 BCE), the Land remained a Jewish theocracy under Syrian-based Seleucid rulers.

Joshua, son of Jehozadak, Was High-priest  515-490 BCE, after the restoration of the Temple After the Babylonian Exile. In Zachariah 3:6-3:10 Joshua experiences a vision given to him by an angel of the Lord in which the authorization of Joshua’s priestly duties are affirmed.  Included in the visions were requirements in which Joshua was expected to uphold. The Angel of the Lord then instructs Joshua that “if you walk in My ways, and if you keep My command, Then you shall also judge My house, And likewise have charge of My courts; I will give you places to walk among those who stand here.” (Zech 3:7)

The angel in the Book of Zachariah granted access to the inner temple to Joshua and his fellow priest. The vision also functioned to purify Joshua and to sanctify him for the preparations of his priestly duties. The biblical text credits Joshua among the leaders that inspired a momentum towards the reconstruction of the temple. In Zechariah Chapter 3 there is a courtroom scene similar to that of Job where Joshua’s adversary seeks to accuse him of being unworthy before Yahweh. Joshua is the high priest the son of Jehozadak referred to in Haggai 1:1. However, in the context of this vision Joshua is also representative of Israel as a nation. Therefore, Satan’s accusation opposes Joshua’s role in his priestly function and Israel’s shortcomings of sin and uncleanness before Him.

Joshua the High Priest

Joiakim, son of Joshua, Was High-priest  490-470 BCE. The book of Susanna states that Joiakim was the husband of Susanna, a very rich man living in Babylon and the most honored Jew of them all (confirmed by Josephus). Joiakim  aided in he rebuilding of the temple. Joiakim and Esdras may even have worked alongside on another, filling the Priestly role; Joiakim is called the “High Priest” while Esdras is referred to as the the “Principal Priest of the People”

Eliashib, son of Joiakim, Was High-priest 470-433 BCE Nehemiah 3:20-21 places his home between the area of two working groups constructing the walls of Jerusalem on the north side of the city. He helped with the refortification of this wall (Neh 3:1). The size of his house indicated his wealth and high socio-economic status (Neh 3:23-21). His grandson was married to the daughter of Sanballat the Horonite (Neh 13:28). This places him as someone who lived during the time of Nehemiah, and as a result, probably Ezra also. In the year 445 B.C.E., Eliashib was the high priest when Nehemiah returned to Jerusalem in the 20th year of Artaxerxes I (Nehemiah 1:1, 2:1).

Joiada, son of Eliashib, Was High-priest 433-410 BCE A son married a daughter of Sanballat the Horonite for which he was driven out of the Temple by Nehemiah.

Johanan, son of Joiada, Was High-priest  410-371 BCE Johanan,  lived during the reign of Artaxerxes II. His brother Jesus, son of Joiada, was promised by Bagoses, general of Artaxerxes, the high priesthood. Jesus got in a quarrel with Johanan in the temple and Johanan killed him. This was a terrible act to be committed by a priest in the temple. Bagoses knew that Johanan had slain Jesus in the temple saying to him “Have you had the impudence to perpetrate murder in the temple.”[1] Johanan was forbidden to enter the temple, but he entered anyway saying “Am not I purer than he that was slain in the temple?”[2] Bagoses had not seen such a savage crime and responded by commanding the Persians to destroy the temple and impose a tribute on the Jews. The rest of his tenure as high priest remains a mystery. His son Jaddua eventually took over the position when Johanan died, as briefly mentioned by Josephus.

In 332 B.C., Alexander the Great of Macedon destroyed the Persian Empire but largely ignored Judah. After Alexander’s death, his generals divided–and subsequently fought over–his empire. In 301 B.C., Ptolemy I took direct control of the Jewish homeland, but he made no serious effort to interfere in its religious affairs.

Jaddua, son of Johanan, Was High-priest 371-320 BCE, during the reign of Alexander the Great. He is known as Simeon the HaSadeek.  He was among the survivors of the “Great assembly”.  He officiated 40 years as “Kohen Gadol”. He was deeply interested both in the spiritual and in the material development of the nation. Thus, according to Ecclesiasticus 50. 1-14, he rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem, which had been torn down by Ptolemy Soter, and repaired the damage done to the Temple, raising the foundation-walls of its court and enlarging the cistern therein so that it was like a pool. When Alexander the Great marched through Palestine in the year 333 BCE, Simeon the Just dressed in his eight priestly robes went to Antipatris to meet him (Yoma 69a), although Josephus (l.c. xi.8, § 4) states that Alexander himself came to Jerusalem. As soon as the Macedonian saw the high priest, he descended from his chariot and bowed respectfully before him. When Alexander’s courtiers criticized his act, he replied that it had been intentional, since he had had a vision in which he had seen the high priest, who had predicted his victory.  This occured on the 25 of the Hebrew month of Tevet. It was called “The day of Garizzim” as the  Samaritans had called on Alexander to destroy the Temple in Jerusalem, but when he saw Simeon the HaSadeek he decided to destroy the temple of the Samaritans instead.  Alexander demanded that a statue of himself be placed in the Temple; but the high priest explained to him that this was impossible, promising him instead that all the sons born of priests in that year should be named Alexander. Simeon occupied a position intermediate between the Hasmoneans and the Hellenists. During Simeon’s administration seven miracles are said to have taken place. A blessing rested (1) on the offering of the first fruits, (2) on the two sacrificial loaves, and (3) on the loaves of showbread, in that, although each priest received a portion no larger than an olive, he ate and was satiated without even consuming the whole of it; (4) the lot cast for God (see Lev. xvi.8) always came into the right hand; (5) the red thread around the neck of the ram invariably became white on the Day of Atonement; (6) the light in the Temple never failed; and (7) the fire on the altar required but little wood to keep it burning (Yoma 39b; Men. 109b; Yer. Yoma vi.3). Simeon is said to have held office for forty years (Yoma 9a; Yer. Yoma i.1, v.2; Lev. R. xxi). On a certain Day of Atonement he came from the Holy of Holies in a melancholy mood, and when asked the reason, he replied that on every Day of Atonement a figure clothed in white had ushered him into the Holy of Holies and then had escorted him out. This time, however, the apparition had been clothed in black and had conducted him in, but had not led him out—a sign that that year was to be his last. He is said to have died seven days later (Yoma 39b; Tosef., Soṭah, xv; Yer. Yoma v.1). The last 40 years of the Holy Temple the miracles mentioned above ceased to occur. Also during the 40 final years of the Temple murder became common place so the Sanhedrin stopped trying capital cases.

Simeon the Just is called one of the last members of the Great Assembly. After Simeon’s death men ceased to utter the Tetragrammaton aloud (Yoma 30b; Tosef. Soṭah, xiii).

The Great Assembly or Anshei Knesset HaGedolah  “The Men of the Great Assembly”), was founded by Ezra in approximately 520 B.C.E., this institution of Torah Sages led the Jewish People at the beginning of the Second Temple Era, was an assembly of 120 scribes, sages, and prophets including one hundred and twenty elders, including about eighty prophets.  It included Mordechai and the last of the prophets Chaggai, Zechariah and Malachi. They were in the period from the end of the prophets up to the time of the development of Rabbinic Judaism, marking a transition from an era of prophets to an era of Rabbis. They were in a period of about two generations. The members of the Great Assembly are designated in the Mishnah (Ab. i. 1) as those who occupied a place in the chain of tradition between the Prophets and the earliest scholars known by name. Three prophets were themselves included in its members. The Anshei Knesset HaGedolah  instituted the prayers and blessings.The men of the Great Synagogue instituted for Israel the benedictions and the prayers, as well as the benedictions for Kiddush and habdalah” (Ber. 33a). they also established of the Feast of Purim.

Onias I, son of Jaddua, Was High-priest  320-280 BCE , (Hebrew Honiyya or Honio ben Jaddua) was the son of the Jaddua mentioned in Nehemiah.

Simon I, son of Onias, Was High-priest 280-260 BCE

Eleazar, son of Onias, Was High-priest 260-245 BCE

Manasseh, son of Jaddua, Was High-priest  245-240 BCE. Manasseh’s brother, was himself indignant at Manasseh on account of his marriage with a foreign woman, and, joining the people of Jerusalem, he gave Manasseh the alternative of divorcing his wife or of leaving the priesthood. Manasseh went to Sanballat, and declared to him that in spite of his love for his wife he gave the preference to the priesthood. Whereupon Sanballat promised him that if he would retain his wife he would obtain for him from the king the dignity of a high priest. He further promised that he would build with the king’s approval a temple upon Mount Gerizim, where Manasseh should officiate as high priest. Manasseh, accordingly, remained with his father-in-law and became high priest in the Samaritan temple on Mount Gerizim (“Ant.” xi. 8, §§ 2-4). Still, Josephus says (ib. xii. 4, § 1) that Manasseh officiated as high priest at Jerusalem between the priesthood of his nephew Eleazar and that of Onias II.

Onias II, son of Simon, High-priest 240-218 BCE , Hebrew Honio or Honiyya ben Shimon was the son of Simon the Just. He was still a minor when his father died, so that his uncle Eleazar, and after him the latter’s uncle Manasseh, officiated as high priests before he himself succeeded to that dignity. According to Josephus, he was a covetous man and of limited intelligence, whose refusal to pay the twenty talents of silver which every high priest was required to pay to the King of Egypt threatened to imperil both the high priest and the people; but at this juncture Joseph, the clever son of Tobias and nephew of Onias, succeeded in pacifying Ptolemy III (Euergetes). Onias is said to have died, almost simultaneously with his nephew Joseph, during the reign of Seleucus IV Philopator, hence about 181 BCE. His successor in office was his son Simon II..

Simon II, son of Onias,   High-priest 218-185 BCE . In the priestly dynasty during the period of the Ptolemies. the last-named was in his turn followed by his son Simon II., whose praises are sung by the son of Sirach (xlix. 14-16). At the side of the high priest stood the gerusia of the town of Jerusalem, as a council of state, including the higher ranks of the priesthood. The new sovereign power was at once stronger and juster than the Persian,—at least under the earlier Ptolemies; the power of the national government increased; to it was intrusted the business of raising the tribute.

As a consequence of the revolutionary changes which had taken place in the conditions of the whole East, the Jewish dispersion (diaspora) began vigorously to spread. It dated its beginning indeed from an earlier period,—from the time when the Jews had lost their land and kingdom, but yet, thanks to their religion, could not part with their nationality. They did not by any means all return from Babylon; perhaps the majority permanently settled abroad. The successors of Alexander (diadochi) fully appreciated this international element, and used it as a link between their barbarian and Hellenic populations. Everywhere they encouraged the settlement of Jews,—in Asia Minor, in Syria, and especially in Egypt. Alongside of the Palestinian there arose a Hellenistic Judaism which had its metropolis in Alexandria. Here, under Ptolemy I. and II., the Torah had already been translated into Greek, and around this sprung up a Jewish-Greek literature which soon became very extensive. At the court and in the army of the Ptolemies many Jews rose to prominent positions; everywhere they received the preference over, and everywhere they in consequence earned the hatred of, the indigenous population. a priest of rank, Simon by name, who had called the attention of the king to the temple treasure; his motive had been spite against the high priest Onias III., the son and successor of Simon II. The circumstance is one indication of a melancholy process of disintegration that was at that time going on within the hierocracy. The high-priesthood, although there were exceptional cases, such as that of Simon II., was regarded less as a sacred office than as a profitable princedom; within the ranks of the priestly nobility arose envious and jealous factions; personal advancement was sought by means of the favour of the overlord, who had something to say in the making of appointments. A collateral branch of the ruling family, that of the children of Tobias, had by means of the ill-gotten wealth of Joseph ben Tobias attained to a position of ascendancy, and competed in point of power with the high priest himself. It appears that the above-mentioned Simon, and his still more scandalous brother Menelaus, also belonged to the Tobiadæ, and, relying upon the support of their powerful party (Josephus, Ant., xii. 5, 1), cherished the purpose of securing the high-priesthood by the aid of the Syrian king.

Onias III (Hebrew: חוניו‎) was a  High Priest  185-175 BCE, the son of Simon II. He is described as a pious man who, unlike the Hellenizers, fought for Judaism. Seleucus Philopator defrayed all the expenses connected with the sanctuary and was friendly to the Jews. According to 2 Maccabees, a traitorous official of the Temple, however, Simon the Benjamite, induced the king, through his official Heliodorus, to undertake the plunder of the Temple treasury; the attempt was not successful, and the Syrian court never forgave the high priest for its miscarriage. When Antiochus IV Epiphanes became king, Onias was obliged to yield to his own brother Jason. According to Josephus, Jason became high priest after the death of Onias, the latter’s son, who bore the same name, being then a minor. It is strange that both father and son should have been named Onias, and still more strange is the statement of Josephus that the high priest who succeeded Jason and was the brother of Onias. Jason, likewise was called Onias, and did not assume the name of Menelaus until later; for according to this statement there must have been two brothers of the same name.

In an ongoing dispute between Onias II and Simon the Benjaminite over the attempted plunder of the Temple by Heliodorus, Jason offered to pay Antiochus in order to be confirmed as the new High Priest in Jerusalem. Antiochus accepted the offer and further allowed Jason to build a gymnasium in Jerusalem and create a Greek-style Polis named after the king, Antioch. With the creation of Antioch, Jason abandoned the ordinances granting the Judeans religious freedom given under Antiochus III.

Jason’s time as High Priest was brought to an abrupt end in 172 BCE when he sent Menelaus, the brother of Simon the Benjaminite, to deliver money to Antiochus. Menelaus took this opportunity to “outbid” Jason for the priesthood, resulting in Antiochus confirming Menelaus as the High Priest. Although during the three years As High Priest Jason had given many proofs of his attachment to the Hellenistic party (by building a gymnasium in Jerusalem and by introducing many Greek customs) the zealous Hellenists of the stamp of the Tobiads plotted his overthrow, suspecting him of partiality to traditional Judaism. At their head stood Menelaus. Having been sent to Antiochus to pay the annual tribute, he took the opportunity to outbid Jason and secure for himself the office of high priest. An officer named Sostrates was sent by Antiochus with a troop of Cyprian soldiers to subdue any opposition that might be attempted by the followers of the deposed high priest Jason and to collect at the same time the sum Menelaus had promised.

Menelaus’ first act was to seize the sacred vessels in the Temple stores in order to meet the obligations he had incurred. This act came to the ears of the deposed high priest Onias III, who publicly accused Menelaus of robbing the Temple. The latter, afraid of the consequences of this accusation, induced the king’s lieutenant Andronicus, who had had his share of the plunder, to get rid of Onias before a formal complaint had been lodged with the king. Accordingly Onias was decoyed from the sanctuary at Daphne, in which he had sought refuge, and murdered. Menelaus continued to plunder the treasures of the Temple until violence ensued, in which his brother Lysimachus met his death. He then brought before the king an accusation against the people of Jerusalem, that they were partizans of the Egyptians and persecuted him only because he was opposed to their party intrigues. This accusation caused the execution of several Jews who, although they proved beyond any doubt that Menelaus and Lysimachus had desecrated the Temple, were sentenced to death.

Despite priestly rule, Jewish society became Hellenized except in its generally staunch adherence to monotheism. Although rural life was relatively unchanged, cities such as Jerusalem rapidly adopted the Greek language, sponsored games and sports, and in more subtle ways adopted and absorbed the culture of the Hellenes. Even the high priests bore such names as Jason and Menelaus. Menelaus was High Priest in Jerusalem from 171 BC to about 161 BC. He was the successor of Jason, the brother of Onias III.

Hasmonean Dynasty (142-63 BCE)
First led by Mattathias of the priestly Hasmonean family and then by his son Judah the Maccabee, the Jews subsequently entered Jerusalem and purified the Temple (164 BCE), events commemorated each year by the festival of Hannuka.

Following further Hasmonean victories (147 BCE), the Seleucids restored autonomy to Judea, as the Land of Israel was now called, and, with the collapse of the Seleucid kingdom (129 BCE), Jewish independence was achieved. Under the Hasmonean dynasty, which lasted about 80 years, the kingdom regained boundaries not far short of Solomon’s realm, political consolidation under Jewish rule was attained and Jewish life flourished.

When war against the external enemy came to an end, an internal struggle broke out between the party led by Judah and the Hellenist party. The influence of the Hellenizers all but collapsed in the wake of the Seleucid defeat. The Hellenizing High Priest Menelaus was removed from office and executed. His successor was another Hellenizer Alcimus. When Alcimus executed sixty priests who were opposed to him, he found himself in open conflict with the Maccabees. Alcimus fled from Jerusalem and went to the Seleucid king, asking for help.

The sources are divided as to his origin. According to II Maccabees, he belonged to the tribe of Benjamin and was the brother of the Simeon who had denounced Onias III to Antiochus IV Epiphanes, and revealed to the Syrians the existence of the treasure of the Temple; according to Flavius Josephus, Menelaus was the brother of Onias III and Jason, his two predecessors as High Priest, and also bore the name Onias. Meanwhile Jason had not abandoned his claims to the high-priesthood, and while (170) Antiochus was waging war against Egypt he succeeded in making himself master of Jerusalem and in forcing Menelaus to seek refuge in the citadel. Antiochus regarded this proceeding as an affront upon his majesty, and, having been compelled by the Romans to leave Egypt, he marched against Jerusalem, massacred the inhabitants, and plundered the Temple; in this he is said to have been assisted by Menelaus.

According to II Maccabees, it was Menelaus who persuaded Antiochus to Hellenize the Jewish worship, and thereby brought about the uprising of the Judeans under the guidance of the Maccabees. During the first years of the restoration of the Jewish worship Menelaus still remained (though only nominally) high priest. He is said to have been put to death by Antiochus V Eupator when the latter made definite concessions to the Jews, the reason assigned being that Menelaus, by his evil counsel, was indirectly responsible for the Jewish rebellion.

.Meanwhile, Demetrius I Soter, son of Seleucus IV Philopator and nephew of the late Antiochus IV Epiphanes, fled from Rome in defiance of the Roman Senate, arrived in Syria, captured and killed Lysias and Antiochus Eupator, and usurped the throne. It was thus Demetrius to whom the delegation led by Alcimus, complained of the persecution of the Hellenist party in Judea. Demetrius granted Alcimus’s request to be appointed High Priest under the protection of the king’s army and sent to Judea an army led by Bacchides. The weaker Jewish army couldn’t oppose the enemy and withdrew from Jerusalem, so Judah returned to wage Guerrilla warfare. Soon after, it was necessary for the Seleucid Army to return to Antioch because of the turbulent political situation. Judah’s forces returned to Jerusalem and the Selucids dispatched another army, again led by Nicanor. In a battle near Adasa, on the 13th Adar 161 BCE, the Syrian army was destroyed and Nicanor was killed. The annual “Day of Nicanor” was instituted to commemorate this victory.

Ptolemy’s successors were in turn supplanted by the Seleucids, and in 175 BCE. Antiochus IV seized power. He launched a campaign to crush Judaism, and in 167 B.C.E he sacked the Temple.

Alcimus High Priest  162-159 BCE who espoused the Syrian cause, also called Jacimus, or Joachim According to 1 Maccabees he was a descendant of the Biblical Aaron, brother of Moses, but not in the high-priestly line;[2] and being ambitious for the office of high priest, he traveled to Antioch to secure the assistance of the Seleucid king Demetrius I Soter, who had just overthrown Antiochus Eupator. Alcimus was of the Hellenizing party, and therefore bitterly opposed by the Maccabees.

Demetrius sent an army under Bacchides to establish Alcimus in the high priesthood at Jerusalem. The favor with which Alcimus was received by the Jews at Jerusalem on account of his Aaronic descent was soon turned to hate by his cruelties.[3] When Bacchides and his army returned to Antioch, the Hasmonean Judah Maccabee attacked and overcame Alcimus, and drove him also to Syria. There he secured from Demetrius another army, led by Nicanor, who, failing to overcome Judah by treachery, attacked him directly, but was defeated and killed. A third and greater army, under Bacchides again, was dispatched to reinstall Alcimus. Judah was defeated and killed, Alcimus established as high priest and a strong garrison left in Jerusalem to maintain him. But he did not long enjoy his triumph, since he died soon after, while he was pulling down the wall of the temple that divided the court of the Gentiles from that of the Israelites.

His successor as High Priest is unknown, Josephus, in Jewish Antiquities XX.10, relates that the office was vacant for six years.

The violation of the Second Temple provoked a successful Jewish rebellion under the generalship of Yuhudah Maccabee  ( Judah the Hammer) was a Kohen and the third son of the Jewish priest Mattatiyahu. He led the Maccabean revolt against the Seleucid Empire (167 BC-160 BC) and is acclaimed as one of the greatest warriors in Jewish history alongside Joshua, Gideon and David

Jose ben Joezer was a rabbi of the early Maccabean period 191 BCE,  a disciple of Antigonus of Soko and member of the ascetic group known as the Chasidim. Yose belonged to the party of the Ḥasidim, and was a decided adversary of HellenismOne of Yosi’s ideas was: Let your house be a meeting place for the wise; sit in the dust of their feet; and drink in their words with thirst (Avot 1:4). He belonged to a priestly family.   Jose ben Johanan of Jerusalem was his colleague. ) was Nasi (president) of the Sanhedrin in the second century BCE. He was a native of Jerusalem. He and Jose ben Joezer were the successors and, it is said, the disciples of Antigonus of Sokho and the two together formed the first of a series of pairs that transmitted the traditional law; in each pair one, according to tradition, was a prince and a president (“nasi”), and the other vice-president, of the Sanhedrin (Av Beth Din)begins the period known in Jewish history as that of the zugot (pairs), which ended with Hillel and Shammai. According to an old tradition, the member of the “zugot” mentioned first occupied the office of Nasi (president) of the Sanhedrin, while the one mentioned second served in the capacity of vice-president.

The Syrian general Bacchides had Yosi  ben Joezer placed on a horse to be hanged. His nephew, an important Hellenist, came to taunt his uncle.

After the Hellenists killed Yosi, Yehoshua b. Perachya became the Nasi in the year 140 BCE. Yehoshua’s admonition was: Provide yourself with a teacher, acquire for yourself a friend, and judge all people favorably (Avot 1:6)


Jonathan Apphus,  High priest 153-143 BCE. Yonathan Maccabee was leader of the Hasmonean Dynasty of Judea from 161 to 143 BCE. He is called also Apphus

The Jewish feast of Hanukkah (“Dedication”) commemorates the restoration of Jewish worship at the temple in Jerusalem in 165 BC, after Yuhudah Maccabee removed the pagan statuary.In 140 B.C. the Hasmonean Dynasty began under the leadership of Simon Maccabee, who served as ruler, high priest, and commander in chief. Simon, who was assassinated a few years later, formalized what Judas had begun, the establishment of a theocracy, something not found in any biblical text. Jonathan Maccabee was one of the sons of Mattathias Maccabaee. His father was a Kohen credited as the founding figure of the rebellion of the Maccabees against Antiochus IV Epiphanes of the Seleucid Empire. However Mattathias died in 167 BCE while the rebellion was only beginning.

He was survived by Jonathan and his brothers Eleazar Maccabee, Johanan, Judas Maccabee, and Simon Maccabaee. They were sworn to continue the rebellion of their father. Judas soon became their de facto leader and the military chief of the rebellion.

Jonathan served under his brother and took active parts in the battles against the Seleucid forces. His reputation for courage is lesser to that of Judas but hardly questionable. His courage had been frequently tried. However, Judas was one of the casualties of the Battle of Elasa (161/160 BCE). The victor of the battle was Bacchides, a Seleucid general under Demetrius I Soter. Bacchides proceeded with crushing rigor against the Maccabean party while at the same time a famine broke out in the land. The Jewish rebels required a new leader and Jonathan was chosen.

Jonathan noticed that Bacchides was trying to entrap him. He reacted by retiring with his brother Simeon and his followers to a desert region in the country east of the Jordan River. They set camp near a morass by the name of Asphar. But Bacchides followed him there and overtook them during a Sabbath. Jonathan gave all the baggage into the hands of his brother John who took a small force and headed towards the friendly Nabataeans. The plan was to secure their baggage there but the “sons of Jambri of Medaba”, a hostile tribe apparently, ambushed them during their journey. John and his companions were killed and their cargo was looted (I Macc. ix. 32-36; Josephus, “Antiquities of the Jews” xiii. 1, § 2). Jonathan would later take revenge for the death of his brother.

Meanwhile on that Sabbath, Jonathan and his companions were forced to engage in battle with Bacchides. Jonathan had encountered and had raised his hand to slay Bacchides, when the latter evaded the blow; the Jews, defeated, sought refuge by swimming through the Jordan to the western bank. In this first encounter Bacchides lost about 1,000 men.

Soon after this event, informed that one of the sons of Jambri was leading home a noble bride in great pomp, the Maccabean brothers proceeded to Medaba, ambushed the bridal procession, killed the entire party, to the number of 300, and seized all the treasure (I Macc. ix. 37-49; Josephus, l.c. xiii. 1, §§ 3-4). They remained, however, in the swamp in the country east of the Jordan. Bacchides thought them insignificant. Following the death of his puppet governor Alcimus, Kohen Gadol of Jerusalem, Bacchides felt secure enough to leave the country.

However Jonathan was not idle. He continued activities against the Jews influenced by the Hellenistic civilization. Two years after the departure of Bacchides from Judea, the City of Acre felt sufficiently threatened to contact Demetrius and request the return of Bacchides to their territory.

Jonathan was now more experienced in guerrilla warfare, the primary tactic used by the Maccabean forces, and was constantly on guard to avoid direct confrontations with enemy forces even while continuing hostile operations. A frustrated Bacchides reportedly took out his anger on the Hellenists and reportedly killed fifty of their leaders out of frustration. Jonathan and Simeon thought it well to retreat farther, and accordingly fortified in the desert a place called Beth-hogla [1]; there they were besieged several days by Bacchides.

Jonathan perceived that Bacchides regretted having set out. He contacted the rival general with offers of a peace treaty and exchange of prisoners of war. Bacchides readily consented and even took an oath of nevermore making war upon Jonathan. He and his forces then vacated Judea. The victorious Jonathan now took up his residence in the old city of Michmash. From there he endeavored to clear the land of “the godless and the apostate”.

Simeon Tassi, brother of Jonathan Apphus,  High Priest 142-134 BCE.  was a son of Mattathias and thus a member of the Hasmonean family. He took part in the Jewish revolt against the Seleucid Empire led by his brothers, Judas Maccabaeus and Jonathan Maccabaeus. He became the first prince of the Hebrew Hasmonean Dynasty. He reigned from 142 to 135 BC. The Hasmonean Dynasty was founded by a resolution, adopted in 141 BCE, at a large assembly “of the priests and the people and of the elders of the land, to the effect that Simon should be their leader and high priest forever, until there should arise a faithful prophet” (1 Maccabees xiv. 41). Recognition of the new dynasty by the Roman Republic was accorded by the Senate about 139 BC, when the delegation of Simon was in Rome. Simon made the Jewish people semi-independent of the Seleucid Empire. In February 135 BC, he was assassinated at the instigation of his son-in-law Ptolemy. Simon was followed by his third son, John Hyrcanus, whose two elder brothers, Mattathias and Judah, had been murdered, together with their father.

In 139 bce. The Romans ruled Jews could worship as they like in all Roman territories, but in the same year all Jews were expelled from Rome and all of Italy. Becouse the Government of Rome became fearful of Jewish influence as many Romans began believing in Jewish teachings.

John Hyrcanus I, son of Simeon Tassi High Priest  134-104 BCE . He was the son of Simon Maccabaeus and hence the nephew of Judas Maccabaeus, Jonathan Maccabaeus and their siblings, whose story is told in the  books of 1 Maccabees and 2 Maccabees, in the Talmud, and in Josephus. John was not present at a banquet at which his father and his two brothers were murdered, purportedly by his brother-in-law Ptolemy. He attained to his father’s former offices, that of high priest and king (although some Jews never accepted any of the Hasmoneans as being legitimate kings, as they were not lineal descendants of David).

”  Josephus sets the date for the obsolescence of the Urim and Thummim the High priest’s breastplate, called the “breast-plate of judgment at 200 years before his time, in the days of John Hyrcanus (Ant., III, viii, 9). “God declared beforehand by those twelve stones which the high priest bare on his breast, and which were inserted into his breastplate, when they should be victorious in battle; for so great a splendor shone forth from them before the army began to march, that all the people were sensible of God’s being present for their assistance” (Ant., III, viii, 9).

The Talmudic explains that by the illumination of certain letters the divine will was revealed, and that in order to have a complete alphabet, in addition to the names of the tribes, the breastplate bore the names of the patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. and the words shibhTe yeshurun also the letters would move from their places to form words (Yoma’ 73a,b)

Josephus’ explains  (Ant.13:282-83), for example, that Hyrcanus heard a voice from above which revealed that his sons had just defeated Antiochus in battle:

Now a very surprising thing is related of this high priest Hyrcanus, how God came to discourse with him; for they say that on the very same day on which his sons fought with Antiochus Cyzicenus, he was alone in the temple, as high priest, offering incense, and heard a voice, that his sons had just then overcome Antiochus (Antiquities of the Jews 13:282).

He heard the voice while in the temple, thus while wearing the priestly vestments. To Josephus, Hyrcanus “was accounted by God worthy of three of the greatest privileges: the rule of the nation, the office of high-priest, and the gift of prophecy” (Ant.13:299; Wars 1:68).

His taking a Greek regnal name – “Hyrcanus” – was a significant political and cultural step away from the intransigent opposition to and rejection of Hellenistic culture which had characterised the Maccabean revolt against Seleucid rule. It reflected a more pragmatic recognition that Judea, once having attained independence, had to maintain its position among a milieu of small and large states which all shared the Hellenistic culture. All subsequent Hasmonean rulers followed suit and adopted Greek names in their turn. During the first year of Hyrcanus’ reign, he faced the most serious challenge to independent Judean rule from the Seleucid Empire. Antiochus VII Sidetes marched into Judea, pillaged the countryside and laid a year long siege on Jerusalem. The prolonged siege caused Hyrcanus to remove any Judean from the city who could not assist with the defense effort (Ant.13.240). These refugees were not allowed to pass through Antiochus’ lines. Therefore, these Judeans were literally trapped in the middle of a chaotic siege. With a humanitarian crisis on his hands, Hyrcanus re-admitted his estranged Jerusalemites when the festival of Succoth arrived. Afterwards, due to massive food shortages in Jerusalem, Hyrcanus negotiated a truce with Antiochus.[1]

The terms of the truce consisted of three thousand talents of silver as payment for Antiochus, breaking down the walls of Jerusalem, Judean participation in the Seleucid war against the Parthians, and once again Judean recognition of Seleucid control (Ant.13.245). These terms were a harsh blow to a young ruler. Furthermore, Hyrcanus needed to loot the tomb of David to pay the 3000 talents (JW 1.61).

The repercussions of the Seleucid siege were initially a difficult set-back for Hyrcanus. Judea faced tough economic times after the countryside was plundered and Jerusalem was under siege. Economic struggles were greatly magnified by taxes to the Seleucids enforced by Antiochus. Furthermore, Hyrcanus was forced to accompany Antiochus on his eastern campaign in 130 BCE. Hyrcanus probably would have functioned as the military commander of a Jewish company in the campaign.[2] Instead of governing a devastated Judean state, Hyrcanus was in Parthia fighting with Antiochus.

Additionally, the Judean population probably lost support for the inexperienced Hyrcanus. Judeans in the countryside were especially disillusioned with Hyrcanus after Antiochus’ army plundered their land. The fact that Hyrcanus was fighting alongside Antiochus probably caused serious resentment. Furthermore Hyrcanus driving out the non-military population of Jerusalem during the siege also probably caused resentment for his rule in the city. Finally, the action of looting the Tomb of David violated his obligations as High Priest. This would have offended the religious leadership.

Therefore, at a very early point in his thirty-one year reign of Judea, Hyrcanus had lost the support of Judeans in various cultural sectors. The Jerusalemites, countryside Judeans and the religious leadership probably doubted the future of Judea under Hyrcanus. However, Hyrcanus was met with fortune in 128 BCE when Antiochus VII was killed in battle against Parthia. What followed was an era of conquest led by Hyrcanus that marked the high point of Judea as the most significant power in Syria. Beginning in 113 BCE, Hyrcanus began an extensive military campaign against Samaria. Hyrcanus placed his sons Antigonus and Aristobulus in charge of the siege of Samaria. The Samarians called for help and eventually received 6000 troops from Antiochus Cyzicenus. Although the siege lasted for a long, difficult year, Hyrcanus was unwilling to give up his siege. Ultimately, Samaria was overrun and totally destroyed. Cyzicenus’ mercenary army was defeated and the city of Scythopolis seems to have been occupied by Hyrcanus as well.[12] The inhabitants of Samaria where then put into slavery. These slaves were not Israelites or worshippers of YHWH. Instead, the Samarians sent into slavery were Macedonians.

At the end of his reign, John Hyrcanus had built a kingdom that rivaled the size of Israel under King Solomon. Ultimately, one of the final acts of Hyrcanus’ life was an act that solved any kind of dispute over his role as high priest and ethnarch. In the will of Hyrcanus, he provisioned for the division of the high priesthood from secular authority. Hyrcanus’ wife was given control of civil authority after his death, and his son Judas Aristobulus was given the role of High Priest. This action represented Hyrcanus’ willingness to compromise over the issue of secular and religious authority.


# Aristobulus I, son of John Hyrcanus, High priest 104-103 BCE. Aristobulus I (reigned 104-103 BC) was a king of the Hebrew Hasmonean Dynasty, and the eldest of the five sons of King John Hyrcanus. He was the first of the Hasmonean rulers to call himself “king.” According to the Hebrew Scriptures, only descendants of Judah, or, more specifically, the House of David, were qualified to be kings of Israel. All of Aristobulus’ predecessors used the title of “nasi”/”president”. According to the directions of John Hyrcanus, the government of the country after his death was to be placed in the hands of his wife, and Aristobulus was originally to receive only the high-priesthood. He was not however satisfied with this, so he cast his mother into prison and allowed her to starve there. By this means he came into the possession of the throne, which, however, he did not long enjoy, as after a year’s reign he died of a painful illness (103 BC). He was hostile to the Pharisees and pursued them with ruthlessness. Aristobulus’ successor was his eldest brother, Alexander Jannæus, who, together with his two brothers, was freed from prison by Queen Shelomit [Salome] Alexandra, the widow of Aristobulus. Alexander Jannæus crucified 800 Pharisees in 94-89 Bce.

The Pharisees arose as a group called “Chavarim” (friends) out of opposition to Hoshmonian Cohen kings  over Israel which is not according to the Torah. As only a Ruler from Yuhudah is the law. The Pharisees strongly opposed Hellenism, but would support a secular government if it did not suppress religious expression.

Alexander Jannaeus, son of John Hyrcanus, High Priest 103-76 BCE .  Alexander Jannai/Yannai), king of Judea from (103 BCE to 76 BCE), son of John Hyrcanus, inherited the throne from his brother Aristobulus, and appears to have married his brother’s widow, Shlomtzion or “Shelomit”, also known as Queen  Salome Alexandra, according to the Biblical law of Yibum (“levirate marriage”), although Josephus is inexplicit on that point. His full Hebrew name was Jonathan He established the Masada fortress. Under the name King Yannai, he appears as a wicked tyrant in the Talmud, reflecting his conflict with the Pharisee party. He is among the more colorful historical figures, despite being little known outside specialized history. He and his widow (who became queen regnant after his death) had substantial impact on the subsequent development of Judaism. During the twenty-seven year reign of Alexander Jannaeus, he was almost constantly involved in military conflict. It is clear that a strong rift existed between the Pharisees and Alexander Jannaeus. The rival Sadducees were avid supporters of Jannaeus (see 4Q448). The Pharisaic opposition to Jannaeus continued with his marriage to his brother’s widow, which was forbidden by Torah law. Furthermore, Jannaeus established himself as a ruler concerned mainly with conquests rather than his religious obligations.

One year during the Jewish holiday of Sukkot, Alexander Jannaeus, while officiating as the High Priest (Kohen Gadol) at the Temple in Jerusalem, demonstrated his support of the Sadducees by denying the law of the water libation. The crowd responded with shock at his mockery and showed their displeasure by pelting Alexander with the etrogim (citrons) that they were holding in their hands. Unwittingly, the crowd had played right into Alexander’s hands. He had intended to incite the people to riot and his soldiers fell upon the crowd at his command. The soldiers slew more than 6,000 people in the Temple courtyard. This incident during  Sukkot was a major factor leading up to the Judean Civil War by igniting popular opponents of Jannaeus. A Qumran document sheds further light on another opponent of Jannaeus. The scroll 4Q390 was written by an adversary of Jannaeus seeking popular support to overthrow the Hasmonean King. The author called for an end to the dispute between Jannaeus and the Pharisees. According to the author, the only acceptable solution was an end to the Hasmonean Priesthood and secular control. This opposition culminated in the Judean Civil War. The Judean Civil War initially began after the conquest of Gaza by Jannaeus. Due to Jannaeus’ victory at Gaza, the Nabatean kingdom no longer controlled their trade routes to Rome and Damascus. Therefore Nabatean king Obadas I launched an attack on Judea in the Golan. Potentially, the war with the Nabateans was the last straw against a war-mongering king and an incompetent High Priest. After Jannaeus was defeated in battle against Obadas, he returned to fierce Jewish opposition in Jerusalem. A civil war broke out between Pharisaic supported Jewish rebels and Jannaeus.

Overall, the war lasted six years and left 50,000 Judeans dead. After Jannaeus succeeded early in the war, the rebels unbelievably asked for Seleucid assistance. Judean insurgents joined forces with Demetrius III to fight against Jannaeus. The Seleucid forces defeated Jannaeus at Schechem and forced him into exile in the mountains. However, these Judean rebels ultimately decided that it was better to live under a terrible Jewish king than backtrack to a Seleucid ruler. After 6,000 Jews returned to Jannaeus, Demetrius was defeated. The end of the Civil War brought a sense of national solidarity against Seleucid influence. Nevertheless, Jannaeus was uninterested in reconciliation within the Judean State. The aftermath of the Judean Civil War consisted of popular unrest, poverty and grief over the fallen soldiers on both sides. The greatest impact of the war was the victor’s revenge. Josephus reports that Jannaeus brought 800 rebels to Jerusalem and had them crucified. Even worse, Jannaeus had the throats of the rebel’s wives and children cut before their eyes as Jannaeus ate with his concubines.

Jannaeus expanded the Hasmonean Kingdom and established the city of Gamla in 81 BCE as the capital for the Golan Heights.

Joshua ben Perachyah was Nasi of the Sanhedrin in the latter half of the second century BC. At the time of the persecution of the Pharisees Joshua was deposed — a disgrace to which his words in Men. 109b apparently allude. It was Alexander Jannaeus whose persecution he fled.  Nittai of Arbela was av beit din or vice-president of the Sanhedrin under the nasi Joshua ben Perachyah at the time of John Hyrcanus

Judah ben Tabbai He was a contemporary of Simeon ben Shetach. During the persecution of the Pharisees under Alexander Jannaeus (r. 103-76 bce), Judah fled to Alexandria, returning after Jannaeus’ death. Judah b. Tabbai was accused by Simeon b. Shetach of wrongfully executing a witness for political purposes (namely, to send a message to the opposition Sadducee party). Judah b. Tabbai then resolved to judge only according to Simeon b. Shetach, and spent the rest of his days weeping prostrate over the grave of his victim.   Simeon ben Shetach  Queen Alexandra Salome (c. 76-67 BCE), who was Simeon’s sister. He was therefore closely connected with the court, enjoying, at least initially, the favor of Alexander. During the reign of Alexander the Sanhedrin consisted almost entirely of Sadducees; nevertheless he succeeded in ousting the Sadducean members and in replacing them with Pharisees.[2] Having accomplished this, Simeon recalled from Alexandria, Egypt the Pharisees who had been compelled to seek refuge there during the reign of John Hyrcanus, among these fugitives being Joshua ben Perachya, the former Nasi.[3] Joshua was elected president anew, and Simeon assumed the office of vice-president.[4] Upon the death of Joshua, Simeon became president and Judah ben Tabbai vice-president. The attitude of Alexander Jannæus toward the Pharisees, however, soon underwent a change; and they were again compelled to flee, even Simeon himself being obliged to go into hiding.[5] About this time certain Parthian envoys came to Alexander’s court and were invited to the king’s table, where they noticed the absence of Simeon, by whose wisdom they had profited at previous visits. Upon the king’s assurance that he would do the fugitive no harm, the queen caused her brother to return to the court. Upon his reappearance Simeon took his place between the royal couple with a show of self-consciousness which surprised the king; whereupon Simeon remarked, “The wisdom which I serve grants me equal rank with kings.”In a significant case of an early witch-hunt, on a single day Simeon ben Shetach’s court sentenced to death eighty women in Ashkelon who had been charged with sorcery.

John Hyrcanus II, son of Alexander Jannaeus, High Priest 76-66 BCE. was the Jewish High Priest and King of Judea in the 1st century BCE. Hyrcanus was the eldest son of Alexander Jannaeus, King and High Priest, and Alexandra Salome. When Salome died in 67 BCE, she named Hyrcanus as successor to the Kingship as well. Hyrcanus was already High Priest but also shared his mothers religious views, sympathetic to the Pharisees. In contrast to this, Alexander Jannaeus had supported the Saducees. Hyrcanus had scarcely reigned three months when his younger brother Aristobulus II, who agreed with his father’s Sadducean stance, rose in rebellion. Hyrcanus advanced against him at the head of his mercenaries and his followers. The brothers met in battle near Jericho and many of Hyrcanus’ soldiers went over to Aristobulus II, and thereby gave the latter the victory.

Saducees were attached to the Hashmoniam and were the core of their support. They tolerated their Hellenism. The Saducees  were only concerned with civil and religious liberties and did not strive for Messianic Redemption. Becouse of this Danial opposed the Hashmoniam.

Hyrcanus took refuge in the citadel of Jerusalem; but the capture of the Temple by Aristobulus II compelled Hyrcanus to surrender. A peace was then concluded, according to the terms of which Hyrcanus was to renounce the throne and the office of high priest, but was to enjoy the revenues of the latter office. Hyrcanus feared that Aristobulus was planning his death. Such fears were furthered by Hyrcanus’ adviser Antipater the Idumean. According to Josephus, Antipater aimed at controlling Judea by putting the weak Hyrcanus back unto the throne.

Hyrcanus took refuge with Aretas III, King of the Nabataeans, who had been bribed by Antipater into espousing the cause of Hyrcanus by the promise of returning Arabian towns taken by the Hasmoneans.

The Nabataeans advanced toward Jerusalem with an army of 50,000 and besieged the city for several months. During the siege, the adherents of Hyrcanus stoned the pious Onias (Honi ha-Magel, also Khoni or Choni ha-Magel), who had refused to pray for the demise of their opponents, and further angered many Jews by selling a lamb of the paschal sacrifice to the besieged for the enormous price of one thousand drachmae and then instead delivered a pig, an animal deemed unclean among the Jews and therefore unfit as a sacrifice.

When the kings of the Hasmonean house fought one another, Hyrcanus was outside and Aristobulus within. The  struggle between the two sons of Alexander Jannaeus, Hyrcanus had the assistance of the Romans who besieged Jerusalem. Each day they used to let down denarii (money) in a basket, and haul up for them [animals for] the daily offerings. An old man there, who was learned in Greek wisdom, spoke with the romans in Greek,  saying: ‘As long as they carry on the Temple-service, they will never surrender to you’. On the morrow they let down denarii in a basket, and hauled up a pig. When it reached half way up the wall, it stuck its claws [into the wall] and the land of Israel was shaken over a distance of four hundred parasangs.

Honi HaM’agel (חוני המעגל Khoni, or Choni, HaMe’agel, Hebrew for Honi the Circle-drawer) (First century BCE) was a Jewish scholar prior to the age of the Tannaim, the scholars from whose teachings the Mishnah (the first part of the Talmud) was derived.

During the first century BCE, a variety of religious movements and splinter groups developed amongst the Jews in Judea. A number of individuals who were  miracle workers in the tradition of Elijah and Elisha, the ancient Jewish prophets.

The Talmud provides some examples of such Jewish miracle workers. Mishnah Ta’anit 3:8 tells of Honi HaM’agel’ (“Honi the Circle-drawer”) who was famous for his ability to successfully pray for rain. On one occasion when God did not send rain well into the winter (in the geographic regions of Israel, it rains mainly in the winter), he drew a circle in the dust, stood inside it, and informed God that he would not move until it rained. When it began to drizzle, Honi told God that he was not satisfied and expected more rain; it then began to pour. He explained that he wanted a calm rain, at which point the rain calmed to a normal rain.

He was almost put into cherem (excommunucation) for the above incident in which he showed “dishonor” to God. However, Shimon ben Shetach, the brother of Queen Shlomtzion, excused him, saying that he was Honi and had a special relationship with God.

The circumstances of Honi’s death are described in the Talmud (Taanit 23a): He fell asleep and awoke after 70 years, and when nobody would believe him that he was indeed Honi the Circle-drawer, he prayed to God and God took him from this world.

Josephus, in Antiquities of the Jews, relates Honi’s end in the context of conflict between the Hasmonean brothers Hyrcanus II, backed by the Pharisees and advised by Antipater the Idumaean, and Aristobulus II, backed by the Sadducees. Around 63 BCE, Honi was captured by the followers of Hyrcanus besieging Jerusalem and was asked to pray for the demise of their opponents. Honi, however, prayed: “Lord of the universe, as the besieged and the besiegers both belong to Your people, I beseech You not to answer the evil prayers of either.” After this, the followers of Hyrcanus stoned him to death. The Maharsha (Ta’anit ) answers the discrepancy between the Talmud and Josephus by stating that Honi was “presumed” killed by Hyrcanus II’s men, but in reality was put into a deep sleep for 70 years. Honi’s grave is found near the town of Hatzor HaGlilit in northern Israel. Roman general Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus defeated the Kingdoms of Pontus and the Seleucids. He sent his deputy Marcus Aemilius Scaurus to take possession of Seleucid Syria. As the Hasmoneans were allies of the Romans, both brothers appealed to Scaurus, each endeavoring by gifts and promises to win him over to his side. Scaurus, moved by a gift of 400 talents, decided in favor of Aristobulus and ordered Aretas to withdraw his army. During his retreat, the Nabateans suffered a crushing defeat at the hands of Aristobulus. When Pompey arrived in Syria in 63 BCE, both brothers and a third party that desired the removal of the entire dynasty, sent their delegates to Pompey, who however delayed the decision. He favoured Hyrcanus over Aristobulos, deeming the elder, weaker brother a more reliable ally of the Roman Empire. Aristobulos, suspicious of Pompey, entrenched himself in the fortress of Alexandrium, but when the Romans summoned their army, he surrendered and undertook to deliver Jerusalem over to them. However, since many of his followers however were unwilling to open the gates, the Romans besieged and captured the city by force, badly damaging city and temple. Aristobulus was taken to Rome a prisoner and Hyrcanus restored.

Hyrcanus was restored to his position as High Priest but not to the Kingship. Political authority rested with the Romans whose interests were represented by Antipater, who primarily promoted the interests of his own house. In 47 BCE, Julius Caesar restored some political authority to Hyrcanus by appointing him ethnarch. This however had little practical effect, since Hyrcanus yielded to Antipater in everything. In 40 BCE, Aristobulus’ son Antigonus allied himself with the Parthians and was proclaimed King and High Priest. Hyrcanus was seized and mutilated at his ears (according to Josephus, Antigonus bit his uncle’s ears off) to make him permanently ineligible for the priesthood.

Then Hyrcanus was then taken to Babylonia, where for four years he lived amid the Babylonian Jews, who paid him every mark of respect. In 36 BCE, Herod, who had vanquished Antigonus, the Hashmonian king and Kohen Gadol, with Roman help and feared that Hyrcanus might induce the Parthians to help him regain the throne, invited the former High Priest to return to Jerusalem. Hyrcanus accepted and Herod received him with every mark of respect, assigning to him the first place at his table and the presidency of the state council. Harod killed Antigonus, the Hashmonian king  Kohen Gadol and all his Sadukee  supporters.

The period of the Rule of Herod was the best times for the pharisees. Herod had exterminated all Hashmoniam that supported the Sadukim. The Hashmoniam ruled 125 years.

However, in 30 BCE Herod charged Hyrcanus with plotting with the Nabateans and put him to death.

Aristobulus II, son of Alexander Jannaeus,  High priest 66-63 BCE son of Alexander Jannaeus, King and High Priest, and Alexandra Salome. Hyrcanus shared his mother’s religious views, sympathetic to the Pharisees. In contrast to this, Alexander Jannaeus had supported the Saducees.

Aristobulus agreed with his father’s Sadducean stance and rebelled against his elder brother. Hyrcanus advanced against him at the head of his mercenaries and his followers. The brothers met in battle near Jericho and many of Hyrcanus’ soldiers went over to Aristobulus, and thereby gave the latter the victory.

Hyrcanus took refuge in the citadel of Jerusalem; but the capture of the Temple by Aristobulus compelled Hyrcanus to surrender. A peace was then concluded, according to the terms of which Hyrcanus was to renounce the throne and the office of high priest, but was to enjoy the revenues of the latter office.Hyrcanus feared that Aristobulus was planning his death and took refuge with Aretas III, King of the Nabataeans. The Nabataeans advanced toward Jerusalem with an army of 50,000 and besieged the city for several months. During this civil war, the Roman general Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus defeated the Kingdoms of Pontus and the Seleucids. He sent his deputy Marcus Aemilius Scaurus to take possession of Seleucid Syria. As the Hasmoneans were allies of the Romans, both brothers appealed to Scaurus, each endeavoring by gifts and promises to win him over to his side. Scaurus, moved by a gift of 400 talents, decided in favor of Aristobulus and ordered Aretas to withdraw his army. During his retreat, the Nabateans suffered a crushing defeat at the hands of Aristobulus.When Pompey arrived in Syria in 63 BCE, both brothers and a third party that desired the removal of the entire dynasty, sent their delegates to Pompey, who however delayed the decision. He favoured Hyrcanus II over Aristobulus II, deeming the elder, weaker brother a more reliable ally of the Roman Empire. Aristobulos, suspicious of Pompey, entrenched himself in the fortress of Alexandrium, but when the Romans summoned their army, he surrendered and undertook to deliver Jerusalem over to them. However, since many of his followers however were unwilling to open the gates, the Romans besieged and captured the city by force, badly damaging city and temple. Hyrcanus was restored as High Priest, but deprived of political authority. Aristobulus was on his way to Judaea with his son Alexander, in 49 BC when he was assassinated by poison. His son Antigonus led a rebellion against Rome 40 BC but was defeated and killed in 37 BC.

Roman Rule (63 BCE-313 CE)
When the Romans replaced the Seleucids as the great power in the region, they granted the Hasmonean king, Hyrcanus II, had limited authority under the Roman governor of Damascus. The Jews were hostile to the new regime, and the following years witnessed frequent insurrections. A last attempt to restore the former glory of the Hasmonean dynasty was made by Mattathias Antigonus, whose defeat and death brought Hasmonean rule to an end (40 BCE), and the Land became a province of the Roman Empire.

In 37 BCE Herod, a son-in-law of Hyrcanus II, was appointed King of Judea by the Romans. Granted almost unlimited autonomy in the country’s internal affairs, he became one of the most powerful monarchs in the eastern part of the Roman Empire. A great admirer of Greco-Roman culture, Herod launched a massive construction program, which included the cities of Caesarea and Sebaste and the fortresses at Herodium and Masada. He also remodeled the Temple into one of the most magnificent buildings of its time. But despite his many achievements, Herod failed to win the trust and support of his Jewish subjects.

Ten years after Herod’s death (4 BCE), Judea came under direct Roman administration. Growing anger against increased Roman suppression of Jewish life resulted in sporadic violence which escalated into a full-scale revolt in 66 CE. Superior Roman forces led by Titus were finally victorious, razing Jerusalem to the ground (70 CE) and defeating the last Jewish outpost at Masada (73 CE).

The total destruction of Jerusalem and the Second Temple was catastrophic for the Jewish people. According to the contemporary historian Josephus Flavius, hundreds of thousands of Jews perished in the siege of Jerusalem and elsewhere in the country, and many thousands more were sold into slavery.

Jews lived in Jerusalem until 63 years after the destruction of the Temple when the revolt of Shimon Bar Kochba occurred. After which the Romans forbid Jews from living in Jerusalem. At 90 Rabbi Akiva called Bar Kochba Messia, Yochanon ben Torta told Rabbi Akiva that he was not the Messiah. A last brief period of Jewish sovereignty followed the revolt of Shimon Bar Kochba (132 CE), during which Jerusalem and Judea were regained. This was the 2nd revolt. However, given the overwhelming power of the Romans, the outcome was inevitable. After this the 10 martyr s  were killed by the Romans.  One of the 10  martyr s, Rabbi Yuhuda ben Baba was ordained by Rabbi Meir the Miracle worker. In conformity with Roman custom, Jerusalem was “plowed up with a yoke of oxen,” Judea was renamed Palaestina and Jerusalem, Aelia Capitolina.

Although the Temple had been destroyed and Jerusalem burned to the ground, the Jews and Judaism survived the encounter with Rome. The supreme legislative and judicial body, the Sanhedrin (successor of the Knesset Hagedolah) was reconvened in Yavneh (70 CE), and later in Tiberias.

John Hyrcanus II (restored) 63-40 BCE

Sh’maya, and Abtalion Both Sh’maya and Avtalyon were converts to Judaism and were both descendants of King Sancheriv of Assyria who destroyed the northern Kingdom of Israel. was a leader of the Pharisees in the first century BC;  Sh’maya is president of the Sanhedrin before and during the reign of Herod the Great. Abtalion was vice-president of the great Sanhedrin of Jerusalem. Abtalion, as well as his colleague, Shemaiah, the president of the Sanhedrin, was one of the most influential and beloved men of his time. Once, when the high priest was being escorted home from the Temple by the people, at the close of a Day of Atonement, the Talmud (Yoma, 71b) relates that the crowd deserted him upon the approach of Abtalion and his colleague and followed them. Abtalion used his influence with the people in persuading the men of Jerusalem, in the year 37 BC, to open the gates of their city to Herod the Great. The king was not ungrateful and rewarded Abtalion.

Antigonus, son of Aristobulos II, High priest 40-37 BCE Antigonus II Mattathias (Antigonus the Hasmonean) was the son of King Aristobulus II of Judea. In 40 BC he led, along with Barzapharnes, a Parthian-supported invasion of Judea, seized Jerusalem, and sent his uncle Hyrcanus II to Babylon in chains (after biting or cutting off his ears to render him ineligible for the office of High Priest). In 37 BC, Herod the Great took back Judea with Roman support. Herod turned Antigonus over to Mark Antony, who had him beheaded , ending the rule of the Hasmonean dynasty. Antigonus II Mattathias was the last legitimate King of Judaea of the Hasmonean dynasty, which had recovered Jewish independence from the Hellenistic Seleucid monarchy of Syria. Antigonus was handed over by Herod to the Romans for execution in 37 BC, after a short reign of three years during which he had led a fierce struggle of the people for independence against the Romans and Romanizers such as Herod. Antigonus II Mattathias was the only anointed King of the Jews (messiah) historically recorded to have been scourged and crucified by the Romans. Cassius Dio’s Roman History records: “These people [the Jews] Antony entrusted to a certain Herod to govern; but Antigonus he bound to a cross and scourged, a punishment no other king had suffered at the hands of the Romans, and so slew him.”. In his Life of Antony, Plutarch claims that Antony had Antigonus beheaded, “the first example of that punishment being inflicted on a king”.

Aristobulus III  High Priest 36 BCE-last of the Hasmoneans; paternal grandson of Aristobulus II and brother of Herod’s wife Mariamne (second wife of Herod). He was a favorite of the people on account of his noble descent and handsome presence, and thus became an object of fear to Herod, who at first sought to ignore him entirely by debarring him from the high priesthood. But his mother Alexandra Maccabeus (63BC-28BC), through intercession with Cleopatra and Mark Antony, compelled Herod to remove Hananel from the office of High Priest and appoint Aristobulus instead. To secure himself against danger from Aristobulus, Herod instituted a system of espionage against him and his mother. This surveillance proved so onerous that they sought to gain their freedom by taking refuge with Cleopatra. Their plans were betrayed, however, and the disclosure had the effect of greatly increasing Herod’s suspicions against his brother-in-law. As he dared not resort to open violence, he caused him to be drowned while he was bathing in Jericho.

High Priest under Herodians and Romans

There were four families that dominated the high priesthood at this time: Annas, Boethus, Fabus, and Camithus. None of them were from the family of  Zadok (the traditional family High priests).

Ananelus 37-36 High Priest BCE Hanameel the Egyptian (also known as Ananel, Ananelus) was a Jewish High priest in the first century B.C.E He was appointed by Herod to fill the office of high priest made vacant by the ignominious death of Antigonus (37 B.C.E). Hanameel was an Egyptian according to the Mishnah (Parah 3:5), and a Babylonian according to Josephus (“Ant.” xv. 2, § 4). Though of priestly descent, he was not of the family of the high priests. But Hanameel’s incumbency was of short duration. Prudence compelled Herod to remove him, and to fill his place with the Hasmonean Aristobulus (35 B.C.). The youthful Hasmonean, however, was too popular with the patriotic party; though he was a brother of Mariamne, Herod’s beloved wife, he was treacherously drowned at Herod’s instigation (35 B.C.), and Hanameel was restored to the high position. How long he continued in office historians do not state; but it could not have been for many years, since after the execution of Mariamne (29 B.C.) Herod remarried, and appointed his second father-in-law, Simon ben Boethus, to the high-priesthood, removing Joshua ben Fabi. Hanameel is credited with having prepared one of the total of seven “red heifers” (see Number 19) which were provided in all the centuries from Ezra’s restoration to the final dispersion of the Jews (Parah 3:5).

Aristobulus III 36 BCE-last of the Hasmoneans; paternal grandson of Aristobulus II and brother of Herord’s wife Mariamne (second wife of Herod).

Hillel and Shami turned against Antigonus and supported Herod. They became close and Torah flourished. Pharisees said Herod (forbidden convert king) was a affliction from God. Pharisees held that the ruling power should not be opposed. They were a passive pro Horodian party.

Hillel was a student of Shemaiah, and his descendents served as Nesi’im for the next 460 years. Hillel became the Nasi about 31 BCE. Johnson (1987)  Jesus of Nazareth may have been one of Hillel’s schools’  students. In Hillel’s time, Israel was ruled by Herod I (Herod’s reign was from 37 – 4 BCE). The Talmud states that Herod killed many members of the Sanhedrin because he believed they opposed him. Yoseph Calaphas from the House of Ananus was the Kohen Gadol in the time of Pontious Pilate. Pilate was governor of Judea for the years 26-37CE.

Hillel was certainly charismatic. He was known for his exceptional patience, great modesty, and love of people. The Talmud tells a story of a man who made a 400 zuz bet that he could make Hillel lose his temper. One Friday afternoon, when Hillel was busy preparing for the Sabbath, the man kept pestering Hillel with inane questions. He asked him, “Why are the heads of the Babylonians round?” (Hillel was originally from Babylonia.) Hillel answered his question. The man kept returning to ask additional irrelevant questions and Hillel continued to answer him with great respect. Finally, when the man realized that there was no way Hillel would ever lose his temper, the man cursed him and said: “may there not be more like you amongst Israel.” After learning about the bet, Hillel said: “It is far better that you should lose 400 zuz, and 400 zuz more, than Hillel should lose his temper” (Shabbos 30b-31a).

Hillel’s advice included: Be among the disciples of Aaron, loving peace and pursuing peace, loving people… (Avot 1:12).Aaron, brother of Moses, was known as a peacemaker in the Talmud and Midrash. This admonition is consistent with Bass’s focus on inspiring leadership and Burns’s emphasis on uniting diverse members in pursuit of higher goals. The Talmud relates three separate stories of how Shammai (the Av Beth Din under Hillel) refused to teach potential converts who made absurd requests (“Make me a convert on condition that you only teach me the written Torah,” “…on condition that you teach me the whole Torah while I stand on one foot,” “…on condition that you will appoint me High Priest”) and threw them out. They subsequently went to Hillel who accepted them and they converted to Judaism. The three converts met and said: “Hillel’s gentleness and humility brought us under the wings of the Divine Presence ” (Shabbos 31a).

Another of Hillel’s admonitions was: He who seeks greater reputation, destroys his reputation; he who does not increase his knowledge, decreases it (Avot 1:13).This maxim points out the importance of doing things that are ethical rather than profitable. Just as Sashkin (1988) emphasizes vision and Bass (1990) emphasizes intellectual stimulation, Hillel emphasized the importance of knowledge in leadership. Leaders should not be motivated by narrow self interest. Hillel was a leader who did not seek fame, but when he died, they eulogized him thus (Sotah 48b): “Alas, the pious man! Alas, the modest man!”

Hillel also said: If I am not for myself, who will be for me? If I care only for myself, what am I? If not now, when? (Avot 1:14) ‘What is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow-human,’ that is the whole Torah, the rest is commentary (Shabbos 31a).The above two sayings, early statements of the golden rule, stress the importance of caring for others. What more profound vision or inspiration has ever been identified? What clearer statement of the importance of individual consideration?

Hillel also said: Do not separate yourself from the community (Avot 2:4). Do not judge your fellow human being until you have been in his place (Avot 2:4). Hillel’s [6] statements directed to all people are especially true for leaders. Leaders should not be aloof and distant from their followers. Great leadership implies an ability to consider individuals, to communicate supportively, and to stimulate intellectually. A leader who has no empathy for his followers and who is devoid of charisma cannot be effective. Hillel also stressed the importance of not judging others too harshly. Leaders also have to be careful that statements they make should not be misunderstood.

One of Hillel’s most beautiful statements is: In a place where there are no men, strive to be a man (Avot 2:5).Perhaps no other phrase better summarizes the moral challenge of charismatic or transformational leadership. In a place where no one else has the ability or desire to be a leader, the moral person will win the loyalty of others by taking the important risk of doing what is moral.

The more schooling, the more wisdom; the more counsel, the more understanding; the more righteousness, the more peace (Avot 2:7).In this admonition Hillel again emphasized intellectual stimulation and the development of leadership through education.

Hillel was a famous Jewish religious leader, one of the most important figures in Jewish history. He is associated with the development of the Mishnah and the Talmud. Renowned within Judaism as a sage and scholar, he was the founder of the House of Hillel school for Tannaïm (Sages of the Mishnah) and the founder of a dynasty of Sages who stood at the head of the Jews living in the land of Israel until roughly the fifth century of the Common Era. Hillel lived in Jerusalem during the time of King Herod and the Roman Emperor Augustus. In the Midrash compilation Sifre (Deut. 357) the periods of Hillel’s life are made parallel to those in the life of Moses. Both lived 120 years; at the age of forty Hillel went to the Land of Israel; forty years he spent in study; and the last third of his life he was the spiritual head of the Jewish people. A biographical sketch can be constructed; that Hillel went to Jerusalem in the prime of his life and attained a great age. Hillel was born in Babylon and, according to the Iggeret of Rav Sherira Gaon (a comprehensive history of the composition of the Talmud from the 10th century CE), Hillel descended from the Tribe of Benjamin on his father’s side, and from the family of David on his mother’s side.  His activity of forty years likely covered the period of 30 BCE to 10 CE. The most famous of his enactments was the Pruzbul, (προσβολή), an institution which, in spite of the law concerning cancellation of debts in the Sabbatical year (Deut. xv) ensured the repayment of loans. The motive for this institution was the “repair of the world”, i.e., of the social order, because this legal innovation protected both the creditor against the loss of his property, and the needy against being refused the loan of money for fear of loss. A likewise tendency is found in another of Hillel’s institutions, having reference to the sale of houses. These two are the only institutions handed down in Hillel’s name, although the words which introduce the pruzbul show that there were others. Hillel’s judicial activity may be inferred from the decision by which he confirmed the legitimacy of some Alexandrians whose origin was disputed, by interpreting the marriage document (ketubah) of their mother in her favor (Tosef., Ket. iv 9; B. M. 104a). Of other official acts no mention is found in the sources.

Shammai 50 BCE–30 CE ,

an important figure in Judaism’s core work of rabbinic literature, the Mishnah.

Shammai was the most eminent contemporary and the halakhic opponent of Hillel, and is almost invariably mentioned along with him.

Shammai’s school of thought became known as the House of Shammai (Hebrew: Beit Shammai‎), as Hillel’s was known as the House of Hillel (Beit Hillel). After Menahem the Essene had resigned the office of Av Beit Din (or vice-president) of the Sanhedrin.

The Essenes held much like the Pharisees in the law. They opposed the Hashmoniam. As they said that the High priest must come from the true line of high Priests, which is not the Hoshmoniam House. But the true line of high Priests comes from the family of Sadok who were the High Priests for King David.

Shemaiah became the Nasi in the year 65 BCE. Shemaiah’s insight included: Love work; hate lordship; and do not be intimate with the ruling authorities (Avot 1:10).Thus, he was one of the earlier advocates of the work ethic: There is great dignity and inspiration in manual labor. This philosophy had a great impact on many of the sages of the Talmud, and as in the archetypal charismatic community, many followed this advice. Thus most worked at manual occupations including beer brewing, farming, wood-chopping, merchant, grave digging, shoe-making, and blacksmithing.

Also, Shemaiah advocated egalitarianism and validating communication. A good leader should hate lording over others. Individuals who enjoy dominating others tend to become insensitive to the needs of others. Again, his emphasis is on individual consideration.

Menahem Prominent teacher of the Essene faction in the time of King Herod, about the middle of the first pre-Christian century. He was renowned for his prophetic powers. According to Josephus (“Ant.” xv. 10, § 5), he was distinguished also for the saintliness of his life as well as for possessing knowledge of the future. Legend has it that when he saw young Herod going to school he clapped him on the back and addressed him as king, announcing to him that he would reign successfully, but without displaying the love and justice he ought toward men or the piety due to God, and that therefore his end would be one befitting his crimes. When afterward in the zenith of his power Herod recalled this strange prediction, he sent for Menahem and asked him how long his reign would be. As Menahem did not immediately answer, Herod urged him, asking whether his reign would last ten years; whereupon Menahem replied: “Yes, twenty; nay, thirty years.” Pleased with this answer, Herod dismissed him with a clasp of the hand and thenceforth bestowed special honors upon the Essenes. This Menahem has been correctly identified with the one mentioned in the Mishnah as ab bet din and head of a school in association with Hillel ha-Nasi and as Shammai’s predecessor; but the duumvirate of ab bet din and nasi is probably due to a misconstruction of history when the real issues between the Hasidæan or Pharisean and the Sadducean or Boethusian factions were no longer understood. A dim reminiscence of the relation of Menahem to Herod, however, has been preserved in a baraita, quoted in Ḥag. 16b, which states that “Menahem went out to join those serving the king, and eighty pairs of disciples attired in silk robes went with him.” Another tradition is that he became an apostate (Yer. Ḥag. ii. 77d). The Boethusian did not agree with the practice of the Pharisee to  harvest the “Omer” after the first day of passach and offer it on the second day of the festival in the Temple instead the Boethusians thought that “Omer” should be harvested after the first Shabbot after Passover offered on the first Sunday after Shavout.

Shammai was elected to it, Hillel being at the time president. After Hillel died, circa 20 CE, Shammai took his place as president but no vice-president from the minority was elected so that the school of Shammai attained complete ascendancy, during which Shammai passed “18 ordinances” in conformity with his ideas. TheTalmud states that when he passed one of the ordinances, contrary to the opinion of Hillel, the day “was as grievous to Israel as the day when the [golden] calf was made” (Shabbat, 17a). The exact content of the ordinances is not known, but they seem to have been designed to strengthen Jewish identity by insisting on stringent separation between Jews and gentiles, an approach that was regarded as divisive and misanthropic by Shammai’s opponents.

Hillel’s grandson Gamaliel succeeded to the position of president after Shammai in the year 30, but the Sanhedrin would remain dominated by the house of Shammai until around 70 (seeCouncil of Jamnia). A “voice from heaven” is said to have nullified the legality of the rulings of the house of Shammai ( Yerushalmi Berakhot, 1:7), which is why Rabbinical Judaism follows Hillel.


Joshua ben Fabus High Priest  30-23 BCE

Simon ben Boethus his daughter Mariamne (third wife of Herod) married Herod the Great-the parents of Herod II was the first husband of Herodias,  The Boethusians were a Jewish sect closely related to, if not a development of, the Sadducees.. The Talmud gives the following origin of the schism between Sadducees and Boethusians: Antigonus of Sokho having taught the maxim, “Be not like the servants who serve their masters for the sake of the wages, but be rather like those who serve without thought of receiving wages”, his two pupils, Zadok and Boethus, repeated this maxim to their pupils. In the course of time, either the two teachers or their pupils understood this to express the belief that there was neither an afterlife nor a resurrection of the dead and founded the sects of the Sadducees and the Boethusians. They lived in luxurious splendor; using silver and golden vessels all their lives, not because they were haughty, but because (as they claimed) the Pharisees led a hard life on earth and yet would have nothing in the world to come. Historical in this story is the statement that these two sects denied the immortality of the soul and resurrection. Again, the Midrash is on the whole correct in saying that the sects found their followers chiefly among the wealthy; but the origin of the sects is legendary. The Mishnah, as well as the Baraita, mentions the Boethusians as opposing the Pharisees in saying that the sheaf due at the Passover (compare Omer) must be offered not on the second feast-day, but on the day after the actual Shabbat of the festival week, and, accordingly, that Pentecost, which comes seven weeks and one day later, should always be celebrated on Sunday. In another passage it is narrated that the Boethusians hired false witnesses in order to lead the Pharisees astray in their calculations of the new moon Another point of dispute between the Boethusians and the Pharisees was whether the high priest should prepare the incense inside or outside the Holy of Holies on the Day of Atonement.

Matthias ben Theophilus 5-4 BCE

Joazar ben Boethus 4 BCE (Sadducee) was Cohen Gadol near the end of Herod’s period. The Boethus house was pro Herod.  He stopped a radical Pharisee rebellion. After this he was dismissed and from that time on all Cohen Gadol were appointed by the Romans and they were all Sadukeem

Eleazar ben Boethus 4-3 BCE (Sadducee)

Joshua ben Sie 3 BCE – ?

Joazar ben Boethus ? – 6 CE (Sadducee)

Shimon ben Gamliel (Hebrew: שמעון בן גמליאל‎, c. 10 BCE – 70 CE) was a Tannaist sage and leader of the Jewish people. He succeeded his father Gamliel I as the Nasi of the Sanhedrin after his father’s death in 50 CE and just before the destruction of the Second Temple. The traditional view is that he was killed by the Romans as one of the Ten Jewish Martyrs. He was a direct descendant of King David. His tomb, located in Kafr Kanna near the Golani Junction in the lower Galilee of northern Israel, has remained an important site for Jewish pilgrims for almost 2,000 years.

Ananus ben Seth 6-15

Ishmael ben Fabus 15-16 , His grandson is  Rabbi Yishmoyal of the sages, who had been tortured and killed by  the Roman soldiers for having studied Torah.

Eleazar ben Ananus 16-17

Simon ben Camithus 17-18

Joseph Caiaphas 18-36 Son-in-law of the high priest Ananas or Annas, was the Roman-appointed Jewish high priest between AD 18 and 37. In the Mishnah, Parah 3:5 refers to him as Ha-Koph (the monkey), a play on his name for opposing Mishnat Ha-Hasidim. According to the Christian gospels, Caiaphas is involved in the trial of Jesus after his arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane. Caiaphas was also chairman of the  Sanhedrin (high court).

The sages in this generation included :

Hillel’s eighty disciples…. Of the eighty disciples whom Hillel had (probably during the last period of his activity), thirty were worthy that the glory of God (the spirit of prophecy) should rest upon them as upon Moses; thirty, that for their sake the sun should stand still as for Joshua. The greatest was Rabbi Jonathan ben Uziel, while the least was Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakkai. Yochanan ben Zakkai saw the destruction of the Temple years before it happened. It is said that he yelled at the Temple gates because they would open up by themselves, by this indicating the future destruction.

It is said of Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakkai that he was not ignorant of anything. Mishnah, Talmud, law, exposition, grammatical analysis of the Torah, analysis of the Scribes, logical inference, similar wordings, astronomical calculations, gematriot (numerology), incantations for angels, incantations for demons, incantations to palm trees, proverbs of washwomen, proverbs of foxes, a “Great Thing,” and a “Small Thing.”

A “Great Thing” is the Workings of the Merkava [i.e., the mystical experience], while a “Small Thing” is the discourses [in Talmudic law] of Abaya and Rava….

Since this was true of the least of them, it was certainly true of the greatest. It is said that when Rabbi Jonathan ben Uziel was sitting and studying Torah, any bird that flew by was immediately consumed by fire from heaven as a burnt offering.

also in this generation was

Baba Ben Buta was a teacher of the Law at the time of Herod the Great, and perhaps a member of the prominent family known as The Sons of Baba (“Bene Baba”), who, at the time of the siege of Jerusalem by Herod (37 B.C.), resisted its surrender, and whom Costobarus protected from the wrath of Herod for ten years, until they were discovered and put to death (Josephus, “Ant.” xv. 7, § 10). But, according to a tradition preserved in the Babylonian Talmud (B. B. 3b et seq.), Baba ben Buta was the only teacher of the Law who was spared by Herod. According to this tradition it was Baba b. Buta, deprived of his eyesight by Herod, who advised the latter to rebuild the Temple in expiation of his great crimes. In halakic tradition Baba b. Buta is recorded as a disciple of Shammai; and it is said that he prevented an opinion of Shammai concerning a question of sacrifices from becoming a rule, because he was convinced of the correctness of Hillel‘s opposing opinion (Betzah 20a et seq.). Baba is reported to have been so scrupulous in his religious observances that he brought a free-will offering every day, for fear that he might have committed a sin requiring atonement. These sacrifices were called “sin-offerings of the pious”. Baba was a member of the bet din and some sources state that he always saw that justice was done, particularly to women (Git. 57a; Ned. 66b).

and

Gamaliel the Elder (gəmā’lēəl), or Rabbi Gamaliel I, was a leading authority in the Sanhedrin in the mid first century. He was the grandson of the great Jewish teacher Hillel the Elder, and died twenty years before the destruction of the second temple in Jerusalem. He fathered a son, whom he called Simeon, after his father’s name. Gamaliel was the first, are given the title Rabban[5] (master), a rabbinic title given to the Head of the Sanhedrin; although it is not doubted that Gamaliel genuinely held a senior position, whether he actually held this highest position has been disputed.[1] Gamaliel holds a reputation in the Mishnah for being one of the greatest teachers in all the annals of Judaism. Since Rabban Gamaliel the Elder died, there has been no more reverence for the law, and purity and piety died out at the same time.

Rabbi Gamliel’s philosophy was: Provide yourself with a teacher and remove yourself from doubt …(Avot 1:16). He emphasized education and development as a source of self-efficacy.

Rabbi Gamliel was a leader who advocated tikkun olam (in Hebrew, tikkun means repair and olam means world), the notion that one is obligated to repair and perfect the world by using the legal system to enact laws that help society. For instance, some of his enactments were instituted to make it difficult for men to make trouble for their ex-wives (Gittin 32a, 34b). He also allowed a previously married woman to remarry on the testimony of one witness that the husband is dead, rather than the Biblically required testimony of two (Yevamos 122a).

As another example, in Talmudic times, the people believed that the proper and dignified way of clothing the dead was by dressing the corpse in expensive garments. The cost became so prohibitive, that the expense of burying the deceased was “harder on the relatives than the death itself.” Rabbi Gamliel changed this custom by disregarding his own dignity and ordering that he himself would be buried in inexpensive flaxen garments. After the people saw how Rabbi Gamliel, the head of the Sanhedrin, was buried, the custom became that all Jews are buried in shrouds made of flax (Moed Katan 27b). Again we see dissemination of new obligations because they are from a source that was inspired in addition to having hereditary authority.

Jonathan ben Ananus 36-37

Theophilus ben Ananus 37-41 He was a member of one of the wealthiest and most influential Jewish families in Iudaea Province during the first century.

Simon Cantatheras ben Boethus 41-43 (Sadducee)

Matthias ben Ananus 43

Elioneus ben Simon Cantatheras 43-44 (Sadducee)

Jonathan ben Ananus 44 (restored)

# Jonathan ben Ananus 44 (restored)

# Josephus ben Camydus 44-46

# Ananias ben Nebedeus 46-52

# Jonathan 52-56

# Ishmael ben Fabus 56-62 (restored?)

# Joseph Cabi ben Simon 62-63

# Ananus ben Ananus 63

King Agrippa 2 replaced Ananus Cohen Gadol with Joshua ben Damneus, for a short period

# Joshua ben Damneus 63

# Joshua ben Gamaliel 63-64-his wife Martha belonged to family of Boethus (Sadducee) Yehoshua ben Gamla (or Jesus son of Gamalas) was a Jewish high priest who officiated in about 64 He married the rich widow Martha of the high-priestly family Boethos (Yeb. vi. 4), and she by bribing Jannai secured for him the office of high priest (Yeb. 61a; Yoma 18a; comp. “Ant.” xx. 9, § 4). Although Yehoshua himself was not a scholar, he was solicitous for the instruction of the young, and provided schools in every town for children over five years of age, earning thereby the praises of posterity (B. B. 21a). The two lots used on the Day of Atonement, hitherto of boxwood, he made of gold (Yoma iii. 9). Yehoshua did not remain long in office, being forced, after a year, to give way to Matthias ben Theophil (“Ant.” xx. 9, § 7). Although no longer High Priest, Yehoshua remained one of the leaders of Jerusalem. Together with the former high priest Anan and other men of rank, he opposed, without success, the election of Phinehas b. Samuel (68) as high priest (“B. J.” iv. 3, § 9). Josephus reports that Yehoshua was an “intimate friend”, who reported a plot to replace Josephus as general of Galilee to Josephus’ father. Because his father wrote to him of the plot, Josephus was able to resist it (“Life” 204-205).

Yehoshua attempted peaceably to prevent the fanatic and pugnacious Idumeans from entering Jerusalem, then torn by internal dissensions. After they had come into possession of the city, these fanatics took bloody vengeance on him, by executing him, as well as Anan, as traitors to their country

Agrippa 2 then made Mattathias ben Theophilus  Kohen Gadol

# Mattathias ben Theophilus 65-66

  • Phannias ben Samuel 67-70 was the last Jewish High Priest. He did not originate with any high-priestly family but was the leader of revolutionary forces. He died during the destruction of Herod’s Temple in 70 CE.

Onias IV is the designation given to the son of Onias III and the lawful heir of the legitimate high priests. He had reason to hope that the victory of the national party under Judas Maccabeus would place him in the office of his fathers; but being disappointed in his expectations by the election of Alcimus, he went to Egypt to seek aid against the tyranny of the Seleucids at the court of the Ptolemies, their political enemies. About 154, with the permission of Ptolemy VI (Philometor), he built at Leontopolis a temple which, though comparatively small, was modeled on that of Jerusalem, and was called by the name of its founder. Onias doubtless expected that after the desecration of the Temple at Jerusalem by the Syrians the Egyptian temple would be regarded as the only legitimate one; but the traditional teachings of Judaism, as contained in the Mishnah forbid this. Even for the Egyptian Jews the latter did not possess the same importance as did the Temple of Jerusalem.

Onias IV, who enjoyed the favor of the Egyptian court, succeeded in elevating Egyptian Judaism to a position of dignity and importance. A large number of able-bodied Judeans had accompanied Onias to Egypt, and these strangers, who were there called “inhabitants”, received, on condition of performing military service and preserving the internal peace of the country, tracts of land of their own, on which they lived with their families The district inhabited by them lay between Memphis and Pelusium, and was long called the “land of Onias.” The first-born sons of the colonists inherited their fathers’ privileges and duties; but both Chelkias ben Onias and Ananias ben Onias, the sons of Onias, performed military service and acted as generals under Cleopatra III . Even Ptolemy Physcon (146-117) had to fight against Onias, who was faithful to his benefactor. This suggests that candidates for the office of high priest occupied a prominent military position. In the course of time the family of Onias lost its prestige, and the later Alabarchs belonged to another family, not entitled to the rank of high priest.

Mattisyahu called for a revolt against the Greeks and Jews who had placed idols in the Temple.

Jewish priest Mattatiyahu ben Yochanon led the Maccabean revolt against the Seleucid Empire (167 BC-160 BC) with his sons Yuhudah, Yochanon, Eleazer, Yonaton and Shimon. He is acclaimed as one of the greatest warriors in Jewish history alongside Joshua, Gideon and David. Led by Mattatiyahu Jews entered Jerusalem and purified the Temple (164 BCE), these events are commemorated each year by the festival of Hannuka. They were called the Hasmoneans as they lived in חשמון in Yuhudah. Later they moved to “Modian” which is near ben Shemon where they killed the greek kings messenger who commanded them to worship idols.

In the year 138 the Makabees killed אפולציוס and the people with him. In 137 Antiocus sent 48,000 men and 7000 פרשים (men on horses) to fight against the Makabbees who had only3800 men and not enough weapons. With these he killed 30,000 greek soldiers. In 136 לוסיאס sent 60,000 men and 5000 horse men to fight the Makabees who had 18,000 men at בית צור which is 1 km. From חלחול on the way to Chevron. Here in the beginning of Kislev Yehuda destroyed the Syrian Greek army. Then Yuhudah returned to Yerushayim and purified the Holy Temple and made the miracle with the oil.

In 135 died Antiocus the 4th called אפיפנס and there ruled after him Antiocus אפבטור he warred with Yuhudah with 100,000 foot soldiers, 28,000 horseman and 32 elephants. The battle went to the small town of “gufna” which is between Ramallah an Shechem. It was a “shittah” Year and not enough food could be found to feed his army so Antiocus became afraid and there army returned to אנטוכיה.

In 133 Demetrious son of Doro killed אפבטור and took over. He sent נקנור to fight Yuhudah in “Kafar Slomo”, which is near “kafar Saba”. Here the Makabees killed 500 men. The Battle continued in “Bait Chorin” on the 13th of Adar they killed נקנור.

In 132 Demetrious sent his army to “Arbel” near “Tevariyah” and they killed many people. They came to Yerushalym with 20,000 men, 2000 horseman Yuhudah had only 800 men they fought near Ramallah. Many died in this battle including Yuhudah Makabbee in this year they destroyed the Temple walls. Then Yonaton and Shimon Makabbee fought them by the Jordan River killing 1000 men on the other side of the jordan.

In 129 Demetrious’ army fought Shimon and Yonaton in ביצי which is east of “Tekoa” close to “Bait Lechem”. Yonaton finnished them off and took Booty.

In 125 Alexander fought for the thrown against Demetrious. Yonaton fought for Alexander in Yuhudah and Shamron against Demetrious. He was killed sitting on his throne. After this Alexander married Cleopatra the daughter of the king of Egypt. Alexander trusted Yonaton.

In 120 rose Demetrious son of Demetrious with a huge army to fight Yonaton because of his Allegiance with Alexander. He fell and did not even get close to Yonaton. They fought in “Ashdod”. Not one man from Yisrael was killed. Demetrious lost 8000 men.

In 118 Antiocus the young son of Alexander conquered Syria from Demetrious. He gave Yonaton the eastern “Galil” till “Sulam Sor” which is “ Rosh HaNikra” and the south till the river of Egypt at “Al Harish”. Yonaton went to “Acco” to meet טריפון the general of Antiocus to rebell against him so to take control for himself of all of Aretz Yisrael. טריפון killed all of them except Yonaton. Shimon went out against טריפון. טריפון fled to the “Galil” perplexed but not before he killed Yonaton near Chevron.

In 117 Shimon Makabbee was Ruler of all Yuhuda, He occupied it and ruled. There was quiet for 7 years. In 110 Shimon was killed by Talmi ben Chavuvo near Jericho who wanted to rule but Yonaton ben Shimon took the throne.

In 106 the Syrians warred against Yonaton ben Shimon of the Hashmoniam they wanted to take all of Aretz Yisrael Specifically Yerushalyim and its suburbs. Yonaton won and strengthened his hold on the land. He went to “Shechem” and destroyed the temple of the “Shamroni” on Mount Garazim and he conquered Edom and forced them to convert. It was in his day that the Jews divided to 3 groups Pharisees they followed the tradition of the sages, Saduccem a small group who did not and a very small group called Essene who lived in the desert and were very exacting holding by the most severe ways of Torah law.

In 92 Yonaton died, his son Yuhudah Astrobulus became ruler the “Sultan”. Shalomzion was his wife and Queen. Yuhudah died within a year his wife did “Yovum” and married his younger brother Yonaton, who is called Alexander Yannia.

From 91 to 64 Alexander Yannia was king and Kohen Gadol the Talmud calls him Yonaton the the Kohen Gadol who became a Sadukee at the end of his days. He was strong and captured all of Aretz Yisrael

In 54 ShalomZion died and 2 of her sons had contempt for one another as each wanted to rule. The firstborn was Horkinas, the younger brothers name was Astrobulus. Astrobulus called Pompus of Rome who was in Syria to choose between them. He Choose Horkinus to rule over Yuhudah and Yerushalym. He was advised by the Edomite אנטפיטר until the “פרתים” captured Syria and Aretz Yisrael and gave them to Antigonus son of Astrobulus. At the end of this (period) there came Herod son of אנטפיטר who went to Rome and the Romans made him king of Yuhudah under אפוטרופוסותם Harod returned to Yuhudah and in 36 killed all the house of the Hasmoneans even his wife Myriam and all his children. So there were left no Hasmoneans. (from Sharey Yosef of R. Shabato)

Under the Hasmonean Dynasty, Judah became comparable in extent and power to the ancient Davidic dominion. Internal political and religious discord ran high, however, especially between the Pharisees, who interpreted the written law by adding a wealth of oral law, and the Sadducees, an aristocratic priestly class who called for strict adherence to the written law. In 64 B.C., dynastic contenders for the throne appealed for support to Pompey, who was then establishing Roman power in Asia. The next year Roman legions seized Jerusalem, and Pompey installed one of the contenders for the throne as high priest, but without the title of king. Eighty years of independent Jewish sovereignty ended, and the period of Roman dominion began.

It was during a civil war, around 62 BCE when the Roman commander Pompey came to Judah and took Jerusalem for his own. The territory which had been captured from the Syrians had to be given back, and a great tax was imposed. The Romans let the Jews do almost what they wanted while occupying their country. Herod was named as king of Jerusalem in 40 BCE, and he went from there to take the whole land. The Cohanim (priests-descendents of Aaron) post was virtually reduced to nothing, and the Sanhedrin was deprived of much of its previous power. Herod’s reign is normally seen as a prosperous one, although he is noted for giving little value to human life.

The Hasmonean Sanhedrin in the Land of Israel, presided over by Alexander Jannaeus, king of Judea until 76 BC, followed by his wife, Salome Alexandra in 76 or 75 BC, bore all the trappings of Hellenistic royalty: ministers, courtiers, a bureaucracy and bodyguards.

Before 191 BC the High Priest acted as the ex officio head of the Sanhedrin, but in 191 BC, when the Sanhedrin lost confidence in the High Priest, the office of Nasi was created. The Great Sanhedrin was the supreme court of ancient Israel. In total there were 71 members. The Great Sanhedrin was made up of a Chief/Prince/Leader called Nasi (at some times this position may have been held by the Kohen Gadol or the High Priest), a vice chief justice (Av Beit Din), and sixty-nine general members.[After the time of Hillel the Elder (late 1st century BC and early 1st century AD), the Nasi was almost invariably a descendant of Hillel. The second highest-ranking member of the Sanhedrin was called the Av Beit Din, or “Head of the Court” (literally, Beit Din = “house of law”), who presided over the Sanhedrin when it sat as a criminal court.In the subsequent period of Roman wars, Herod was confirmed by the Roman Senate as king of Judah in 37 B.C. and reigned until his death in 4 B.C. Nominally independent, Judah was actually in bondage to Rome, and the land was formally annexed in 6 B.C. as part of the province of Syria Palestina. Rome did, however, grant the Jews religious autonomy and some judicial and legislative rights through the Sanhedrin. The Sanhedrin,  was the highest Jewish legal and religious body under Rome. The Great Sanhedrin, located on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, the Sanhedrin met in a building known as the Hall of Hewn Stones (Lishkat Ha-Gazith), which has been placed by the Talmud and many scholars as built into the north wall of the Temple Mount, half inside the sanctuary and half outside, with doors providing access both to the Temple and to the outside. The name presumably arises to distinguish it from the buildings in the Temple complex used for ritual purposes, which had to be constructed of stones unhewn by any iron implements. The Great Sanhedrin  supervised smaller local Sanhedrins (of 23 judges) and was the final authority on many important religious, political, and legal issues, such as declaring war, trying a high priest, and supervising certain rituals. Scholars have sharply debated the structure and composition of the Sanhedrin. The Jewish historian Josephus present the Sanhedrin as a political and judicial council whereas the Talmud describes it as a religious, legislative body headed by a court of seventy-one sages. Another view holds that there were two separate Sanhedrins. The political Sanhedrin was composed primarily of the priestly Sadducee aristocracy and was charged by the Roman procurator with responsibility for civil order, specifically in matters involving imperial directives. The religious Sanhedrin of the Pharisees was concerned with religious law and doctrine, which the Romans disregarded as long as civil order was not threatened. Foremost among the Pharisee leaders of the time were the noted teachers, Hillel and Shammai.

Chafing under foreign rule, a Jewish nationalist movement of the fanatical sect known as the Zealots challenged Roman control in A.D. 66. After a protracted siege begun by Vespasian, the Roman commander in Judah, but completed under his son Titus in A.D. 70, Jerusalem and the Second Temple were seized and destroyed by the Roman legions. The last Zealot survivors perished in A.D. 73 at the mountain fortress of Massada, about fifty-six kilometers southwest of Jerusalem above the western shore of the Dead Sea.

The Temple was rebuilt in a more Hellenistic style under Herod’s orders. Although Jewish, Herod’s post was controlled by Romans, and he largely obeyed what they ordered. When Herod died, the kingdom was split into three sections, one for each of his sons. This proved to be highly unsuccessul, and a civil war broke out where the High Priest was assassinated. The revolt took eight years to calm due to Nero’s suicide in 68, and due to the stubborn resistance of the Jews! In the year 74, the last Jewish outpost, the Masada, was taken. Here, many Jews chose to kill themselves instead of being taken by the Romans. It is said that because suicide is contrary to Jewish belief, the head of each family or group present would kill the others, and then would kill himself, thus reducing the number of people who committed suicide.

During and after the many revolts that were led by the Jews, the diaspora continued to grow – a few million Jews were living in surrounding provinces. A large number of these Jews lived in Babylonia, although even here they were in the minority. Other places of notable populations were parts of France, eastern Spain, north Africa, Italy and Egypt

titus

During the siege of Jerusalem, Rabbi Yohanan Ben-Zakki received Vespasian’s permission some time before the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 AD to withdraw to the town of Yibna (also seen as Jabneh) on the coastal plain, about twenty-four kilometers southwest of present-day Tel Aviv. There an academic center or academy was set up and became the central religious authority; its jurisdiction was recognized by Jews in Palestine and beyond. Roman rule, nevertheless, continued. The Talmud reports that Yohanan Ben-Zakki , in the mid first century, he was particularly active in opposing the Sadducee’s interpretations of Jewish law, and produced counter-arguments to the Sadducees’ objection to the Pharisees. So dedicated was he to opposing the Sadducee view of Jewish law, that he prevented the Jewish high priest, who was a Sadducee, from following the Sadducee interpretation of the Red Heifer ritual is an important link in the chain of religious teaching, passing on the wisdom of both Hillel and Shammai; generally, though, he is considered to have been more in favour of Hillel’s views than of Shammai’s, and is said to have been Hillel’s youngest pupil. During the siege of Jerusalem in the Great Jewish Revolt, he argued in favour of peace; when he found the anger of the besieged denizens to be intolerable, he arranged to be snuck out of the city inside a coffin, so that he could negotiate with Vespasian (who, at this time, was still just a military commander). Yochanan (correctly) predicted that Vespasian would become Emperor, and that the temple would soon be destroyed, in return, Vespasian granted Yochanan three wishes: the salvation of Yavnah (Jamnia) and its sages, the descendants of Rabban Gamliel, who was of the Davidic dynasty, and a physician to treat Rabbi Tzadok, who had fasted for 40 years to stave off the destruction of Jerusalem.

In Rabbi  Yohanan Ben-Zakki’s Council of Yavne the canon of the Hebrew Bible was defined. The council to established the practice of today’s  order of Jewish prayer; . His greatest student was Yushua ben Chanina. Yohanan Ben-Zakki re-established the Sanhedrin. The Talmud records of his last words :

prepare a throne for Hezekiah, the King of Judah, who is coming (He was a incarnation of  Hezekiah, the King of Judah.

His students returned to Yavne upon his death, and he was buried in the city of Tiberias; eleven centuries later, Maimonides was buried nearby.

Gamaliel II became Johanan ben Zakkai’s successor, and rendered immense service in the strengthening and reintegration of Judaism, which had been deprived of its former basis by the destruction of the Temple and by the entire loss of its political autonomy. He put an end to the division which had arisen between the spiritual leaders of Palestinian Judaism by the separation of the scribes into the two schools called respectively after Hillel and Shammai, and took care to enforce his own authority as the president of the chief legal assembly of Judaism with energy and often with severity. He did this, as he himself said, not for his own honor nor for that of his family, but in order that disunion should not prevail in Israel. Gamaliel’s position was recognized by the Roman government also. Towards, the end of Domitian’s reign (c A. D. 95) he went to Rome in company with the most prominent members of the school of Jabneh, in order to avert a danger threatening the Jews from the action of the terrible emperor. Many interesting particulars have been given regarding the journey of these learned men to Rome and their sojourn there. The impression made by the capital of the world upon Gamaliel and his companions was an overpowering one, and they wept when they thought of Jerusalem in ruins.

After Gamliel died, his son Shimon became the Nasi in the year 50 CE. Rabbi Shimon cared for the poor and was known for having watchers look for poor people and bring them to his table. He would eat with the poor and they would bless God together (Avot D’ Rabbi Nathan 38:3).

Rabbi Shimon b. Gamliel’s philosophy: All my days I have grown up among the wise, and I have found nothing better for a person than silence; not learning but doing is the most important thing; and whoever talks too much causes sin (Avot 1:17).Rabbi Shimon believed very strongly in the importance of doing rather than posturing. The following story is an example of how Rabbi Shimon reacted when he heard of a terrible problem.

Rabbi Shimon b. Gamliel was extremely upset when he heard that the price for doves, which were necessary for certain sacrifices, had reached a golden dinar. He swore that he would not sleep until the price went down to a silver dinar, and he revised the laws concerning sacrifices so that demand for doves would decrease. The price sank almost immediately to one-quarter of a silver dinar (Krithoth 8a).

The traditional opinion is that Rabbi Shimon was killed by the Romans and is one of the Ten Martyrs (Avot D’Rabbi Nathan 38:3).

RABBI GAMLIEL II:

Rabbi Gamliel II (also known as Gamliel of Jabneh) became Nasi approximately ten years after the destruction of the Temple in 70 CE. By now the Sanhedrin had lost its power and had to move from place to place.

Rabbi Gamliel’s philosophy was: Whoever has mercy on other people, Heaven will have mercy upon him; whoever does not have mercy on other people, Heaven will not have mercy upon him (Shabbos 151b). At his son’s wedding, Rabbi Gamliel stood over his guests and served them wine despite the fact that he was the Nasi (Kiddushin 32b). He was also extremely sensitive to other people’s suffering. A woman in his neighborhood lost her son and wept every night. When Rabbi Gamliel heard her crying he would also cry in sympathy with her. Eventually, his eyelashes fell out from so much crying (Sanhedrin 104b). Once again, the Nesi’im emphasize egalitarian leadership and individualized consideration.

Rabbi Gamliel worked hard to establish one law for all the Jewish people. The disputes between the School of Shammai and the School of Hillel were threatening to divide the people into two factions. His own brother-in-law, Eliezer b. Hyrkanos, refused to go along with the majority because he was of the Shammai school, and Rabbi Gamliel and the Sanhedrin excommunicated him (Bava Metzia 59b).

Rabbi Gamliel had several disagreements with Rabbi Yehoshua, a member of the Sanhedrin. They had a dispute regarding when the holy day of Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) would fall (in those days the lunar calendar was determined by sightings of the new moon by witnesses). Rabbi Gamliel forced Rabbi Yehoshua to come to him with his staff and money (prohibited acts for Yom Kippur which is also a day of rest) on the day the latter claimed was a holy day. When he arrived, Rabbi Gamliel stood up and kissed him on the head and said to him: “Come in peace my teacher and my student — my teacher in wisdom and my student because you accepted my judgment” (Rosh Hashonah 25a). Rabbi Gamliel felt that it was very important for the sake of unity to ensure that all members of the Sanhedrin abide by the decision of the majority.

Rabbi Eleazar ben Azariah was a Mishnaic scholar of the second generation (1st century C.E.), junior contemporary of Gamaliel II, Eliezer b. Hyrcanus, and Joshua b. Hananiah, and senior of Akiba[1][2]. He traced his pedigree for ten generations back to Ezra[3][4], and was very wealthy [5][6]. These circumstances, added to his erudition, gained for him great popularity. When Gamaliel II, in consequence of his provoking demeanor, was temporarily deposed from the patriarchate, Eleazar, though still very young, was elevated to that office by the deliberate choice of his colleagues. He did not, however, occupy it for any length of time, for the Sanhedrin reinstated Gamaliel. He was retained as vice-president (“ab bet din”), nevertheless, and it was arranged that Gamaliel should lecture three (some say two) Sabbaths, and Eleazar every fourth (or third) Sabbath.

Shimon ben Gamliel II (Hebrew: רבן שמעון בן גמליאל) was a Tanna of the third generation and president of the Great Sanhedrin. Shimon was a youth in Betar when the Bar Kokhba revolt broke out, but when that fortress was taken by the Romans he managed to escape the massacre (Gittin 58a; Sotah 49b; Bava Kamma 83a; Jer. Ta’anit 24b). On the restoration of the college at Usha, Shimon was elected its president, this dignity being bestowed upon him not only because he was a descendant of the house of Hillel, but in recognition of his personal worth and influence. His traditional burial location is in Kfar Manda in the Lower Galilee.

Rabbi Judah haNasi, (Hebrew: יהודה הנשיא‎, pronounced Yehuda haNasi, “Judah the Prince”), also known as Rebbi and Rabbeinu HaKadosh (Hebrew: רבינו הקדוש‎, “Our Holy Rabbi”), was a key leader of the Jewish community of Judea toward the end of the 2nd century CE, during the occupation by the Roman Empire. He is best known as the chief redactor and editor of the Mishnah. He was of the Davidic line, the royal line of King David, hence the title nasi, meaning prince[1]; the title nasi was also used for presidents of the Sanhedrin. Judah haNasi was born in 135. According to the Midrash, he came into the world on the same day that Rabbi Akiva died a martyr’s death. The Talmud suggests that this was a result of Divine Providence: God had granted the Jewish people another leader of great stature to succeed Rabbi Akiva. His place of birth is unknown; nor is it recorded where his father, Shimon ben Gamliel II, sought refuge with his family during the persecutions under Hadrian. According to the Talmud (Avodah Zarah 10a-b), Judah haNasi was very wealthy and greatly revered in Rome. He had a close friendship with “Antoninus”, possibly the Emperor Antoninus Pius,who would consult Judah on various worldly and spiritual matters.

RABBI YEHUDA (REBBI)

In the year 165, Rabbi Yehuda (known as Rebbi, “teacher”), son of Rabbi Shimon b. Gamliel II, became the Nasi. One of his major accomplishments (c. 189) was the compilation and redaction of the mishna, which was an old oral tradition that explained the laws contained in the Pentateuch.

Rabbi Yehuda stated: Which is the proper course that a person should choose for himself? Whatever is an honor to him who does it, and which also brings him esteem from mankind… (Avot 2:1).

Leadership is value-driven, inspired and visionary. Leaders ought to act in an ethical manner and help mankind. Rabbi Yehuda practiced what he preached and was known for his great humility. Even though he redacted the Mishna, he recorded opposing viewpoints as well as his own opinion regarding many laws.

I learned much Torah from my teachers, more from my colleagues, and the most from my students (Maakos 10a). Once again we see an emphasis on individual consideration. One learns the most from teaching others. Rebbi was interested in learning from everyone (Pesachim 94b).

All lies are prohibited, however it is permitted to lie in order to bring peace between people (Derech Eretz Zuta, Perek Hashalom).This statement reflects the moral tradeoffs that are part of many leadership roles. As Barnard (1938) emphasizes, moral leadership often involves resolution of conflict between moral codes or values. All the Nesi’im appreciated the importance of both truth and peace. Rebbi’s father, Rabbi Shimon, noted that Jacob’s sons lied to Joseph (Genesis 50:15-17) in order to maintain peace (Derech Eretz Zuta, Perek Hashalom).

The Talmud tells the following story to explain why Rabbi Yehuda the Nasi suffered for thirteen years with kidney stones and scurvy. Indeed, his pain was so great that his cries of pain when he relieved himself were heard far away.

There was once a calf being taken to slaughter. It went and hid its head under Rebbi’s garment and cried. Rebbi said to it: Go! For this you were created. They said [in Heaven]: Since he has no pity, let us bring suffering upon him. The suffering departed because of another incident. One day, Rebbi’s maidservant was sweeping the house. Some weasels had been cast there and she was about to sweep them away. Rebbi told her: Leave them alone. It is written (Psalms 145:9): ‘and His mercy is over all His works.’ They said [in Heaven]: Since he is so compassionate, let us show compassion to him (Bava Metzia 85a).

The Talmud states that when Rebbi died, the traits of humility and fear of sin ceased (Sotah 49a). Apparently, he was such a paragon of those traits that no one could ever again hope to equal him with regard to those attributes.

The last Nasi was Rabbi Gamliel VI who died in 425. In the year 425, Emperor Theodosius II did not allow the Jews to appoint a successor to Gamliel and thereby ended the Office of Nasi. Hillel and fourteen generations of his descendents had headed the office of Nasi for approximately 460 years.

Sefer Chassidim Sec. 1129. (Cf. Kesubbos 103a.) records that after his passing Rabbeinu HaKadosh used to visit his home, wearing Shabbot clothes, every Friday evening at dusk; he would recite Kiddush, and others would thereby discharge their obligation to hear Kiddush. One Friday night there was a knock at the door. “Sorry,” said the maid, “I can’t let you in just now because Rabbeinu HaKadosh is in the middle of kiddush.” From then on Rabbeinu HaKadosh stopped coming, since he did not want his coming to become public knowledge.

Rabbeinu HaKadosh wanted to abolish the fast of the 9th of Av so as to not upset the Romans, but the Sanhedrin overruled him.

Hillel Shammai
Gamaliel the Elder Johanan b. Zakai
R. Gamaliel Jose the Galilean Eliezer b. Hyrcanus Joshua b. Hananiah Eleazar b. Arach Eleazar b. Azariah
Elisha b. Abuyah Akiva Ishmael b. Elisha Tarfon
Nathan Meir Judah b. Ilai Jose b. Halafta Shimon b. Yohai
Judah haNasi Hiyya Oshiah

Emperor Hadrian (A.D. 117-38) endeavored to establish cultural uniformity and issued several repressive edicts, including one against circumcision.

The edicts sparked the Bar-Kochba  (Simeon bar Kosiba ) Rebellion of 132-35, which was crushed by the Romans. Hadrian then closed the Academy at Yibna, and prohibited both the study of the Torah and the observance of the Jewish way of life derived from it. Judah was included in Syria Palestina, Jerusalem was renamed Aelia Capitolina, and Jews were forbidden to come within sight of the city. Once a year on the anniversary of the destruction of the Temple, controlled entry was permitted, allowing Jews to mourn at a remaining fragment on the Temple site, the Western Wall, which became known as the Wailing Wall. The Diaspora, which had begun with the Babylonian captivity in the sixth century B.C.,and which had resumed early in the Hellenistic period, now involved most Jews in an exodus from what they continued to view as the land promised to them as the descendants of Abraham.

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The Sanhedrin moved from Yavne  to Usha under the presidency of Gamaliel II in 80. In 116 it moved back to Yavneh, and again back to Usha. It moved in 140 to Shefaram under the presidency of Shimon ben Gamliel II, and to Beth Shearim and Sephoris in 163, under the presidency of Yehudah I. Finally, it moved to Tiberias in 193, under the presidency of Gamaliel III (193–220) ben Judah haNasi, where it became more of a consistory, but still retained, under the presidency of Judah II (220–270), the power of excommunication.

During the presidency of Gamaliel IV (270–290), due to persecution of an increasingly Christianized Rome, it dropped the name Sanhedrin, and its authoritative decisions were subsequently issued under the name of Beth HaMidrash.

As a reaction to the emperor Julian’s pro-Jewish stance, Theodosius I forbade the Sanhedrin to assemble and declared ordination illegal. (Roman law prescribed capital punishment for any Rabbi who received ordination and complete destruction of the town where the ordination occurred).

However, since the Hebrew calendar was based on witnesses’ testimony, that had become far too dangerous to collect, Hillel II recommended change to a mathematically-based calendar that was adopted at a clandestine, and maybe final, meeting in 358. This marked the last universal decision made by that body.

Gamaliel VI (400–425) was the Sanhedrin’s last president. With his death in 425, executed by Theodosius II for erecting new synagogues contrary to the imperial decree, the title Nasi, the last remains of the ancient Sanhedrin, became illegal. An imperial decree of 426 diverted the patriarchs’ tax (post excessum patriarchorum) into the imperial treasury.

It was not until around the year 350 when the first piece of anti-Jewish legislation was passed by the Romans, which understandably led to another (unsuccessful) revolt. From then on, the situation deteriorated although there were brief periods of ease (including an unsuccessful attempt by the Romans to rebuild the Temple).

The focus on study led to the compilation of the Talmud, an immense commentary on the Torah that thoroughly analyzed the application of Jewish law to the day-to-day life of the Jewish community. The complexity of argument and analysis contained in the Jerusalem Talmud (100-425 A.D.) and the more authoritative Babylonian Talmud (completed around 500) reflected the high level of intellectual maturity attained by the various schools of Jewish learning. This inward-looking intellectualism, along with a rigid adherence to the laws and rituals of Judaism, maintained the separateness of the Jewish people, enabling them to survive the exilic experience despite the lure of conversion and frequent outbreaks of anti-Semitism.

The Sanhedrin is seen as the last institution that commanded universal  Jewish authority among the Jewish people in the long chain of tradition from Moses until the present day. Since its dissolution in 358 by imperial decree, there have been several attempts to re-establish this body either as a self-governing body, or as a puppet of a sovereign government.

There are records of what may have been of attempts to reform the Sanhedrin in Arabia, in Jerusalem under the Caliph ‘Umar, and in Babylon (Iraq), but none of these attempts were given any attention by Rabbinic authorities and little information is available about them.

The “Grand Sanhedrin” was a Jewish high court convened by Napoleon I to give legal sanction to the principles expressed by the Assembly of Notables in answer to the twelve questions submitted to it by the government .

On October 6, 1806, the Assembly of Notables issued a proclamation to all the Jewish communities of Europe, inviting them to send delegates to the Sanhedrin, to convene on October 20. This proclamation, written in Hebrew, French, German, and Italian, speaks in extravagant terms of the importance of this revived institution and of the greatness of its imperial protector. While the action of Napoleon aroused in many Jews of Germany the hope that, influenced by it, their governments also would grant them the rights of citizenship, others looked upon it as a political contrivance. When in the war against Prussia (1806–7) the emperor invaded Poland and the Jews rendered great services to his army, he remarked, laughing, “The sanhedrin is at least useful to me.”

Since the dissolution of the Sanhedrin in 358,there has been no universally recognized authority within Jewish law. Maimonides (1135–1204) was one of the greatest scholars of the Middle Ages, and is arguably one of the most widely accepted scholars among the Jewish people since the closing of the Talmud in 500. Influenced by the rationalist school of thought and generally showing a preference for a natural (as opposed to miraculous) redemption for the Jewish people, Maimonides proposed a rationalist solution for achieving the goal of re-establishing the highest court in Jewish tradition and reinvesting it with the same authority it had in former years. There have been several attempts to implement Maimonides’ recommendations, the latest being in modern times.

There have been rabbinical attempts to renew Semicha (Rabbinic ordination) and re-establish a Sanhedrin by Rabbi Jacob Berab in 1538, Rabbi Yisroel Shklover in 1830, Rabbi Aharon Mendel haCohen in 1901, Rabbi Zvi Kovsker in 1940 and Rabbi Yehuda Leib Maimon in 1949.

In October 2004 (Tishrei 5765), a group of rabbis representing varied Orthodox communities in Israel undertook a ceremony in Tiberias, where the original Sanhedrin was disbanded, which is claimed to re-establish the body according to the proposal of Maimonides and the Jewish legal rulings of Rabbi Yosef Karo. The controversial attempt has been subject to debate within different Jewish communities.

The “Rishonim” meaning “the first ones”, are the sages from Rabbi Yitzchak Alfasi, who passed away in 4863 (1102 C.E.), to Rabbi Yaakov called The Baal Haturim” 5030-5103 (1270-1343 C.E.), The son of Rabbeinu Oshri, referred to as The “Rosh”. His major work is callled “the Four Turim”, around 5100 (1340 C.E.). Thus, the period of the Rishonim extends for about 350 years. The subsequent Torah authorities are called the Achronim, meaning the later ones.

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