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אם אין אני לי מי לי, וכשאני לעצמי מה אני, ואם לא :pithy sentence
Shamai demanded a close observance of its letler. A number of their sayings are recorded in the talmudical book entitled Pirke Abhoth. It is related in the Talmud, that Hillel once gave to an inquiring proselyte as the sum and basis of the whole Jewish religion, the single sentence, “Love thy neighbor as thyself.” The duty of seeking instruction betimes he was wont to inculcate in the following
: ON 7-253, which may be thus paraphrased, “ If I do not strive to benefit myself, who else will do it for me? yet if my exertions be directed exclusively to my own advantage, of what use am I to the world ? lastly, if I do not now set about the acquisition of knowledge, when can I expect
The following were among the maxims of Shamai: * Make the study of the law the study of thy life ; speak little and do much ; be kind and obliging to all.” This last, however, was not one of the virtues in which he himself particularly excelled.
Hillel is regarded by the rabbies as being next to Ezra the restorer of the law, and is consequently held in great veneration. His disciple and grandson Gamaliel ben Simon superintended the school at Jamnia, shortiy after the destruction of Jerusalem. He had for his associates the most distinguished pupils of Jochanan ben Zaccai, viz. Elcazar ben Hurkanus, Joshua ben Chananyah, and Dosa ben Archinas. This, however, did not suffice to the ambition of the descendant of the renowned IIillel, and he soon manifested a desire for spiritual dominion by re-establishing the Sanhedrim, which he composed of seventy of his followers, and by constituting himself its Nasi (***) or President. In both his capacities of Rabbi and Nasi, he conducted himself with an arrogance that was intolerable to men who had been accustomed to the mild and paternal rule of R. Jochanan. Joshua, who was celebrated for his wit, was the first to oppose him ; and when Gamaliel, in consequence of a scientific dispute between Joshua and himself, summoned him before the tribunal and treated him with great indignity, the other members of the council, disgusted with Gamaliel's tyrannical behavior, immediately deposed him, and elected in his stead the rich and respected, although very young Eleazar ben Azarias; and, what was doubtless no less mortifying to his feelings, they immediately reversed some of his laws in his presence. This had the effect of inducing him to visit Joshua the following day and request his forgiveness ; which act of humility so affected his associates, that they restored him to his office, to be shared with R. Eleazar. Some of these men afterwards established schools in the neighboring towns and villages. Eleazar ben Hurkanus went to Lydda, Akibha to Banibrak, and Joshua to Beküm. The first was celebrated for his cabalistic knowledge, the second for his wit, and the third for his profound erudition.
Under Hadrian these schools were dissolved, and some of the principal teachers cruelly put to death. Among them was R. Akibha the successor of R. Eleazar, who suffered himself to be induced to acknowledge as the Messiah one Simon bar Cochbha (3513 = son of the star,) called from his imposture Bar Cozibha (831172 na son of lies,) who placed himself at the head of a rebellion against the Roman government. As one of his adherents. R. Akibha was seized and condemned to death ; but before his execution, he designated five of his disciples to be judges and teachers, who afterwards appeared at the head of new
schools. To these he bequeathed a complete system of Jewish doctrine accompanied by a written collection of exegeses, which, although possessing no binding authority, were still of service in preventing the rise and growth of false and extravagant opinions. Among the ancient documents of this period still extant, are reckoned the books Mechilta, Siphra, and Siphri, which are cited in the Talmud.
Those of the chosen disciples of R. Akibha who afterwaruis became most highly distinguished were the acute, bold, and learned Meir, the kind, amiable, yet powerful Judah ben llai, the thoughtful and severe Simon ben Jochai, and the placid Jose ben lilephta. They supported them. selves chiefly by the labor of their hands. Meir, who, although not of Jewish parentage, was his master's favorite pupil, obtained a livelihood by copying the Scriptures, which he knew by heart. His manner of conveying instruction was easy and familiar, and he gave life and interest to his lectures by his acute remarks and apposite illustrations. Ju. dah, who was a cooper, is highly praised by the rabbies for his love of industry, his moderate style of living notwithstanding his wealth, his resignation under misfortu ne, and his es. cellent mode of teaching. The extent of his knowle dge in every thing relating to the Jewish religion, as well as the soundness of his judgment, appear in every page of the Mishnah, which contains over six hundred of his maxims. A cornmentary on Leviticus is also attributed to him. Simon ben Jochai lived entirely for his studies, which were strongly tinctured with mysticism. All his recorded sayings manifest a strong dissatisfaction with the world. Jose the tanner, a man of an entirely opposite character, was remarkable for the urbanity and modesty of his personal demeanor, and the explicitness and good sense of his instructions. “ I prefer," said he, “ to be a hearer rather than a teacher. I would rather die in the discharge of my duties than on an unhonored bed. I would rather perform too much than too little, would rather collect for the poor than spend for myself, and would rather suffer injustice than practise it." To him is ascribed the historical work Seder Olam (0579 770 history of the world.)
Simon ben Gamaliel, who had fled from Bethar during the rebellion of Simon bar Cochbha, resided for some time in Usha, where as the son of a Nasi he wielded the power of the Sanhedrim. He was a man of great learning, and his legal decisions have nearly all been confirmed. He appears to have been acquainted with Greek, since he praises the version of Aquila, which he prefers to the Chaldee. This version, however, had already received the commendations of Akibha, Joshua, and Eleazar, before whom Aquila read his attempt ; and it continued ever afterwards, on account of its closeness to the original, to enjoy among the Jews a higher reputation than the Septuagint. The Jewish teachers, in fact, had now begun to acquire somewhat of a literary spirit, and were no longer averse to committing their knowledge and their views to writing, although as yet they closely adhered to the oral system of instruction.
This short period of tranquillity was unhappily soon broken in upon by the untoward political events that took place under Antonine the successor of Hadrian, the origin of which was as follows. One day a discussion arose in the council as to the relative merits and advantages of Jews and Heathens. Judah spoke in favor of the Romans: he praised their useful institutions, their popular assemblages, their exertions to facilitate intercourse, their canals and bridges, their baths so conducive to the preservation of health, &c. &c. Jose remained silent. Upon this, Simon ben Jochai arose and exclaimed, “ What praise do these heathens deserve for their works of selfishness and sensuality? Their market-places are the rendezvous of profligates; their baths mere appliances of luxury; their bridges enrich the toll-houses, and nourish avarice by furnishing occasion for extortion. We, on the contrary, occupy our minds with the exalted, the divine, the eternal, and disregard the things of time and sense.” This unfortunately reached the ears of government, and measures of severity were immediately adopted. Simon was sen. tenced to death, and Jose banished to his home at Zippor, while Judah received permission to teach wherever he chose. Jose established a new school at Zippor, which was soon in a flourishing condition, and Simon concealed himself in a cave with his son Eleazar until the death of Antonine. It is commonly related that he here completed his Cabbala, although there are no certain proofs of the fact.*
The Sanhedrim was next established at Tiberias, whither several of the rabbies had removed. Simon ben Gamaliel presided over it with the title of Nasi; by his side sat Nathan as Ab Beth-din (797x chief justice) and Meir, who had long been travelling, as Hacham (son first councillor.) Among the remaining members of the tribunal were Jose and Judah, and frequently also Simon ben Jochai who now resided at Tekoa. The authority of these individuals, held in high regard for their years and wisdom, was decisive. Tiberias, at that time a delightfully situated and flourishing town, was honored with the appellation of Jerusalem and Zion, and its Sanhedrim was called by way of distinction the grand tribunal.
* The work now extant to which this origin is ascribed is the cabalistic book Zohar (1071 splendor). It is written in a conversational form, and its subject is the deepest mysticism. As it mentions and even quotes the Talmud, and employ's designations, such as Tenaim, Amorim, &c. which did not be come common till several centuries later; and as it likewise shows an acquaintance with the siderial science of the Arabs, and even contains what appears to be a notice of the crusades, the book in its present form at least cannot be dated higher than the twelfth century, with which supposition both its language and its spirit coincide. As regards its contents, it is an elaborate symbolization of the laws of the Jewish religion and of the phenomena of nature, clothed in a barbarous and exceedingly obscure style confessedly employed for the purpose of keeping its doctrines from the vulgar.
An innovation of Simon's, who longed to distinguish himself as Nasi, disturbed for a brief interval the harinony that usually prevailed among the members of the Synod. Having learned that in consequence of his arbitrary conduct, two of his associates, Meir and Nathan, had formed the design of humbling him by propounding questions which he should be unable to answer, and thus effecting his deposition, he shamed them by disclosing his knowledge of their plot, and dismissed them from the council. The peaceful Jose, however, who esteemed them both,procured their restoration; and their punishment was commuted into a decree that their maxims should be cited in the schools without their names, and merely prefaced with the expressions, “some say” (onk w.), “others say” (209), which according to the ideas of the times was sufficiently severe. Simon retained his office until he was at length succeeded in it by his son Judah, commonly styled Judah the holy or Judah 'the Nasi.
Rabbinism had now attained its full development in Palestine. In outward form it consisted of a Sanhedrim in all its parts, of teachers who received their authority from this body, of students in the schools, and lastly of the people. Its doctrines were founded on a minute investigation of the doctrines and laws of Moses, with the view of reducing them to practice as far as existing circumstances would per. mit. Placed in violent opposition to it was Phariseeism, a degenerate kind of Rabbinism clothed in the guise of pretended holiness, but treated with general ridicule and contempt. There were also some remains of Sadduceeism, a sect distinguished by peculiar observances, but now little regarded ; and lastly, Samaritanism, whose principal seat was at Naplus, where it had its own tribunal, and decided causes according to the Mosaic law, regardless of rabbinical traditions. Notwithstanding the contempt in which the Samaritans were held by the other sects, they were still considered as good Jews, and enforced their laws among themselves with extreme strictness. Jews and Samaritans did not refuse to inhabit the same house, or even to eat and worship together; but, as the former were accustomed to insert in all contracts made by them the phrase "according to the Mosaic and Jewish law" (387077 nua n73), and as it was necessary to the validity of a marriage that this should be pronounced at the ceremony of betrothment, matrimonial alliances between them and the Samaritans were entirely out of the question.