Thirteenth_Century_TalmudAfter the destruction of the Temple and the failure of the Great Revolt of 66-73 C.E., the Romans placed the Rabbis in charge of the internal affairs of the Jews of Palestine. Rabban Gamliel, who from about 80 C.E. headed the academy at Yavneh, seems to have had formal recognition as patriarch. He felt constrained to rule with a heavy hand in order to maintain the vestiges of Jewish freedom. This account, however, shows that his colleagues rose up against his heavy hand and impeached him, only to restore him afterwards, probably for fear of the political consequences of their actions.

Our Rabbis taught- Once, a student (89) came before Rabbi Joshua, and said to him, “Are the evening prayers optional or mandatory?”

[Rabbi Joshua] said to him, “[They are] optional.”

[The same student] came before Rabban Gamliel and said to him, “Are the evening prayers optional or mandatory?”

[Rabban Gamliel] said to him, “[They are] mandatory.”

[The student]said to [Rabban Gamliel], “But Rabbi Joshua told me they are optional!”

[Rabban Gamliel] said to [the student], ‘‘Wait until the shield-bearers (90) enter the House of Study.”

When the shield-bearers entered, the questioner stood and asked, “Are the evening prayers optional or mandatory?”

Rabban Gamliel told him, “[They are] mandatory.”

Rabban Gamliel said to the sages, “Is there anybody at all who disagrees in this matter?”

Rabbi Joshua said to him, “No.”

[Rabban Gamliel] said to [Rabbi Joshua], “But in your name they have told me, ‘they are optional.’’’

[Rabban Gamliel] said to [Rabbi Joshua], ‘‘Joshua, stand on your feet and they will testify against you.”

Rabbi Joshua stood on his feet, and said, “If I were alive and [the student] were dead, then the live person could contradict the dead one, but since he is alive and I am alive, how can one live man contradict another live man?” (91)

Rabban Gamliel was sitting and expounding, while Rabbi Joshua stood on his feet,(92) until all the people shouted and told Huzpit the translator, “Stop [repeating aloud the words of Rabban Gamliel]!” (93) and he stopped.

They said, “How long will [Rabban Gamliel] go on harassing [Rabbi Joshua]? He harassed him last year in Tractate Rosh Hashanah; (94) he harassed him in Tractate Bekhorot about the matter of Rabbi Zadok; (95) and here too he is harassing him. Come let us depose him.

“Whom will we appoint [to serve as patriarch]?”

“Let us appoint Rabbi Joshua. [No,] he is involved in the matter [and therefore inappropriate]. Let us appoint Rabbi Akiva. [No,] he may be susceptible to [Rabban Gamliel’s] punishment as he does not have the merit of [righteous] ancestors. (96) “Rather, let us appoint Rabbi Eleazar ben Azariah, for he is wise, and rich, and a tenth (generation descendant) from Ezra.” “He is wise,” so that if someone questions him, he will respond. “He is rich,” so that if he must serve the House of Caesar, (97) he may go and serve. ‘‘And he is tenth from Ezra,” so that he has the merit of [righteous] ancestors, and [Rabban Gamliel] will not harm him.

They came and said to [Rabbi Eleazar ben Azariah], “[Would] it please you, sir, to be head of the academy?”

He said, “I will go and consult my household.”

He went and consulted his wife. She said, “Maybe they will remove you.”

He said to her, “(Better for) a person to use an expensive cup for one day, even if it breaks the next day.”

She said to him, “You have no white hair.” (98)

That day he was eighteen years old, and a miracle happened to him, and eighteen rows of his hair turned white. This is as Rabbi Eleazar ben Azariah said, “Behold I am as one who is seventy years old,” and not “I am seventy years old.” (99)

(A tanna) taught- That day, they removed the entrance guard and gave permission to [the students] to enter, for Rabban Gamliel used to announce, “Any student whose inside is not like his outside may not enter the House of Study.”

That day they added a number of benches. Rabbi Yohanan said, “Abba Joseph ben Dostai and the Rabbis dispute over this, one saying ‘they added four hundred benches,’ and one saying, ‘they added seven hundred benches.’”

Rabban Gamliel was upset. He said- “Perhaps, God forbid, I have withheld Torah from Israel?” He was shown in his dream white casks filled with ashes. (100) But it was not so; this was only shown to him to reassure him.

(A tanna) taught- “The tractate Eduyot was taught on that day,” and wherever [something] is taught [preceded by] on that day, it refers to this day. And there was no legal decision which had been undecided in the House of Study that they did not resolve.

And even Rabban Gamliel did not hold himself back from the House of Study even for one hour, as we learn- (101) On that day, Judah the Ammonite proselyte came before them to the House of Study. He said to them- “What is the ruling about my entry to the congregation?” (102)

Rabban Gamliel said to him, “You are forbidden to enter into the congregation.”

Rabbi Joshua said, ‘‘You are permitted to enter the congregation.”

Rabban Gamliel said to [Rabbi Joshua], “But does it not say, ‘An Ammonite and a Moabite shall not enter the congregation of the Lord?’” (Deut. 23-4). Whose leader you are, for you do not know the troubles of scholars, by what means they provide for themselves, and by what means they feed themselves.” (107)

He said to him- “I beg you, forgive me.”

He paid no attention to him.

“Do it for my father’s honor.” (108)

He was appeased.

They said, “Whom shall we send to inform the sages?” (109)

A certain launderer said to them, “I will go.”

Rabbi Joshua sent [him] to the House of Study [saying], “Let him who wore the garments wear the garments, and he who does not wear the garments, may he say to the one who wears the garments, remove your garments and I will wear them?” (110)

Rabbi Akiva said to the sages, “Lock the doors, so that Rabban Gamliel’s servants will not come and disturb the sages.”

Rabbi Joshua said, “I (myself) had better get up and go to them.” He went and knocked on the door and said to them, “Let the Sprinkler, (111) the son of the Sprinkler sprinkle, (112) but shall one who is not a Sprinkler or [even] the son of a Sprinkler say to the Sprinkler the son of a Sprinkler, ‘Your water is cave water, and your ashes are stove ashes?’” (113)

Rabbi Akiva said to him, “Rabbi Joshua are you appeased? We have done nothing except for your honor. Tomorrow you and I will rise early at [Rabbi Eleazar ben Azariah’s] door.”

They said, “What shall we do? Shall we completely remove [Rabbi Eleazar ben Azariah]? ‘We may only raise levels of holiness, not diminish them.’ Shall one teach for one week and one teach on another? That will cause envy! Rather, Rabban Gamliel will teach for three weeks and Rabbi Eleazar ben Azariah for one week.”

88. Trans. S. Berrin.

89. Rabbi Simeon bar Yohai.

90. A term for the sages

91. He admits to having said that the evening prayer is optional.

92. Out of respect for the patriarch, Rabbi Joshua remained standing. Rabban Gamliel did not give him permission to sit as a punishment.

93. Who continued to teach while Rabbi Joshua remained standing, humiliating him in public.

94. When Rabban Gamliel forced Rabbi Joshua to appear before him with his walking stick on the day that Rabbi Joshua had calculated was Yom Kippur.

95. He forced him to remain standing because he differed with him regarding the status of a first-born animal belonging to Rabbi Zadok.

96. Rabbi Akiva was a descendant of converts and therefore did not have worthy deceased ancestors whose merit could protect him from Rabban Gamliel, who was of the patriarchal family.

97. By paying tribute to the Roman authorities as the representative ofthe Jewish people.

98. Since it would not seem respectful that a young person should stand at the head of the academy.

99. Mishnah Berakhot 12-2.

100. As though the students being allowed entry were pure only externally, but not internally.

101. Mishnah Yadayim 4-4.

102. Am I permitted to marry a Jewish woman?103. And is therefore not assumed to be descended from the original inhabitants of Ammon or Moab.

104. Therefore, the current Ammonites are the original inhabitants, and they are forbidden to marry Jews.

105. Since Israel has not yet been returned to its land, we may assume that the original Ammonites have also not yet returned, and therefore, Judah the Ammonite proselyte is not considered to be of the original Ammonite stock.

106. That is, to marrya Jewish woman after his conversion.

107. The black walls resulted from his abject poverty, not his profession.

108. His father was Rabban Simeon ben Gamliel, who died during the Great Revolt (66- 73 C.E.).

109. Having resolved the issue, it was obvious that they should return Rabban Gamliel to his place at the head of the academy. Apparently none of the sages wanted to accept this responsibility because it would mean that Rabbi Eleazar ben Azariah would be removed as the head.

110. Using the analogy of the high priestly garments to show that authority should be retained by the one who inherited it, i.e., Rabban Gamliel.

111. The priest, who sprinkles the ashes of the red heifer to make the waters of purification from impurity of the dead (Numbers 19).

112. Rabban Gamliel who is of the patriarchal family should be head of the academy.

113. Should one who is not of the patriarchal line dispute the rulings of one who is? The analogy here is to somebody who accuses the high priest of substituting ordinary still water and oven ashes for the biblically required running water and ashes of the red heifer required for purification.