The Reasons for Sectarianism According to the Tannaim and Josephus’s Allegations of the Impurity of Oil for the Essenes, Meir Bar-Ilan.


Olive Press, Capernaum

Olive Press, Capernaum. By צילום:ד”ר אבישי טייכר, CC BY 2.5,

The Dead Sea Scrolls Fifty Years After Their Discovery (ed. Lawrence H. Schiffman, Emanuel Tov and James C. VanderKam), Israel Exploration Society, Jerusalem 2000, p.587-599.

The following discussion aims to study the halakhic opposition to sectarianism. Based on a close reading of talmudic texts and rulings, an interpretation grounded in actual everyday practice will be suggested to elucidate the rabbis’ objection to one of the customs practiced by the Essenes, as described by Josephus.

I. Intercalation of the Jewish Calendar

It is well known that the tannaim did not all belong to the same halakhic camp; dissenting opinions were mostly regarded with tolerance, as the following shows-

Notwithstanding that these forbid what the others permit, and these declare ineligible whom the others declare eligible, yet the men of the School of Shammai did not refrain from marrying women from the families of the School of Hillel, nor the men of the School of Hillel from marrying women from the families of the School of Shammai. Despite all the disputes about what is clean and unclean, wherein these declare clean what the others declare unclean, neither scrupled to use aught that pertained to the others in matters concerned with cleanness (m. Yebamoth 1-4).1

However, in some areas of halakha, the normative approach brooked no deviation- one of these was the rabbinic insistence on the uniformity of the Jewish calendar. The following Mishnah shows how zealous and unbending, perhaps even exceptionally so, the sages were in upholding this area of halakha- 2 “Rabban Gamliel sent to him saying, I charge thee that thou come to me with thy staff and thy money on the Day of Atonement as it falls according to thy reckoning.” (m. Rosh Hashana 2-9; Danby, 190).

The same stringent approach can be seen in a famous incident reported in the Talmud- 3

When Hananiah the son of R. Joshua’s brother went down to the Diaspora, he began to intercalate the years and fix new moons outside Palestine. So they [the Beth Din] sent after him two scholars, R. Jose b. Kippar and the grandson of R. Zechariah b. Kebutal. When he saw them, he said to them- Why have you come? They replied- We have come to learn Torah from you. He thereupon proclaimed- These men are among the most eminent of the generation. They and their ancestors have ministered in the Sanctuary (as we have learnt- Zechariah b. Kebutal said- Several times I read the book of Daniel before him). He would declare impure what they declared pure, he would forbid what they permitted. He proclaimed- These people are worthless, they are good for nothing. They told him- You cannot destroy what you have built, you cannot rend asunder what you have fenced in. He said to them- Why is it that I declare impure what you declare pure, I forbid and you permit? They replied- Because you are intercalating the years and fixing new moons outside Palestine. He said to them- Did not Akiba son of Joseph intercalate years and fix new moons outside of Palestine? They replied- Don’t cite R. Akiba, who left not his equal in the Land of Israel. He said to them- I also left not my equal in the Land of Israel. They said to him- The kids which you left behind have become goats with horns, and they have sent us to you, bidding us, ‘Go and tell him in our name. If he listens, well and good; if not, he will be excommunicated. Tell also our brethren in the Diaspora not to listen to him. If they listen to you, well and good; if not, let them go up to the mountain, let Ahia build an altar and let Hananiah play the harp, and let them all become renegades and say that they have no portion in the God of Israel.’ Straightaway all the people broke out into weeping and cried- Heaven forbid, we have a portion in the God of Israel.

Why all this to do? Because it says- “For out of Zion shall go forth the Law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem” (b. Ber. 63a–b, trans. under editorship of I. Epstein, London- Soncino, 1960).4

The sages sought to prevent a split between the Jews of Babylonia, who would observe one calendar, and of Palestine, who would observe another; they issued a warning of excommunication to a rabbi of the Diaspora whom they considered the proponent of a rebellious heretic approach. The emissaries from Palestine raise the possibility of rebellion by the reference to “going up the mountain,” an allusion to the verse “I spoke to you, but you would not listen; you flouted the Lord’s command and willfully marched up the mountain” (Deut 1-43).5 The theme of rebellion is evoked further by talk of individuals building an altar and sacrificing offerings (and playing the lute and other instruments), actions considered tantamount to rebuilding the Temple, in defiance of prevailing opinion; however, the ironic and openly mocking tone of these comments precludes any inference of historical reality.6 The phrase echoes the earlier rebellion of the tribes in trans-Jordan- “Far be it from us to rebel against the Lord, or to turn away this day from the Lord and build an altar for burnt offerings, meal offerings, and sacrifices other than the altar of the Lord our God which stands before the Tabernacle” (Josh 22-29). There is also a veiled or explicit allusion to the danger of separatism as enacted by another historical rebel- “A scoundrel named Sheba son of Bichri, a Benjaminite, happened to be there. He sounded the horn and proclaimed- ‘We have no portion in David, No share in Jesse’s son! Every man to his tent, O Israel!’” (2 Sam 20-1). The sayings of the sages show how anxious they were about the danger of sectarianism and heretical schisms resulting in the use of a different calendar and the building of another temple than the one in Jerusalem.
The above tradition appears in the Babylonian Talmud, but the Palestinian Talmud has a slightly different version of the story-

Hananiah, nephew of R. Joshua, intercalated the year abroad. Rabbi sent him three letters with R. Isaac and R. Nathan. In one he wrote, “to his holiness, Hananiah.” And in one he wrote, “The lambs that you have left behind have become rams.” And in one he wrote, “If you do not accept our authority, go out to the thorny wilderness, and there you be the slaughterer [of the sacrifice], with Nehunyon, the sprinkler [of blood upon the altar]. (y. Sanhedrin 1-2, 19a = Nedarim 6, 40a, The Talmud of the Land of Israel, vol. 311, trans. J. Neusner [Chicago and London, 1984] 38–39).7
The most significant point of divergence between the two versions concerns the identity of the sages sent to confront Hananya, the nephew of R. Joshua, and the exact date of the event. For our purposes it is immaterial- the important point is that Palestinian sages, in the second or early third century, exercised their authority over the Babylonian sages and warned them against independent intercalation of the calendar. In both versions, the emissaries allude explicitly to previous rebels- in the PT Abimelech is evoked by mention of the thornbush in Jotham’s parable (Jud 9-15), whereas BT evoked Sheba son of Bichri.

As to the names of the sages who would be likely to build an altar, Ahiya, Hannaniah and Nehonion (the latter two are really one and the same), two possible readings must be taken into account- a) the names might be neutral, random names with no specific referent, along the lines of the name Joseph b. Simeon that recurs dozens of times in the Babylonian Talmud; b) the name might refer to a well-known figure, either Hananiah, the nephew of R. Joshua, the errant rabbi visited by the emissaries in one of the traditions, or perhaps the false messiah Hananiah b. Azur (Jer 28-1–17),8 or some other rebel who built his own altar such as Onias (i.e., Nehonion), builder of a temple in Alexandria.9 The reference might also be to someone else with a similar name, unknown perhaps to scholars but familiar to his contemporaries.10

The sages clearly had substantial grounds for worry. Subsequent disagreement over the structure of the Jewish calendar was in later centuries the source of the split between rabbinic authorities and the Karaites, and between Saadia Gaon and Ben Meir. Prior to these schisms, and without taking into account any influence of the splits in the Greek Orthodox Church at the time, also centering on the structure of the calendar, the rabbis paid careful heed to the independent practices among the various Jewish communities at that time. They were also aware of the different calendar observed by the sects, for instance, that known to us today from the apocrypha and Qumran findings.11

In sum, the second century rabbinical texts attest to a concerted effort on the part of the rabbis to prevent a schism stemming from the observance of different calendars. The rabbis believed that a divergence beginning with independent intercalation could eventually lead to building altars and making sacrifices, ultimately resulting in heresy that would bring about the excommunication of part of the Jewish people.

II. Ritual Purity

The tannaitic precepts on ritual purity deal with the question as to who has the authority to declare food or any other object pure in the degree of sanctity required for burnt offerings eaten by the priests, and who has the authority to declare food, an object, or a person pure in the higher degree of hatat,12 that is, having undergone purification with water prepared from the ashes of a red heifer. We see that issues of purity in everyday life occupied a central place in halakhic debate; one of the focal points was the issue of authority to declare a certain dish permissible (for consumption) for an individual’s degree of personal purity.13

t. Hagigah 3-19 reads-

Said R. Nehemiah- “On what account are all believed in matters having to do with the preparation of purification-water, and in matters having to do with Holy Things, while all are not believed in matters having to do with heave-offering?” So that each person should not feel free to say, ‘Lo, I’m going to build an altar for myself, lo, I’m going to burn a red heifer for myself,’ as it is said, “And you and your sons with you shall attend to your priesthood for all that concerns the altar and that is within the veil; and you shall serve. I give your priesthood as a gift, and anyone else who comes near shall be put to death” (Num. 18-7). Or might one interpret the matter to mean, For every purpose solely having to do with the altar? Is it possible that this applies also to heave-offering, heave-offering of tithe, and dough offering? Scripture says, “That is within the veil.”

Just as that which is within the veil is exceptional, in that it is not subject to the knowledge and consent of the Israelites so are excluded heave-offering, heave-offering of tithe, and dough offering, so are excluded heave-offering, heave-offering of tithe, and dough-offering, which are subject to the knowledge and consent of the Israelites (The Tosefta, Neusner, 321–322).14

The tanna supports his point of view with biblical exegesis, but he has additional backing from the principle mentioned above- a ruling may be based on ostensibly external, practical considerations.15 R. Nehemia claimed that everyone could testify as to hatat and qodesh, 16 since otherwise people would proceed to build their own altar and offer sacrifices or burn a red heifer for hatat, all according to their own interpretation of the degrees of purity. R. Nehemia apparently realized that if the halakha failed to state that everyone was a reliable witness, it would be interpreted to mean that certain people were excluded from testifying. Since the issue here is the Temple and its rituals, it is likely that those who opposed the rabbis’ ruling would infer that not everyone is qualified to determine matters of purity, but the priests alone, to the exclusion of common Israelites—not to mention proselytes, bastards, or nethinim, whose testimony is inadmissible in matters of purity or impurity.17

Tannaitic literature comprises over fifty halakhot phrased in the identical format of “all + present tense verb (+ gerund),” a construction unparalleled in the writings of any of the sects or among the Karaites.18 Some examples of these are- “All are fit to see the sores of leprosy;” “all are fit to purify the leper;” “all are fit to sanctify the water (with the ashes of the red heifer);” “all are fit to sprinkle (the water)” and the like.19 These halakhot, in their fixed format, were the sages’ means of declaring that priests enjoyed no advantage in deciding matters of purity and impurity even in areas that would seem prima facie to fall within their special jurisdiction; the rabbis ruled that anyone’s testimony was admissible in these matters.20 It is likely that the priests would disagree with this lenient, even secularizing, approach since by “everyone,” the sages included all socio-economic strata. Therefore, the halakha about admissible testimony for hatat and qodesh should be viewed in light of the dozens of other similarly formulated halakhot all bearing the same halakhic-social implication- priests have no superior status in deciding halakhic matters (not necessarily those of purity and impurity). This series of halakhot can be viewed as part of a process of the democratization of halakha and a key to the historical-halakhic social activity of the rabbis.

According, then, to R. Nehemia’s interpretation, the tannaitic ruling that anyone’s testimony was admissible for hatat and qodesh was anti-schismatic in intent. The tannaim believed that the testimony of anyone, from any social strata (or- socio-economic class), was equally admissible for all matters of halakha, including the purity of qodesh and hatat, fundamentally priestly matters.21 If, however, such a democratic approach was disputed, and it is posited that priests alone have the authority to rule on these matters, sectarianism would inevitably ensue, with one group disqualifying the other’s testimony. Groups of people would form sects to build their own altar or burn a red heifer on their own. In MMT we read that only priests are allowed to administer the red heifer rituals, 22 contradicting the tannaitic halakha as in t. Parah 4-11- “All the deeds (concerning the red heifer) are done by priests except gathering the ashes, filling and sanctifying.”

Although the Tosefta reads “The burning of the cow and its sprinklings are done by the high priest,23 with all other aspects of the rite are performed by an ordinary priest (t. Parah 4-6),24 it is clear that the attitude of the rabbis allowed even non-priests to handle matters originally belonging to priestly authority, such as leprosy. In any event, the practice of the Qumran sect supports R. Nehemia- anyone relying solely on priests to vouch for the purity of hatat is a member of a sect; consequently, there is a risk of his building his own altar or at least found a schismatic group. On the other hand, those accepting the rabbinic approach accepting the testimony of anyone, not only priests, were backed by the entire people, with no risk they would build an altar of their own, and by so doing rebel against rabbinic authority.

Historically, we know that the priests serving in the Temple, where matters of purity of qodesh and hatat were decided, did rely solely on other priests, the only ones who could rule on the highest degree of purity chiefly for the Temple community, as they alone, and not the Israelites living elsewhere in the land, were required to observe it. The Midrash attests- “You find 364 different gardens surrounding Jerusalem, and in each of them there was Qofer and (they were) full of all kinds of incense, and priests were going out there and fetching in purification the necessities of the Temple.”25

The priests, then, in their capacity of Temple attendants, would not permit a non-priest to bring any offering to the Temple, regarding only priests as reliable. It is, however, difficult to determine if the Midrash is an accurate reflection of historical reality.26 It is likely that the priests in charge of the Temple and its rituals relied exclusively on fellow priests in all matters pertaining to Temple ritual, until the sages took over the Temple activities. This conflict is evident in the Mishnah dealing with the identity of the man charged with sending the sacrificial scapegoat to the desert on the Day of Atonement- “All were eligible to lead it away, but the priests had established the custom not to suffer an Israelite to lead it away. R. Jose said- “It once happened that Arsela of Sepphoris led it away and he was an Israelite” (m. Yoma 6-3, Danby, 169).27 Even before the destruction of the Temple, the sages, and not the priests, permitted anyone—even a nathin or mamzer—to lead the scapegoat into the desert on the Day of Atonement, just as they accepted the testimony of anyone at all and not just priests for determining the degree of purity of qodesh or hatat.

It is difficult to know to what extent the interpretation in the halakha reported in the name of R. Nehemia reflects historical reality- is the claim “I build my own altar, I burn the heifer on my own” factual. Did schismatics challenge tannaitic authority and build their own temples and altars, or burn a red heifer on their own? We know that the sages were familiar with the temple of Onias since it is mentioned in several tannaitic rulings. On the other hand, despite attempts made to link the Qumran sect with the Temple, it is doubtful they built their own altar or burnt a red heifer on their own (as did the Samaritans in a later period), 28 although such a possibility cannot be ruled out.29 At the same time, the tannaitic halakha promoting equality between priests and all other socio-economic groups contradicts the Qumran creed which regarded the priestly class superior.30
Even without establishing the veracity of the halakhic explanation as historical reality, however, we have seen that in tannaitic halakha, the testimony of “all” is admissible for determining the degrees of purity of hatat and qodesh, a ruling intended, at least in the opinion of one of the tannaim, to oppose sectarian schismatics.

III. The Purity of Unconsecrated Produce (hullin)- Wine and OH

The preservation of a personal state of purity and the consumption of foods prepared in a state of purity were weighty matters in the daily life of the tannaim and the sects. This is evident from the sheer length of Seder Tohorot, comprising about one-fifth of the entire Mishnah. It is clear that the tannaim and the members of the sects took care to eat hullin in a state of purity, although the details of these halakhot have yet to be fully understood.31
The issue of admissible testimony for the purity of terumah, qodesh and hatat, discussed above as relating to food eaten as part of Temple ritual, will now be considered as pertaining to hullin-dishes prepared with wine and oil, important staples in the Land of Israel diet in antiquity.
The following baraita appears in b. Hagigah 22a-

For it is taught- R. Jose said- wherefore are all trusted throughout the year in regard to the cleanness of the wine and oil [they bring for Temple use]? It is in order that every one may not go and build a high place for himself, and burn a red heifer for himself.

This halakha resembles the one discussed above- “all are reliable for the purity of hatat and qodesh,” or, more precisely, it presents the same interpretation by R. Jose to a different halakha, though both belong to the “all + present tense pl. verb + obj. (+ adjunct of time)” formula. This and all other like-phrased halakhot state that everyone, not necessarily of priestly descent, can testify to the status of purity of wine and oil, so that hullin may be eaten in a state of purity based upon anyone’s reliable testimony. According to R. Jose, in agreement with R. Nehemiah, this halakha is designed to prevent sectarianism, and thereby resembles the two halakhot discussed above. However, the addition regarding the applicability of this halakha “all year round” is absent from the other, similarly worded halakhot. In order to clarify the tanna’s intention in this case, we turn to the supplementary halakha in m. Hagigah 3-4-

Greater stringency may apply to heave-offering, for in Judea they are deemed trustworthy throughout the year in what concerns the cleanness of wine and oil, but in what concerns heave-offering [they are deemed trustworthy] only at the seasons of wine-presses and olive-vats. If the season of the wine-presses and olive-vats was passed, and they brought to the priest a jar of heave-offering wine, he may not accept it; but the owner may leave it until the next season. But if he had said to him, ‘I have set apart a quarter-log as a hallowed thing,’ he is deemed trustworthy. They may be trustworthy concerning jars of wine and jars of oil that are mixed with heave-offering during the season of wine-presses and olive-vats and seventy days before the season of wine-presses. (Danby, 215).32

The tanna is obviously aware that different rulings pertain to different seasons as well as to the provenance of the food- Judea or the Galilee.33 The Mishnah shows that regarding terumah a distinction must be drawn between “the time of pressing”—the relatively short period in which grapes and olives are pressed when it is not difficult for any individual or community to adhere scrupulously to the laws of purity—and the rest of the year. After the time of pressing there is some danger that a member of the household might touch the oil or the wine and render it impure. For this reason, the testimony of a person saying that the oil and wine were made in a state of purity is inadmissible. This halakha was applied only in Judea since due to its proximity to the Temple matters of terumah and purity were observed more strictly than in the Galilee.

All the above relates to terumah, but anyone could testify to the purity of hullin all year round, and not only in Judea but everywhere in the land. This is stated in the halakha in the above baraita in the name of R. Jose, aiming at preventing schisms. If, then, only the priests’ testimony is admissible (to the exclusion of all other strata), and if it is not stated that this applies all year round but only “in the time of pressing,” there is real risk of a split on this issue.34 If it is claimed that the halakha says that only priests can testify to the purity of oil and wine and even they may do so only in the time of pressing, oil and wine would then be considered impure at any other time.

IV. The Practice of the Essenes

Josephus, in his famous description of the customs of the Essenes, writes-

Oil they consider defiling, and anyone who accidentally comes in contact with it scours his person; for they make a point of keeping a dry skin and of always being dressed in white. (War, II 123 [Loeb Classical Library, Cambridge, Mass. 1970] 371).35 This statement contains a twofold difficulty- 1) The idea that oil causes impurity is unknown from any other source. It thus comes as no surprise that scholars comparing Josephus’ statement with the writings of the sect found in Qumran found this to be one of the few cases for which no parallel existed.36 Some proposed an alternate explanation, namely, that oil is rendered impure through contact with an impure person.37 2) Josephus’ allegation that the Essenes refrained from using oil contradicts the Temple Scroll (discovered after the early scholarship on this matter) which says that not only is oil brought as offering to the Temple it is also used for food and on the body.38

The Temple Scroll (col. XXI lines 12–16) reads-

From this day you shall count off seven times seven weeks. There will be forty-nine days from the seven full weeks up to the day after the seven sabbaths. You shall count off fifty days and you shall offer new oil from the villages [of the clans of the sons of Is]rael- each one of the clans- a half hin; refined new oil, [they will bring near] virgin oil over the altar the first-fruits before YHWH.39

The text continues (col. XXII lines 13–16)-

And they shall eat it throughout this day in the outer courtyard in front of YHWH. Eternal precepts for their generations, year after year. Afterwards they shall eat and they shall anoint themselves with the new oil and with the new oil and with the olives, because on this day they shall stone [for all the] virgin [o]il of the land in front of YHWH, once a year. And they shall rejoice [all the children of Israel in all their villages before YHWH, eternal law for all their generations].40

The creed of the sect, insofar as it is reflected in the Temple Scroll, does not consider oil impure, and even if one claims that the Temple Scroll was not composed at Qumran, 41 it is still puzzling that Josephus would allege that they considered oil impure.42 Generally speaking, Josephus’ comments about the use of oil are unclear, and appear to be totally unfounded if the Temple Scroll was indeed written by the sect of Qumran—the Essenes.

A possible solution to the contradiction in the sources lies in a renewed examination of Josephus as well as of the tannaitic halakha. As for Josephus, we must distinguish between two elements in his statement- a) historical testimony—the Essenes do not use oil; 2) the reason they do not use oil- “for they make a point of keeping a dry skin.” The historical testimony can be accepted and understood in light of the tannaitic halakha which will be presently explained. However, the interpretation of the custom of the Essenes should be attributed to Josephus’s private conjecture, his attempt to explain to his Greek readers (or to himself) the reason for the custom practiced by the Essenes without, however, being properly informed.43

As we have seen, the sages ruled that the testimony of “all” was admissible for determining the purity of oil and wine for hullin; for terumah, however, although accepting here too the testimony of “all,” they limited it to “the time of pressing.” This halakha seems to be at the root of the Essenes’ custom at Qumran. The Essenes rejected tannaitic halakha admitting the testimony of “all” for the purity of wine and oil, accepting only the testimony of one of their own, probably a priest. Thus the comment of R. Jose about those who reject the testimony of “all” as tantamount to building an altar and dissociating themselves from the general public refers to a situation of this kind. An acute problem ensued- when oil arrived from areas where no one could vouch for its purity, the members of the sect of necessity considered it impure, 44 or at the very least as goods one should not enjoy. Consequently, they scrape the skin after coming into contact with oil of dubious purity.45

It is important to note that the Temple Scroll stresses that oil used for consumption is “new” oil, an equivalent to the rabbinical term of oil from “the time of pressing.” This is oil considered pure for Temple ritual and can be used only in the very short period in which the purity of its manufacture can be supervised. In these few short weeks, everybody engaged in oil production was careful not to become impure. New oil, then, was considered pure by the Essenes, but during the rest of the year they observed the custom described by Josephus and refrained from using oil, since the testimony of “all” regarding its purity was inadmissible. For the Essenes hullin oil had the same status as terumah oil did for the rabbis—its purity could be ascertained only in the time of pressing.46


The tannaitic halakha and its interpretations reveal the rabbis’ just fear of sectarianism, for they held that any disagreement about the Jewish calendar, the testimony for the purity of qodesh, hatat and hullin (oil and wine) was tantamount to an individual building an altar or burning the red heifer. The Essenes at Qumran, as may be expected, did not observe tannaitic halakha, either in calendar adjustment or in determining the purity of hatat (or qodesh). Josephus’ description of the Essenes at Qumran derives from the halakhic requirement of ascertaining the identity of anyone (priest or Israelite) attesting to the purity of hullin. The rabbis accepted the testimony of anyone. Both the rabbis and the community of Qumran (in Josephus’ evidence and the Temple Scroll alike) made a distinction between refraining from using oil all year round and using only new oil when there is no risk of the oil’s impurity. The Essenes refrained from using oil not from any fear of impurity through contact with a gentile or an impure person, 47 but because they, unlike the rabbis, did not credit the assertion of the oil manufacturers that they made the oil while in a state of purity.

1. H. Danby, translator, The Mishnah (Oxford- Oxford University Press, 1933) 219.

2. Compare the similar tone in the incident of Akhnai’s oven, though this case resulted in excommunication- see G. Leibzon, “For What Reason one should be Excommunicated,” Annual of Jewish Law 3 (1975) 297–342 (Hebrew); Yitzhak D. Gilat, Studies in the Development of the Halakha (Ramat-Gan- Bar-Ilan University Press, 1992) 161–80 (Hebrew), on the sages’ interpretation of לא

3. Scholars have addressed different aspects of this matter, see Hugo Mental, Studies in the History of the Sanhedrin (Tel Aviv- Dvir, 1969) 207 (Hebrew).

4. The following changes are based on Paris MS 0671- 1) the name of the first emissary is R. Elazar Hakaffar (not R. Jose b. Kiffar, see below); 2) the addition of a double chiastic phrase- “he began to declare pure what they declared impure, and declare impure what they declared pure, and declare forbidden what they declared permitted, and declare permitted what they declare forbidden.” (while it is always the errant sage who is the strict one in the accepted version, the more literary version has the two opponents alternating, at times one is stricter, at times the other); 3) the addition “and their fathers were impure in the High Priesthood” (as in Munich MS). Munich MS has additional variations- 1) קיפר instead of כיפר; 2) אחייה instead of אחיה; 3) “You, go up to the top of the mountain, speak your heresy and say- “We have no part in the God of Israel in the world to come.” See R. N. N. Rabinowitz, Dikdukei Sofrim- Berakhot (Munich, 1867) 368–369 (Hebrew).

5. It must be recalled that going up the mountain constituted a breach of divine law as early as the revelation at Sinai- “Beware of going up the mountain” (Exod 19-12).

6. Had there been any truth in the talk of building the Temple, the tanna would have added that the project required the consent of the ruler (of Persia or Rome); it would seem that the comments arise from academic controversy, not actual fact.

7. The variations in the two sources are of minor significance. In y. Nedarim (and in Leiden MS, Sanhedrin) the name is Nehonyon.

8. See E. Qimron, “On the List of False Prophets,” Tarbiz 62 (1994) 273–275 (Hebrew). The list may be based on a parallel drawn by the sect between the biblical false prophets and the opponents of the sect, such as the tannaim, who would then have followed their example.

9. m. Menahot 13-10; b. Menahot 109a–b; y. Yoma 6, 4 43d, etc. See R. Yankelevitz, “Nehonyon Ahiyya- On Identity in the Story of Hananya the Nephew of R. Joshua,” MILET 2 (1984) 137–41 (Hebrew); idem, “The Temple of Onias- Law and Reality,” Jews and Judaism in the Second Temple, Mishna and Talmud Period (ed. A. Oppenheimer, I. Gafni and M. Stern; Jerusalem- Yad Yitzhak Ben Zvi, 1993) 107–115 (Hebrew).

10. An ostracon bearing the name Onias was recently discovered at Qumran, with an inscription saying that he gave all his possessions to the yahad- We have no way of verifying whether it is the same Onias.

11. See 1 Enoch 72-32; 74-11–13; 75-2; Jub. 6-32; S. Talmon, “The Intercalation of the Judean Desert Sect,” Mehqarim baMegilot haGenuzot (ed. Y. Yadin and H. Rabin; Jerusalem- Heikhal Hasefer, 1961) 77–105 (Hebrew). Much has been written on the organization of the Jewish calendar in talmudic times; we need not elaborate here. See J. C. Vanderkam, “The Origin of the 364 Day Calendar- A Reassessment of Jaubert’s Hypothesis,” CBQ 41 (1979) 390–411; Timothy H. Lim, “The Chronology of the Flood Story in a Qumran Text (4Q252),” JJS 43/2 (1992) 288–98. MMT (A20) reads- “And the year is complete three hundred and [sixty-four] days.” See E. Qimron and J. Strugnell, DJD X, 44.

12. The hierarchy of degrees of purity unconsecrated produce (hullin), second tithe (ma‘aser); heave-offering (terumah); hallowed things (qodesh); sin-offering, i.e., red heifer ashes (hatat) is listed in m. Hagigah 2-6–7 (see below). On the practical implications see for instance m. Parah 10-6; b. Hagigah 18b, etc.

13. The following famous example appears in m. Hagigah 2-7- “For Pharisees the clothes of an am-haaretz count as suffering midras-uncleanness, for them that eat heave-offering the clothes of Pharisees count as suffering midras-uncleanness; for them that eat of hallowed things the clothes of them that eat heave-offering count as suffering midras-uncleanness; for them that occupy themselves with the sin-offering water the clothes of them that eat of hallowed things count as suffering midras-uncleanness. Joseph b. Joezer was the most pious of the priesthood, yet for them that ate of hallowed things his apron counted as suffering midras-uncleanness. Johanan b. Gudgada always ate the common food in accordance with the rules governing the cleanness of hallowed things, yet for them that occupied themselves with the sin-offering water his apron counted as suffering midras-uncleanness” (Danby, 216). We see then that the common people always ate in a state of impurity, the Pharisees in the degree of hulin, priests ate in the degree of terumah even if the food itself was not an offering; others ate in a state of qodesh and yet others in hatat.

14. S. Lieberman, The Tosefta, according to Codex Vienna (New York- The Jewish Theological Seminary of America, 1962) Mo’ed, 390. His Tosefta text differs from the accepted Tosefta- Lieberman notes that the correct textual reading should follow Yalqut Talmud Torah. The accepted Tosefta version reads- “Why are all trustworthy for sin-offering, but not for hallowed things and heave-offerings?”

15. Cf. the dozens of examples in which the rabbis inquired/interpreted- “Why did they rule that . . .” (for example, t. Bekhorot 1-8- “Why did they rule that the honey of bees is permitted?;” each individual case must be studied to determine which came first- the exegesis or the anti-sectarianism bias.

16. This halakha appears in m. Ohalot 5-5 as well- “all remain clean (for all are accounted trustworthy in what concerns the Sin-offering), since vessels that are not susceptible to uncleanness” (Danby, 656).

17. Cf. the Mishnah- “Once Tobiah the Physician saw the new moon in Jerusalem, together with his son and his freed slave; and the priests accepted him and his son but pronounced his freed slave ineligible. And when they came before the court they accepted him and his slave but declared his son ineligible. M. Rosh Hashana 1-7, Danby, p. 189), showing that the priests considered the testimony of freed slaves inadmissible while the tannaim treated them like anyone else. For more on freed slaves and the democratization of halakha see below. On the priestly tribunal, see Dalia Ben Haim Trifon, The Priestly Class from the Destruction of the Second Temple to the Rise of Christianity (diss. Tel Aviv University, 1985) 290 ff. (Hebrew).

18. See M. Bar-Ilan, Polemics between Sages and Priests towards the end of the days of the Second Temple (diss. Bar Ilan University, Ramat Gan, 1982) (Hebrew; hereafter- Polemics).

19. m. Negaim 3-1; t. Negaim 8-1 (The Tosefta, 164); m. Parah 12-10; m. Parah 5-4. Cf. m. Bekhorot 5-5- “A priest may be believed if he says, ‘I have caused this Firstling to be inspected, and it has a blemish. All are accounted trustworthy in what concerns blemishes in tithe [of cattle]’” (Danby, 636). The priests had a clear interest in matters concerning priests’ dues.

20. Cf. t. Shabbat 2, 10- “Rabban Simeon b. Gamliel says- The laws of [consecration of objects as] Holy Things, sin-offerings, and tithes truly are the essentials of the Torah. They lie within [the testimony of] ordinary folk” (The Tosefta, Moed, 7).

21. Sifri Zuta, ed. Horowitz, 305, on the ashes of a red heifer- “how was it [the ashes] preserved- it was given to a trustworthy man to preserve, but then it was said that all are trustworthy in matters of holy things and sin-offering. The tanna posits “a trustworthy man” opposite “everyone’s testimony;” however, we know that all matters pertaining to red heifers were decided by the priests (see below). The opposite of “all” would be the priests and not the trustworthy witness, as there is no way of knowing the latter’s descent and authority.

22. MMT (above, note 11, p. 48) reads [. . .להיות מ ] כי לבני אהרון ראואי. The pre-official publisher- R. H. Eisenman and M. Wise, The Dead Sea Scrolls Uncovered (Shaftesbury, Dorset- Element, 1992) 190, added [. . . זהרים]ראואי להיות מ but it should read rather [. . . זים]ראואי להיות מ. This would mean that only priests may sprinkle the purifying waters, in contradiction to the tannaitic approach. These halakhot support the description in Polemics (above, n. 18) written before the publication of MMT about the anti-sectarian tendency of the laws of the red heifer, which do not, in tannaitic opinion, require priestly authority except for the actual slaughter.

23. On the question whether the High Priest burned the red heifer, see M. Bar-Ilan, “The Red Heifer in the Time of Hillel,” Sinai 100 (1987) 143–165, esp. 158–163 (Hebrew).

24. See Polemics, 132. The sages and the Qumran sect were at odds regarding the burning of the heifer, collecting the ashes, sprinkling the purifying waters, etc. (tevol-yom which need not be discussed here), and admissible testimony for determining purity in the degree of hatat (mentioned above).

25. Y. H. Wertheimer, ed., Midrash Song of Songs (Jerusalem- 1981) 90; Yalkut Shimoni on Song of Songs 4-13, p. 1083 (remez 988 with slight variations).

26. See S. Klein, Eretz Judah (Tel Aviv, 1939) 141–42 (Hebrew). Klein suggests that this source is historically accurate regarding both the geographical provenance of the incense and the fact that priests of the House of Avtinas were charged with preparing the incense in secrecy. See M. Bar-Ilan, “The Secret World of the People of Qumran and the Sages,” Shnaton- An Annual for Biblical and Ancient Near Eastern Studies 11 (1997) 285–301 (Hebrew).

27. See Polemics (above, note 17) 5–29.

28. Joseph M. Baumgarten, “Sacrifice and Worship Among the Jewish Sectarians of the Dead Sea Scrolls,” HTR 46 (1953) 141–159.

29. J. Bauman, “Did the Qumran Sect Burn Red Heifer,” RevQ 1 (1958) 73–84. See also Polemics, p. 134 on the customs of the Falashas and the Samarians who burned red heifers. Obviously, those believing that the ashes of a red heifer prepared in accordance with tannaitic ruling were impure could burn a red heifer on their own (not necessarily at the Mount of Mishha [Olives]). See M. Newton, The Concept of Purity at Qumran and in the Letters of Paul (Cambridge- Cambridge University Press, 1985) 30–32.

30. B. Sharvit, “The Priest in the Judean Desert Sect,” Beit Mikra 22 (1977) 313–320 (Hebrew); idem, “The Leadership of the Judean Desert Sect,” Beit Mikra 24 (1979) 295–304 (Hebrew). See also Daniel R. Shwartz, “On Two Aspects of a Priestly View of Descent at Qumran,” Archaeology and History in the Dead Sea Scrolls (ed. Lawrence H. Schiffman; Sheffield- JSOT Press, 1990) 157–179.

31. See G. Alon, Studies in the History of Israel (Tel Aviv, 1967) 1.158–176 (Hebrew); Y. Licht, Megillat ha-Serachim (Jerusalem 1965) 294–303 (Hebrew); Y. Tabori, Pessah Dorot- Studies in the history of the Seder (Tel Aviv, 1996) 192–209, esp. p. 197 n. 21 (Hebrew); Hannah K. Harrington, The Impurity Systems of Qumran and the Rabbis- Biblical Foundations (Atlanta, Georgia- Scholars Press, 1993).

32. The textual variants are of minor significance here. Munich MS 95 does not mention the red heifer, and the concluding words in Göttingen MS 3 and Vatican MS 171- “and burn a red heifer upon it,” have been shown to be erroneous.

33. Different explanations have been offered for this unusual halakhic discrepancy between the Galilee and Judah. see H. Albeck, Mishna- Mo’ed (Tel Aviv- Dvir, 1952) 513–514. On different halakhic observance in the two regions see 2. Frankel, Darkhei HaMishnah (Tel Aviv- Sinai, 1959) 68–70 (Hebrew); Y. S. Zori, Tarbut ha-Deromim (Warsaw, 1924) (Hebrew); M. Margaliot, Ha-Hiluqim ben Anshei Mizrah u-Bnei Eretz-Israel (Jerusalem, 1938) (Hebrew); S. Klein, Eretz Ha-Galil (second ed.; Jerusalem, 1967) 172–174 (Hebrew); b. Shabbat 130a; and see L. H. Schiffman, “Was there a Galilean Halakha?,” The Galilee in Late Antiquity (ed. Lee I. Levine; New York and Jerusalem- The Jewish Theological Seminary of America, 1992) 143–173.

34. However, compare m. Teharot 9-4 were the oil should be brought “under the eyes of a priest.”

35. Josephus Flavius, War, 2, 8, 3 (123).

36. See Y. M. Grintz, Studies on the Second Temple Period (Jerusalem, 1969) 109 (Hebrew); Todd S. Beall, Josephus’ Description of the Essenes Illustrated by the Dead Sea Scrolls (diss. The Catholic University of America, University Microfilms International, Washington D.C. 1984) 78–79.

37. J. Baumgarten, “The Essene Avoidance of Oil and the Laws of Purity,” RevQ 6 (1967) 183–192 (=idem, Studies in Qumran Law [Leiden- E.J. Brill, 1977] 88–97); Sidney B. Hoenig, “Qumran Rules of Impurities,” RevQ 6 (1969) 559–567.

38. Y. Yadin, Temple Scroll (Jerusalem, 1977) vol. 1, cols. 21–22, pp. 112–113.

39. The translation is according- Florentino G. Martinez, The Dead Sea Scrolls Translated, 159 [with slight modification and addition according to the new readings by Qimron (see following note)].

40. Corrected following E. Qimron, “Biblical Dictionary in Light of the Scrolls,” Tarbiz 58 (1979) 297–315, esp. 315 (Hebrew); idem, The Temple Scroll- A Critical Edition with Extensive Reconstructions (Beer Sheva/Jerusalem- Ben-Gurion University of the Negev Press/Israel Exploration Society, 1996) 35–36.

41. B. A. Levine, “The Temple Scroll- Aspects of the Historical Provenance and Qumran,” A Tribute to Geza Vermes (ed. Philip R. Davies and Richard T. White; Sheffield- JSOT Press, 1990) 37–50; Philip R. Davies, “Halakha as Literary Character,” BASOR 232 (1978) 3–24.

42. The discussion below, however, supports the view that the Temple Scroll was written by the sect (without going into the question of date) since it discusses the importance of newly-pressed oil, see below.

43. The explanation that the Essenes prefer rough skin to smooth seems to me a calculated effort to describe the Essenes as an ascetic sect, like the white garments expressing purity, modesty, and simple habits, unlike other people who wear more beautiful and more expensive colored garments. See further Beall (above, n. 36). It may be noted that the tannaim were apparently aware of the sectarian implication of wearing white garments, as attested in m. Megilla 4-8- “If a man said, ‘I will not go before the Ark in colored raiment,’ he may not even go before it in white raiment . . . this is the way of heresy . . . this is the way of the sectaries” (Danby, 207); see H. Albeck, Mishnah, Mo’ed, p. 504. See also M. Bar-Ilan, “Changes in Rosh haShana Liturgy- Mishnah Rosh Hashana 4-7,” Sidra 13 (1998) 25–46, n. 14 (Hebrew).

44. Herein lies the shortcoming of this interpretation- why did the Essenes have one law for wine which they considered pure and another for oil which they considered impure. The answer is to be sought in the historical circumstances- oil was brought to Qumran from afar where there was no one to supervise its manufacture. A similar halakhic discrepancy between oil and wine, also understood in light of actual circumstances, can be found in b. Pesahim 8a- “Storehouses of wine need searching; stores of oil do not need searching;” see further below.

45. The matter of purification through scraping the flesh requires further elucidation. After preparatory scrubbing, the impure individual had to undergo ritual immersion; in similar fashion a house could be cleansed of the impurity of the dead, cf. Temple Scroll, col. 49-11–12- “The day on which they remove the dead person from the house, they shall cleanse it of every stain of oil, wine, dampness from water; they shall rub its floor” etc. (García Martinez, 169). There is also a biblical source for this concept of purifying a house from impurity contracted by the presence of a leper- “The house shall be scraped inside all around” (Lev 14-41).

46. That is, the Essenes followed the same laws of purity and impurity as did the tannaim but at a higher, stricter level of observance.

47. This issue is linked to other disagreements about purity and impurity, such as- 1) the description in m. Ohalot 18-1–6 of a vineyard or olive grove where there had been a grave, and after the field was plowed over the grave’s location is unknown; 2) the disagreement between Hillel and Shammai regarding the question when does fruit receive impurity (b. Shabbat 17a)- “When one vintages grapes for the vat (i.e. to manufacture wine), Shammai maintains- it is made fit [to become unclean], while Hillel ruled, it is not made fit. Said Hillel to Shammai- why must one vintage grapes in purity, yet not gather olives in purity? If you provoke me, he replied, I will decree uncleanness in the case of olive gathering too” (The Talmud, Soncino ed.). A distinction was made between removing the impurity of oil and that of wine (Rashi ad. loc. might be superfluous).

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