Torah Study in Galilee
We shall now turn to the evidence of Torah study in Galilee, whether in small groups of pupils or among the public at large. In the talmudic tradition there are very few references from the Second Temple period to public Torah study outside Jerusalem, apart from the context of the reading of the Torah in the synagogue. Yet there undoubtedly was study by groups of pupils, and teachers and pupils, throughout the Land of Israel. Evidence of this is found in an early saying by one of the first Pairs of Sages: “Let your house be a meeting place for the sages, and sit amidst the dust of their feet” (Avot 1:4).
There are very few hints to the existence of a permanent academy outside Jerusalem during the Temple period. One hint comes in a portion of Sifrei Zuta from the Genizah, which mentions “Edomite pupils from Beit Shammai,” i.e., ones who resided in the South.1A portion from the Genizah published by Y.N. Epstein in Tarbiz 1 (1930), 70. See ibid., n. 17, and the introduction, pp. 52-53. That group of pupils outside of Jerusalem may be assumed to date from the time of the disagreements between Beit Shammai and Beit Hillel, that is from before the destruction of the Temple. There is evidence of a gathering of sages in Jericho,2tSotah 3:3; jSotah 9:24b; bSotah 48b. but not of the permanent residence of a sage outside Jerusalem.
In fact, the sole definite evidence of a permanent academy is the statement cited above about the residence of Rabban Johanan ben Zakkai in Arav, in Lower Galilee. According to the statement by the Amora Ulla, he lived there for eighteen years and complained that not many people came to him to ask regarding the law. Even if we do not accept as fact the figure of eighteen years, we nevertheless have here a tradition of a prolonged residence in Arav. As we have seen, Rabbi Hanina ben Dosa, a sage who was already active during the time of the Temple, having brought a gift to the Temple with the miraculous aid of angels,3Ecclesiastes Rabbah 1; Song of Songs Rabbah 1. sat before him.
Teachers and Pupils
There are numerous testimonies regarding the teaching of Torah in all parts of Galilee in the generation after the destruction of the Temple. At least a portion of these testimonies is undoubtedly a continuation of the reality preceding the destruction, and only testimonies of that kind will be mentioned here.
Rabbi Eliezer ben Hyrcanus was one of the sages with numerous ties to Galilee. Although he came from the South where his property was located,4bSanhedrin 32b; tSukkah 2:1; Midrash on Psalms 25:13 (107b); et al. Regarding his property in the region, see tMa’aser Sheni 5:16. we find him several times in Galilee where he had disciples. When he was suspected of being a Christian, arrested by the authorities and released, he acknowledged the rightness of the judgment, for he remembered that once he had been walking in the public road of Sepphoris and began to talk with Jacob of Kefar Sikhnin, who Iransmilled to him a leaching in ihe name of “Jeshua Panteri,” that is, Jesus of Nazareth.5tHullin 2:24; bAvodah Zarah 16b. This incident may date from the time of the Temple, for he speaks as of something done many years previously when tension with the Jewish Christians was not great and a sage could have stopped to hear a teaching in the name of Jesus. Almost certainly the main purpose of his walking in the public road of Sepphoris was to teach Torah, as is witnessed by the traditions we shall cite below.
The Tosefta states: “It once happened that Rabbi Eliezer was reclining in the sukkah of [Rabbi]6Thus in MS London and in the Rishonim. At any rate it seems that he was a sage, and the deed he performed of spreading a sheet over the sukkah against the sun corresponds to the statement in mSukkah 1:3; see also Tosafot 10a, Pires alav sadin. Johanan ben Ilai in Caesaria”7In bSukkah 27b: “In Upper Galilee, in the sukkab of Johanan ben Rabbi Ilai, in Kesari, or as some say, in Kesarion.” (tSukkah 2:9)8And in the parallel in bSukkah 27b. A tradition of similar content, ascribed to “the rabbis,” relates:
It once happened that Rabbi Eliezer, who resided in Upper Galilee, was asked thirty laws of the laws of the sukkah. Regarding twelve of them he told them, “I heard,” and regarding eighteen he said, “I did not hear.” Rabbi Jose the son of Rabbi Judah says the opposite. Regarding eighteen things he said to them, “I heard,” regarding twelve things he said to them, “I did not hear.” (bSukkah 28a)
Here are a group of pupils in Upper Galilee who ask many questions, some of which Rabbi Eliezer was not capable of answering. Although it not stated, almost certainly the discussion took place on or close to the festival of Sukkot, and they asked him topical questions.
Elsewhere in the Tosefta (tKelim Bava Metzia 2:1, and in the parallel passage in bShabbat 52b) we read: “One of the pupils from the pupils of Upper Galilee said in the presence of Rabbi Eliezer….” Further (ibid., 2:2): “One of the pupils from the pupils of Upper Galilee also said…,” and Rabbi Eliezer corrects the teaching they had heard. While these may be traditions from a visit of Rabbi Eliezer’s pupils to their teacher in Lod, they could come from his previously mentioned visit, or another one, to Upper Galilee when his pupils discussed laws in his presence.
In either event, clear evidence of a concentration of a large number of knowledgeable pupils in Galilee occurs in a tradition found only in the Babylonian Talmud.9bSukkah 27a. The administrator of King Agrippa inquired of Rabbi Eliezer the details of the laws of dwelling in the sukkah, including the question: “I have two wives, one in Tiberias and one in Sepphoris, and I have two sukkot, one in Tiberias and one in Sepphoris…” The reference is certainly to Agrippa II who ruled in Galilee and whose administrator lived in Tiberias and in Sepphoris, the two leading Jewish cities in Galilee. Almost certainly, too, those questions about the laws of the sukkah were posed during Rabbi Eliezer’s visit in Galilee on or close to the Festival of Sukkot. The questions asked by the administrator are not those of an uneducated person. The reply of Rabbi Eliezer expresses his own strict opinion on the issues, whereas the majority of the sages did not obligate the eating of fourteen meals in the sukkah, nor did they obligate the eating of all the meals in one sukkah,10See ibid., 27b. Regarding his identification, see below.
Several legal traditions are connected with Rabbi Eliezer’s going to Ovelin in Lower Galilee. In the Tosefta, at the beginning of Eruvin: “It once happened that Rabbi Eliezer went to Joseph ben Perida, to Ovelin”; and: “It once happened that Rabbi Eliezer went to his pupil Rabbi Jose ben Perida, to Ovelin” (bEruvin 11b and jEruvin 1:19a). Here, too, he is stringent, in keeping with his opinion. In Tractate Tefillin (Higger ed., p. 48): “It once happened that Rabbi Eliezer went to Oveli[n] to one householder. He was accustomed to immerse in a cave… He said to him: ‘My master, the water in this cave is better than that of this one.’” In Ovelin, accordingly, there was not only a pupil of Rabbi Eliezer, but even an ordinary householder who practiced ritual purity and immersed in a cave.
We have already discussed whether Elisha ben Avuyah taught Torah in the academy in Tiberias, citing the tradition that he sat and taught in the valley of Ginosar.11See above and notes 61-62. Regarding his identification, see below. It reflects the prevalent reality in the world of the sages during the Temple period and following its destruction, with them sitting and teaching Torah in every possible place — in the academy or outside, in the garden, on the road, “under the fig tree” or “under the olive tree,” and in the marketplace.12bMoed Qatan 16a-b; see A. Büchler, “Learning and Teaching in Open Air in Palestine,” Jewish Quarterly Review 4 (1914), 485-491. A sage came from this same Ginosar and asked a legal question of the sages in Yavneh: “Rabbi Jose said: ‘Jonathan ben Harsha of Ginosar asked in the presence of the Elders in Yavneh regarding the case of two tufts of hemp….’”13tKelim Bava Batra 3:6. In the continuation of this same baraita, Jonathan of Ginosar asks about additional details, all on the subject of ritual purity and impurity. Another source mentions a law concerning ma’aserot, where once again Rabbi Jose of Sepphoris testifies: “Jonathan ben Harsha of Ginosar asked Rabban Gamaliel and the sages in Yavneh.” These two questions are asked by an outstanding sage from Galilee of the sages during the period of Rabban Gamaliel in Yavneh.14jMa’aserot l:48d.
It is noted in several places in the Babylonian Talmud that Amoraim are proud to be “like Ben Azzai in the marketplace of Tiberias,” that is like his teaching of Torah in that place.15bEruvin 29a; bSotah 48a; bKiddushin 20a; bArakhin 30b. Cf. jBikkurim 2:65a. Ben Azzai was one of the sages of Yavneh, but the marketplace of Tiberias provided a broad venue for his activity. It can be assumed that this was part of the ongoing reality of a place in which Torah was taught.
We also find, regarding Rabbi Jose ha-Galili, that “One time Rabbi Jose ha-Galili was sitting and expounding on Lite [red] lieifer in Tiberias, aird Rabbi Simeon ben Hanina was sitting with him.”16Sifrei Zuta 302. Ibid., p. 305, there is an additional reference to the group of sages, and “Rabbi Eliezer ben Jacob sits and expounds regarding the [red! heiter in Tiberias.” This latter incident, however, occurred after the Bar Kokhba Revolt. The continuation makes it clear that this was not an exposition of trite, well-known matters, but rather novel interpretations and a scriptural exposition of the laws of the red heifer.
Twice there is mention in the tannaitic tradition of courts of sages — which were also academies — in Galilee during or before the Yavneh generation. We mentioned above the court of Rabbi Hanina ben Teradyon in Sikhnin, and of Elisha ben Avuyah. To these reports we must add the testimony of Rabbi Simeon Shezori:17tBava Qamma 8:17; bBava Qamma 80a; jSotah 9:24a. “Rabbi [Simeon Shezori]18Thus as correct in MS Vienna, in first ed. of the Tosefta, and in MS Hamburg of the Babylonian Talmud and in Maharshal, citing other books; and similarly in the Jerusalem Talmud. said, ‘Father’s household was one of the households in [Upper]19Thus in the printed editions of the Babylonian Talmud, and MS Vatican and Maharshal, citing other books. Similarly, it seems that Shezor is on the boundary between Lower and Upper Galilee; Rabbi Simeon Shezori speaks of his family’s properties which were in Upper Galilee. Galilee. And why were they destroyed? Because they grazed in forests and judged monetary lawsuits before a single judge.’”
Although Rabbi Simeon Shezori here seeks to list the faults or sins of his father’s household that led to its destruction, those “sins” did not exceed the normative behavior of the sages. There were sages who judged monetary lawsuits with only a single judge,20See the passage in bSanhedrin 4b-5a and jSanhedrin 1:18b. and there were sages in the Yavneh generation who made light of the prohibition against raising “small cattle” (sheep and goats) in the Land of Israel. Rabbi Eliezer ben Hyrcanus, whom we have found in Galilee where he had pupils, evaded answering the question whether it is prohibited to raise small cattle.21tYevamot 3:1. See G Alon, Toledot ha-Yehudim be-Eretz Yisrael bi-Tekufat ha Mishnah we-ha-Talmud (“History of the Jews in the Land of Israel During the Period of the Mishnah and the Talmud”; Tel Aviv, 1967), vol. 1, p. 174. Rabbi Simeon Shezori’s ascription of supposed sins to his father’s household does not diminish the fact of the existence of a court in Upper Galilee, which was a place of teaching and study.
Rabbi Simeon Shezori may be included among the generation of the sages of Usha in Galilee, for we have found him disagreeing with the sages of the Usha generation22mKelim 18:1; mTaharot 3:2, et al. although he was older than them. He says of an incident that happened to him, “and I asked Rabbi Tarfon,”23jDemai 5:24d. and Rabbi Jose ben Kippar transmits in his name.24tShevi’it 2:5; bRosh Ha-Shanah 13b. Rabbi Jose ben Kippar was sent, shortly after the Bar Kokhba revolt, to persuade Hananiah, the nephew of Rabbi Joshua, to stop independently intercalating years and proclaiming new months in Babylonia, but instead to rely upon the sages in the Land of Israel (bBerakhot 63a). By that time he already was a sage whose opinion was heeded. The story about his father’s household may refer to the period of destruction in Galilee during the Bar Kokhba revolt.25See Alon, Toledot ha-Yehudim, p. 19. But it may instead have an earlier reference, for he speaks of an event belonging to the past, and the “householders” had been destroyed mainly during the war that accompanied the destruction of the Temple.
Whether or not there were many permanent academies of Torah study in Galilee before the destruction of the Second Temple, we have seen that there was undoubtedly widespread and serious interest in clarifying issues of Halakhah. Rabbis visiting from elsewhere would find an audience in public places, as well as being engaged in discussions by the local sages and groups of pupils.
Galilean Attachment to Judaism
Now we shall consider the question of the attachment of Galileans to observance of the commandments of Judaism and to Jewish cultural life. In this category fall also the connections between Galilee and the Temple worship and the similarities in halakhic practice between Galilee and Jerusalem. We shall see that in all those respects the attachment to Judaism in Galilee, far from being uncultured and ignorant, was marked and exemplary.
Galilee, Jerusalem and the Temple
We may start with the halakhic similarities that linked Galilee with Jerusalem. Scholars26Alon, ibid., p. 321, et al. have already noted that regarding marriage practices and the degree of obligation of the husband, the Galileans adopted fine and praiseworthy customs, like those of the men of Jerusalem in contrast with those of the men of Judea. Special note should be taken of the practice of Jerusalemites and Galileans alike to promise in the ketubbah (marriage contract) that the widow was to be maintained and could live in her husband’s house for as long as she wished, in contrast to the practice of the men of Judea who gave the heirs the right to free themselves from their obligation by the payment of the money of the ketubbah. The Jerusalem Talmud adds regarding this practice: “The Galileans [and with them the men of Jerusalem] had consideration for their honor and did not have consideration for their money; the men of Judea had consideration for their money and did not have consideration for their honor.”27mKetuvot 4:12; jKetuvot 29b. Regarding other wedding practices in which the Galileans followed the practices of the Jerusalemites, see tKetuvot 1:4; jKetuvot 1:29a; bKetuvot 12a. All the practices of Galilee are more refined and better than those in Judea.
A similar statement regarding funeral practices is quoted from Rabbi Judah:
In Jerusalem they would say, “Do [good] before your bier,” and in Judea they would say. “Do [good] after your bier.” But in Jerusalem they would recite only the actual deeds of the deceased before his bier, while in Judea they would state things that applied to him, and things that did not apply to him.28Semahot 3:6 111—112.
In other words, in Jerusalem they would say that if a person wanted others to praise him at his funeral, he should perform good deeds before he died, for in Jerusalem they were particular to praise the dead person only regarding tilings he had actually done. In this as well, the Galileans acted as the people of Jerusalem: “Galileans say, ‘Do things before your bier,’ the men of Judea say, ‘Do things after your bier.’”29bShabbat 153a; see the commentary by Rashi, loc. cit.
It goes without saying that when the talmudic traditions speak of the practices of Jerusalem, they refer to the time prior to the destruction of the Temple. The adoption by the Galileans of those practices testifies not only to the level of Jewish cultural life in this region during the first century, but also to the strong ties between Galilee and Jerusalem, of which we learn from many sources. Those ties indeed expressed themselves in many spheres. Since the facts concerned have been stated in the scholarly literature,30See S. Klein, Eretz ha-Galil (“The Land of Galilee”; Jerusalem, 1967), pp. 169-176; S. Safrai, Ha-Aliyah la-Regel bi-Yemei ha Bayit ha-Sheni (“Pilgrimage in the Days of the Second Temple”; Tel Aviv, 1965), pp. 50-53. we shall restrict ourselves to a short listing of the sources, adding comments as required.
Talmudic tradition mentions only two instances in which someone replaced the High Priest for the Yom Kippur service because the latter had become ritually unclean. Rabbi Jose relates: “It once happened that Joseph ben Ilim of Sepphoris served as High Priest for a short time.”31tYoma 1:4; jYoma 1:38c; bYoma 12b and in the parallel 9b. This is also mentioned by Josephus,32Antiquities 17:165. See S. Lieberman in Tosefta Ki-Fsbutah: Moed, pp. 723-726. from whose statement we learn that the High Priest at the time was Mattathias ben Theophilus, who served during the years 5-4 B.C.E., at the end of the reign of Herod the Great. Josephus further relates that this Joseph ben Ilim (Ίώσηπος ὁ τοῦ Έλλήου) was a relative of the High Priest. Important for our discussion is the Galilean connection of the person who substituted in that important function.
The Mishnah further relates, regarding the leading of the goat for Azazel:33mYoma 6:3.
All are fit to lead it, but the High Priests would make a fixed [practice], and they would not let an Israelite lead it. Rabbi Jose said: “It once happened that Arsela [of Sepphoris] led it, and he was an Israelite.”34Thus in the Mishnah of the Jerusalem Talmud, MS Cambridge A and B, Naples printing, et al.
The High Priests, viewing this as an important part of the Yom Kippur service, made a fixed practice of reserving it for the priests. Previously, however, there was an occurrence in which an Israelite from Sepphoris was permitted to perform this work. There was also an occurrence in which a priest acted improperly in the distribution of the showbread. “It once happened that one priest from Sepphoris took his portion and the portion of his fellow.”35tSotah 13:8; jYoma 6:3c; bYoma 39a; bKiddushin 53a.
Various traditions from the Land of Israel in the Jerusalem Talmud and in Lamentations Rabbah36jTa’anit 4:69a; mLamentations Rabbah 2. teach of the special ties of three cities in Lower Galilee — Kavul, Sikhnin and Migdal Zevaya — which would contribute large quantities of gifts to the Temple. Similarly the people of Arav would “make votive offerings and free-will offerings.” Rabbi Hanina ben Dosa, who saw them, also wanted to bring a gift to the Temple.37See above and note 107. It should be emphasized that the talmudic tradition speaks of various men and women38See mYoma 3:4; tYoma 2:2-4. who brought gifts, but there is otherwise no mention of whole localities that offered gifts with great ceremoniousness.
To their eagerness in offering gifts we must add the many reports of pilgrimages and the presence of Galileans in Jerusalem. The reports are found in the talmudic tradition, in Josephus and in the New Testament.39See Safrai, loc. cit. (note 134). Moreover, there are instructive traditions about the miracles connected with the pilgrimages to Jerusalem of individuals and of a group of women from Sepphoris, not necessarily during the days of the festivals but as a fixed practice on every Sabbath eve, in which they spent the Sabbath in the Temple and then returned to their homes, beginning their work before others at the start of the new week.40jMa’aser Sheni 5:56a; Lamentations Rabbah 3:63a-b. However we judge the historicity of the miraculous element, such stories attest to the continuous ties of Galilee with Jerusalem, especially when added to the evidence of literary sources and archaeological inscriptions.41Regarding the inscriptions, see Safrai, loc. cit., p. 53.
The tannaitic tradition includes long passages about the sources of supply for the Temple.42bMenahot ch. 8, tMenahot ch. 9 Most of the places enumerated are, of course, in Judea, whether because of its geographical proximity or because of the fact that earlier the Jewish settlement was mainly in Judea. Nevertheless, the listing includes “Tekoa is the best for oil” and, in one tradition, “Gush Halav in Galilee was third to it.”43mMenahot ch. 8, and tMenahot 8:5. This is undoubtedly the Tekoa in Galilee and not the one in Judea, for it also was listed among the places in which olives were grown in Galilee regarding the matter of shemittah (the Sabbatical year: tShevi’it 7:15; bPesahim 23a). The Judean Tekoa, which borders the Judean Desert, was not known for its oil. The Babylonian Talmud (bMenahot 85b) understood from the statement of Rabbi Johanan that this was the Galilean Tekoa. The Jerusalem Talmud, on the other hand (Hagigah 3:79b), understood that this was the Judean Tekoa: see S. Lieberman, Tarbiz 2 (1931), 110. Also, when a Gaon was asked the reason for the establishment of the eight days of Hanukkah, he replied:
Because the oils come from the portion of Asher, as it is written, “May he dip his foot in oil” [Deut. 33:24], and he had a place which was called Tekoa, as they said, “Tekoa is the best for oil”…and from there to Jerusalem was a round-trip journey of eight days.44Teshuvat ha-Geonim (Leck), sec. 104. The responsum was printed in Otzar ha – Geonim on Shabbat, the section of responsa, p. 23; see addenda on p. 163. Several of the Rishonim cite this tradition in the name of the Jerusalem Talmud. This does not appear in our editions of the latter, and it seems that it appears chiefly in a midrash that is not extant. See G. Alon, Mehkarim, section 2, p. 24, n. 16.
Regarding the sources of the wine supply, the Mishnah states: “And from where would they bring the wine? Kerutim and Hatulim are the best for wine. Second to them is Beit Rimah and Beit Lavan on the mountain, and Kefar Signah in the valley” (Menahot 8:6). “Kefar Signah” is undoubtedly Sogane (Σωγαναί), which Josephus fortified. It may be assumed that this is identical with Sikhnin, which is called by this name in the later tannaitic sources, and which was the central settlement in the Sikhnin Valley in Lower Galilee. The phonetic difference between “Signah” and “Sikhnin” is not great, and Josephus’ description of the location of Sogane suits Sikhnin. Even the Mishnah places “Signah in the valley.”45Life 188. See also S Klein, Eretz ha-Galil (“The Land of Galilee”; Jerusalem, 19(7), pp. 39 ff. He was preceded by A. Schlatter, Die hebraischen Namen bei Josephus (photocopy ed., Darmstadt, 1970), pp. 82-83; see below.
The supply of the Temple’s needs of oil and wine was critically dependent upon the reliability of the workers’ and suppliers’ ritual cleanness. There are traditions regarding Galileans selling ritually clean foodstuffs for the needs of pilgrims going to Jerusalem. In the group of traditions about ties between cities in Galilee and Jerusalem, the Jerusalem Talmud quotes from Rabbi Hiyya bar Ba the statement that “there were eighty shops of sellers of ritually clean items in Kefar Imra.” Lamentations Rabbah quotes from Rabbi Huna that “there were three hundred shops of sellers of ritually clean items in Migdal Zevaya, and there were three hundred shops of curtain weavers in Kefar Nimrah.”46See note 139. It seems that the former version is to be preferred, for the weaving of the curtains was done within the precincts of the Temple and was entrusted to ritually clean maidens.47These things are not explicitly stated in a halakhic ruling, but they can almost certainly be learned from talmudic literature, with assistance being provided by the Christian tradition and the Apocalypse of Baruch. See mSheqalim 8:5 and the exposition of S. Lieberman in Hellenism in Jewish Palestine (New York, 1950), p. 167; S. Safrai, Ha-Aliyah la-Regel, p. 28, n. 94. The version of Lamentations Rabbah, however, furnishes the correct name of the place, which is Kefar Nimrah or Nimrin near Tiberias.
The reference is not to sellers of foodstuffs and similar items to those eating non-sanctified food in a state of ritual cleanness, but rather to sellers of ritually clean items to those making the pilgrimage to Jerusalem, as additions to the sacrifices such as wine and oil for the libations. These traditions were taught together with the traditions about the cedars on Har ha-Mishhah (i.e., the Mount of Olives), from which the fledglings were taken to nest and underneath which there were “four shops of pure things.” This entire topic concerns the bringing of sacrifices and gifts to the Temple.
Also in the Jerusalem Talmud, instead of “the weavers of curtains” we have “the weavers of palgas.” As palgas has no meaning, it should rather be read palnas, as scholars have suggested, which is φαιλόνηϛ.48See Klein, loc. cit., p. 52. It may reasonably be assumed that these were the weavers of garments as gifts for the apparel of the priests.
The general picture in the sources49tYoma 1:23; 1 Mac. 3:49, See Safrai, op. cit., p. 78, n. 96. is as follows: the traditions attest not only to close ties between Galilee and Jerusalem, but also to the preparation by Galileans, in a state of ritual cleanness, of garments and items required for the Temple sacrifices.50It would seem that this contradicts the statement of the Mishnah (Hagigah 3:4), which states that the people of Judea, both haverim (who maintained the ritual cleanness of the terumah) and amei ha-aretz, were regarded as reliable concerning the cleanness of the wine and the oil used in the sacrifices in the Temple all the days of the year, while the Galileans were not regarded as reliable. The two Talmuds offer a reason for the unreliability of the Galileans: because “a strip of the Cutheans separates,” and sacrifices were not brought through the Land of the Cutheans (Samaria). In another place (Ha-Aliyah la-Regel, pp. 44-46, and nn. on p. 25) I have shown that this is not in accordance with the Halakhah and the reality of the Temple period, in which sacrifices were brought from Galilee. Rather, those who prepared the wine and oil in Judea were more aware of the possibility that their wine and oil would go to the Temple, and therefore there were many people who were particular to maintain their cleanness, while the Galileans ordinarily were not aware of this, and therefore whoever was not a haver was not regarded as reliable for this matter. But there were people who prepared these items for the Temple as well, and brought them to Jerusalem through the Land of the Cutheans.
Strictness of Galilean Observance
The degree of the close ties with Jerusalem matches the picture that emerges from many tannaitic sources regarding the scrupulous observance of the commandments in Galilee. Most of the testimonies are from the Yavneh period, but several date from before the destruction of the Temple. “Observance” is not restricted to the commandments enumerated explicitly in the Torah; it also includes the observance of the commandments as they were transmitted, understood and formulated in the tradition of the Oral Torah, including the laws of ritual cleanness, which even the Oral Torah did not make incumbent upon all Israel but only upon those who assumed these laws and the practice of the setting aside of the ma’aserot (tithes). They were not observed in their entirety by many people who were termed amei ha-aretz, “the ignorant,” by the tradition.
Here as well we shall not list all the testimonies, especially not those which are almost certainly from the second generation of the Yavneh period, that is from the beginning of the second century until the time of the Bar Kokhba revolt. We shall mainly discuss the testimonies from the period of the Temple and from the first generation of the Yavneh period.
Chronologically the best testimonies are the questions, cited above, that Rabban Johanan ben Zakkai was asked when he resided in Arav. We do not know how many years before the destruction of the Temple Rabban Johanan ben Zakkai came from Arav to Jerusalem, but it may be assumed that he spent a considerable number of years in Jerusalem. At any rate he was already in Jerusalem during the time of Hanan ben Hanan (63 C.E.), according to the Pharisees.51See H. Graetz, vol. 2, n. 19, pp. 749-752. The time of his residence in Arav was approximately the fifties or perhaps even earlier. The two questions regarding Sabbath laws testify, in practice, to a scrupulous observance in Galilee of the Sabbath with all its stringencies, and even Rabban Johanan ben Zakkai could not say whether these two cases were actually prohibited.
The Midrash relates about Rabbi Hanina ben Dosa, who was from the same city and generation as Rabban Johanan ben Zakkai, that “some ass-drivers came from Arav to Sepphoris and stated that Rabbi Hanina ben Dosa had already begun the Sabbath in his town.”52Genesis Rabbah 10:84. This testifies not only to the Sabbath observance of Rabbi Hanina ben Dosa who would begin his Sabbath prayers before the beginning of the Sabbath, but also to the atmosphere of Sabbath observance in the two cities of Arav and Sepphoris.
A clearer testimony of general significance is the narrative about the fire or fires in Kefar Signah. The Mishnah teaches a disagreement between Rabbi Eliezer and the sages: Rabbi Eliezer holds that terumah may be given from the clean for the unclean, while the sages hold that this is prohibited (Terumot 2:1).53Rabbi Eliezer repeats his opinion in mHallah 2:8. Similarly, Rabbi Ilai cites in his name that they would give terumah from the clean for the unclean, even from wet produce (tTerumah 3:18). In the Tosefta (3:18), Rabbi Eliezer brings support for his opinion: “It once happened that a fire erupted in the threshing-floors of Kefar Signah,54Thus in MS Vienna; this was distorted in MS Erfurt. It refers to “threshing-floors” in the plural, and similarly in Melekhet Shelomo on mTerumah 2:1: In the threshingfloors of Kefar Signah. and they gave terumah from the clean for the unclean.” The threshing-floors in Kefar Signah were in a state of cleanness, and when the fire erupted both people who were particular regarding cleanness and others who were not particular came to extinguish the fire; it was no longer possible to set aside terumah in a state of cleanness from those threshing-floors, for they might have become unclean. In order to be sure of having ritually clean terumah, they turned to the guarded ritually clean produce and separated from it terumah also for these threshing-floors which had been saved from the fire. This presents us with the highest ideal of cleanness that the Pharisee sages could describe. The threshing-floors were kept in a state of cleanness, and only as a result of the fire which many people extinguished was there a fear of contact with amei ha-aretz who had not taken upon themselves the observance of the laws of cleanness. This is just like the situation presented by the Mishnah regarding the Temple vessels which were put on public display during the festivals in the Temple Courtyard.55See mHagigah 3:8.
The Tosefta also explains why the sages disagree with Rabbi Eliezer; they hold that the occurrence in Kefar Signah does not constitute a proof, because they “set aside terumah from them for them,” in other words they set aside for themselves terumah from the threshing-floors which had possibly become unclean. This disagreement about the facts of the case indicates that the event had taken place a number of years previously. Rabbi Eliezer ben Hyrcanus was born during the time of the Temple and died at the beginning of the second century. Thus the event goes back to the early Yavneh period, or possibly even earlier to when the Temple still stood.
A similar event is related in Tractate Kelim:
If an oven is heated from outside, or was heated not with his intent, or was heated in the house of the craftsman, it is unclean. It once happened that a fire took place in the ovens of Kefar Signah, and the event came to Yavneh, and Rabban Gamaliel declared them unclean. (mKelim 5:4, as tKelim 4:4)56MS Erfurt has in the Tosefta tanur (sing.), but MS Vienna has tanurim (pi.).
It seems that in Kefar Signah there was a workshop containing ovens that had not yet been heated, and therefore had not acquired uncleanness, but then they were heated unintentionally. There was a fear that the amei ha-aretz had touched them, the ovens thereby becoming unclean, and once again the question arose: were they prepared and therefore capable of acquiring uncleanness? This question was brought before Rabban Gamaliel in Yavneh. As we have already learned, there were people in Signah who observed the laws of ritual cleanness. Accordingly, they were particular that the ovens would not be prepared and capable of acquiring uncleanness until they had been handed over to their owners. It was only when the fire erupted that they were touched also by other people who did not observe the rules of cleanness.
Possibly the two occurrences took place during one large conflagration which reached both the threshing-floors and the workshop containing ovens, as has been assumed by one scholar.57F. Rosenthal, in Sefer Yovel le-David Tzvi Hoffmann (Berlin, 1914), p. 367. Threshing-floors, however, were made in the fields, while a workshop for ovens would be located within or close to the city. Thus they may indeed be two separate traditions, each of them reflecting the same attitude to matters of ritual cleanness in Kefar Signah.
Practices regarding cleanness in Galilee can be learnt, too, from a question that came before Rabbi Hananiah ben Teradyon who was asked whether the mikveh (ritual bath) in the heights of Beit Anath was clean.58tMiqwaot 6:2.
Rabbi Jose ben Halafta testifies that the people of Sepphoris took care in the gathering of vegetables from the field and in the treatment of legumes not to wet them with water so that they would not be capable of acquiring uncleanness.59tMakhshirin 2:5. He speaks of those practices “at first,” possibly referring merely to the time immediately before him during the last days of Yavneh, yet possibly referring to an earlier tradition.
The beginning of Tosefta Kelim60tKilayim 1:4; jKilayim l:24d. cites two traditions about legal rulings, one delivered by a student in the district of Ariah adjoining Tiberias, and the second delivered by a pupil who taught in the marketplaces (or the thickets) of Sepphoris,61See Y.N. Epstein, “Mi-Dikdukei Yerushalmi,” Tarbiz 5 (1934), 269-270. that is within the area of the irrigated fields of Sepphoris. These two questions deal with the laws of kilayim — the forbidden junction of plants or animals. As they seemed to be stringent rulings to the inhabitants of each place, they addressed queries to Yavneh. In the first case the sages in Yavneh agreed with the ruling of the pupil, but in the second they termed it a stringent ruling of Beit Shammai. At any rate, the growers of produce in those different localities in Galilee were particular regarding the details of the laws of kilayim.
In Tosefta Eruvin, Rabbi Judah relates:
It once happened in the house of Mammal and the house of Gurion in Ruma that they were distributing dried figs to the poor people who were there during a drought, and they were the poor of Shihin.62The Babylonian Talmud also includes the poor of Kefar Hananiah; this was written only as a slip of the tongue from other places in which Kefar Hananiah is mentioned together with Kefar Shihin (bShabbat 120b; bBava Metzia 74a), for Kefar Hananiah is much farther than the distance of two “Sabbath bounds” from Rumah, and it was not possible to go from Kefar Hananiah to Rumah on the Sabbath: see S. Lieberman, Tosefta Ki-Fshutah: Moed, p. 361. They would go out and make an eruv [i.e., a Sabbath station] with their feet, and they would enter and eat when night fell.63tEruvin 3 (4):17; jEruvin 4:22a; bEruvin 50b.
The geographical location may be clarified. Ruma is ῥοῦμα, which is mentioned by Josephus;64War, 3:233. it was in the southwest of the Beit Netofah Valley. Two wealthy families lived there, Mammal and Gurion, and they distributed dried figs on the Sabbath during two drought years. The poor of Shihin,65Regarding the identification of Shihin, see Lieberman, loc. cit., pp. 360-361, following those who preceded him; see also the critical comments by Ze’ev Safrai, Pirqei Galil, pp. 69-71. which was located nearby, not more than twice the distance of the Sabbath bounds (4,000 amot, about 2 kilometers) from Ruma, would go forth from their houses on the Sabbath eve and establish their “home,” as it were, in the middle of the way, so that they would be permitted to walk on the Sabbath the distance of the Sabbath bounds (2,000 amot) in either direction from this point, both to Ruma and to Shihin. We learn from this tradition about the observance of the giving of charity by these two families, but also about the care taken by the poor of the village of Shihin to observe scrupulously the laws of the Sabbath bounds, pursuant with the rulings of the sages.
It is possible that Rabbi Judah relates an event from the previous generation of the Yavneh period, but it is more likely to be a tradition from the time of the Temple, for we hear about the wealthy Gurion family from the end of the Temple period.66See S. Klein, Eretz ha-Galil, p. 32. Another tradition regarding Rabbi Judah67tAhilot 16:13; jPesahim 1:26c; bPesahim 9a; bAvodah Zarah 42a. is close to this one:
It once happened that the maidservant of an oppressor in Damin68Thus in the version of MS Vienna and in the Rishonim, and not Rimon, as in our text. It is in the bounds of Tiberias; see the narrative also in tMiqwaot 6:2. threw her prematurely-born child into a pit, and a priest came and looked to see what she had thrown down, and the case came before the sages, and they declared him clean.
Here as well, the question arose due to scrupulous observance of the laws of cleanness. This, however, is apparently a tradition from the period after the destruction of the Temple when there were many “oppressors,” those who possessed the lands of Jews who had lost them in the war of the destruction.69See Sifrei Deuteronomy 327:425-426.
The Tosefta, Talmuds and Midrash70tShabbat 13 (14):9; jShabbat l6:15d; bYoma 8:5b; jNedarim 4:38d; bShabbat 121a; Deuteronomy Rabbah, Lieberman ed., p. 20. relate how the Sabbath was observed in Shihin beyond the strict requirements of the law. According to the Halakhah: “If a non-Jew comes to extinguish [a fire on the Sabbath], they do not tell him to extinguish and [they do not tell him] not to extinguish.” Jews are prohibited to tell the gentile to extinguish, but not obliged to tell him not to extinguish, and allowed to let him extinguish the fire. The baraita adds:
It once happened that a fire erupted in the courtyard of Joseph ben Simai of Shihin, and the [gentile] people of the fort of Sepphoris came to extinguish it, but he did not allow them. A cloud descended and extinguished. The sages said: “It was not necessary.” Nevertheless, when the Sabbath went out, he sent a sela to each one of them, and to the commander among them he sent fifty dinarim.
The Babylonian Talmud adds “because he was the administrator of the king.” The latter can be assumed to have been Agrippa II, who died in the year 92, when all of his property passed over to the government. It is thus almost certain that the tradition predates 92 and that Joseph ben Simai was the same “administrator of the king,” mentioned above, who asked legal questions of Rabbi Eliezer.
From the combination of the traditions regarding the visits by Rabban Gamaliel of Yavneh and by his two sons Judah and Hillel to various cities in Galilee, we receive a broad picture of commandments being observed more scrupulously and strictly there than in Judea and in the academy of the sages in Yavneh.71Judah and Hillel were the sons of Rabban Gamaliel of Yavneh. See above and note 91. The first of the following five traditions is about Rabban Gamaliel, the other four are about his sons:
And it once happened that Rabban Gamaliel was sitting on a bench72A bench upon which merchandise is sold. of the non-Jews on the Sabbath in Acre. They said to him, that they were not accustomed to sit on a bench of the non-Jews on the Sabbath. And he did not want to say, “You are permitted,” rather he stood and went away.73tMoed Katan 2:15; jPesahim 4:30d; bPesahim 51a.
It once happened that Judah and Hillel, the sons of Rabban Gamaliel, went in lu bathe in Kavul. They said tu them that they were nut accustomed to have two brothers go in together to bathe. They did not want to say to them, “You are permitted,” rather they went in and bathed one after the other.74See note 177.
Once again, it happened that Judah and Hillel, the sons of Rabban Gamaliel, were going forth in gilt slippers on the Sabbath in Biri. They said to them that they were not accustomed to go forth in gilt slippers on the Sabbath. They did not want to tell them, “You are permitted,” rather they sent them by the hand of their servants.75See note 177.
They lead wine and oil through pipes before grooms and brides, and this is not considered to be the ways of the Amorite. It once happened that Judah and Hillel, the sons of Rabban Gamaliel, went in [to Rabbi Zakkai] in Kavul, and the people of the town drew wine and oil in pipes before them.76tShabbat 7(8):17; Semahot 8:4, 150. The addition appears only in Semahot. See Maimon ed. Sefer Yihusei Tannaim wa-Amoraim (Jerusalem, 1963), p. 153 and n. 172a.
It once happened that Judah and his brother Hillel, the sons of Rabban Gamaliel, were walking along in the district of Oni.77This is Beit Anat. See the article mentioned in note 91 above. They found one man whose tomb had opened within his field. Thy said to him, “Collect each bone, and everything is clean.”78tAhilot 16:13
The first three of these five narratives appear in the Tosefta (and in the parallels) as one unit; their purpose is to relate to us that people in different cities in Galilee — Acre, Kavul and Beri — were stringent in matters in which the sages of Yavneh were lenient.79Regarding sitting on benches on the Sabbath, it was slaLed explicitly (tMoed Katan 2:14) that they were accustomed to be stringent until Rabbi Akiva came and taught that it was permitted. Rabban Gamaliel and his sons did not, however, wish to tell them that they were being more stringent than necessary. Thus the three narratives jointly testify to the scrupulous observance of the laws pertaining to the Sabbath and modesty in various places in Galilee. The latter two narratives about Rabban Gamaliel’s sons testify that Galileans observed the commandments concerned in accordance with the rulings of the sages, for the Mishnah and the Tosefta teach that the practices in question are permitted.
All five narratives date from the period around the end of the first century during which Rabban Gamaliel was active. It is reasonable to assume, however, that they describe strict practices of the Galileans that had established themselves earlier, before the destruction of the Temple.
From this or another journey by Rabban Gamaliel to Galilee come three more narratives connected with the route of his trip from Acre via Keziv to the Ladder of Tyre promontory. Two are connected with his companion Rabbi Ilai, while one has been transmitted by Rabbi Judah, Rabbi Ilai’s son. The first two are to be found in Tosefta Pesahim and parallels,80tPesahim 2(1):15; jAvodah Zarah 1:40a; bEruvin 64b. the third in Tosefta Terumot.81tTerumot 2:13. One concerns gluskin, a fine type of bread; in the second a person wants to be released from his vow; the third tells of Segavyon, the head of the synagogue, who purchased a vineyard from a non-Jew and asked what action was to be taken regarding the produce.
We shall end our discussion of this topic by citing the well-known mishnaic statement (mPesahim 4:1) that “[in] a place in which they were accustomed to do work on the Eve of Passover until midday, they may do; [in] a place in which they were accustomed not to do, they may not do.” The Mishnah adds (ibid., 4:5): “And the sages say: ‘In Judea they would do work on the Eve of Passover until midday, and in Galilee they would not do so at all.’” In the Babylonian Talmud (Pesahim 55a), however, Rabbi Johanan explains that those two statements express the opposed views of Rabbi Meir and Rabbi Judah respectively. Rabbi Judah is undoubtedly referring to the time of the Second Temple, for the Mishnah immediately notes that Beit Hillel and Beit Shammai disagreed over the details: In Galilee, is work already prohibited from the preceding night, like every festival that begins at night, or is it prohibited only from sunrise on? The disagreements between Beit Shammai and Beit Hillel belong to the Temple period. Also the language (“they would do work”) indicates a tradition about practices in Galilee and Judea during the past.
We have examined testimonies anchored in the tannaitic tradition about the practices of individuals, of cities and of Galilee as a whole during the Second Temple period. They provide ample evidence both that Galilee had close ties with Jerusalem, including the ritual needs of the Temple, and that its religious and social life was rooted in a tradition of the Oral Torah which was indeed superior to the tradition of Judea.
Galilean Pietism and Jesus of Nazareth
Now we shall return to an issue which we have clarified elsewhere,82See my articles cited in notes 17 and 18 above. that of the pietist movement or trend known as hasidim. We found that Jesus was extremely close to this trend, or to the mood reflected in the intellectual foundations of the pietist movement.
We showed in those previous studies that regarding all the pietists and their teachers from the Second Temple period, whatever evidence we possess of their origin and activity concerns Galilee. Such are Rabbi Hanina ben Dosa from Arav; Abba Hilkiah, the grandson of Honi ha-Me’aggel, who is the pietist from Kefar Imi, also known as Kefar Yama (Yavniel in Lower Galilee); and the pietist priest from Ramat Beit Anat. To this list we may add Jesus of Nazareth, whose teachings and miraculous acts exemplify several of the characteristic lines that we have found in the teachings and acts of the pietists.’Their pietism is not to be viewed as springing from a world empty of Torah, despite the im pression suggested at times by the arguments of their opponents, but rather from within a creative Jewish culture, innovative in both thought and conduct, as in the personalities of Rabbi Hanina ben Dosa, Abba Hilkiah and Jesus of Nazareth.
This same picture emerges from the books of the New Testament, both from the Synoptic Gospels and the Gospel of John. It is common knowledge that scholars are not always unanimous about the location of individual events in which Jesus was involved. The question, of course, is not simply whether the Gospels place an event within the context of Jesus’ stay in Jerusalem or of his wanderings in the cities of Galilee and around the shores of the Sea of Galilee, but rather where the episode was placed in the earlier levels of the tradition.
It can be established with certainty, however, regarding several traditions that the geographical context of the event is Galilee, whether because the rule of Herod Antipas is in the background of the narrative (for he did not rule in Judea), or because the event is connected with specific places in Galilee: the Sea of Galilee, Kanah, Kefar Nahum (Capernaum), Korazim (Chorazin), Bethsaida and similar places, or places in which the Sea of Galilee is in the background. Those traditions with a clear Galilean background, however, accord with the tannaitic evidence already presented in testifying that Jewish life in Galilee was conducted in accordance with the formulation of Judaism during the Second Temple under the influence of and pursuant to the teachings of the Pharisaic sages. This picture is common to all the Gospels, but is especially clear in the narrative of Luke, which contains more of the everyday reality than do the others.
Synagogues in Galilee
The most prominent fact from this daily life is the existence of synagogues in the cities of Galilee. Tannaitic literature mainly emphasizes the reading of the Torah and study in the synagogue.83See tMegillah 2(3):18 and parallels. Matters connected with the synagogue are not mentioned in the first chapters of Tractate Berakhot, which deal with matters relating to prayer, but rather in the last two chapters of Tractate Megillah, which deal with the reading of the Torah. See S. Safrai, “Gathering in the Synagogues on Festivals, Sabbaths and Weekdays in Ancient Synagogues in Israel,” Biblical Archaeology Review, International Series 499 (1988), pp. 7-15. The context in which synagogue matters are mentioned is the laws not of prayer but of the reading of the Torah. The same appears clearly in all four Gospels: Jesus comes several times to a synagogue, yet his visit is always connected with the reading of the Torah and Prophets and with public teaching.84Mt. 4:23 and 9:35; Mk. 1:21,1:39 and 6:1; Lk. 4:15, 4:16, 4:31, 6:6 and 13:10; Jn. 6:59. Synagogues are to be found in Nazareth, Capernaum and in all the cities of Galilee.85Mk. 1:21 and 6:1; Lk. 4:21; Jn. 6:59. See the references in the preceding note.
The synagogue was one of the great innovations of Second Temple Judaism. It was fashioned totally in accordance with the spirit and content of the tradition of the Oral Torah and the Pharisaic sages. Indeed, the oldest testimony regarding the existence of synagogues in every settlement is the narratives about Jesus’ actions in Galilee. The practice of reading in the Torah, followed by the reading in the Prophets, is mentioned for the first time in the narrative about Jesus’ visit to the synagogue in Nazareth.86Lk. 4:16-17.
A reading of the Gospels reveals that the synagogues function normally, and that they are filled with men and women coming to serve the lord Whereas the Gospels address severe charges against the practices and leadership of the Temple, no criticism of the synagogues or of the synagogue leadership is to be found in them. This is exactly the reality of tannaitic literature. The tradition contains harsh criticism directed against the High Priests and their underlings, the amarkalim, the gizbarim and the other officials, but no criticism of the synagogue leadership or procedures.
Galilean Observance of Halakhah
One of the major spheres of religious activity during the Second Temple period was that of ritual cleanness or uncleanness. Many laws on this subject were innovations of the Pharisees and were not practiced by the Sadducees or the Essenes. One of the outstanding laws in this sphere is netilat yadayim, the washing of hands; not only was it not practiced by the Sadducees and the Essenes, it was even unknown to the author of the Book of Judith.87The earliest testimony is found in the Letter of Aristeas, 304-306. Yehudit goes forth and immerses. See ibid., 14:11—15. In the Halakhah of the Oral Torah it is discussed extensively; however, we also find an instance of a person who “made light of” it.88mEduyot 5:6.
In the New Testament, the washing of hands serves as the occasion for one of Jesus’ famous sayings, that it is not what goes into the body of a man that makes unclean, but rather what comes forth from it.89Mk. 7:15-20; Mt. 15:17-20. For the purposes of our discussion we shall merely indicate that we learn from Jesus’ dispute regarding the washing of hands (which apparently took place in Galilee, for he argues with Pharisees and “Scribes who came from Jerusalem”90Mk. 7:1; cf. Mt. 9:1; Lk. 11:37.) that “the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat without the washing of hands, holding to the tradition of the Elders.” Mark’s statements about the practices of all Israel in matters of ritual cleanness appear to be exaggerated.91Mk. 7:20. At any rate, the picture that emerges from all three Synoptic Gospels is that the washing of hands was a widespread practice in Galilee just as in Judea.
Important testimony regarding the observance in Galilee of the practices of ritual cleanness is provided by the narrative in John 2 about the miracle of the jars of wine. Verse 6 states that there were six stone water jars in the place where a wedding was held in Cana, in accordance with the practices of ritual cleanness of the Jews. Indeed, according to the law taught in many places in tannaitic and amoraitic literature, stone vessels do not acquire ritual uncleanness. This law is not stated explicitly in the Torah, but is understood in the tannaitic tradition and serves as the basis for many laws.92mBetzah 2:3; mAhilot 5:5; et al. At the wedding they could prepare stone jugs for the water, with no fear about their being touched by amei ha-aretz and by all the many people coming to the wedding.
The Jewish practice of naming a newborn boy at the circumcision ceremony, which is in force to this day, is mentioned only in later Jewish sources. We learn from Luke’s Gospel, however, that this practice was already observed in Judea when John the Baptist and Jesus were named.93Lk. 1:59 and 2:21.
It should be noted that in most of the narratives of Jesus’ acts of healing when the act was done on the Sabbath, it is stated that the Pharisees or the head of the synagogue opposed him for breaking the Sabbath.94Mt. 12:1; Lk. 14:2-6 and 13:11-16; Jn. 7:23. Yet none of the cases mentioned are instances of the desecration of the Sabbath according to the Halakhah of talmudic literature. It is possible that the Galileans inclined to strictness regarding the Sabbath, just as we have seen them to have been strict regarding other laws. At any rate, we receive a picture of scrupulous Sabbath observance in various places in Galilee.95A general survey is provided by Y.N. Epstein, Mevo’ot le-Sifrut ha-Tanna’im (“Introductions to the Literature of the Tannaim”; Jerusalem, 1957), pp. 280-281; S. Safrai, Religion in Everyday Life in the Jewish People in the First Century (Assen, 1976), pp. 804-807. The fact that Friday is called “the day of preparation” (τὴν παρασκευήν) in the Gospels96Mt. 27:62; Mk. 15:42; Lk. 23:54; Jn. 19:31. The name is connected to the narrative of the crucifixion, and it is possible that the appellation existed only in Jerusalem. also testifies to the standing of the Sabbath in terms of the preparations made on its eve.97The name is also to be found in Josephus, Antiquities 16:163.
The nativity story in Luke adds that the circumcision took place on the eighth day, as was indeed the custom, and that the days of cleanness were completed, and mentions the redemption of the male child (1:21-22). Only Luke (2:41-48) preserves the tradition that Jesus disappeared at the end of a pilgrimage to Jerusalem for the Festival of Passover; his parents found him among those studying Torah in the Temple, listening to their teaching and asking questions that amazed them. As we saw above, he could have studied Torah at his leisure in his city, Nazareth, or nearby.
Pharisees in Galilee
We learn from the narratives in the Gospels, especially from Luke, that Pharisees were also present in Galilee. It is stressed, however, that the Pharisees were native to the region, while the Scribes came from Jerusalem. Regarding the dispute about the washing of hands, Matthew 15:1 states that “the Scribes and the Pharisees who came from Jerusalem” came to him. In Mark 7:1, however, it is stated that the Pharisees and some Scribes who had come from Jerusalem came to him. In Luke 11:37-38 a Pharisee invites Jesus to dine with him, and during the meal he is surprised because Jesus does not wash his hands. Similarly it is stated in Mark 3:22 that the Scribes who came from Jerusalem said that Jesus was driving out demons by the power of Baal-Zebub, but in Matthew 12:24 mention is made merely of “Pharisees.” It is stated in Luke 5:17 that when Jesus taught Torah, those sitting before him were Pharisees and teachers of the Torah who came from all the villages of Galilee, from Judea and from Jerusalem; these details are lacking in the parallels (Mt. 9:1-8; Mk. 2:1-12). In the sequel, it is stated in all three of the parallel passages that the Scribes and the Pharisees complained when Jesus and his disciples sat down to a meal with tax collectors and sinners;98Lk. 5:27-32; Mk. 2:13-17; Mt. 9:9-13. there is no suggestion that they came from Jerusalem, rather the impression is that they were native to Galilee.
Similarly in the narrative about the parched ears on the Sabbath, it is stated that the Pharisees, or some of them, asked why the disciples of Jesus were doing something that was not permitted. Here as well, there is no suggestion in the three parallel texts that these Pharisees were not native to the region.99Lk. 6:1 5; Mt. 12:1-8;, Mk. 2:23 28. However, in his book Jesus in Selbstzeugnissen und Bilddokumenten (Reinbek bei Hamburg, 1968), p. 44, David Flusser argues that these Pharisees followed a stricter Halakhah on this point than the Galilean practice of the disciples of Jesus.
Luke 7:35-50 relates the episode of the woman who wept at Jesus’ feet and anointed his feet with oil. This occurrence has parallels in the other Gospels;100Mk. 14:3-9; Mt. 26:6-13; Jn. 12:1-8. in Luke, however, it is stated that he was in the house of a Pharisee who had invited him to a meal.101In the parallels, the entire narrative is inserted in a different context. Luke 14:1-24 again tells of Jesus going to a meal in the home of a leading Pharisee: he turns to “the masters of Torah and the Pharisees.” Finally, it is related in Luke 13:31 that the Pharisees came to Jesus and warned him that Herod wanted to kill him.
We have not exhausted all the testimonies regarding the Pharisees in Galilee, but it is clear that we can learn about their presence there from the traditions in the New Testament. Emissaries also come to Galilee from Jerusalem, just as in many testimonies regarding the sages, mainly in the Yavneh generation, but Pharisees and masters of the Torah also reside in Galilee.
In John 7 there are denigratory expressions regarding Galilee. The question of verse 41, “Surely the Messiah does not come from Galilee?”, is not an actual denigration of Galilee, but just an inference from the tradition that “the Messiah will come from the seed of David and from Bethlehem, where David was” (verse 42). At the end of the chapter, however, the Pharisees say to Nicodemus: “Are you also from Galilee? Search [i.e., expound the Scriptures] and see that no prophet arises from Galilee.”102In contrast with this statement, Rabbi Eliezer emphasizes in bSukkah 27b that there is no tribe in Israel that has not produced a judge; in Seder Olam Rabbah 21 (Katner ed., 46a), that you have no city in the Land of Israel in which there were no prophets. This is indeed a denigratory remark about Galilee, but no more so than the statements we have found in talmudic literature making light of Galilee and other places, but which could not be taken seriously.
Josephus on Galilee
Josephus was appointed to head the army in Galilee, where he remained until it fell. His autobiographical book deals mainly with the course of historical events in Galilee, but also contains some information about the cultural and social life in various cities, and in Galilee as a whole. There is no doubt that the picture given in all those writings is one in which Galileans follow a Jewish religious life and observe the commandments according to their interpretation and formulation in the Oral Torah.
It should come as no surprise to find in Tiberias a large synagogue in which people gathered on the Sabbath, also to discuss current issues.103Life 54. bShabbat 150a states: “Rabbi Johanan said: ‘It is permitted to supervise matters of life and death and matters of communal urgency on the Sabbath, and it is permitted to go to synagogues to deal with communal affairs on the Sabbath.’” Chapter 12 of Josephus’ Life, moreover, contains a specific detail testifying to the lifestyle found also in the Jerusalem Talmud. He tells of a stormy assembly that was stopped “with the arrival of the sixth hour, in which it is our custom to eat the morning meal on the Sabbath.” While the people did not eat in the morning before the time of prayer, it was prohibited to fast “until the sixth hour” on the Sabbath, as the Amora Rabbi Jose bar Haninah teaches.104jTa’anit 3:67a; jNedarim 8:40d.
Sabbath observance exceeding the demands of the talmudic Halakhah is mentioned a number of times during the course of the war in Galilee. Josephus relates in chapter 32 of his Life that he did not want to leave his soldiers in Migdal on the Sabbath, so that they would not constitute a burden upon the residents of the city. Once he has dismissed them on Sabbath eve, he can no longer assemble them, because the weekday has already passed, and on the following Sabbath day they cannot bear arms, because “our laws” prohibit this even in a time of distress. In another place he relates that Johanan persuaded Titus to stop the fighting on the Sabbath, because the Jews not merely could not go forth to fight on the Sabbath, but were forbidden even to conduct peace negotiations on the Sabbath.105War, 4:87-102. M.D. Herr, in his article “Le-Va’ayat Hilkhot Milhamah ba-Shabbat bi-Yemei Bayit Sheni u-vi-Tekufat ha-Mishnah we-ha-Talmud” (“Regarding the Problem of the Laws of War on the Sabbath in the Days of the Second Temple and in the Period of the Mishnah and the Talmud”), Tarbiz 30 (1961), 255-256, holds that this statement by Johanan was only a ploy in order to escape, and that it was not an actual halakhic ruling. It is true that in the period under discussion the ruling had already been issued that it is permitted to engage in a defensive war on the Sabbath, and that a war which has been begun three days prior to the Sabbath is to be continued on the Sabbath; and wars were indeed waged on the Sabbath. Johanan as well fought on the Sabbath, and Josephus himself also fought on the Sabbath. Thus there is no justification for saying that it was not an actual halakhic ruling; some were lenient in the matter, while others were stringent. Johanan, however, indeed said this to Titus as a ploy in order to escape, as he did in fact do, but there was a basis for his statement. See the statements by Y.N. Epstein and A.D. Melamed, which are cited by Herr, p. 256 and n. 62.
In chapter 12 of the Life, Josephus relates that he was about to destroy the palace of the tetrarch Herod in Tiberias because of the presence of depictions of animals, but Joshua ben Sapphias, who headed the group of sailors, acted before him.106Josephus, of course, accuses them of a desire to rob. He adds that the delegates who were sent with him from Jerusalem collected great riches from the tithes that were given them. There were ma’aserot that the amei ha-aretz did not set aside; what Josephus states thus accords with what we have found in tannaitic literature, that the tithes (ma’aserot) were given to the priests and not to the Levites as is stated in the Torah.107See also Josephus’ comments at the beginning of ch. 16, ibid. Regarding the law and practice of giving ma’aser to the priests, see mYevamot 6:1-2; bKetuvot 26a; bBava Batra 6lb; bHullin 131b; tPeah 4:5, et al. In section 56 Josephus describes the proclamation of a fast day and the assembly in the synagogue, matching the description of such a proclamation in the later books of the Scriptures108Joel 1:14; Is. 58:3. and in Mishnah Ta’anit 2.
Josephus’ Life and Jewish War admittedly contain only meagre material about the daily religious life in Galilee. Nevertheless, it certainly corresponds to the Halakhah and practice that we have found in the Oral Torah and in the religious and cultural life of the Jews in the first century.
An anonymous teaching in Avot de-Rabbi Nathan (27:43a) relates:
Because at first they would say, “Breadstuff in Judea, straw in Galilee, and chaff in Transjordan,” they later said, “There is no grain in Judea, but rather stubble; and there is no straw in Galilee, but rather chaff, and neither one nor the other in Transjordan.”
This baraita intends to teach us that Judea is better than Galilee and Galilee is better than Transjordan, and that even when a decline occurred (the time of this decline is not stated), Judea was still on a higher level than Galilee. As used in the literature of the time, the term “Judea” sometimes includes Jerusalem and sometimes means the land of Judea outside Jerusalem. Only in the former sense of “Judea” can the teaching of the baraita reflect historical and cultural reality. The many facts cited in this article show that, apart from Jerusalem, Galilee was in all respects equal to or excelled all other areas of the Land of Israel where Jews dwelled.
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