Raban Gamliel Ii - -

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Raban Gamliel II

GAMALIEL II OF YAVNEH (c.45-c.115 CE) Palestinian rabbi,

head of the Yavneh academy, and president (nasi or

"patriarch") of the Sanhedrin located there. In

contradistinction to Gamaliel I, his grandfather, he was

usually known by the honorific title of Rabban Gamaliel of

Yavneh. Assuming office in succession to Johanan ben Zakkai

(q.v.) around 80 CE, Gamaliel consolidated the work of

religious and national reconstruction which Johanan had

undertaken a decade earlier after the Romans laid waste the

Temple. His principal aim and major achievement was to make

Yavneh not only a focus of Jewish scholarship, but a great

fortress of Jewish leadership as well - one to which the

nation could look for guidance and inspiration now that the

rallying point of the Temple had vanished.

This ambitious program involved the setting of new standards

of conduct for admission to the academy, ending the old

strife between the schools of Hillel (q.v.) and Shammai (q.

v.), establishing a coherent policy toward the outside

world, and centralizing Jewish authority in the sages (with

Gamaliel himself at their head). It was this very insistence

on unquestioned authority, however, that brought Rabban

Gamaliel into conflict with other leading scholars, notably

his own brother-in-law Eliezer ben Hycanus (q.v.) and Joshua

ben Hananiah. As a result of the culminating humiliation

suffered by Joshua, over the date on which he calculated

that the Day of Atonement would fall, Gamaliel was deposed

and temporarily replaced by Eleazar ben Azariah (c.90 CE).

His true nature soon became evident when a reconciliation

brought the ex-patriarch and his offended colleague together

once again; the sages promptly restored him to office,

nominating Eleazar as vice-president of the Sanhedrin.

Though somewhat high-handed and domineering in public life,

Gamaliel was a modest, saintly and kind-hearted individual

whose consideration for others extended not only to pupils

and the Jewish community at large but also to well-

intentioned gentiles and his own faithful, pious slave,

Tabi. While under suspension, he continued to discharge his

ordinary duties with a good grace, believing that every step

had been taken "not for his own honor, nor for that of his

house, but for the honor of God alone, so that factions

might not grow apace in Israel." At his bidding, therefore,

a 19th benediction was added to the Amidah prayer, designed

to exclude Judeo-Christians and other heretical elements

from synagogue worship. At the same time, righteous

proselytes were mentioned favorably in a separate Amidah

blessing; and the delegation of leading sages, headed by

Rabban Gamaliel, which journeyed to Rome (c.95 CE)

apparently aimed to avert a decree outlawing conversion to

Judaism, after the Emperor Domitian's own cousin, Flavius

Clemens, had embraced the Jewish faith.

One of the foremost teachers of his generation, renowned for

his authoritative judgment and for his broad cultural

interests, Gamaliel attained vast prestige as the official

spokesman and representative of his people. He was

responsible for many enactments that had far-reaching impact

on Jewish life: determining the Biblical canon; perpetuating

remembrance of the Temple in various laws and customs;

reformulating the Passover Seder ritual; giving a set form

to the Amidah prayer, the recitation of which became a daily

obligation; and, through his personal example, doing away

with elaborate burial rites so as to avoid social

distinctions. Above all, he promoted a unification of Jewish

legal, theological and ethical traditions that served as the

basis for his grandson Judah Ha- Nasi's (q.v.) later

achievement in the Mishnah. A.Y. Bitterman, Rabban Gamaliel

of Yavneh: His Teachings and Role in the Development of

Talmudic Law, 1974. S. Kanter, Rabban Gamaliel II; The Legal

Tradition, 1980.

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