Gamaliel Ii Of Yavneh (c.45-c.115 Ce)

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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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