Adolphe Danziger.

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of adultery against them. It brought the woman's
reputation into doubt and warranted her husband
to divorce her without compensation. 36

The manner in which the woman's claim was put
forward was evidently aimed to compromise the
master, who was included with his disciples in the
term "one of you." Mair rose up and calmly gave
her a legal bill of divorce. All his disciples followed
the master's example, and the deceit of the com-
plainant was made manifest. Mair's character re-
mained untouched by evil tongues.

The hostility against him, however, found a
more dastardly means of attack on his honor. It



202 JEWISH FORERUNNERS OF CHRISTIANITY

resembles closely the plot told in Cymbelinc, for
which, indeed, it may have furnished the hint.
One day the school disputed and the debate was
whether man was naturally more moral than woman
or not. The champions of female morality declared
that their master's wife was the superior morally of
any man living. An insolent student maintained
that any woman was ready to yield if approached
on her weak side.

"Dost thou speak of Beruriah?' asked Mair
quickly.

"Even of thy Beruriah," answered the student
with insolence.

"Try thy skill," said Mair indignantly, and he
left the room in hot wrath."

The audacious libertine caught at the chance
rashly given him by Mair's word. He went straight
to the house where Beruriah was engaged in her
daily tasks among her maids and female pupils
whom she instructed in the law. She knew the
visitor as a member of her husband's college; she
greeted him kindly and asked the purpose of his
call.

"I have a message to thee from thy husband, my
master," he said.

"Speak it," said Beruriah.

"Nay, learned lady, it is for thy private ear alone;
so, pray, send out thy maids."

With all her knowledge Beruriah forgot the warn-
ing of the law and sent out the maidens. The
visitor then told her, saying, "Thy husband hath
given thee to me."



RABBI MAIR 203

The indignant wife bade him begone and went to
call for help, but the mocking libertine restrained
her.

"It is too late now to save thy character," he
said. "Thou and I are alone in this room. Thy
name as a faithful wife is ruined. Be mine and I
will take thee away from this place."

Beruriah again spurned his offer and the would-be
seducer left. He revenged himself by boasting of
his success which seemed proved by the private in-
terview so treacherously obtained.

Both husband and wife felt acutely the weight of
the disgrace which had fallen on them. Beruriah,
like the Roman Lucretia, took her own life in de-
spair. Rabbi Mair closed his school and left his
native land forever.

He travelled through many lands seeking peace
or, at least, distraction of thought for his harassed
soul. Babylonia, Cappadocia, the yEgean coast were
visited in succession by the sad-hearted traveller. 39

"Look not to the cask, but to what is in it; for
there be new casks which hold rare old wine, and
others that are old and yet have not even new wine
within," was his bitter remark as he left his native
land. 3 '

He finally settled in Sardes in Asia Minor, where
he resumed his profession as a teacher. Large
crowds came to his lectures. 40 Gradually he re-
covered his peace of mind, and the trials he had
suffered softened his original harshness. His later
sayings are full of mild and humble wisdom, very
different from the pride of earlier days.



204 JEWISH FORERUNNERS OF CHRISTIANITY

"Who is truly rich, but he who is content with
his fortune." 41

"Repentance is great, for when one man repents
all human nature is forgiven." 42

"Humble thyself before every man." 43

This last precept he urged on his disciples ear-
nestly and acted on it in his own later practice.

"Man comes into the world with closed hands, as
though claiming ownership of everything, but he
leaves with hands open and limp, as though to show
he takes naught with him. Yet if man has sought
the best couse in life, his reward awaits him beyond
the grave. There he finds the table set for the
happy feast that lasts through eternity." 44

In Mair's school at Sardes one of his most devoted
auditors was a married woman who missed no lecture.
On one occasion a long discourse made her late in
preparing the dinner for her husband.

The latter threatened to divorce her on this ground,
which was recognized as a valid one by rabbinical
law, unless she would spit at the Rabbi who had
been responsible for her neglect of home. The
story was carried to his ears, and when the woman
next came to the school he insisted on her carrying
out the husband's vindictive wish. He knew too
well the meaning of a family disruption to let others
incur it for the sake of his own dignity. 46

Mair was not the only distinguished master in
Israel who had to suffer in repute at the hands of
his own people during these disastrous times for the
Jews. His first teacher, Elisha ben Abuiah, with
whom Mair kept a close intimacy during life, was a



RABBI MAIR 205

still more conspicuous mark for jealousy. He was
a man of distinction in the schools. According to
the Talmud, Elisha ben Abuiah was taken into the
Academy of Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakkai at a very
early age and enrolled as one of the great master's
disciples. 46 Under the guidance of Ben Zakkai he
soon developed into a great scholar. He devoted
himself to the study of Greek and Latin, in both of
which he became proficient. He specially liked the
Greek language and he always carried a copy of
Homer with him. 47 He loved Greek songs and sang
them in the Academy, much to the annoyance of the
zealots. 48 He was wont to compare the literature
of his people with that of the Greeks. This soon
brought him to the consideration of other subjects.
He contrasted the artistic culture of Greece with the
hard and dull life and works of his own people. He
compared the hopeless political position of Palestine
with the ever-growing power and splendor of Rome.
He lost sympathy with the Hebrew students who
crowded dingy schoolrooms to discuss petty points
of law. His heart longed for the glorious cities of
Greece ; he desired to sit at the feet of the philoso-
phers in its academies and to walk in the colonnades
of its museums.

Though the Rabbis of the Nationalist party could
condone, if they did not share, Elisha\s enthusiasm
for Grecian language and culture, it exposed his life
to serious danger from the blind fury of the popu-
lace when the revolutionary plot of Akibah was de-
veloped. The organized "dagger men " — Siccarees
— of the party of action called for unhesitating



206 JEWISH FORERUNNERS OF CHRISTIANITY

adhesion to the Jewish revolution from the learned
and unlearned alike. Lukewarmness in that cause
was avenged by assassination. The only safety for
those who, like Elisha, saw the hopelessness of the
attempt and were unwilling to prevaricate lay in
flight from Palestine or in joining actively with the
Roman authorities. He chose the latter and he was
thenceforth branded as a traitor. It is said that he
took part in persecuting the rebels afterwards, but the
few particulars given of this charge may have been
but an exaggeration of those whom he had quitted.
The mystic entrance into Pardcs of the four
Rabbis, Akibah, Ben Azzai, Ben Zoma, and Elisha,
— the fate which ensued for each has already been
mentioned — " may have a political meaning. It may
refer to a council held to prepare the revolution pro-
jected by Akibah, and the failure of his colleagues
to co-operate successfully with him. The death of
Ben Azzai at the hands of the Siccarees was a not
unlikely event if his fidelity were doubted. The
"cutting of the plants of Pardes " by Elisha may be
typical of his absolute withdrawal from the council
of the Jewish revolution. Certain it is his name was
branded as that of a traitor and apostate. The Tal-
mud refuses even to call him by his own name. He
is usually Acher (Another), the changeling, the rene-
gade, not Elisha, the Rabbi and master in Israel.
Under this name he was held up to execration by
the Rabbis of the revolutionary party. His fate was
sealed in their minds for eternity. The dictum of
the zealots in his case was, "Repentance can win
pardon for all but Acher." M



RABBI MAIR 20J

The same spirit prevailed after the fall of Bethar
had crushed the life of the rebellion of Bar Kochba.
The Rabbis accused Acher of aiding the Roman
officials in the suppression of the Jewish religious
practices and pointing out the stratagems employed
for evading the penal laws. They charged him with
openly breaking the ceremonial law, and with lead-
ing the young away from their religion and the study
of the Sacred Writings." He was said to break in-
tentionally the law of the Sabbath, the worst offence
a conscientious Jew could commit."

While Acher was thus publicly hated, Rabbi Mair
never ceased to maintain close intercourse with him.
When reproached for his intimacy with an apostate,
he justified himself by the intellectual worth of his
friend and protested his own fidelity to Judaism.

"I eat the kernel and throw away the husk," was
his pithy description of his intercourse with his
former master.

Even the most hostile of Elisha's critics recognized
the force of this remark, and in the Talmud the say-
ings of Elisha ben Abuiah are treasured as a valued
part of the intellectual glories of Israel.

It is told of Mair that one day as he was delivering
the Sabbath discourse in the school it was told him
that Acher was riding by. Rabbi Mair abruptly
ceased his sermon, went out to greet his friend, and
accompanied him along the road to gather knowledge
from his lips. The more zealous Rabbis condemned
this act of Mair, but one said :

"A man like Acher is as a nut which hath fallen
into filth, but yet may be eaten when its husk is



208 JEWISH FORERUNNERS OF CHRISTIANITY

separated from it. The sage may sin, yet the wis-
dom he hath gained is none the less divine." M

Acher appears to have definitely renounced the
practice of Judaism, and his friend tried unsuccess-
fully to bring him back to the fold. He visited him
on his death-bed, and Acher listened to his words
with pleasure, but there is no sign of his having
sought reconciliation. Later Rabbis said of him
that, "he died in error and would not be punished,
because he had learned the law, nor would he enter
Paradise, because he had sinned." 5 *

This has a curious resemblance to the subsequent
teachings of Mohammed. It is more than prob-
able that Elisha had embraced Christianity. Mair's
temper would readily condone such a change in his
friend, however it might be resented by the zealous
nationalists of the Sanhedrin.

When Rabbi Mair left his native land after the
death of his wife, the jealousy of his enemies, which
had been kept in check while he occupied a seat in
the Sanhedrin, broke out. His friendship for Elisha
was made a charge against him, as if he, too, had
become "Another." Simon ben Gamaliel, the
President, did not forget the humiliations he had
received from the wit of Rabbi Mair, and he avenged
himself by refusing to allow him the title of Rabbi.
When necessity forced him to quote any of Mair's
former decisions he always suppressed his name, and
prefaced them with the remark, "Others say." The
allusion to "Acher," the hated "Other one," was pal-
pable, and the object was to brand the illustrious exile
with a charge which he dared not make in set terms.



RABBI MAIR 209

Mair, with all his Grecian tastes and wit, was a
thorough Hebrew in love for his land and people.
When death came to him in Sardes, his dying in-
junction was:

"Bury me on the shore, that the sea which washes
the land of my fathers may also touch my bones." "

With his death, as often happens, a revulsion
came in the minds of the people towards the illus-
trious dead. The Rabbis who had assailed him
while living bewailed his death as the fall of a
"Mighty one in Israel."

"With Mair died the race of makers of parables "
was their verdict on him. 66

His words were recorded and handed down for the
instruction of future generations. Even Acher's
memory shared in the popular favor.

"When Rabbi Mair died the smoke that was rising
from the grave of Acher passed away," is the quaint
expression with which the Talmud records this fact. 67

The sayings of Acher under his own name were
embodied in Jewish literature in the work of Chap-
ters of the Fathers.™ His name, though not coupled
with the title Rabbi, was reverenced as that of a
sage who was one of the intellectual glories of his
people. His honorable poverty, too, was remem-
bered, and when in after years his daughter came
to ask of Rabbi Juda the prince a pension for her
support, as was wont for the children of Rabbis, he
granted it in memory of his learning. 69 The words
of Acher, the branded Jew of his time, have fur-
nished themes for preachers of the Synagogue during
the subsequent ages. When Rabbi Juda compiled



2IO JEWISH FORERUNNERS OF CHRISTIANITY

the Mishnah, he gave place in its pages to the say-
ings of both Mair and Elisha, as two of the foremost
lights of Israel.

It was a notable instance of the passing nature of
the cause of Jewish independence which had clouded
the lives of both. Intellectual work was recognized
as too precious a part of the national inheritance to
be thrown away, however hated in life the workers
might have been. The truth of the axiom formu-
lated by Rabbi Mair was recognized by all, and with
it this chapter may fittingly close :

"He who studies the law for its own sake," he
says, "merits much, and the world owes him much.
He is called a dear friend : dear to God and dear to
mankind. He rejoiceth God and His creatures.
Study clotheth him with meekness and the fear of
God; it showeth the way to justice, to piety,
righteousness, and faith ; it removeth from sin, and
bringeth to high station. The world is benefited
by his counsel, wisdom, understanding, and strength.
It bestoweth empire, dominion, and reason
itself. The secrets of the law are revealed unto the
student and make him as an overflowing fountain, a
never-failing river. They make him modest, slow
to anger, and ready to forgive. They exalt and
magnify him above all beings." eo



CHAPTER IX

RABBI SIMON BEN VOHAI

THROUGH the rebellion of Bar Kochba and
the calamities which followed it for the Jewish
people in Palestine, the House of Hillel seems to
have passed unscathed. The presidency of the
Sanhedrin had practically become hereditary in the
family of the great Babylonian Rabbi. He had won
the office by his abilities, the wealth he amassed and
transmitted to his descendants; and his admitted
descent from David secured it afterwards for many
generations to members of his family. Though no
political power was attached to it, the veneration of
the people made the patriarchate a shadow of royalty
in Palestine. Its possessors were careful not to risk
it by joining in the revolution attempted by Akibah,
and when that was crushed by the Romans, the
wealth of Hillel's descendants escaped confiscation.
It was the Rabbis of the school opposed to the
Hillelites, the House of Shammai, who had been
chiefly prominent in the rebellion, and the House of
Hillel, though it still enjoyed the respect of the
masses as its spiritual leaders, was not an object of
suspicion to Rome.

Among the devoted adherents of Akibah who sur-

211



212 JEWISH FORERUNNERS OF CHRISTIANITY

vived him the most noted were Mair and Simon ben
Yohai. Both had visited Akibah during his im-
prisonment, and both after his death received the
degree of Rabbi from Rabbi Juda ben Babba. 1
The latter was an enthusiastic partisan of Akibah in
the national revolution, and after its failure he con-
tinued to teach in defiance of the edicts of Hadrian
against Jewish instruction. 2 His rigid observance
of the ceremonies of the law was such that when
the hours prescribed for prayer came he would omit
every other employment to give himself to them.
The Talmud tells that once, while travelling on the
road, he thus stopped to pray there. A chieftain
came by on horseback and courteously saluted him,
but the Rabbi, absorbed in his devotions, made no
answer till he had finished his prayers. The angry
chief said then :

'Your law bids you be careful of life, yet you
have been careless of your own, for there was none
to hinder had I cut off your head when you answered
not my greeting."

"I ask thy pardon for that; but answer me, — if
thou wert speaking to the king, and a friend ad-
dressed thee, wouldst thou turn from the king's
face to answer it? "

"It would be as much as my head were worth,"
answered the chief.

"Then if such be the risk for showing disrespect
to a mortal king, what would I have deserved had I
shown irreverence to the King of kings, who is from
eternity to eternity? I stood in supplication before
Him when thou deignedst to salute me."



RABBI SIMON BEN YOHAI 213

The chief accepted the admonition in good faith
and the two parted. 3

Ben Babba continued to instruct disciples in the
law, despite the persecution, and one day his school
was surprised by a party of Roman soldiers. He
saw them coming and at once pronounced the form
of words over Mair and Ben Yohai which made them
legitimate Rabbis. He then gave them his blessing
and bade them flee.

"But what will become of thee, Master?" they
asked.

"I stay like a rock," he answered.

The disciples fled, but Ben Babba was pierced by
the Roman lances and died there. 4

Ben Yohai, though an ardent disciple of Akibah
and a devoted patriot, was the son of a Jew who had
entered the Roman service, and held high position
as an official. He seems to have neglected even the
religious rites of his people, for in after years, when
Ben Yohai was a Rabbi and a religious master in
Israel, he had to rebuke his widowed mother for idle
speech on the Sabbath Day. 6 Whatever his father's
wishes, Simon early devoted himself to the study of
the Jewish law. He won a name as an expounder
in the rabbinical schools which attracted the attention
of Akibah during his career of revolutionary propa-
ganda. The son of the Roman official became the
friend and disciple of the revolutionist, and was thir-
teen years in his company and under his instructions.*
Akibah said to him in admiration on one occasion:

"As I live, it is only thy Maker and I that can
understand thy ability." '



214 JEWISH FORERUNNERS OF CHRISTIANITY

Such testimony speaks much for the abilities of
Ben Yohai. Akibah, on the other hand, was adored
by his disciple with his whole soul. He lost not a
word that fell from his lips. He copied even the
manners and gestures of the master, and, in after
years, he boasted that his own manners were mod-
elled on Akibah 's. 8 Still he was not a slavish ad-
herent. He did not fear to reject a decision of the
master's when he believed it incorrect, or to give his
own explanation as sometimes better than Akibah's."

Simon ben Yohai, like Akibah, was a married man
when he took up a life of study. The latter had his
abode and school in the town of Benai Berack, far
from Simon's residence, and Simon left his wife and
children to dwell apart during the years that he gave
himself to study. His wife at last urged him to re-
turn, as their daughter was of an age to marry and
needed her father's care. Ben Yohai did not heed
the call. Akibah heard of it, and, when his disciples
were gathered together, he ordered Simon to depart.

"Let him who hath a daughter of age to marry
return to his home till she be married," was his
command, which Ben Yohai had to obey.

He returned to his house unannounced, and the
surprise made his wife swoon. The tardy husband
thought her dead, and exclaimed :

"Lord, is this the reward she receives who hath
awaited me thirteen years? "

His wife fortunately recovered, and, then Ben
Yohai laid down the sage rule :

"Enter not suddenly thine own house, much less
that of another." I0



RABBI SIMON BEN YOHAI 21 5

It was not in Akibah's school alone that he
grounded himself in knowledge. A curious anec-
dote of him in the Talmud illustrates this fact, and
also gives an idea of the subjects of study and the
methods of studying, of Hebrew scholars in the
olden time. Rabbi Simon was explaining to his
disciples the manner of observing the Feast of
Tabernacles. The Law of Moses required all free
men of Jewish race to reside in booths of branches
during the days of that festival. The Rabbi laid
down the law on the subject as he had heard it from
Gamaliel II., the descendant of Hillel. He told
how he had, when young, called on the president at
Yamnai, and been asked to eat with him in his
booth. Ben Yohai, with other guests, came with
Gamaliel, and, when they entered the booth, they
saw a slave, Tobi, asleep under the table.

"See," said Gamaliel, "what a scholar this slave
is; he knows that he is not liable to the obligation
of the festival."

From this Simon learned that only freemen, not
slaves, were required to observe the precept of
dwelling in booths for eight days, and also that to
fulfil it it was necessary there should be no ceiling
of boards like the table under which Tobi was sleep-
ing in peace." The technicalities of the law, as
elaborated by generations of Rabbis, must have
rivalled the intricacies of an English Chancery suit.
Another characteristic anecdote of the spirit of the
students in the schools tells how Rabbi Juda bar
Illai said contemptuously of Ben Yohai:

" He is like a grinder who throws out only a little



2l6 JEWISH FORERUNNERS OF CHRISTIANITY

bran," meaning that his original remarks were of
little value. 13

Simon hotly asked his meaning, and was parried
with the adroit explanation :

"I but meant that thou grindest much learning,
and forgettest but little, and that of no worth, like
bran.'" 9

Ben Yohai was appeased, but the feud between
the masters broke out later in another place.

After his ordination as Rabbi, Ben Yohai, despite
the Roman persecution, established a school in
Thekoa, a town in Galilee; either through his
father's protection or the remoteness of the place,
he was not molested.

The ardor of the Jewish students for the pre-
scribed studies and the still glowing national spirit
brought disciples around the favorite of Akibah.
Ben Yohai gloried in preserving all that Rabbi's
teachings, and he looked with contempt both on ^he
scholarship and the political course of the Rabbis
who adhered to the House of Hillel. When the
decrees against Jewish schools were relaxed by the
Emperor Antoninus in 138, Ben Yohai came among
the teachers who gathered around the president in
Yamnai. He was received with honor, his legal lore
was admired, and in private his adhesion to Akibah
won him many partisans among the stricter nation-
alists. With all his admiration for the revolutionary
Rabbi, Ben Yohai had not committed himself to any
act of open rebellion. His father was high in favor
with the Roman authorities, and Ben Yohai con-
ceived the audacious project of securing for himself



RABBI SIMON BEN YOHAI 2\J

the presidency of the Sanhedrin. Gamaliel, the
holder of that office, died in 140, and an election
was held to give him a successor. The patriarchate
by common consent had been hereditary in the
House of Hillcl for a hundred and thirty years.
Hillel was a descendant of David, and while a son
of David held the highest office in the nation, though
with no political power, the Jewish populace recog-
nized a kind of continuation of his kingdom and
felt that the sceptre had not altogether passed from
Juda.

Ben Yohai scoffed at this sentiment. He derided
the little learning and yielding character of Gamaliel
the Patriarch, and when his son Simon claimed the
vacant seat, Ben Yohai demanded it for himself, as
being the most learned Rabbi in Israel. The mem-
bers of the council were not ready to accept his
claims ; indeed, it could hardly be expected that the
Roman authorities would tolerate a friend of Akibah
in the chair of the Sanhedrin. Simon was elected
president, 14 and Ben Yohai left Yamnai in anger and
disappointment and went back to Thekoa.

He was called some time later to another meeting
of the Sanhedrin in Yamnai to settle some important
questions which had arisen. I& Ben Yohai came, but
anger over his defeat still burned in him. He bit-
terly criticised the learning and what he considered
the political cowardice of his fellow-Rabbis, and he
forgot, in his heat, that the Jewish religion only was
permitted by the favor of the all-powerful Roman


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