Isidore Singer.

The Jewish encyclopedia : a descriptive record of the history, religion, literature, and customs of the Jewish people from the earliest times to the present day (Volume 8) online

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the Feast of Taber-
nacles]." That this
custom was of late
development is
shown by the fact
that the entire con-
gregation read — that
the book was not
read to them. At
the time of the Mish-
nah only Esther was
read publicly. In
the Talmudic period
Lamentations was
read privately ; while
the other three megil-
lot were admitted into
the liturgy only in
post-Talmudic days,
Ecclesiastes being the
last of all.
Liturgical usage necessitated manuscripts which
should contain not only the Torah and the Haftarot
from the Prophets, but also the Five Rolls. For
the same reason the so-called Midrash Rabbali was
gradually collected for the five Megillot as well as
for the Tonih. The allusions to the individual
feasts which Mliller ("Soferim," p. 187) finds in the
Hasrgadah furnisli no proof that the rolls in ciuestion
were read at these particular festivals; for by the
same process of reasoning it might be inferred from
Yer. Meir., end, that the Song of Solomon instead of
Rutii was' read on the Feast of Pentecost. But
Yalk., Ruth, 994, says: " Why is Ruth
Iiate Use read at Pentecost? "Because the Torah
in Liturgy, was given only through sufi'ering."
This statement is not found, however,
in any of the parallel passages; and it is, therefore,
cvidentlv a later addition, and not an ancient mid-

Megillat Esther, Dutch, Early Eighteeiilli Century.

(In the posseseion of Arthur E. Franklin, London.)




rash. The late origin of this usage ("uiinhag ") is
reflected in the discussions of scholars up to the
sixteenth century regarding the form of the benedic-
tion and other questions (Isserles, "Orah Hayyim."
p. 490, end ; idem, Responsa, No. 35). Soferim xiv. 18
states that at the terminations of the festivals the
proper rolls were read twice on the two evenings
(Song of Solomon at tlie Passover; Ruth at Pento-

Silver Fish Forming Case for Scroll of Mepillat Esther.

(Id the possession of Arthur E. FraDklin, London.)

cost), or on the Sabbath of each demi-festival, the
latter being the custom among the people. It is
now customary in Jerusalem to write the Five Rolls
on parchment like the other Biblical books, and in
reading them to pronounce over all tlie benediction
which is generally used in the case of the roll of
Esther, making the proper changes (see further on
the Song of Solomon at Pas-sovcr and Ruth at Pen-
tecost, Mahzor Vitry, ed. Ilurwitz, pp. 304, 344).

Although the Feast of Purim was celebrated long
before the present era (II Mace. xv. 36; Josephus,
"Ant." xi. 6, § 13; comp. Jolui v. 1), it is doubtful
wlien the custom of reading the roll of
The Roll Esther publicly was introduced; but
of Esther, it was at all events before tlie destruc-
tion of the Temple (Tosef., Meg. i. 6.
where Zcchariah ben ha-Kazzab is qtioted). Al-
though the oldest tannaini are not mentioned in the
rules for reading Esther, yet the detailed character
of these regulations, and the fact that tliere is a spe-
cial tractate on them, show that tlie usage was de-
veloped before the common era. On the otherhand,
the license allowed villagers on the day of reading,
the discussions among scholars as to whether one
was required to read only from ii. 5 or iii. 1 or iv.
1 (Meg. ii. 3; Tosef., Meg. ii. 9), together with
many concessions as compared with the lessons from
the Torah {e.g., minors might read; ib. ii. 11, iv. 1),

and the fact that even in later times large scope
was granted to popular custom, justify the con-
clusion that the origin of the reading of the roll of
Esther must not be dated too remotely (Meg. 2a).
The custom of reading it in the month of Adar
had become general probably by the third century
of the common era, and had been sanctioned (Ver.
]\Ieg. 70a, 2); but the public reading of tlie book
for tliose unable to read had apparently been in-
troduced a century before. In the third century
{ib. 73b, 28) the entire roll was usually read, but
only once and in the daytime (Meg. ii. 4, 5), while
during the persecution by Hadrian a scribe read
it at night (Tosef., Meg. ii. 4). In many places
in Palestine it was read on two days (Yer. Shek.
46a, 8). The custom of reading in both the evening-
and the morning, which now generally prevails,
was not established until the post-Talmudic period
(Soferim xxi. 8 ; comp. also Mahzor Vitry, pp. 207 et
seq.). The Karaites read the roll at the ends of the
two Sabbaths which prerede Purini, a renu'niscence


t^ilver Case Cotitainiii'.' Scroll of Me^illat EstlitT

(In the pussefwiun of M.iurice Herrmann, New York.)

of the original custom of reading it throughout
Adar until the fifteenth. The Megillah was wrapped
about a rod (the Mahzor Vitry mentions two rods);
and in the Middle Ages it was often illuminated.

In the Talmudie period Lamentations formed no
part of the service; and, strictly speaking, it has




never become such. In Taan. 30a, below, the ba-
raita states that on the Ninth of Ab the Bible may
not be read nor the tradition studied, but that "Job,
Lamentations, and the sections of Jere-
Lamenta- miah which deal with calamity," may
tions. be recited. In post-Talmudic times,
however, the custom of readini^ Lam-
entations had become general (Soferim xiv. 3). The
book was also read responsively (Mahzor Mtry, p.
226); and in many synagogues, because the Ninth
of Ab is a day of mourning, only one light was lit
by which it might be read (K. Asher, Ta'an. 9, end).
The persecutions of the Crusades strongly influ-
enced the gloom of Tish'ah be-Ab and its litur-
gy (see Mahzor Vitry, p. 237, and Orah Hayyim,
§554). See, also, Ecclesiastes ; Esther, Book of;
Lamentations ; Ruth ; and Song of Songs.
s. L. B.



German philologist; born at Glogau, Silesia, Jan.
1, 1796; died at Halle Dec. 5, 1855. He was edu-
cated at the Graue Kloster in Berlin and at the uni-
versities of Breslau and Berlin (Ph.D. 1818). He
embraced Christianity in 1817. In 1819 he became
privat-doceut in the University of Halle; in 1820,
assistant professor at Greifswald ; and in 1825, pro-
fessor of ancient philology at Halle.

Of Meier's many works may be mentioned the
following : (with Schomann) " Der Attischc Process "
(Halle, 1827), which received the prize from the Ber-
lin Academy of Sciences; " De Gentilitate Attica," ib.
1835; "De Andocidis Oratione Contra Alcibiadem,"
ib. 1836; "De Crantoris Solensis Libro Deperdito,"
ib. 1840; " De Proxenio sive de Publico Gra2Corum
Hospitio," ib. 1843; "Fragmentum Lexici Rheto-
rici," ib. 1844; "Die Privatschiedsrichter und die
Oeffentlichen Dieten Athens," ib. 1846; "De Vita
Lycurgi etde Lycurgi Orationum Rehquiis,"?.'^. 1847.
In 1832 he published (at Halle) an edition of De-
mosthenes' speech against Midias.

From 1828 Meier was coeditor of the " Allgemelne
Litteraturzeitung." He edited also (from 1830 with
Kanitz; from 1843 alone) the third section of Ersch
and Gruber's "Allgemeine Encyklopadie der Wis-
senschaften und Kunste," and from 1852 also the
first section of that work. Eckstein and Haase pub-
lished in Leipsic (1861-63) a collection of Meier's
essays under the title "Opuscula Academica."

Bibliography : G. Hertzberg, in AUgemeine Deutsche Bio-
B. F. T. H.

ME'ILAH ("Trespass in Regard to a Holy
Thing"): Treatise of Seder Kodashim in the Mish-
nah, Tosefta, and the Babylonian Talmud. In the
Mishnaic order this treatise is the eighth, and con-
tains six chapters comprising thirty-eight para-
graphs in all. It deals chiefly with the exact pro-
visions of the Law (Lev. v. 15-16) concerning the
trespass-offering and the reparation which must be
made by one who has used and enjoyed a consecrated
thing. Its contents may be summarized as follows.:

Ch. i. : Sacrifices in which trespass can occur; in
what parts: in the most holy sacrifices ("kodshe ko-
dashim") in all parts and in the partly holy ("ko-
dashim kallim") in certain parts only. Cases in

which trespass can occur and those in which it can
not occur. Rule of R. Joshua that if the priests
have once had the right to eat of a sacrifice no tres-
pass can take place (sJi 1). In this connection the
question is raised whether there can be a trespass in
the of those parts of the sacrifice which have
been removed from the .sanctuary before the sprin-
kling of the blood (i-t^ 2-3). Effects of the sprin-
kling upon the sacrificial animal with regard to tres-
pass (g 4).

Ch. ii. : The time after which a trespass can take
place in the various meat-offerings, the different
offerings of food, the Pentecostal bread, and the
showbread. Closely allied with this is the deter-
mination of the time after which the different sacri-
fices may be invalidated by certain errors, and the
period after which one may become guilty of
" piggul " (abomination), " notar " (leaving something
over from the sacrifice), and "tame" (impurity) in
connection with them (§^ 1-9).

Ch. iii. : An enumeration of many things of which

one may not partake, altJiough if he does so, he is

not guilty of trespass. Tiiis leads to

In the a discussion of other regulations con-
Mishnah. cerning certain of these things, as well
as of the question whether and in what
case one may be guilty of trespass in connection
with objects belonging to or found upon certain
consecrated things, such as grass in a consecrated
field, the fruit of a consecrated tree (»^ 6), and the
foliage in a consecrated wood (^ 8).

Ch. iv. : The combination of various sacrifices
in reckoning the minimum amount necessary to be
used in order to constitute trespass (§§ 1-2). In
this connection many more kinds of combinations
are given with relation to other legal and ritual

Ch. V. : Determination of a peruta, the smallest
coin, as the minimum value which the use of holy
objects must have to make one guilty of trespass.
Discussion of the question whether the use made of
a consecrated object must be worth a peruta or
whether the amount of the object consumed by this
usage must equal a peruta ; in connection with which
a distinction is made between different objects (j^ 1).
The commission of trespass by various persons suc-
cessively upon the same object.

Ch. vi. : Cases in which the trespass has been com-
mitted by proxy. The principle is laid down that
if the agent has acted preci-sely in accordance with
his orders, the person who gave such orders is guilty
of the trespass; but if the agent has not so acted, he
himself is guilty of the trespass. Enumeration of
different examples (§§ 1-5). Cases in which neither
of the two is guilty of trespass and instances in
which both trespass (^ 4).

In the Tosefta, Me'ilah is the seventh treatise and

has but three chapters. These, however, contain

all that is in the six chapters of the

In the Mishuah, with a few omissions and

Tosefta and amplifications.

Gemara. The Gcmara to this treatise is de-
voted almost exclusively to elucida-
tions of the mishnayot, there being only one hag-
gadah in the treatise, bearing on the story of Ben




There is no gemara of the Jerusalem Talmud to
this treatise, uor in fact to any treatise of tlie order
Kodashim (comp. Buber, "Die Angeblielie Existeuz
eines Jerusal. Talmud zur Ordnung Kodascliim,"
in Berliner's "Magaziu," 1878, pp. 100-105).

s. s. J- 2. L.

MEINEK, MOSES SAKEL (called also Mo-
ses Isaac ben Baruch of Redwitz) : German
scholar and editor; lived at Offenbach at the begin-
ning of the eighteenth century. He published in
1715, under his own name, Naphtali Pappenheim's
"Teutsche Apothek,"and in 1717 a riddle in Judaeo-
German verse composed by an anonymous author.
This riddle was reproduced, with a German tran-
scription, by Schudtinhis " Ji'idische Merck wlirdig-
keiten " (i v., continuation iii. 108-109), Schudt refer-
ring to Meinek as a printer. In 1722 IVIeinek edited
the anonymous "Siyyumah ha-Parashiyyot meha-
Torah," a guide for the reader of the Law. He
was jirobably himself the author.

Bibliography: Steinsclineider, Cat. Badl. Nos. 3032, 3976, and
col. 1944; Wolf, BihI. Hehr. iii.. No. l.')73r, iv.. No. 15470 ;
Benjacoh, Ozar lia-Sefaritn, p. 419.
J. M. Sel.

MEIR (MEIR BA'AL HA-NES = " Meir the

miracle-worker"): Taima of the second century
(fourth generation); born in Asia Minor. The ori-
gin of this remarkable scholar, one of the most stri-
king figures of his age, is wrapped in obscurity. Ac-
cording to a haggadah, he was a descendant of Nero,
who, says a Jewish legend, escaped death at the
time of his deposition and became subsequently a
convert to Judaism (Git. 56a). The mystery of Meir's
origin extends to his name, for according to the Tal-
mud the name " Meir " (=" one who enlightens") was
given to him because he instructed the wise in the
Law ('Er. 13b) ; as to his original name, the Baby-
lonian Talmud (i?.c.) gives it as "Mc'asha," but the
Jerusalem Talmud seems not to know it. Sometimes
he is called "Nehorai," the Aramaic equivalent of
"Meir." Meir began to study very earh^ in life.
At first he entered the school of Akiba, but, finding
himself not sufficiently prepared to grasp the lec-
tures of that great master, he went to the school of
Ishmael, where he acquired an extensive knowledge
of the Law. He then returned to Akiba, who, rec-
ognizing his dialectical powers, ordained him over

the heads of his other disciples ('Er.
Ordained I.e.). This ordination, which was con-
in Youth, sidered invalid on account of Meir's

youth, was confirmed by Judah ben
Baba (Sanh. 14a; see Pashi ad loc).

Unlike his master Akiba, Meir seems to have kept
aloof from the revolutionary movement of Bar Kok-
ba. Nevertheless he suffered greatly from its con-
sequences. His father-in-law, Ilananiah ben Tera-
dion, fell a martyr to the Iladrianic jiersecutions, and
his sister-in-law Avas taken to Rome and sold to a
keeper of a house of ill fame. A tale of her rescue
by ]^Ieir, thougii cniliellished witii legend, may have
a foundation in tact. Urged by his wife to attempt
the rescue of licr sister, who, she asserted, would
rather forfeit her life than her virtue. ^Icir jdurneyed
to Itome. Attired as a wealthy Uonian. he went to
the house to which she had been taken, and asked to
see her. "She is very beautiful." said tlie keept'i-.

"but no man has as yet gained her favor." Over-
joyed, Meir offered him a large sum of money to
permit her to be carried off. The keeper hesitated,
fearing that it might cost him his head. " Fear not, "
said the rabbi ; " when danger threatens thee say,
'Meir's God, help me!'" Still the man hesitated.
To convince him of the efficacy of his advice, Mei'r
approached a number of savage watch-dogs at the
gate and by a mystic word made them cringe at his
feet. His fears allayed, the keeper yielded ('Ab.
Zarah 18a; Eccl. R. vii. 12).

During the Hadrianic persecutions Mei'r lived
abroad, but he returned to Judea after the repeal of

the oppressive edicts, and took a promi-
At TJsha. neut part in the reestablishment of the

Sanhedrin in tlie city of Usha. Short-
ly afterward yimeon ben Gamaliel II. was elected
patriarch, and Mei'r was raised to the dignity of ha-
kam, in wliicli office he was charged with the duty
of preparing the subjects to be discussed in the San-
hedrin. To his activity and influence was due the
adoption of the laws known as the "Institutions of
Usha." To his duties in connection with the San-
hedrin Meir added the establishment of academies
of his own in Bethsan, Ammaus near Tiberias, etc.,
where he successively lived and lectured. A won-
derful feat of memoiy displayed by him on one of
his travels is mentioned in the Talmud. On the
eve of the Feast of Purim, Me'i'r found himself in a
small Jewish community where no copy of the Book
of Esther could be found; he thereupon wrote out
the book from memory without a mistake (Tosef.,
Megillah, ii.).

Me'ir infused new life into the development of the
Halakah. He introduced the rule of testing the va-
lidity of a halakah on rational grounds. The dia-
lectical power displayed by him in halakic discus-

Synagogue at tlie Alleged Tomb of Rabbi Me'ir at Tiberias.

(From a photograph.)

sion was so great that most of his hearers followed
liiin with dilficulty. "He was able," says the Tal-
mud, "to give a hundred and fifty reasons to prove
a thing legally clean, and as many more reasons to
prove it unck'an " ("Hr. 131)). Tliis excess of dialec-
tics is given in the Talmud as tlie only reason why
hishalakot did not receive the force of hiAv ; the proa
and riinH offered by him were so nearlv equal in
strength that one never knew his real opinion on a
subject. In tlie deduction of new halakot from the
Biblical text Meir used with great caution the her-
ineneutic rules established bj' his teacher Isiimael,
regarding them as unreliable; and he rejected Aki-




ba's method of deducing a new halakah from a
seemingly superfluous particle in the Scriptural text
(Sotah 17a; Sifre, Balak, 131). Meir's greatest
merit in the field of the Halakah was that he con-
tinued the labors of Akiba in arranging the rich ma-
terial of the oral law according to subjects, thus
paving the way for the compilation of the Mishnah
by Judah ha-Nasi.

Meir's haggadot won by far the greater popular-
ity; in this direction he was among the foremost.

place with the traditional sayings of the Fathers are
these : " Have little business, and be busied in the
Torah"; "Be lowly in spirit to every man"; "If
thou idlest from the Torah, thou wilt have many
idlers against thee " ; " If thou laborest in the Torah,
He hath much to give unto thee" (Ah. iv. 14).
Other maxims of his, on study and the fear of the
Lord, have been transmitted by Johanan: "Learn
the ways of the Lord with thy whole heart and with
thy whole soul " ; " Watch at the gates of the Law " ;


(From a photograph by Elkan N. Adier, London.)



Well versed in the Greek and Latin literatures, he
would quote in his haggadic lectures fables, para-
bles, and maxims which captivated
his hearers. To popularize the Hag-
gadah he wrote haggadic glosses on
the margin of his Bible and composed
Botli glosses and midrashim are no
longer in existence, but they are quoted in the niid-
rashic literature, the former under the title "Torah
shel Rabbi Meir," or "Sifra shel Rabbi Meir," and
the latter, on the Decalogue, under the title " Midrash
Anoki de-Uabbi Meir" (Gen. R. ix. 5). To Meiris
attributed also a collection of three hundred fables,
three of which are referred to in the Talmud (Sanh.
S8b; see ^sop's Fables Among the Jews).
Among those of Meir's maxims that have found a
VIII.— 28

" Keep the Law in thy heart" ; "Let the fear of the
Lord be always before thine eyes and keep thy
tongue from evil words"; "Cleanse and make thy-
self pure that thou mayest stand without sin before
the Lord, and He will be with thee" (Ber. 17a).

An instance of Meir's humility and love of peace
is related in the Midrash. Among his hearers was a
woman who never missed a lecture of his. Once,
the discourse being more prolonged than usual, the
woman returned home late in the evening. This
infuriated her husband, who turned her out-of-doors
and swore that he would not take her in until she
had spat in Meir's face. Refusing to do this, she
lived separated from her husband. When Me'ir was
informed of the incident he went to the woman and,
pretending to have a sore eye, requested her to


Heir ben Eliakim



spit in it to heal it (Lev. R., Deut. R.)- Meir was
noted for his hatred of ignorance. "He fliat gives his
daughter to an 'am ha-aiez is as though
Hatred of he put lier before a lion" (Pes. 56a).
Ignorance. "He who leaves an 'am ha arez in
his house asleep and returns to find
him awake may be sure the house has been pol-
luted " (Toh. 8a). Still he would rise before an old
man, even if he were an 'am ha-arez (Yer. Bik. 65c).
Meir's experience of the world was wide and va-
ried, and the Haggadah records several of his social
maxims : " Love the friend who admonishes thee and
hate the one who flatters thee; for the former leads
thee to life and the future world, while the latter
puts thee out of the world." "Conciliate not thy
friend in the hour of his passion; console him not
when his dead is laid out before him ; question him
not in the hour of his vow; and strive to see him
not in the hour of his disgrace" (Ab. R. N. xxix. ;
comp. ih. xxxvi. and Ab. iv. 18, where these max-
ims are given in the name of Simeon ben Eliezer).
Meir was fond of discoursing upon traveling.
" When thou art in Rome do as the Romans do "
(Gen. R. xlviii.). "Travelers should go in threes,
for a single traveler is likely to be murdered ; two are
likely to quarrel; but three will always make their
way in peace" (Eccl. R. iv.). Meir exalts work and
recommends parents to instruct their children in a
clean trade (Kid. 82a). "He who does not work on
week-days will end by being compelled to work
even on Sabbaths; for idleness leads to misery, and
misery to crime; and once a prisoner, the idler will
be forced to labor even on the Sabbath " (Ab. R. N.
xxi.). "It is not the trade followed but the merit
of the workman which makes him rich or poor "
(Kid. I.e.). Those who run after riches are reproved
by Meir in the following saying: "Man comes into
the world with closed hands as though claiming
ownership of everything; but he leaves it with
hands open and limp, as if to show that he takes
nothing with him. Yet if man has sought the best
course in life, his reward awaits him
Haxims beyond the grave; there he finds the
and Views, table set for a feast of joy that will
last through eternity " (Eccl. R. i ).
Meir's generosity and confidence in God are illus
trated by the following details of his private life
given in the Midrash (Eccl. R. ii. 18). By success-
fully following the calling of public scribe he earned
three shekels a week. Of these two were spent on
his household and one was given to poor fellow stu-
dents. Wl»en asked why he did not save something
for his children he answered, "If my children are
good the Lord will provide for them, for it is said,
' I was young and I am old, yet I have never seen
the righteous forsaken nor his seed demanding bread '
[Ps. xxxvii. 25]. If my children are not good they
deserve nothing, and it would be aiding the enemies
of the Lord if I left thorn wealth." With all his
piety, Meir showed a spirit of great tolerance. He
declared that a heathen who occupied himself with
the Torah was as worthy of Judaism as a high
priest, for it is said, "Ye shall therefore keep my
statutes . . . which if a man do, he shall live in
them" (Lev. xviii. 5). He explained this to mean
that eternal happiness was not the heritage of the

Jews exclusively (Sifra to Lev. I.e.). Thus Meir is
said to have lived on friendl}' terms with heathen
scholars, with whom he had religious controversies;
he was especially intimate with the Greek philos-
opher Euonymusof Gedara, to whom he paid a visit
of condolence on the death of the latter's parents
(Gen. R. Ixv.; Lam. R., proem, 2).

Meir's tolerance, however, is best shown by his
attitude toward the apostate Ei.isha ben Abuyau
(Aher), his teacher. Of all Eiisha's colleagues he
alone, perhaps in the hope of reclaiming him for
Judaism, continued to associate with him and discuss
with him scientific subjects, not heeding the remon-
strances of some pious rabbis who regarded this as-
sociation with some suspicion. Meir's attachment
for Elisha was so great that on the death of the latter
he is said to have spread his mantle over his friend's
grave. Thereupon, according to a legend, a pillar
of smoke arose from it, and Meir,
Relations paraphrasing Ruth iii. 13, exclaimed,
with Aher. "Rest here in the night; in the dawn
of happiness the God of mercy will
deliver thee; if not, I will be thy redeemer" (Hag.
lob). The same haggadah adds that at the death of
Meir smoke ceased to issue from Eiisha's grave.
Notwitlistanding his tolerance, Meir's treatment of
the Samaritans was very severe; and he enacted
several laws that were destined to widen the breach
between them and the main body of Judaism (Htil.
6a). The Midrash (Gen. R. xv. ; Pesik. R. 23) re-
ports several religious controversies between Meir

Online LibraryIsidore SingerThe Jewish encyclopedia : a descriptive record of the history, religion, literature, and customs of the Jewish people from the earliest times to the present day (Volume 8) → online text (page 105 of 169)