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PART I. (701290).


Rabbi of the Sheffield Hebrew Congregation.
Author of the " Apologia des Juifs," Paris, 1887.




(Copy of Letter from the REV. DR. ADLEK.)



LONDON, DEC. 28TH, 5659.


I thank you for kindly sending me a copy of
your work on The Celebrities of the Jews. The volume
evinces most praiseworthy diligence and remarkable
familiarity with the bibliography of the various themes
you touch upon.

I shall gladly welcome further fruits of your
scholarship and of your wide knowledge of our ancient
and precious literature.

With best wishes,

I remain, dear Mr. Chaikin,

Yours very truly,




PAET I. (701290).


PREFACE - - v. vin.








CONTEMPORARIES . - - 125 144


CONTEMPORARIES (continued) 145 158



ITALY - 176203



THE History of the Jews is a wonderful story, the very
uniqueness of which makes it stand apart from, and
above, the history of every other nation. The Egyptians,
who in the old time were the men of wisdom and held in
their hands the circle of the sciences where are they?
Once the Jews were their bond-slaves, and the monuments
of Egyptian intelligence and of Jewish industry still remain
gigantic dials of time upon the sandy wastes of the great
desert but what is the Egyptian now ? A mere instrument
of taxation for foreign bond-holders.

Of the Assyrians, once so mighty and powerful, whose
colossal works are to be seen in the national museums, we
know still less than we do of the Egyptians. Edom and
Philistia great in their day what know we of them now ?
Greece is not the Greece of that mighty monarch who
grudged his father's glory, and whilst yet in the spring of
manhood wept for the want of other worlds to conquer.
The Greeks are not the Greeks who fought at Thermopylae ;
and all powerful Eome, the mistress of the world, succumbed
to the onslaught of savage hordes. Nations have risen and
decayed ; peoples have become great and have diminished ;
races have mingled with races, as the rivers run into the
sea ; but the Jews are the exception.

Prof. James K. Hosmer gives a comprehensive glance at
the career of the Jews : " It is the marvel of history that
this little people, beset and despised by all the earth for ages,
maintains its solidarity unimpaired. Unique among all the
peoples of the earth, it has come undoubtedly to the present
day from the most distant antiquity. Forty centuries rest
upon this venerable contemporary of Egypt, Chaldea, and
Troy. The Hebrew defied the Pharaohs ; with the sword of
Gideon he smote the Midianite ; in Jephthah, the children
of Ammon. The purple chariot-bands of Assyria went back


from his gates humbled and diminished. Babylon, indeed,
tore him from his ancient seats and led him captive by
strange waters, but not long. He has fastened his love upon
the heights of Zion, and, like an elastic cord, that love broke
not, but only drew with the more force as the distance
became great. When the grasp of the captor weakened,
that cord, uninjured from its long tension, drew back the
Hebrew to his former home. He saw the Hellenic flower
bud, bloom, and wither upon the soil of Greece. He saw
the wolf of Eome suckled on the banks of the Tiber, then
prowl ravenously for dominion to the ends of the earth,
until paralysis and death laid hold upon its savage sinews.
At last Israel was scattered over the length and breadth of
the earth. In every kingdom of the modern world there has
been a Jewish element. There are Hebrew clans in China,
on the steppes of Central Asia, in the desert heart of Africa.
The most powerful races have not been able to assimilate
them, the bitterest persecution, so far from exterminating
them, has not eradicated a single characteristic. In mental
and moral traits, in form and feature even, the Jew to-day
is the same as when Jerusalem was the peer of Tyre and
Babylon. Abraham and Mordecai stand out upon the
sculptures of Nineveh, marked by the same eye and beard,
the same nose and jaw by which we just now recognized
their descendents. Language, literature, customs, traditions,
traits of character these, too, have all survived." 1

In the sketch of Jewish history presented in these pages,
I have endeavoured to notice especially the chefs-d'oeuvre of
Hebrew learning, and the time and circumstances of the
men by whom they were created.

" While those around them were grovelling in the dark-
ness of besotted ignorance ; while juggling miracles and
lying relics were themes on which almost all Europe was
expatiating ; while the intellect of Christendom, enthralled
by countless persecutions, had sunk into a deadly torpor, in
which all love of inquiry and all search for truth were
abandoned, the Jews were still pursuing the path of know-
ledge, amassing learning, and stimulating progress with the

* The Jews, London, 1887, p. 4 5.


same unflinching constancy that they manifested in their
faith. They were the most skilful physicians, the ablest
financiers, and among the most profound philosophers.
While they were only second to the moderns in the cultiva-
tion of natural science, they were also the chief interpreters
to Western Europe of Arabian learning." 1

" To the Jews," says Professor Andrew White in his
recent Warfare of Science with Theology (ii. 33), " is largely
due the building up of the School of Salerno, which we find
flourishing in the tenth century .... Still more im-
portant is the rise of the School of Montpellier ; this was due
almost entirely to Jewish physicians, and it developed
medical studies to a yet higher point, doing much to create a
medical profession worthy of the name throughout Southern
Europe." 2

" The Jews," says Renan, " ought to have played a great
part in the work of the Renaissance. One of the reasons
why France was slow in gaining by the great transformation
is that, about 1500, France was quite destitute of a Jewish
element. The Jews, to whom Francis I. was forced to have
recourse for the foundation of his college, le Canosse,
Guidacier, were Italian Jews." 3

In referring to the time when the Jews were without the
pale of the law, we must remember with gratitude the few
great minds who in the dark ages endangered their popu-
larity, lives, and fortune, to defend them. I have taken
care, to give notices, more or less extended, of the defenders
of the Jews. Glory to those who have struggled in favour of
justice, and respect to their memory !

I hope that this book may be especially useful to my
younger brethren, in presenting a brief and comprehensive
survey of the conditions and relations of our ancestors in the
Dispersion, and in serving as an introduction to a more
complete and exhaustive investigation of the subject.

1 Lecky, Rise and Influence of Nationalism in Europe, vol. ii., p. 281 ;
quoted by the Chief Rabbi, Dr. H. Adler, in the Nineteenth Century,
1878, p. 642 643.

2 Quoted by I. Abrahams in the introduction to his Jewish Life in the
Middle Ages, p. xix , London, 1896.

3 Renan, Les Ecrivains Juifs frangais du Xiv c Stecle, p. 393 ; cf - the
Jewish Life, p. 372, note i.

In conclusion it may be of interest to quote a paragraph
relative to Jewish history from a letter the world-renowned
savant Adolphe Franck kindly addressed to me on the
publication of my "Apologie des Juifs" in 1887: "C'est
avec raison que vous avez donne a votre travail le nom
d' Apologie; car le plus sur moyen de justifier les Juifs des
accusations dont on les a si longtemps poursuivi et dont ils
souffrent encore aujourd'hui dans plusieurs pays, c'est de
raconter leur histoire."



THE year of the destruction of Jerusalem was an
extremely severe one for the Jews. After having
fought most heroically but fruitlessly against the formidable
armies of Vespasian and Titus to uphold their liberty and
national independence, they had at last to submit to an
unavoidable fate. The holy Temple of Jerusalem, in which
their religious, political and civil life was centred, was
reduced to a heap of ashes, and from that time forth their
nationality ceased to exist. Any other nation would, under
similar circumstances, have long ago disappeared from the
face of the earth. Not so the Jews. 1 The school and the
synagogue were now to be their impregnable citadel, and
the law their palladium.

It is related 2 that Eabbi Jochanan ben Zaccai, last of
Hillel's scholars, enjoyed the favour of the Eoman general,
who, on that account, promised to grant any request the
Eabbi might make. Eabbi Jochanan then petitioned, first
for permission to keep open his school at Jabne, and next
for the safety of the family of Eabban Gamaliel. Having
obtained these favours, he returned much cheered to his
disciples, feeling convinced that the power of the schools
would eventually prove of greater effect for preserving, than
the power of the legions for destroying, the institutions of
the Israelite people, and he judged aright.

Eabbi Jochanan settled with his disciples in Jamnia
(Jabne), a city not far from the Mediterranean Sea, and
situated between the port Joppa and the former city of
the Philistines, Ashdod. Eabbi Zadok, a contemporary of

1 Dr. Chotzner, Zichronoth, viii., London, 1885.

2 Gittin. 56b.



Rabbi Jochanan (of whom it is related that he, in an-
ticipation of the destruction of the Temple, fasted for forty
successive years), then removed to Jabne, where he, as well
as his son, Rabbi Eliezer, belonged to the circle of the
distinguished teachers. Rabbi Dosa ben Harchinas be-
longed also to the school of Hillel, and removed with Rabbi
Jochanan from Jerusalem to Jabne, where he reached a
very old age. He stood in such high esteem that his most
distinguished colleagues appealed to his opinion in doubtful
cases. 1

Of other authorities belonging to this generation of
Tanaim, mention must be made of Rabbi Juda ben Bathyra,
who had a school in Nisibis (in Assyria) already at the time
when the Temple of Jerusalem was still in existence ; 2 of
Rabbi Nechunia ben Hakana, who w r as the teacher of Rabbi
Ishmael 3 and Nachum of Gimzo, who introduced the
hermeneutic rule of Eibbui umiut (extension and limitation), 4
which was later further -developed by his great disciple Rabbi
Akiba ; and of Rabbi Eliezer ben Jacob, who was head of a
school and in possession of traditions concerning the
structure and interior arrangements. of the Temple. He is
also mentioned with commendation as to his method of
instruction, which was "concise and clear." 8

Rabbi Jochanan ben Zaccai endeavoured to illuminate the
ordinances of the law in a clear and simple manner. It is
related 6 that Rabbi Jochanan in urging the necessity of
immediate repentance used the following parable: A certain
king invited his servants to a feast, but appointed them no
time. The wise amongst them dressed themselves in their
best apparel, and immediately sat at the king's door, saying
to themselves, "Is there anything impossible to a king?"

1 See Dr. M. Mielziner, Introduction to the Talmud, p. 26 ; cf. Z. Frankel's
Darhei ha-Mishne, p. 7173.

2 Pesachim, 3b.

3 Shebuoth, a6a.

4 Ibid.

5 Gittin, 67a.

6 Sabbath, i53a.

A Biography of Rabbi Jochanan ben Zaccai, written by J. Spitz,
Berlin, 1883 ; see also I. H. Schwarz, Bar-Cochbaische Aufstand,
P- 13-15-


But the foolish ones went to their work saying, " Can there
he a feast without preparation?" Suddenly the king sum-
moned his guests. The wise amongst them entered into his
presence in their best attire, but the foolish ones had to enter
in their soiled garments. The king rejoiced with the wise,
but he was angry with the foolish, and said, "Those that
have properly dressed themselves shall go in and partake of
the feast, but the others that are not properly dressed must
stand by and look on."

Five of his best pupils became renowned, but only three of
their names have reached us Eabbi Eliezer, and Eabbi
Joshua, and also Eabbi Eleazar ben Arach. The latter was
the most eminent and important amongst them, and of him
it was said, 1 " If weighed in the scale, he would outweigh all
his fellow-scholars." Eabbi Jochanan loved to incite them
to independent thought by deep-reaching questions. Thus
he gave them as a theme for thought, What should man
endeavour most eagerly to obtain? One answered, " A
genial manner," another " a noble friend," a third "a noble
neighbour," the fourth " the gift of knowing in advance the
result of his actions." Eabbi Eleazar answered that "man's
best possession is a noble heart." This remark won the
approval of his master ; it was an answer after his own mind,
for in it all else was included.

The dying benediction of Eabbi Jochanan to his disciples
was: "I pray for you that the fear of Heaven may be as
strong upon you as the fear of man. You avoid sin before
the face of the latter; avoid it before the face of the All-
seeing." 2

Immediately after the death of their master,' his chief
disciples held council as to the place where they might con-
tinue the work of teaching the law. Most of them thought
of remaining in Jabne, where there lived a circle of men
acquainted with the traditions of the past. Eabbi Eleazar
ben Arach, the favourite pupil of Eabbi Jochanan, however,
insisted on removing the school to Emmaus, a healthy and
pleasant town, three geographical miles distant from Jabne.

1 Aboth ii, 12 14 ; Aboth di Rabbi Nathan, ch. 14.

2 Berachoth, z8b.


It was first necessary to give a chief to the community,
which, though small, was yet respected by the Jews of all
countries. Eabban Gamaliel was chosen ; he was a descendant
of Hillel, and his ancestors had presided over the Sanhedrin
throughout four generations. Eabban Gamaliel took the title
Nasi. 1 He had his seat in Jabne, and was also sufficiently
versed in traditions to preside in the school. Although the
town of Jabne was of first importance, the members of the
new college established some schools outside that town, but
in its neighbourhood. Eabbi Eliezer ben Hyrcanus taught at
Lydda, Eabbi Joshua ben Chananya at Bekiin, on the plains
between Jabne and Lydda ; other pupils of Eabbi Jochanan
also opened schools ; and each attracted a circle of disciples,
and was called by the title Eabbi (Master). The Patriarch
was called Eabban (General Master) to distinguish him from
the other teachers.

A disciple of Eabbi Eliezer ben Hyrcanus, Eabbi Mathia
ben Charash, founded a school in the city of Eome, and
thus was the first teacher who transplanted the knowledge
of the rabbinical law from Asia to Europe.

When Eabbi Eliezer ben Hyrcanus became seriously ill,
his disciples went to visit him, and said, " Eabbenu, teach
us the way of life, that we may inherit the future world."
The Eabbi answered, " Give honour to your comrades.
Know to whom you pray. Eestrain your children from
frivolous conversation, and place them among the learned
men, in order that they may acquire wisdom. So may you
merit life in the future world." 2

Eabbi Joshua ben Chananya taught his pupils at Bekiin,
and carried on the humble handicraft of making needles, by
which he maintained his family. Through his twofold
occupation Eabbi Joshua was brought into communication
both with scholars and with the common people ; and he
endeavoured to unite the two, and was the only man who
possessed power over the minds and will of the masses.
Besides an acquaintance with tradition, he seems to have

1 Graetz. History of the Jews, ii, p. 337, 338 (E. T.)

2 Berachoth, 28b. Concerning his life and works, cf. Rabbi David
Luria in his Introduction to the Pirkei di Rabbi Eliezer, Warsaw, 1852 ;
Z. Frankel, Darkei ha-Mishna, p. 75 83.


possessed some astronomical knowledge, which enabled him
to calculate the irregular course of the comets. This know-
ledge was once of great use to him when he was on a journey.
He had started on a voyage with Eabban Gamaliel, and had
laid in more provisions than were usually necessary for the
journey. The ship took an erratic course for some time,
because its captain, deceived by the sight of a certain star,
had steered in a wrong direction. Eabban Gamaliel's pro-
visions having been consumed, he was astonished that this
was not the case with his companion, but that, in fact, he
could even spare some for him. Thereupon Rabbi Joshua
informed him that he had calculated on the return of a
star (a comet), which re-appeared every seventy years, and
which would have misled the ignorant sailor, and that there-
fore he had provided himself with extra food for this emer-
gency. 1

As 'Eabbi Joshua, on several occasions, 2 was humiliated by
the Patriarch Eabban Gamaliel, with whom he differed on
some questions, the members of the Sanhedrin resented
this insult of their esteemed colleague by deposing the
offender from his dignity, and electing Eabbi Elazar ben
Azariah for president. The latter was descended from a
noble family whose pedigree was traced up to Ezra the
scribe. Eabban Gamaliel, having apologised to Eabbi Joshua,
was in consequence reinstated, and Eabbi Elazar then
became vice-president. On account of the noble virtue
which he combined with his great learning, he was com-
pared to " a vessel filled with aromatic spices," 8 and Eabbi
Joshua said of him: "A generation having a man like
Eabbi Elazar ben Azariah, is not orphaned." 4

A great sensation was at that time created in Eome by
the conversion to Judaism of Flavius Clemens and his wife
Flavia Domitilla. 5 Flavius was a cousin of the Emperor

1 Horiot, ica.

2 See Berachoth, 2jb; Rosh Hashana, 253; Bechoroth, 3&a.

3 Gittin, 6ja.

4 Chagiga, 3b. Concerning the life of Rabbi Joshua, see A. Levysohn,
in the periodical journal Bikkurim, I. p. 26 35, Vienna, 1864; see also
L. Mandelstamm, Rabbi Joshua ben Hanania, Berlin, 1862; Hamazkir,
iv., p. 139.

5 Graetz, ibid, p. 390.


Domitian ; he was also a member of the Senate, and
Consul. His wife was also a near relative of the Emperor.
Their two sons had been named as Caesars by Domitian,
therefore one of them would have become Emperor.
Although Clemens probably kept his adhesion to Judaism
secret, yet it was known to the Jews in Borne, and to the
leaders in Palestine. On receipt of the news the four chiefs,
the Patriarch Eabban Gamaliel and his coadjutor Eabbi
Elazar ben Azariah, Rabbi Joshua and Eabbi Akiba, set out
on the journey to Eome. In Eome they were treated with
great reverence both by the Jews and proselytes, and they
had an opportunity of answering many religious questions.
But they had arrived at an unfavourable moment. Domitian
was at the height of his bloodthirsty tyranny. The period
of favour towards the Jews on the part of the Flavian house
was at an end. At this time (95), Flavius Clemens was
condemned to death, Domitian having heard of his leaning
towards Judaism. The four teachers of the law from
Palestine, who had come to Eome on his account, and who
expected a brighter future from him, were witnesses of his
death. His wife Domitilla, who was exiled to the island of
Pandataria, is said to have declared to the teachers of the
law that Clemens had been circumcised before his death. 1

A complete contrast to the character of Domitian was
presented by his successor Nerva. The Jews and the
proselytes immediately felt the effect of the change of ruler.
During the short period of his reign which only lasted
sixteen months, from September 96 to January 98 Nerva,
who had to put an end to various perversions and abuses in
the constitution, yet found time to occupy himself with the
Jews. He permitted every man to acknowledge his faith as
a Jew, without thereby incurring the punishment of an

The Jews' tax also, if not quite set aside, was levied with
kindness and forethought, and accusations against those who
avoided this tax were not listened to. This act of toleration

1 Cf. I. H. Schwarz, Bar-Cochbaische Aufstand, p. 26, 27, Gablonz,
1885; Derenbourg, Histoire de la Palestine, p. 334; Revue Isra61ite,
1870, Nos. 17, 18.


on Nerva's part appears to have been of so great importance
that a coin was struck in order to commemorate it. It is
probable that the four Tanaites, who were still in Eome at
the time of the death of Domitian and the accession
of Nerva, had furthered this favourable turn of events by
opposing the complaints against Judaism, and by inducing
those in power to form a better opinion of it. This reign,
which was of but too short duration, terminated the period
of favour shown towards the Jews, and w r ith Trajan, Nerva's
successor, there began afresh the old hatred between the
Eomans and the Jews, and soon both nations again stood
arrayed against each other with their weapons in their

The fiscal extortions of the Eomans, the persecutions
decreed under Domitian, who aimed at the destruction of
every remnant of the royal family of David, as politically
dangerous, goaded the Jews, within short intervals of time,
into three formidable but fruitless insurrections, from
Babylonia to the African Syrtis, against Trajan and
Hadrian. 1

.The balanced and calm character of Eabbi Joshua rendered
him especially fitted for the part of intermediary between the
Jewish nation and Eoman intolerance. He was the only
teacher who sought and enjoyed the confidence of the Eoman
rulers. The death of Eabban Gamaliel, and the hostile
attitude of the Jews towards the Eomans during the last
years of the Emperor Trajan and the early years of
Hadrian's reign, seem to have roused Eabbi Joshua from
his petty trade, and to have given the public leadership into
his hands.

On one occasion the Emperor Hadrian said to Eabbi
Joshua, " I am better than your master Moses, for I am
living and he is dead ; as it is said, ' a living dog is better
than a dead lion.' " Eabbi Joshua asked him, " Can you
compel the inhabitants of the surrounding villages not to
kindle fires for the space of three days ? " He told him he
could, and immediately decreed it under severe punishments.
The first night he led him to the terrace of the palace ;

1 Theodores, Essays and Addresses, p. 357, London, 1874.


they perceived smoke arising from one of the houses; he
then observed to him the little obedience paid to his orders.
He replied, "It must be some sick person, whom a doctor
has recommended to take something warm." He then
answered, " Emperor, even during your lifetime you are not
obeyed ; and Moses commanded, ' Ye shall kindle no fire
throughout your habitations on the Sabbath day,' and he is
yet obeyed, so long after his death. How then are you better
than he ? f>1

The Eoman Emperor said one day to Eabbi Joshua ben
Chananya, 2 " Show me your God ! " " Eaise your eyes to
the sky," replied the Eabbi, " God is there." The Emperor
directed his eyes to the firmament ; but at this moment the
sun poured his rays upon the earth. Their dazzling lustre
very soon caused the Emperor to cast his eyes downwards,
whereupon Eabbi Joshua said to him: "What! Wouldst
thou see the Master, when thou hast not the power to look
his satellites in the face ? ' '

We are told that, 8 on the hinderance to the rebuilding of
our Temple in the days of Hadrian, on account of the
representations of the Samaritans, who were jealous lest
the object of their aversion, the Temple of Jerusalem,
should again rise from the dust the Samaritans endeavoured
to represent to the Emperor the danger of such a restoration ;
and on that occasion Eabbi Joshua was immediately sent
for to tranquillize, by his influence and eloquence, the excited

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