Gamaliel, Rabban

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GAMALIEL, RABBAN , the name and title of six sages, descendants of *Hillel, who filled the office of nasi in Ereẓ Israel.

rabban gamaliel ha-zaken ("the elder"), a grandson of Hillel, lived in the first half of the first century. As president of the Sanhedrin he maintained close contact not only with the Jews of Ereẓ Israel, but also with those in the Diaspora. The Tosefta has preserved three letters, containing reminders about the times of separating tithes and information about the leap year, which Rabban Gamaliel dictated to the scribe Johanan, while seated in the company of sages upon the steps of the Temple Mount. In these letters he addresses "our brethren in Upper Galilee and in Lower Galilee," "our brethren of the Upper South and of the Lower South," and "our brethren of the exile of Babylon, the exile of Media, and the other exiles of Israel" (Tosef, Sanh. 2:6; tj, Sanh. 1:2, 18 d; Sanh. 11b). Like his grandfather, Hillel, Gamaliel was responsible for many *takkanot, many of them bearing the formula, "for the benefit of humanity" (Git. 4:2–3), particularly on behalf of women (ibid.). Of particular importance is his decision permitting a woman to remarry on the evidence of a single witness to the death of her husband (Yev. 16:7). Stories have been preserved testifying to his ties with the royal family, apparently that of *Agrippa i (Pes. 88b). Among his pupils were Simeon of Mizpeh, Joezer of Ha-Birah, and Nehemiah of Bet Dali (Pe'ah 2:6; Or. 2:12; Yev. 16:7). According to Acts Gamaliel was tolerant toward the first Christians, and Paul was one of his pupils (22:3). Of his children there are known Simeon, who succeeded him, and a daughter who married Simeon b. Nethanel ha-Kohen (Tosef., Av. Zar. 3:10). The sages' regard for Gamaliel was expressed in their saying: "When Rabban Gamaliel the elder died the glory of the Torah ceased, and purity and saintliness [lit. "separation"] perished" (Sot. 9:15).

rabban gamaliel ii, also called Rabban Gamaliel of Jabneh, grandson of (1), succeeded *Johanan b. Zakkai as nasi c. 80 c.e. He saw his life's work as the strengthening of the new center at Jabneh and the concentration and consolidation of the people around the Torah, constituting an authority that would be capable of filling the place of the Temple and of the Sanhedrin which had met in the Chamber of Hewn Stones. To this end he worked energetically for the elevation of the dignity of the nasi's office, and for the unification of halakhah. The Talmud reports a heavenly voice "that was heard in Jabneh" establishing the halakhah in accordance with Bet Hillel (Er. 13b; tj, Ber. 1:7, 3b), corresponding to the aims of much of Gamaliel's activity. It also describes his vigorous exertions as not directed to increasing his own honor or that of his household, but rather to preserving the unity of the nation and the Torah (BM 59b). In his private life and in his personal relationships he was modest and easygoing, showed love and respect toward his pupils and friends, and even to his slave, and was tolerant of gentiles (Tosef, bk 9:30; Ber. 2:7; Sanh. 104b; et al.; Sif. Deut. 38). In respect to laws and prohibitions he was at times lenient to others and strict with himself (Ber. 2:6; tj, Ber. 1:2, 3a). In spite of this, his firmness as nasi and his endeavors to increase the power of the new center aroused the strong opposition of the elder scholars of his generation. According to later talmudic tradition this led to a severe struggle in which Gamaliel did not hesitate to excommunicate his own brother-in-law, *Eliezer b. Hyrcanus (bm 59b). Of greatest consequence was Gamaliel's dispute with *Joshua b. Hananiah on the fixing of the new moon (see *Calendar). Gamaliel regarded the affair as a test of the authority of his bet din and ordered R. Joshua to demonstrate publicly that he accepted the discipline of the nasi: "I charge you to appear before me with your staff and your money on the day which according to your reckoning should be the Day of Atonement." On the advice of his colleagues, Akiva and Dosa b. Harkinas, R. Joshua bowed to the command. When he came before Rabban Gamaliel, the nasi rose, kissed him on his head and said to him: "Come in peace my teacher and pupil – my teacher in wisdom and my pupil because you have accepted my decision" (rh 2:8–9). From this passage in the Mishnah it would seem that the tensions between Gamaliel and Joshua had been resolved. According to the Talmud, however, they did not cease with this affair. The firmness of Gamaliel was regarded by most of the scholars as an insult to the dignity of R. Joshua and led to a revolt against his authority which ended with his removal from the office of nasi and the appointment of *Eleazar b. Azariah in his place (Ber. 27b–28a). The nobility of Rabban Gamaliel's character was vindicated, however, by his not absenting himself from bet ha-midrash and by his participation in the establishment of the halakhah under the direction of the new nasi. In the end Gamaliel appeased Joshua, and the scholars, meeting him halfway "out of respect for his father's house," reinstated him as nasi. According to the Jerusalem Talmud (Ber. 4:1) he alone was nasi, Eleazar b. Azariah only serving as his deputy, av bet din, but according to the Babylonian Talmud (ibid.) Eleazar b. Azariah continued to share the post of nasi with him.

Rabban Gamaliel was recognized as one of the greatest scholars of his generation by his colleagues, by his many pupils, and even by his opponents. His halakhic pronouncements, among them traditions from his father and grandfather, are abundantly cited in the Mishnah and beraitot. His activity, together with that of his colleagues and pupils in Jabneh, laid the foundation of the Mishnah. Exceptionally important takkanot with respect to religion and worship are associated with the name of Rabban Gamaliel, their aim being to face up to the new reality created by the destruction of the Temple by the implementation of laws and customs designed to serve as a "reminder of the Temple." Rabban Gamaliel played a large part in formulating Passover eve ceremonial after the destruction of the Temple (Pes. 10:5), in determining the final version of the 18 benedictions (*Amidah), in making it a duty for each individual to pray, and in deciding in favor of the custom of praying three times a day. It is clear that Rabban Gamaliel was close to the general culture and learning of his time, permitting among other things the study of Greek (Tosef., Sot. 15:8). His son Simeon's testimony that many youngsters studied Greek wisdom in his father's house (Sot. 49b) seemed incomprehensible to the scholars, who later explained the phenomenon in terms of the political activity of the nasi and in the light of the need to maintain good relations with the ruling powers. He did not refrain from bathing in the bathhouse of Aphrodite in Acre, regarding the image there as serving a decorative purpose only (Av. Zar. 3:4). Gamaliel's son, Ḥanina, testified that it was customary in his father's house to use seals which had figures in relief (tj, Av. Zar. 3:1, 42c). He was apparently also acquainted with the principles of Greek science. He used astronomical diagrams to examine the witnesses of the new moon (rh 2:8), and he fashioned an instrument to measure distances (er. 43b). Gamaliel was not only the chief religious authority but also the recognized national-political leader. It is probable that the Roman government also recognized him as the spokesman of the Jews. In any event he made journeys – either alone or in the company of other scholars – to the governor in Syria to receive "authority" (Eduy. 7:7; Sanh. 11a) and also to Rome in order to intercede for his people (tj, Sanh. 7:19, 25d). In his contacts with non-Jews, he also appeared as the spokesman of Judaism in its battle against idolatry and heresy (Av. Zar. 3:4, 4:7, et al.). Associated with his name is the introduction of the *Birkat ha-Minim in the Amidah, aimed at excluding the Christians from the Jewish fold (Ber. 28b; Meg. 17b).

The year of his death is not known, but in all probability he did not live to witness the revolt in the time of Trajan (c. 116 c.e.). The life and death of the great nasi are embellished in the aggadah. Tradition assigns to him the great takkanah– on behalf of the poor – of abrogating ornate and expensive funerals and introducing the practice of burying the dead in simple flaxen raiment.

gamaliel iii or Rabban Gamaliel be-Rabbi, the son of *Judah ha-Nasi, lived in the first half of the third century. He was appointed nasi in accordance with the testament of his father who instructed him to conduct his office with firmness (Ket. 103b); his brother Simeon was appointed ḥakham in the same testament. In the Mishnah Gamaliel rejects the extremist desideratum of isolation from the affairs of the world, takes a positive view of occupation and labor, and exhorts those occupied with communal affairs to work for the sake of heaven and not for their own benefit and honor. He counsels (apparently on the basis of his own experience) caution and suspicion in one's dealings with the government (i.e., Roman authority), even when it appears friendly (Avot 2:2–3). It is reported of Rabban Gamaliel and his bet din that they voted to invalidate ritual slaughter performed by Samaritans (Ḥul. 5b and Rashi, ibid.). Not many of his halakhic sayings have been preserved, but the greatest amoraim of the first generation – Samuel, Hosea, Ḥanina, and Johanan – were his disciples and highly valued his teachings. Among the discoveries in the Bet *She'arim excavations of 1954 were two adjoining decorated sepulchers, bearing the inscriptions in Hebrew and Greek, "Rabbi Gamaliel" and "Rabbi Simeon" respectively, which are thought to be the graves of the nasi and his brother.

rabban gamaliel iv, the son of *Judah Nesiah, lived in the second half of the third century.

rabban gamaliel v, the son of Hillel ii, lived in the second half of the fourth century; very little is known of either father or son.

Rabban Gamaliel vi, the last nasi. An order of the emperors Honorius and Theodosius ii, dated 415, has been preserved, which deprived Gamaliel of the post of nasi and of the titles of honor given by the government to that office as a penalty for having built a synagogue without authorization and for having defended the Jews against the Christians. Gamaliel's death in 426 brought to an end the institution of the nasi. From an allusion in the works of the medical author Marcellus (fifth century) it would seem that this Gamaliel was also a physician.


Graetz, Hist, index; Weiss, Dor, 1 (19244), 234 (index), s.v.; 2 (19244), 236 (index), s.v.; 3 (19244), 38ff.; Ha-levy, Dorot, vol. 1, pt. 5 (1923), 41ff.; Hyman, Toledot, 304–21; Ur-bach, in: Beḥinot, 4 (1952/53), 66; Alon, Toledot, 1 (19583), 114ff.; L. Finkelstein, 775–7 and index; idem, ed., The Jews, 1 (1949), 149–52; 2 (1949), 1790–91 and index; Baron, Social2, index; G.F. Moore, Judaism, 2 (1946), index.