Ḥaver, Ḥaverim

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HAVER, HAVERIM (Heb. חָבֵר, pl. חֲבֵרִים; "member"), the name for those belonging to a group that undertook to observe meticulously both the laws of *terumah ("heave-offering") and *ma'aser ("tithing") as well as the regulations of impurity and purity. The regulations binding the obligations of the ḥaver were already laid down in the time of Hillel and Shammai, since Bet Hillel and Bet Shammai differ about the details. A candidate for membership of the group was not immediately accepted as a full ḥaver, but was subjected to a period of education and probation. The candidate declaredhis readiness "to accept the obligations of a ḥaver in the presence of three ḥaverim" (Bek. 30b). He was first accepted "for wings" (Tosef., Dem. 2:11), according to S. Lieberman, one who washed his hands before eating and before touching ritually clean food (Tosefta ki-Feshutah (see bibliography), pt. 1, 214). In the next stage he undertook more stringent obligations of ritual purity, undertaking "that he would not give terumah or ma'aser to an *am ha-arez, nor prepare ritually clean food for him, and that he would eat ordinary food in a state of ritual purity" (Tosef., ibid., 2:2; Lieberman, ibid., 210; see Dem. 2:3). After undertaking to observe all the obligations of a ḥaver he underwent a period of probation – 30 days according to Bet Hillel and 12 months according to Bet Shammai – before being accepted as a full ḥaver. Anyone could join the group, including women and slaves (Tosef., Dem. 2:16–17), on condition that they undertook to fulfill the aforementioned obligations. No candidate was exempted from the conditions of acceptance ("even a scholar had to undertake them," ibid., 2:13). Joining the group of ḥaverim meant separation from those who were not haverim – from the am ha-areẓ – raising many problems in daily life, even in the life of the family, when some members were ḥaverim while others were not. In pursuit of their aims the ḥaverim did not isolate themselves from society or create special centers for themselves, nor did they form an organized group with officeholders having particular functions. Detailed halakhot were evolved to regulate relations between them and their environment in all spheres of life.

It is not possible to determine the exact period of the group's first emergence. The fact that the halakhot dealing with the ḥaver were mainly transmitted in the names of the*tannaim who lived after the Bar Kokhba revolt does not suffice to support the opinion of A. Buechler (see bibliography) who ascribed them to the era of Usha and even assigned them to the priests of Galilee. Not only is this contradicted by some sources, as stated, that Bet Shammai and Bet Hillel differed on details of these halakhot (see Tosef., Av. Zar. 3:9–10 for the period of Rabban Gamaliel), but other evidence also conflicts with Buechler's opinion. It has long been recognized that the arrangement for accepting haverim is reminiscent of the description given by Josephus (Wars, 2:137) of the acceptance into the fold of the Essenes, and parallels have been pointed out with the school of the Pythagoreans. The discovery of the Scroll of the *Manual of Discipline in the Judean desert throws new and important light on the subject. It is a document of a society in Ereẓ Israel, describing its life and regulations. There are indeed differences between the two; the Dead Sea group was a fraternity whose members lived communally and shared their possessions. Nevertheless the regulations with regard to ritual purity and many of the arrangements for initiation were common to both, and the same phrases and expressions occur in both. It seems reasonable to suppose that the various groups of haverim among the Pharisees too were not all of one character and certainly did not always conduct themselves in all matters with the same degree of stringency. The differences are still reflected in those tannaitic statements which incorporate earlier halakhot.

It seems that originally when the ḥaverim were few in number their regulations were more stringent, but as they came to be accepted by wider circles a more lenient tendency developed. There are explicit references to this effect. "At first they said that a ḥaver who becomes a tax collector is to be expelled. Later they said that as long as he is a tax collector, he is not trusted, but if he withdraws from it, he is to be trusted" (Tosef., Dem. 3:4). It would also appear that halakhot which are quoted as disputes between tannaim are in actual fact merely transmissions of halakhot from different times, as for instance: if they regret becoming ḥaverim, they can never again be accepted, so claims R. Meir; R. Judah says: If they regret it publicly they can be accepted, but if clandestinely (i.e., they disregarded the regulations in private, but behaved in public as haverim) they are not to be accepted (because of their hypocrisy); R. Simeon and R. Joshua b. Korha say: They may be accepted in both cases (ibid. 2:9). Meir's view represents the remnant of the strict rules of a group of ḥaverim, which, by the way, have a parallel in the scroll of the Manual of Discipline 7:1: "And if he cursed… then he shall be set apart and never again return."

The fact that most of the halakhot of the ḥaverim were taught during the era of Usha does not point to the time they came into existence but to the fact that at that time the regulations were renewed with the purpose of making halakhot, which at one time were of concern to small groups of ḥaverim, into the halakhot of the community as a whole. Meir took a stringent view while his colleagues favored a more lenient one. The renewal of these halakhot after the Bar Kokhba revolt can be ascribed to the general tendency towards asceticism then prevailing. However, it seems that, in practice, these stringencies were confined to scholars and their disciples, so that in the time of the amoraim "ḥaver" became a synonym for a scholar, so that it was said "The ḥaverim are none other than the scholars" (BB 75a; cf. the expression "ḥaverim of Torah" TJ, Ber. 1:1, 2d; Tanh., Nizzavim, 4; Lieberman in: Tarbiz, 2 (1930/31), 106), and it seems that in Babylon the Palestinian amoraim were called "havurah" ("group of ḥaverim"; Shab. 111b; "the lion of the havurah"; Pes. 64a).

The Post-Talmudic Period

In the academies of Babylon during the geonic period the three scholars sitting in the first row after the seven heads of the *kallah called *allufim ("chiefs") were known as ḥaverim. At the close of the geonic period this title was also bestowed upon important scholars outside the academy, such as Jacob b. Nissim and Saadiah b. Ephraim of Kairouan. In the academies of Ereẓ Israel, an ordained scholar was called "ḥaver of the Great Sanhedrin," and the 70 members of the academy were called collectively "havurta kadishta" ("holy association"). The five ḥaverim after the gaon and the head of the academy were referred to by number, "third of the havurah,""fourth of the havurah," etc. A candidate for the havurah was called me'uttad la-havurah ("destined for the havurah"). The designation was also widened figuratively into "the most eminent ḥaver of the havurah," "the splendor of the ḥaverim,"and "the glory of the ḥaverim," etc. In the 11th century the title ḥaver was added to the names of the dayyanim heading the communities of Ereẓ Israel, Syria, and Egypt, who were apparently ordained by the yeshivah of Erez Israel. The title was also current in the academy of Fostat (a letter of 1441 mentions "our teacher and master, R. Pethahiah Kohen, the ḥaver of the Great Sanhedrin"). In Arabic-speaking countries the term "ḥaver" became a synonym for an educated man and a scholar and found its way into the Arabic language. The Jewish scholar in Judah Halevi's Kuzari is called in the Arabic original "Al-Hibr." In France, Italy, and Germany, it was used as a designation for young scholars, benei havurah (Or Zaru'a, pt. 2, nos. 91 and 329; see Urbach, in: Tarbiz 10 (1938/39) 32 n.17). Only in the 14th century when the appointment of a rabbi in Germany depended upon ordination and the granting of the title morenu, did the title ḥaver become an indication of official recognition of exceptional merit in Torah learning. Its attainment was bound up with the fulfillment of certain conditions which varied from country to country and from one period to another. In the takkanot of the communities and regional councils of Poland, Lithuania, and Moravia, the conditions of the right to bear this title, together with a preferred status in the community, concessions in taxation, and other privileges, were laid down. The additional privileges granted to the bearers of the title brought the communal leaders to lay down the conditions for attaining the titles, even though they were granted by rabbis. The decline of the institutions for Torah study at the end of the 17th century in Poland and Lithuania brought with it also a modification of the requirements for the title of ḥaver, and it tended to become a mere title of respect.


A. Buechler, Der galilaeische ʿAm-ha ʾAresdes zweiten Jahrhunderts (1906); J. Lévy, La légende de Pythagore de Grèce en Palestine (1927), 236–63; Allon, in: Tarbiz, 9 (1937/38), 1–10, 179–95 (= Alon, Mehkarim, 1 (1957), 148–76); Geiger, Mikra, 80–87; Lieberman, in: JBL, 71 (1952), 199–206; idem, Tosefta ki-Feshutah, 1 (1955), 209–33; Ch. Rabin, Qumran Studies (1957); Urbach, in: Sefer Yovel le-Y. Baer (1960), 68; Neusner, in: HTR, 53 (1960), 125–42; Zunz, Lit Poesie, 284f.; S. Poznański, Inyanim Shonim ha-Noge'im li-Tekufat ha-Ge'onim (1909), 46, 59, 62; idem, Babylonische Geonim im nachgaonaeischen Zeitalter (1914), 103 n. 1; Mann, Egypt, 1 (1920), 54, 182, 264, 272, 277f.; 2 (1922), 348; Assaf, Geonim, 99; J. Katz, Masoret u-Mashber (1958), 227f., 267.

[Encyclopaedia Hebraica]