Holy Congregation in Jerusalem

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HOLY CONGREGATION IN JERUSALEM (Kehilla Kaddisha de-vi-Yrushalayim ), religious association in Jerusalem at the end of the second century c.e. In Ereẓ Israel sources it was known as "The Holy Community" (Edah Kedoshah) and comprised an association of R. Meir's pupils who adopted a way of life resembling in many respects that of the associations of *Ḥaverim in the Second Temple period. The mode of life pursued by its members may be gauged from the following statement: "And why are they called the Holy Community [Edah Kedoshah]? Because there were Yose b. Meshullam and Simeon b. Menasia who divided the day into three, devoting one third of it to the Torah, one third to prayer, and one third to work. Some declare that they occupied themselves with Torah during the winter and engaged in work during the summer" (Eccles. R. 9:9). In the sources, the concept "holy" is largely synonymous with abstinence and levitical cleanness (see tj, Shab. 1:6, 3c; tj, Meg. 1:13, 72b; et al.). Thus Yose b. Meshullam, one of its leaders, adopted a strict view concerning observance of purity by its members who probably observed its rules pertaining to sacred food, as did the associations in the Second Temple period, even for ordinary meals.

The virtues of prayer, work, and the strict observance of levitical purity having been highly extolled by R. Meir, some of his pupils, who, according to Safrai, included R. Samuel of Phrygia, gave practical expression to his doctrines through an association similar to those of the associations that flourished in the days of the Second Temple. Like the Ḥaverim of the Second Temple period, and unlike the Qumran sect and the Essenes, the members of the Holy Congregation did not withdraw from society but participated with their contemporaries in composing the halakhah. Thus the Babylonian Talmud on several occasions quotes halakhic and aggadic statements in the name of the Holy Congregation in Jerusalem (Ber. 9b; Beẓah 14b; et al.); Judah ha-Nasi and Joshua b. Levi cite halakhot in its name; leaders of the Holy Congregation are mentioned in the Mishnah (Ḥag. 1:7; Ter. 4:7; et al.); and some mishnayot, of which they were the authors, are cited anonymously (cf. Tosef., Bek. 4:11, with Mishnah Bek., 6:8; et al.).

In view of the evidence that Jews were prohibited from living in Jerusalem after the Bar Kokhba revolt, some scholars regard the Holy Congregation in Jerusalem as dating from Second Temple and Jabneh times. Others are of the opinion that it was composed of refugees from Jerusalem who settled in Galilee, and hence emend its name to "The Holy Congregation from Jerusalem." Rabin contends that it originated in the days of Jabneh and that Simeon b. Menasia and Yose b. Meshullam flourished at a later stage of its history when it was no longer in Jerusalem. Because of the association's connections with Jerusalem, some scholars maintain that there was no prohibition against Jews living there after the destruction of the Second Temple, but this view is untenable, since there are adequate grounds that such a prohibition did in fact exist. The most acceptable view is that of Alon, namely, that during the period of the Severi when the political position of the Jews had greatly improved, the Roman authorities did not enforce the prohibition, even though it had not been officially rescinded. The years that had elapsed from the Bar Kokhba revolt until the days of Judah ha-Nasi also undoubtedly contributed to a relaxation of the decree.


A. Buechler, Die Priester und der Cultus (1895), 35ff.; A. Marmorstein, in: Jeschurun, 11 (1924), 149–56; J. Jeremias, Jerusalem in the Time of Jesus (1969), 246ff.; L. Baeck, The Pharisees and other Essays (1947), 3ff.; S. Krauss, Synagogale Altertuemer (1922), 107–9; idem, in: ymḤey, 4 (1937), 52–60; S. Klein, Ereẓ Yehudah (1939), 183, 268–70; idem (ed.), Sefer ha-Yishuv, 1 (1939), introd., 21f.; Alon, Toledot, 1 (19593), 110ff.; Epstein, Tannaim, 182f.; C. Rabin, Qumran Studies (1957), 37–52; S. Safrai, in: Zion, 22 (1957), 183–93.

[A'hron Oppenheimer]

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Holy Congregation in Jerusalem

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