Simeon ben Gamaliel I

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SIMEON BEN GAMALIEL I (first century c.e.), nasi of the Sanhedrin in the generation of the destruction of the Temple. Josephus (Life, 191f.), of whom Simeon was a bitter opponent, praises Simeon as: "A man highly gifted with intelligence and judgment; he could by sheer genius retrieve an unfortunate situation in affairs of state." Simeon's words in Avot (1:17), "All my days I have grown up among the wise, and I have found nothing of better service than silence; not learning but doing is the chief thing; and he who is profuse of words causes sin," probably reflect the attitude he adopted during the stormy period of the conflict of opinions and sects, against the background of the dangers inherent in the revolt and the war. Some assert that Simeon was killed by the extremists who were opposed to his moderate leadership, but the view in the sources (Sem. 8; et al.) that he met a martyr's death at the hands of the Romans seems more probable, and he is thus traditionally included among the *Ten Martyrs. The Simeon b. Gamaliel mentioned without qualification in the Mishnah and in beraitot is usually Simeon b. Gamaliel ii. However, the practical halakhot and *takkanot connected with the Temple, such as the energetic action to keep down the price of birds for women to sacrifice after childbirth (Ker. 1:7), must apply to Simeon b. Gamaliel i. Especially striking is the description of him at the time of the Simḥat Bet ha-Sho'evah ("Festival of *Water-drawing"): "He used to juggle with eight burning torches and not one of them fell to the ground, and when he prostrated himself he placed his finger upon the pavement, bowed, kissed the ground, and immediately stood upright" (Suk. 53a). One halakhic ruling by him is quoted in Eruvin (6:2).


Hyman, Toledot, s.v.

[Israel Burgansky]