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Yose ben Joezer of Zeredah


YOSE BEN JOEZER OF ZEREDAH (first half of the second century b.c.e.), together with his colleague, *Yose b. Johanan of Jerusalem, the first of the *zugot. Both were disciples of *Antigonus of Sokho. Zeredah, his place of origin, is in the south of Samaria. He was the nasi of the Sanhedrin and his colleague was the av bet din. They are recorded as having "decreed uncleanness upon gentile countries and upon glassware" (Shab. 14b–15b, tj, Shab. 1:7, 3c; Pes. 1:6, 27d; Ket. 8:11, 32c). Apparently the main reason for the first decree was to prevent or discourage emigration from Ereẓ Israel. The suggestion that the second decree was for economic reasons is very doubtful. It is probable that it was merely one of the stringencies introduced into the laws of ritual uncleanness and cleanness during the time of the Second Temple. They were the first to differ in the well-known dispute about *semikhah (the laying on of hands upon sacrifices during the festival), Yose b. Joezer holding that it should not be performed and Yose b. Johanan permitting it (Ḥag. 2:2). Because of their profound erudition and piety both Yoses were called "the grape clusters," and it was said that when they died "the grape clusters ceased" (Sot. 9:9; cf. Tosef., bk 8:13; Tem. 15b).

It is related of Yose b. Joezer "that he was the most pious in the priesthood, yet his apron was [considered] midras (uncleanness) for [those eating] hallowed things" (Ḥag. 2:7). The Mishnah (Eduy. 8:4) relates of him: "Yose b. Joezer of Zeredah testified concerning the ayil kamẓah locust that it is clean … and that one who has definitely touched a corpse is unclean. And they called him Yose the permitter." It is noteworthy that this testimony – the first mentioned in the sources (see Eduyyot) – is in Aramaic, typical of authentic Second Temple traditions. His statement in Avot (1:4), however, is in Hebrew: "Let thy house be a meeting place for scholars; sit amid the dust of their feet; and drink in their words with thirst." The Midrash (Gen. R. 65:22) relates that Yose was sentenced to death by crucifixion. On the way to his execution his nephew, Yakum of Zerorot, who is usually identified with the wicked priest *Alcimus, encountered him and taunted him. Alcimus repented and committed suicide. This story, however, does not agree with the description of the death of Alcimus in I Maccabees 9:55–56. The Talmud (bb 133b) relates that Yose gave all his property to the sanctuary and bequeathed nothing to his son because of his unworthy conduct.


Hyman, Toledot, 729–31; N. Krochmal, Moreh Nevukhei ha-Zeman (Kitvei Rabbi N. Krochmal, ed. by S. Rawidowicz (1924), 69); Frankel, Mishnah, 31–4; Weiss, Dor, 1 (19044), 98–102; Halevy, Dorot, 1 pt. 3 (1923), 200–2, 348–50; S. Klein, Ereẓ Yehudah (1939), 45; E.E. Urbach, in: Tarbiz, 27 (1958), 170; Alon, Meḥkarim, 2 (1958), 185f.; L. Ginzberg (Ginẓburg), Al Halakhah ve-Haggadah (1960), 141, 21–27.

[Moshe David Herr]

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