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ZUGOT (Heb. זוּגוֹת; "pairs"; sing. זוּג; zug), name given to the pairs of sages responsible for maintaining the chain of the Oral Law from Antigonus of *Sokho, the pupil of Simeon the Just, to Johanan b. *Zakkai. In the sources they are represented as a link between the prophets and the tannaim (Pe'ah 2:6; Tosef., Yad. 2:16). Mishnah Avot (1:4–12) mentions five zugot. The first zug was that of *Yose b. Joezer and *Yose b. Johanan of Jerusalem, who flourished at the time of the religious persecutions under Antiochus Epiphanes (174–164 b.c.e.); the second, *Joshua b. Peraḥyah and *Nittai (or, according to some versions, Mattai) the Arbelite; the third, *Judah b. Tabbai and *Simeon b. Shetaḥ, in the days of Alexander *Yannai and *Salome Alexandra; the fourth, *Shemaiah and *Avtalyon, who flourished in the time of Herod; the fifth, *Hillel and *Menahem, after which "Menahem went forth and Shammai entered" (Ḥag. 2:2). According to a mishnaic tradition (ibid.), the first in each zug was the * nasi ("elected head of the Sanhedrin"), the second the *av bet din ("elected second to the nasi"). R. *Meir upheld this tradition in all cases; but the other rabbis made an exception, holding that "Simeon b. Shetaḥ was nasi and Judah b. Tabbai av bet din" (Tosef., Ḥag. 2:8). None of the extant sources helps to clarify the exact significance of these titles or of the functions associated with them. Nevertheless, the tradition is not to be rejected, or to be regarded merely as a projection of the organization of the bet din at Jabneh and Usha. An allusion to dual appointment in the selection of heads of public institutions at the beginning of the Hasmonean period is to be found in the statement that Johanan the high priest appointed zugot to supervise the collection of the tithes (tj, Ma'as. Sh. 5:9, 56d). These zugot, however, according to Geiger (Urschrift und Uebersetzungen der Bibel (1857), 116ff., 142, 492), are not to be identified with those under consideration here. Similarly, before the destruction of the Second Temple, there were "two judges of robbery suits" in Jerusalem (Ket. 13:1), and reference is made to 80 zugot of pupils of Hillel the Elder (tj, Ned. 5:7, 39a).

The Mishnah (Sot. 9:9) states that "when Yose b. Joezer of Zeredah and Yose b. Johanan of Jerusalem died, the grapeclusters ceased." The meaning of this expression is not clear, but of all the possible explanations, that of a tradition in the Jerusalem Talmud (tj, Sot. 9:10, 24a; and see Sot. 47b) is the most plausible, namely, that the difference between this zug and the successors was that "the former served in an administrative capacity, while the latter did not serve in an administrative capacity." This apparently means that whereas the leadership of the first zug, which flourished before the rule of the Hasmoneans, embraced all spheres, that of the subsequent zugot was more restricted, being shared by the Hasmonean kings. In addition to the decrees ascribed to the zugot (tj, Pes. 1:6, 27d and see Shab. 14b), and the ethical maxims and the aphorisms quoted in their names in Avot 1, the Mishnah (Ḥag. 2:2) mentions a subject on which all the zugot differed between themselves: "Yose b. Joezer says that the laying of hands [on the head of a sacrifice; see *Semikhah] is not to be performed [on a festival] [for the explanation, see Tosef., Ḥag. 2:10; tj, Ḥag. 2:3, 78a; Ḥag. 16b], Yose b. Johanan says that it is; Joshua b. Peraḥyah says that it is not to be performed, Nittai the Arbelite says that it is; Judah b. Tabbai says that it is not to be performed, Simeon b. Shetaḥ says that it is; Shemaiah says it is to be performed, Avtalyon says it is not; Shammai says it is not to be done, Hillel says it is."

The question as to why a dispute should have persisted for generations, in particular on the subject of the laying of hands on a sacrifice, with no final decision ever reached on the matter, is one that has puzzled scholars. The various interpretations that have been suggested lack any solid foundation. Nor is there any substance in the different theories that seek to explain this supposed "fundamental controversy" among the zugot in terms of trends and schools.


Graetz, in: mgwj, 18 (1869), 20–32; Schwarz, ibid., 37 (1893), 164–9; A. Buechler, Das Synedrion in Jerusalem (1902), 153ff., 187–93; Zeitlin, in: jqr, 7 (1916/17), 499–517; Frankel, Mishnah, 29–44; Albeck, in: Zion, 8 (1942/43), 165–78; Ch. Tchernowitz, Toledot ha-Halakhah, 4 (1950), 141–78; Hallewy, in: Tarbiz, 28 (1958/59), 154–7; H. Mantel, Studies in the History of the Sanhedrin (1961), 1–18; L. Finkelstein, Pharisees (1962), index, s.v. individual sages.