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Never was a people so sadly undeceived as was the Jewish race on the morrow of the day when, contrary to the most formal assurances of the Divine oracles, the Temple which they had supposed to be indestructible collapsed before the assault of the soldiers of Titus. To have been near the realisation of the grandest of visions and to be forced to renounce them, at the very moment when the destroying angel had already partially withdrawn the cloud, to see everything vanish into space; to be committed through having prophesied the Divine apparition, and to receive from the harshness of facts the most cruel contradiction—were not these reasons for doubting the Temple, nay, for doubting God himself? Thus the first years which followed the catastrophe of the year 70 were characterised by an intense feverishness—perhaps the most intense which the Jewish conscience had ever experienced. Edom (the name by which 2the Jews already distinguished the Roman Empire), the impious Edom, the eternal enemy of God, triumphed. Ideas which had appeared to be unimpeachable were now argued against. Jehovah appeared to have broken his covenant with the sons of Abraham. It was even a question if the faith of Israel—assuredly the most ardent that ever existed—would succeed in executing a complete right-about-face against evidence, and by an unheard-of display of strength continue to hope against all hope.

The hired assassins, the enthusiasts, had almost all been killed: those who had survived passed the rest of their lives in that mournful state of stupefaction which amongst madmen follows attacks of violent mania. The Sadducees had almost disappeared in the year 66 with the priestly aristocracy who lived in the Temple, and drew from it all their prestige. It has been supposed that some survivors of the great families took refuge with the Herodians in the north of Syria, in Armenia, at Palmyra, remained long allied to the little dynasties of those countries, and shed a final brilliancy on that Zenobia who appears to us in effect, in the third century, as a Sadducean Jewess, foreshadowing by a simple monotheism both Arianism and Islam. The theory is a plausible one; but, in any case, such more or less authentic relics of the Sadducean party had become almost strangers to the rest of the Jewish nation: the Pharisees treated them as enemies.

That which survived the Temple and remained almost intact after the disaster at Jerusalem, was Pharisaism: the moderate party in Jewish society, the party less inclined to mingle politics with religion than other sections of the people, narrowing the business of life to the scrupulous accomplishment of the Law. Strange state of things! the Pharisees had passed through the ordeal almost safe and sound; the Revolution had passed over them without injuring them. 3Absorbed in their sole preoccupation—the exact observance of the Law—almost all of them had fled from Jerusalem before the last convulsions, and had found an asylum in the neutral towns of Jabneh and Lydda. The zealots were only individual enthusiasts; the Sadducees were but a class; the Pharisees were the nation. Essentially pacific, preferring a peaceful and laborious life, contented with the free practice of their family worship, these true Israelites resisted all temptations; they were the corner-stones of Judaism which passed through the Middle Ages and came down to our own days.

The Law was, in truth, all that remained to the Jewish people after the shipwreck of their religious institutions. Public worship, after the destruction of the Temple, had been impossible; prophecy, after the terrible check which it had received, was dumb; holy hymns, music, ceremonies, all had become insipid and objectless, since the Temple, which served as the navel of the entire Hebrew cosmos, had ceased to exist. The Thora, on the contrary, in the non-ritualistic part of it, was always possible. The Thora was not only a religious law, it was a complete system of legislation, a civil code, a personal statute, which made of the people who submitted to it a sort of republic apart from the rest of the world. Such was the object to which the Jewish conscience would henceforward attach itself with a kind of fanaticism. The ritual had to be profoundly modified, but the Canon Law was maintained almost in its entirety. To explain, to practise the Law with minute exactitude, appeared the sole end of life. One science only was held in esteem, that of the Law. Its tradition became the ideal country of the Jew. The subtle discussions which for about a hundred years had filled the schools, were as nothing compared with those which followed. Religious minutiæ and scrupulous devotion were substituted amongst the Jews for all the rest of the worship.


One not less grave consequence springing out of the new conditions under which Israel was henceforward to live was the definitive victory of the teacher (doctor) over the priest. The Temple had perished, but the school of the Law had been spared. The priest, after the destruction of the Temple, saw his functions reduced to very small proportions. The doctor, or, more properly speaking, the judge, the interpreter of the Thora, became, on the contrary, an important personage. The tribunal (Beth-din) was at that time a great Rabbinical school. The Ab-beth-din (president) is a chief at once civil and religious. Every titled rabbin had the right of entry within its limits; its decisions are determined by the majority of votes. The disciples standing behind a barrier heard and learned what was necessary to make them judges and doctors in their turn.

“A tight cistern which did not allow the escape of a drop of water” became henceforward the ideal of Israel. There was as yet no written manual of this traditional law. More than a hundred years had to roll on before the discussions of the schools became crystallised into a body which should be called Mishna, par excellence, but the root of this book really dates from the period of which we speak. Although compiled in Galilee, it was in reality born in Jabneh. Towards the end of the first century it existed only in the form of little pamphlets of notes, in style almost algebraical, and full of abbreviations, which gave the solutions by the most celebrated rabbins of embarrassing cases. The most robust memories already gave way under the weight of tradition and of judicial precedents. Such a state of things made writing necessary. Thus we see at this period mention is made of the Mishna, that is to say, little collections of decisions or halakoth, which bear the names of their authors. Such was that of the Rabbi Eliezer ben Jacob, who about the end of the first century was described as “short but good.” The Mishnic treatise Eduïoth, which is distinguished 5from all others in that it has no special subject and that it is in itself an abridged Mishna, has for central idea the Eduïoth or “testimonies” relative to prior decisions which were collected at Jabneh and submitted to revision after the dismissal of Rabbi Gamaliel the younger. About the same time Rabbi Eliezer ben Jacob composed from memory the description of the sanctuary which forms the basis of the treatise Middoth. Simon of Mispa, at a still earlier date, appears as the author of the first edition of the treatise Ioma, relating to the Feast of the Atonement, and perhaps of the treatise Tamid.

The opposition between these tendencies and those of the nascent Christianity was that of fire and water. Christians detached themselves ever more and more from the Law: the Jews fettered themselves with it frantically. A lively antipathy appears to have existed amongst Christians against the subtle and uncharitable spirit which every day tended to increase in the synagogues. Jesus fifty years before already had chosen this spirit as the object of his severest rebukes. Since then the casuists had only plunged more and more deeply into the abysses of their narrow hair splittings. The misfortunes of the nation had in no way changed their character. Disputatious, vain, jealous, susceptible, given to quarrelling for merely personal motives, they passed their time between Jabneh and Lydda in excommunicating each other for the most puerile reasons. James and the relations of Jesus generally were very strict Pharisees. Paul himself boasted of being a Pharisee and the son of a Pharisee. But after the siege the war was open. In collecting the traditional words of Jesus the change of situation made itself felt. The word “Pharisee” in the Gospels generally, as later the word “Jew” in the Gospel attributed to John, is employed as synonymous with “enemy of Jesus.” Derision of the casuist was one of the essential elements of the evangelical literature, 6and one of the causes of its success. The really good man in truth holds nothing in so much horror as moral pedantry. To clear himself in his own eyes from the suspicion of dupery, he is constrained sometimes to doubt his own works, his own merits. He who pretends to work out his own salvation by infallible receipts, appears to him the chief enemy of God. Pharisaism became thus something worse than vice, since it made virtue ridiculous; and nothing pleases us so much as to see Jesus, the most purely virtuous of men, set a hypocritical bourgeoisie at defiance, and allowing it to be understood that the Law of which he was so proud was perhaps like everything else—vanity.

One consequence of the new situation of the Jewish people was a vast increase of the separatist and exclusive spirit. Hated and despised by the world, Israel withdrew more and more into itself. The perischouth insociability became a law of public salvation. To live apart in a purely Jewish world, to add new requirements to the Law, to render it difficult to fulfil, such was the aim of the doctors, and they attained it very cleverly. Excommunications were multiplied. To observe the Law was so complicated an art that the Jew had no time to think of anything else. Such was the origin of the “eighteen measures,” a complete code of sequestration which originally dates from a period anterior to the destruction of the Temple but which did not come into operation until after 70. These eighteen measures were all intended to exaggerate the isolation of Israel. Forbidden to buy the most necessary things amongst Pagans, forbidden to speak their language, to receive their testimony and their offerings, forbidden to offer sacrifices for the Emperor. Many of these prescriptions were at once regretted; some even said that the day on which they were adopted was as sad as that on which the Golden Calf was set up, but they were never abrogated. A legendary dialogue expresses the opposite sentiments of the two 7parties which divided the Jewish schools in this matter. “To-day,” says Rabbi Eliezer, “the measure is filled up.” “To-day,” says Rabbi Joshua, “it has been made to overflow.” “A vessel full of nuts,” says Rabbi Eliezer, “may yet contain as much oil or sesame as you wish.” “When a jar is full of oil, if you add water you drive out the oil.” Notwithstanding all protests, the eighteen measures obtained such authority that some went so far as to say that no power had the right to abolish them. Perhaps certain of these measures were inspired by a sullen opposition to Christianity, and, above all, by the liberal preachings of St Paul. It would seem that the more the Christians laboured to overthrow the legal barriers, the more the Jews laboured to render them impregnable.

It was mainly in what concerned proselytes that the contrast was marked. Not merely did the Jews seek no longer to win them, but they displayed towards these new brethren a scarcely veiled hostility. It had not yet been said that “proselytes are a leprosy for Israel;” but far from encouraging them, they were dissuaded; they were told of the numberless dangers and difficulties to which they exposed themselves by consorting with a despised race. At the same time, the hatred against Rome redoubled. The only thoughts which her name inspired were thoughts of murder and of bloodshed.

But now, as always in the course of its long history there was an admirable minority in Israel who protested against the errors of the majority of the nation. The grand duality which lies at the base of the life of this singular people continued. The calm, the gentleness of the good Jew, was proof against all trials. Shammai and Hillel, though long dead, were as the heads of two opposed families; one representing the narrow, malevolent, subtle, materialistic spirit; the other the broad, benevolent, idealistic side of the religious genius of Israel. The contrast was striking. Humble, 8polished, affable, putting always the good of others before their own, the Hillelites, like the Christians, had for their principle that God “resisteth the proud but giveth grace to the lowly;” that honours elude those who seek them, and follow after those who fly from them; that he who hurries will obtain nothing, whilst he who knows how to wait has time on his side.

Amongst really pious souls singularly bold ideas sometimes developed themselves. On the one hand the liberal family of Gamaliel, who had for principle in their relations with Pagans to care for their poor, to treat them with politeness even when they worshipped their idols, to pay the last respects to their dead, sought to relax the situation. In business this family already had relations with the Romans, and had no scruple in asking from their conquerors the investiture of a sort of presidency of the Sanhedrim, and, with their permission, the resumption of the title of Nasi. On the other hand, an extremely liberal man, Johanan ben Zakaï, was the soul of the transformation. Long before the destruction of Jerusalem he had enjoyed a preponderating influence in the Sanhedrim. During the Revolution he was one of the chiefs of the moderate party which kept itself aloof from political questions, and did all that was possible to prevent the prolongation of a resistance which must inevitably bring about the destruction of the Temple. Escaped from Jerusalem, he predicted, it is asserted, the Empire of Vespasian; one of the favours which he asked from him was a doctor for the old Zadok, who, in the years before the siege, had ruined his health by fasting. It appears certain that he got into the good graces of the Romans, and that he obtained from them the re-establishment of the Sanhedrim at Jabneh. It is doubtful whether he was ever really a pupil of Hillel, but he was certainly the inheritor of his spirit. To cause peace to reign amongst men was his favourite maxim. It was told 9of him that no one had ever been able to salute him first, not even a Pagan in the market-place. Though not a Christian, he was a true disciple of Jesus. He even went at times, it is said, so far as to follow the example of the old prophets, denying the efficacy of worship, and recognising the fact that justice accomplishes for Pagans all that sacrifice did for the Jews.

A little consolation came to the frightfully troubled soul of Israel. Fanatics, at the risk of their lives, stole into the silent city and furtively offered sacrifice on the ruins of the Holy of Holies. Some of these madmen spoke on their return of a mysterious voice which had come out from the heaps of rubbish, and had declared acceptance of their sacrifices; but this excess was generally condemned. Certain amongst them forbade all enjoyment, lived in tears and fasting, and drank only water. Johanan ben Zakaï consoled them:—“Be not sad, my son,” said he to one of these despairing ones. “If we cannot offer sacrifices, there is still a way of expiating our sins which is quite as efficacious—good works.” And he recalled the words of Isaiah, “I love charity better than sacrifice.” Rabbi Joshua was of the same opinion. “My friends,” said he to those who imposed exaggerated privations upon themselves, “what is the use of abstaining from meat and from wine?” “How,” they answered, “should we eat the flesh which is sacrificed on the altar which is now destroyed? should we drink the wine which we ought to pour out as a libation on the same altar?” “Well,” replied the Rabbi Joshua, “then eat no bread, since it is no longer possible to make sacrifices of fine flour.” “Then we must feed upon fruit.” “Nay. Fruits cannot be allowed, since it is no longer possible to offer first-fruits in the Temple.” The force of circumstances decided the matter. The eternity of the Law was maintained in theory; it was believed that even Elias himself could not change a single article of 10it; but the destruction of the Temple suppressed in fact a considerable proportion of the ancient prescriptions; there was no room for anything more than moral casuistry of details or for mysticism. The developed cabbala is surely of a more modern age. But at that time many gave themselves to what were called “the visions of the chariot,” that is to say, to speculations on the mysteries concealed in the visions of Ezekiel. The Jewish mind was wrapped up in visions, and created an asylum for itself in the midst of a hated world. The study became a deliverance. Rabbi Nehounia gave currency to the principle that he who takes upon him the yoke of the Law thereby frees himself from the yoke of the world and of politics. When this point of detachment is attained, people cease to be dangerous revolutionaries. Rabbi Hanina was accustomed to say, “Pray for the established government: for without it men would eat each other.”

The misery was extreme. A heavy taxation weighed upon all, and the sources of revenue were dried up. The mountains of Judea remained uncultivated and covered with ruins; property itself was very uncertain. When it was cultivated, the cultivator was liable to be evicted by the Romans. As for Jerusalem, it was nothing but a heap of broken stones. Pliny even spoke of it as of a city that had ceased to exist. Without doubt, the Jews who had been tempted to come in considerable numbers to encamp upon the ruins, had been expelled from thence. Yet the historians who insist most strongly on the total destruction of the city, admit that some old men and some women were left. Josephus depicts for us the first sitting and weeping in the dust of the sanctuary, and the second reserved by the conquerors for the last outrages. The 10th Fretensian Legion continued to act as a garrison in a corner of the deserted city. The bricks which have been found with the stamp of that legion, prove that the men of it built it. It is probable 11that furtive visits to the still visible foundations of the Temple were tolerated or permitted by the soldiers for a money consideration. Christians, in particular, preserved the memory and the worship of certain places, notably of the tabernacle of Mount Sion, where it was believed that the disciples of Jesus met after the Ascension, as well as the tomb of James, the brother of the Lord, near the Temple. Golgotha probably was not forgotten. As nothing was rebuilt in the town or in the suburbs, the enormous stones of the great edifices remained untouched in their places, so that all the monuments were still perfectly recognisable.

Driven thus from their Holy City and from the region which they loved, the Jews spread themselves over the towns and villages of the plain which extends from the foot of the Mountain of Judea to the sea. The Jewish population multiplied there. One locality above all was the scene of that quasi-resurrection of Pharisaism, and became the theological capital of the Jews until the war of Bar Coziba. This was the city—originally Philistine—of Jabneh or Jamnia, four leagues and a half to the south of Jaffa. It was a considerable town, inhabited by Pagans and Jews; but the Jews predominated there, although the town, since the war of Pompey, had ceased to form part of Judea. The struggles between the two populations had been lively. In his campaigns of 67 and 68 Vespasian had had to show himself there to establish his authority. Provisions abounded there. In the earlier days of the blockade many peaceable wise men, such as Johanan ben Zakaï, whom the chimera of natural independence did not lead away, came thither for shelter. There it was that they learned of the burning of the Temple. They wept, rent their garments, put on mourning, but found that it was still worth while to live, that they might see if God had not reserved a future for Israel. It was, it is said, at the entreaty of Johanan that Vespasian spared Jabneh and its 12savants. The truth is that before the war a Rabbinical school flourished in Jabneh. For unknown reasons, it was a part of the Roman polity to allow it to continue, and after the arrival of Johanan ben Zakaï it assumed a greater importance.

Rabbi Gamaliel the younger put the top stone to the celebrity of Jabneh when he took the direction of the school after Rabbi Johann retired to Berour-Haïl. Jabneh, from this moment, became the first Jewish academy of Palestine. The Jews from various countries assembled there for the feasts, as formerly they had gone up to Jerusalem, and as formerly they profited by the journey to the Holy City to take council with the Sanhedrim and the schools upon doubtful cases, so at Jabneh they submitted difficult questions to the Beth-din. This tribunal was only rarely and improperly called by the name of the ancient Sanhedrim; but it exercised an undisputable authority; the doctors of all Judea sometimes met in it, and so gave to the Beth-din the character of a Supreme Court. The memory was long preserved of the orchard where the sittings of this tribunal were held, and of the dovecote under whose shade the president sat.

Jabneh appeared thus as a sort of resuscitated Jerusalem. As to privileges and religious obligations, it was completely assimilated to Jerusalem; its synagogue was considered the legitimate heiress of that of Jerusalem—as the centre of the now religious authority. The Romans themselves looked at it in this light, and accorded to the Nasi or Ab-beth-din of Jabneh an official authority. This was the commencement of the Jewish patriarchate which developed itself later and became an institution analogous to the Christian patriarchates of the Ottoman Empire of our own days. These magistratures, at once civil and religious, conferred by the political power, have always been in the East the means employed by great Empires to disembarrass themselves of the responsibilities of their satraps. 13The existence of a personal statute was in no way disquieting to the Romans, above all, in a town partly idolatrous and Roman, where the Jews were restrained by the military force and by the antipathy of the rest of the population. Religious conversations between Jews and non-Jews appear to have been frequent in Jabneh. Tradition shows us Johanan ben Zakaï maintaining frequent controversies with infidels, and furnishing them with explanations of the Bible, on the Jewish festivals. His answers are often evasive, and sometimes alone with his disciples he allows himself to smile at the unsatisfactory solutions he has given to Pagan difficulties.

Lydda had its schools which rivalled those of Jabneh in celebrity, or rather which were a sort of dependency of them. The two towns were about four leagues Apart: when a man had been excommunicated at one he betook himself to the other. All the villages, Danite or Philistine, of the surrounding maritime plain—Berour Haïl, Bakiin, Gibthon, Gimso, Bene Barak, which were all situated to the south of Antipatris, and were until then hardly considered as belonging to the Holy Land at all—served also as an asylum to celebrated doctors. Finally the Darom, the southern part of Judea, situated between Eleutheropolis and the Dead Sea, received many fugitive Jews. It was a rich country, far from the routes frequented by the Romans, and almost at the limit of their domination.

It thus appears that the current which carried Rabbinism towards Galilee had not yet made itself felt. There were exceptions. Rabbi Eliezer ben Jacob, the editor of one of the first Mishna, appears to have been a Galilean. Towards the year 100 the Mishnic doctors are seen approaching Cæsarea in Galilee. It was, however, only after the war of Hadrian that Tiberias and upper Galilee became par excellence the country of the Talmud.

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