SIMEON II. (BEN GAMALIEL I.):
President of the Great Sanhedrin at Jerusalem in the last two decades before the destruction of the Temple. Not merely a scholar, but a man of resolution and courage also, he was one of the leaders in the revolt against the Romans. Although he was the chief of the Pharisees during the revolt, he did not hesitate to make common cause with the Sadducean former high priest Anan. Even his adversary Josephus praises him, saying that Simeon was a circumspect and energetic man, who would have carried the revolt to a successful conclusion if his counsel had been consistently followed (Josephus, "Vita," § 38). Simeon b. Gamaliel died before the outbreak was quelled; he is said to have been executed by the Romans (Sem. viii.), though this statement lacks historical support.
Little is known of his activity as a teacher of the Law, though it may be assumed that he followed the liberal interpretations of his grandfather Hillel. He held that no rules and regulations should be imposed upon the people which they were unable to follow (Tosef., Sanh. ii. 13). Once, when poultry was very dear at Jerusalem, so that the women obliged to bring their offering of doves were hardly able to bear the great expense, Simeon issued a decree permitting a woman who ordinarily would be obliged to offer five pairs of doves to offer only one pair; in consequence of this decree the price declined to one-fourth (Ker. i. 7). No other halakot by him have been preserved, although probably many of his halakic sentences are included in those of the "Bet Hillel." His rule of life was: "All my days I have grown up among sages, and I have found that there is nothing better than silence, and that he who talks much gives rise to sin. Not interpretation and study but work is the most virtuous thing" (Abot i. 17).
- Frankel, Hodegetica in Mischnam, pp. 63-64;
- Brüll, Einleitung in die Mischna, i. 55-57;
- Weiss, Dor, i. 190-191;
- Grätz, Gesch. iii. 470.