GAMALIEL II. (called also Gamaliel of Jabneh, to distinguish him from his grandfather, Gamaliel I.):
The recognized head of the Jews in Palestine during the last two decades of the first and at the beginning of the second century. He continued with great energy and success the work of restoration begun by Johanan b. Zakkai. The tradition of the meeting between Johanan and Vespasian (Giṭ. 56b) relates that the former obtained the pardon of Gamaliel's family from the Roman emperor; and this part of the story may rest on a historical basis. Johanan probably retired from his position as president of the learned assembly at Jabneh, which took the place of the Sanhedrin at Jerusalem; and the office was given to Gamaliel, under whose leadership even those pupils of Johanan who excelled Gamaliel in scholarship willingly placed themselves. One of the greatest of these pupils, (Eliezer b. Hyrcanus, married Gamaliel's sister, Imma Shalom (Shab. 116a; B. M. 59b). Perhaps it was Gamaliel II. to whom the title of "nasi" (prince; later replaced by "patriarch") was first given to raise him in public estimation and to revive the Biblical designation for the head of the nation. This title later became hereditary with his descendants. Gamaliel was officially recognized by the Roman authorities; and he journeyed to Syria for the purpose of being confirmed in office by the governor (ἡγεµών; 'Eduy. vii. 7; Sanh. 11b).
The guiding principle in all of Gamaliel's actions is set forth in the words which he spoke on the occasion of his quarrel with Eliezer b. Hyrcanus (B. M. 59b): "Lord of the world, it is manifest and known to Thee that I have not done it for my own honor nor for that of my house, but for Thy honor, that factions may not increase in Israel." The ends which Gamaliel had in view were the abolition of old dissensions, the prevention of new quarrels, and the restoration of unity within Judaism. To attain these objects he consistently labored to strengthen the authority of the assembly at Jabneh as well as his own, and thus brought upon himself the suspicion of seeking his own glory. His greatest achievement was the termination of the opposition between the schools of Hillel and Shammai, which had survived even the destruction of the Temple. In Jabneh, says tradition (Yer. Ber. 3b; 'Er. 13b), a voice from heaven ("bat ḳol") was heard, which declared that, although the views of both schools were justifiable in principle (as "words of the living God"), in practise only the views of Hillel's school should be authoritative.Controversies.
Gamaliel took care that the decisions reached by the assembly under his presidency should be recognized by all; and he used the instrument of the ban relentlessly against obstinate opposers of these decisions. He even placed his own brother-in- law, Eliezer b. Hyrcanus, under the ban (B. M. 59b). Gamaliel forced Joshua b. Hananiah, another famous pupil of Johanan b. Zakkai, to recognize the authority of the president in a most humiliating way, namely, by compelling Joshua to appear before him in traveler's garb on the day which, according to Joshua's reckoning, should have been the Day of Atonement, because Gamaliel would suffer no contradiction of his own declaration concerning the new moon (R. H. ii. 25a, b). Gamaliel, however, showed that with him it was only a question of principle, and that he had no intention of humiliating Joshua; for, rising and kissing him on the head, he greeted him with the words: "Welcome, my master and my pupil: my master in learning; my pupil in that thou submittest to my will." A story which is characteristic of Gamaliel's modesty is told of a feast at which, standing, he served his guests himself (Sifre to Deut. 38; Ḳid. 32b).Shares the Presidency.
But he manifested the excellence of his character most plainly upon the day on which he harshly attacked Joshua b. Hananiah, in consequence of a new dispute between them, and thereby so aroused the displeasure of the assembly that he was deprived of his position. Instead of retiring in anger, he continued to take part, as a member of the assembly, in the deliberations conducted by the new president, Eleazar b. Azariah. He was soon reinstated in office, however, after asking pardon of Joshua, who himself brought about Gamaliel's restoration in the form of a joint presidency, in which Gamaliel and Eleazar shared the honors (Ber. 27b-28a; Yer. Ber. 7c, d).Controverts Christianity.
The most important outward event in Gamaliel's life that now followed was the journey to Rome, which he undertook in company with his colleague Eleazar and the two leading members of the assembly in Jabneh, Joshua b. Hananiah and Akiba. This journey was probably made toward the end of Domitian's reign (95), and had for its object the prevention of a danger which threatened on the part of the cruel emperor (Grätz, "Geschichte," 3d ed., iv. 109). This journey, together with the stay of the scholars in Rome, left many traces in both halakic and haggadie tradition (see Bacher, "Ag. Tan." i. 84). Especially interesting are the accounts of the debates which the scholars held with unbelievers in Rome, and in which Gamaliel was the chief speaker in behalf of Judaism (ib. p. 85). Elsewhere also Gamaliel had frequent opportunities to answer in controversial conversations the questions of unbelievers and to explain and defend the teachings of the Jewish religion (ib. p. 76). At times Gamaliel had to meet the attacks of confessors of Christianity; one of these was the "min," or philosopher, who maliciously concluded from Hosea v. 6 that God had completely forsaken Israel (Yeb. 102b; Midr. Teh. to Ps. x., end; most completely reproduced from the old source in Midr. ha-Gadol to Lev. xxvi. 9, in Bacher, "Ag. Tan." 2d ed., i. 83). There is a satirical point in a story in which Gamaliel with his sister brings a fictitious suit concerning an inheritance before a Christian judge and convicts him of having accepted bribes; whereupon Gamaliel quotes Jesus' words in Matt. v. 17 (Shab. 116a, b). The sect of believers in Jesus, which was ever separating itself more distinctly from all connectionwith Judaism, and which with other heretics was classed under the name of "minim," led Gamaliel, because of its tendencies dangerous to the unity of Judaism, to introduce a new form of prayer, which he requested Samuel ha-Katon to compose, and which was inserted in the chief daily prayer, the eighteen benedictions (Ber. 28b; Meg. 17b). This prayer itself, which together with the Shema' forms the most important part of the Jewish prayer-book, likewise owes its final revision to Gamaliel (ib.). It was Gamaliel, also, who made the recitation of the "eighteen prayers" a duty to be performed three times a day by every Israelite (see "Monatsschrift," xlvi. 430).
Still another liturgical institution goes back to Gamaliel—that of the memorial celebration which takes the place of the sacrifice of the Passover lamb on the first evening of Passover. Gamaliel instituted this celebration (Pes. x. 5), which may be regarded as the central feature of the Pesaḥ Haggadah, on an occasion when he spent the first Passover night with other scholars at Lydda in conversing about the feast and its customs (Tosef., Pes. x. 112). The memory of the lost sanctuary, which the celebration of the Passover evening also served to Perpetuate, was especially vivid in Gamaliel's heart. Gamaliel and his companions wept over the destruction of Jerusalem and of the Temple when they heard the noise of the great city of Rome, and at another time when they stood on the Temple ruins (Sifre, Deut. 43; Mak., end; Lam. R. v. 18).
Gamaliel's appreciation of the virtue of mercy is well illustrated by a saying of his in allusion to Deut. xiii. 18: "Let this be a token unto thee! So long as thou thyself art compassionate God will show thee mercy; but if thou hast no compassion, God will show thee no mercy" (Tosef., B. K. ix. 30; Yer. B. K. l.c.; comp. Shab. 151a). Gamaliel was touchingly attached to his slave Tabi (Suk. ii. 1), at whose death he accepted condolences as for a departed member of the family (Ber. ii. 7).
In his intercourse with non-Jews Gamaliel was unconstrained, for which he was sometimes blamed. A friendly conversation is recorded ('Er. 64b) which he had with a heathen on the way from Acre to Ecdippa (Achzib). On the Sabbath he sat upon the benches of heathen merchants (Tosef., M. K. ii. 8). Various details have been handed down by tradition concerning the religious practises of Gamaliel and his house (see the following Tosefta passages: Dem. iii. 15; Shab. i. 22, xii. [xiii.], end; Yom-Tob i. 22; ii. 10, 13, 14, 16). In Gamaliel's house it was not customary to say "Marpe'!" (Recovery) when any one sneezed, because that was a heathenish superstition (Tosef., Shab. vii. [viii.] 5; comp. Ber. 53a). Two concessions were made to Gamaliel's household in the way of relaxing the severity of the rules set up as a barrier against heathendom: permission to use a mirror in cutting the hair of the head (Tosef., 'Ab. Zarah, iii. 5; comp. Yer. 'Ab. Zarah 41a), and to learn Greek (Tosef., Soṭah, xv. 8; Soṭah, end). In regard to the latter, Gamaliel's son Simon relates (Soṭah 49b) that many children were instructed in his father's house in "Greek wisdom."
Aside from his official position, Gamaliel stood in learning on an equal footing with the legal teachers of his time. Many of his halakic doctrinal opinions have been handed down. Sometimes the united opinion of Gamaliel and Eliezer b. Hyrcanus is opposed to that of Joshua b. Hananiah (Ket. i. 6-9), and sometimes Gamaliel holds a middle position between the stricter opinion of the one and the more lenient view of the other (Sheb. ix. 8; Ter. viii. 8). Gamaliel assented to certain principles of civil law which have been transmitted in the name of Admon, a former judge in Jerusalem, and which became especially well known and were authoritative for ensuing periods (Ket. xiv. 3-5). Many of Gamaliel's decisions in religious law are connected with his stay in some place in the Holy Land. In Ecdippa the archisynagogue Scipio asked him a question which he answered by letter after his return home (Tosef., Ter. ii. 13). There are also records of Gamaliel's stay in Kafr 'Uthnai (Giṭ. i. 5; Tosef., Giṭ. i. 4), in Emmaus (Ḥul. 91b), in Lydda (Tosef., Pes. ii. 10, x., end), in Jericho (Tosef., Ber. iv. 15), in Samaria (Tosef., Dem. v. 24), and in Tiberias (Tosef., Shab. xiii. 2).
In the field of the Haggadah should be especially mentioned the questions relating to biblical exegesis which Gamaliel liked to discuss in a circle of scholars, as had also his predecessor, Johanan b. Zakkai. There are records of four such discussions (on Prov. xiv. 34, see B. B. 10b; on Gen. xl. 10, see Ḥul. 92a; on Gen. xlix. 4, see Shab. 55b; on Esth. v. 4, see Meg. 12b), which all end with Gamaliel's expressed desire to hear the opinion of the eminent haggadist Eleazar of Modi'im. A part of Gamaliel's textual exegesis is found in the controversial conversations mentioned above. He portrays the distress and corruption of the times in a remarkable speech which concludes with an evident reference to the emperor Domitian. He says:
(Introduction to Midr. Abba Gorion, beginning; Esther R., beginning). "Since lying judges have the upper hand, lying witnesses also gain ground; since evil-doers have increased, the seekersof revenge are also increasing; since shamelessness has augmented, men have lost their dignity; since the small says to the great. 'I am greater than thou,' the years of men are shortened; since the beloved children have angered their Father in heaven, He has placed a ruthless king over them [with reference to Job xxxiv. 20]. Such a king was Ahasuerus, who first killed his wife for the sake of his friend, and then his friend for the sake of his wife"
Gamaliel uses striking comparisons in extolling the value of handiwork and labor (Tosef., Ḳid. i. 11), and in expressing his opinion on the proper training of the mind (Ab. R.N. xxviii.). The lament over his favorite pupil, Samuel ha-Ḳaṭon, which he made in common with Eleazar b. Azariah, is very touching: "It is fitting to weep for him; it is fitting to lament for him. Kings die and leave their crowns to their sons; the rich die and leave their wealth to their sons; but Samuel ha-Ḳaṭon has taken with him the most precious thing in the world—his wisdom—and is departed" (Sem. 8).His Death.
The Roman yoke borne by the Jewish people of Palestine weighed heavily upon Gamaliel. In one speech (Ab. R. N. l.c.) he portrays the tyranny of Rome that devours the property of its subjects. He reflects on the coming of the Messiah, and describes the period which shall precede His appearance as one of the deepest moral degradation and direst distress (Derek Ereẓ Zuṭa x.). But he preaches also of the fruitfulness and blessing which shall at some time distinguish the land of Israel (Shab. 30b). Gamaliel probably lived to see the beginning of the great movement among the Jews in Palestine and in other lands, under the emperors Trajan and Hadrian, which led to a final attempt under Bar Kokba to throw off the Roman yoke. Gamaliel's death, however, occurred in a time of peace. The pious proselyte Aquila honored his obsequies by burning valuables to the extent of seventy minæ, according to an old custom observed at the burial of kings (Tosef., Shab. vii. [viii.] 18; 'Ab. Zarah 11a); and Eliezer b. Hyrcanus and Joshua b. Hananiah, the aged teachers of the Law, arranged the ceremonies for his funeral (M. Ḳ. 27a; Yer. M. Ḳ. 82a). Gamaliel insured the perpetuation of his memory by his order to be buried in simple linen garments, for the example which he thus set put an end to the heavy burial expenses which had come to be almost unbearable; and it subsequently became the custom to devote to the memory of Gamaliel one of the goblets of wine drunk in the house of mourning (Ket. 8b).
Of Gamaliel's children, one daughter is known, who answered in a very intelligent fashion two questions addressed to her father by an unbeliever (Sanh. 34a, 90b). Two of Gamaliel's sons are mentioned as returning from a certain feast (Ber. i. 2). Of these, Simon was called long after the death of Gamaliel to occupy his father's position, which became hereditary in his house. It can not be regarded as proved that the tanna Ḥaninah ben Gamaliel was a son of Gamaliel II. (Büchler, "Die Priester und der Cultus," p. 14); this is more likely to be true of Judah ben Gamaliel, who reports a decision in the name of Ḥaninah ben Gamaliel (Tosef., 'Ab. Zarah, iv. [v.] 12; 'Ab. Zarah 39b).
- Frankel, Darke ha-Mishnah, pp. 69 et seq.;
- Weiss, Dor, ii. 71;
- Grätz, Gesch. 3d ed., iii., passim:
- Derenbourg, Hist. pp. 306-313, 314-346;
- Bacher, Ag. Tan. i. 78-100;
- Schürer, Gesch. 3d ed., ii. 369;
- Landau, in Monatsschrift, i 283 et seq., 323;
- Scheinin, Die Hochschule zu Jamnia, 1878.