BAṬLANIM (literally, "unemployed men," "idlers"):

Title of the ten men of leisure who, unoccupied by business of their own, devote their whole time to communal affairs and are particularly relied upon to attend divine service regularly at the synagogue. Only such places are regarded as worthy of the name of town as have ten Baṭlanim for the maintenance of the daily service (Meg. i. 3, p. 5a; Yer. Meg. i. 70b; B. Ḳ. 82a; Sanh. 17b). Rashi (see especially B. Ḳ. 82a) explains the word in the following passage:

(Ber. 6b)

"These ten Baṭlanim abstained from every other work, being supported by the community for the purpose of attending to all congregational work, but especially to be in time for the regular service"—an allusion to the saying, "When on entering the synagogue God fails to find the ten that form a congregation of worshipers, His anger is aroused".

R. Nissim on Alfasi (Megillah) raises objections to the remark that the Baṭlanim were supported by the community; but Rashi seems to follow an old tradition.

In Sanh. 17b they are counted among the hundred and twenty elect of a city. It is of especial interest to find that Benjamin of Tudela as late as in the twelfth century met in Bagdad with the institution of the ten Baṭlanim; he states that "they are the presidents of the ten colleges and are called Baṭlanim because their sole occupation consists in the discharge of communal business. They give decisions on legal and religious questions for all the Jewish inhabitants of the country, during every day of the week, except Monday, which is set aside for assemblies under the presidency of R. Samuel, master of the college Gaon Jacob, who on that day dispenses justice to every applicant, and is assisted therein by the ten Baṭlanim, presidents of the colleges" (Benjamin of Tudela, ed. Asher, Hebrew text, pp. 60 et seq.; English translation, p. 101). Levy ("Neuhebräisches Wörterb." ii., s.v. and ) correctly identifies the Baṭlanim with the "bene-ha-keneset," (the men of the synagogue) (Bek. v. 5, p. 36b). This would make them a survival of the Hasideans, the original founders of the synagogue. Modern times made the institution of ten Baṭlanim, receiving some compensation from the congregation for regular attendance at divine service, again a necessity, in view of the fact that private men could not always be relied upon; hence many synagogues adhering to the olden ("orthodox") ritual employ hired worshipers, called "Minyan-men."

  • Levy, Neuhebr. Wörterb. s.v.;
  • Israel Abrahams, Jewish Life in the Middle Ages, p. 57, note 4.
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