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Simeon ben Gamaliel II

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Simeon (or Shimon) ben Gamliel II (Hebrew: רבן שמעון בן גמליאל השני) was a Tanna of the third generation and president of the Great Sanhedrin. He was the son of Gamaliel II.


Shimon was a youth in Betar when the Bar Kokhba revolt broke out, but when that fortress was taken by the Romans he managed to escape the massacre.[1][2][3][4] On the restoration of the college at Usha, Shimon was elected its president,[5] this dignity being bestowed upon him not only because he was a descendant of the house of Hillel, but in recognition of his personal worth and influence.

There were many children in his family, one-half of whom were instructed in the Torah, and the other half in Greek philosophy.[1][2][3] Shimon himself seems to have been trained in Greek philosophy;[6] this probably accounting for his declaring later that the Scriptures might be written only in the original text and in Greek.[7][8][9] Shimon appears to have studied natural science as well, for some of his sayings betray a scientific knowledge of the nature of plants and animals, while others concern the anatomy of the human body and the means of avoiding or of curing disease.[10][11][12][13][14][15][16] It is not known who were his teachers in the Halakah; he transmits sayings of R. Judah bar Ilai,[17] of R. Meir,[18][19][20][21] and of R. Jose bar Ḥalafta.[22][23] The last-named was honored as a teacher by Shimon, who addressed questions to him, and put many of his decisions into practice.[24][22]

During Shimon's patriarchate the Jews were harried by daily persecutions and oppressions. In regard to these Shimon observes: "Our forefathers knew suffering only from a distance, but we have been surrounded by it for so many days, years, and cycles that we are more justified than they in becoming impatient".[25] "Were we, as of yore, to inscribe upon a memorial scroll our sufferings and our occasional deliverances therefrom, we should not find room for all".[26]

Jewish internal affairs were more firmly organized by Shimon ben Gamaliel, and the patriarchate attained under him a degree of honor previously unknown. While formerly only two persons, the nasi and the ab bet din, presided over the college, Shimon established the additional office of "ḥakam", with authority equal to that of the others, appointing Rabbi Meir to the new office. In order, however, to distinguish between the dignity of the patriarchal office and that attaching to the offices of the ab bet din and the ḥakam, Shimon issued an order to the effect that the honors formerly bestowed alike upon the nasi and the ab bet din were henceforth to be reserved for the patriarch (nasi), while minor honors were to be accorded the ab bet din and the ḥakam. By this ruling Shimon incurred the enmity of R. Meir, the ḥakam, and of R. Nathan, the ab bet din.[27] Shimon had made this arrangement, not from personal motives, but in order to increase the authority of the college over which the nasi presided, and to promote due respect for learning. His personal humility is evidenced by his sayings to his son Judah I, as well as by the latter's sayings.[28][29]

His traditional burial location is in Kfar Manda in the Lower Galilee.[citation needed]



In halakhic matters Shimon inclined toward lenient interpretation of the laws, and he avoided adding to the difficulties attending their observance. In many instances in which an act, in itself not forbidden by Biblical law, had later been prohibited merely out of fear that it might lead to transgressions, Shimon declared it permissible, saying that "fear should not be admitted as a factor in a decision".[30][31][32][33][34][35][36] Of his halakhic opinions, about 30 relating to the Sabbath regulations and 15 referring to the seventh year have been preserved, in nearly all of which the liberality of views is evident. He always took into consideration the common usage, and he often maintained that the ultimate decision must follow common tradition.[37][38][39] The habits of the individual must also be considered.[40]

In his legal regulations regarding marriage, he made it an invariable rule to protect the rights and the dignity of the wife in preference to those of the husband.[41][42][43] He endeavored to protect the slaves and secure to them certain rights.[44][45][46] He held that the will of the community is more important than the interests and rights of the individual, and the latter must be sacrificed to the former.[47][45] He especially strove to maintain the authority of the magistrates; according to his opinion the decisions of a court of law must be upheld, even though a slight error has been made; otherwise its dignity would suffer.[48]

Shimon's decisions are mostly founded on sound common sense and an intimate acquaintance with the subjects treated, and, with three exceptions,[49][50][51] his views, as set forth in the Mishnah, have been accepted as valid.[52] He often cites the conditions of the past, which he learned probably from the traditions of his house, and which are highly important for the knowledge of older customs and habits. He speaks of the earlier festive celebrations in Jerusalem on the Fifteenth of Ab and on the Day of Atonement;[53] of the customs followed there at meals when guests were present;[54] of the work on the pools of Siloah;[55] of the nature of the marriage contract[56] and the bill of divorce.[57]


Shimon praised the Samaritans for observing more strictly than did the Israelites such commandments of the Torah as they recognized.[58] The Bible is in many places to be understood figuratively rather than literally.[59]


  • "Great is peace, for Aaron the priest became famous only because he sought peace".[60]
  • "Justice must be accorded to non-Jews as to Jews; the former should have the option of seeking judgment before either a Jewish or a pagan court".[61]
  • Monuments (i.e. tombstones) are not erected for the righteous, for their words are their memorials.[62]
  • In three things do I praise the men of the East: That they do not exchange kisses with their mouths, but with their hands; that they do not bite into [a loaf of] bread, but will first cut it with a knife; and that they do not take counsel except in a broad place, for they do not consult the advice [of another] except in the field.[63]


  1. ^ a b Gittin 58a. גיטין נח א  (in Hebrew) – via Wikisource.
  2. ^ a b Sotah 49b. סוטה מט ב  (in Hebrew) – via Wikisource.
  3. ^ a b Bava Kamma 83a. בבא קמא פג א  (in Hebrew) – via Wikisource.
  4. ^ Yer. Ta'anit 24b. ירושלמי תענית דף כד ב  (in Hebrew) – via Wikisource.
  5. ^ Babylonian Talmud, Rosh Hashana 31b, Rashi s.v. ומיבנא לאושא
  6. ^ Jewish Encyclopedia, SIMEON (BEN GAMALIEL II.)
  7. ^ Meg. 9b. מגילה ט ב  (in Hebrew) – via Wikisource.
  8. ^ Megillah 1:8. משנה מגילה א ח  (in Hebrew) – via Wikisource.
  9. ^ Yerushalmi Megillah (in Hebrew). Venice: Daniel Bomberg. p. 71c. Retrieved August 23, 2013.
  10. ^ Berachot 25a. ברכות כה א  (in Hebrew) – via Wikisource.
  11. ^ Berachot 40a. ברכות מ א  (in Hebrew) – via Wikisource.
  12. ^ Shabbat 78a. שבת עח א  (in Hebrew) – via Wikisource.
  13. ^ Shabbat 128b. שבת קכח ב  (in Hebrew) – via Wikisource.
  14. ^ Yebamot 80b. יבמות פ ב  (in Hebrew) – via Wikisource.
  15. ^ Ketubot 59b. כתובות נט ב  (in Hebrew) – via Wikisource.
  16. ^ Ketubot 110b. כתובות קי ב  (in Hebrew) – via Wikisource.
  17. ^ Tosefta, Kelim (in Hebrew). Bava Ḳama 5:4. Retrieved August 26, 2013.
  18. ^ Shabbat 15b. שבת טו ב  (in Hebrew) – via Wikisource.
  19. ^ B. M. 106b. בבא מציעא קו ב  (in Hebrew) – via Wikisource.
  20. ^ Tosefta, Ketubot (in Hebrew). 6:10. Retrieved January 5, 2014.
  21. ^ Yerushalmi Ketubot (in Hebrew). 6:7. Retrieved August 23, 2013.
  22. ^ a b Tosefta, Dem (in Hebrew). 3:12-14. Retrieved August 10, 2014.
  23. ^ Tosefta, Tohorot (in Hebrew). 11:16. Retrieved August 10, 2014.
  24. ^ Suk. 26a. סוכה כו א  (in Hebrew) – via Wikisource.
  25. ^ Shir Hashirim Rabbah (in Hebrew). 3:3. Retrieved December 13, 2013.
  26. ^ Shabbat 13b. שבת יג ב  (in Hebrew) – via Wikisource.
  27. ^ Horayot 13b. הוריות יג ב  (in Hebrew) – via Wikisource.
  28. ^ Bava Metziah 84b. בבא מציעא פד ב  (in Hebrew) – via Wikisource.
  29. ^ Bava Metziah 85a. בבא מציעא פה א  (in Hebrew) – via Wikisource.
  30. ^ Shabbat 13a. שבת יג א  (in Hebrew) – via Wikisource.
  31. ^ Shabbat 40b. שבת מ ב  (in Hebrew) – via Wikisource.
  32. ^ Shabbat 147b. שבת קמז ב  (in Hebrew) – via Wikisource.
  33. ^ Yoma 77b. יומא עז ב  (in Hebrew) – via Wikisource.
  34. ^ Bava Metziah 69b. בבא מציעא סט ב  (in Hebrew) – via Wikisource.
  35. ^ Bekhorot 24a. בכורות כד א  (in Hebrew) – via Wikisource.
  36. ^ Pesachim 10b. פסחים י ב  (in Hebrew) – via Wikisource.
  37. ^ Mishna Ketubot 6:4. משנה כתובות ו ד  (in Hebrew) – via Wikisource.
  38. ^ Bava Metziah 7:1. משנה בבא מציעא ז א  (in Hebrew) – via Wikisource.
  39. ^ Mishna Bava Batra 10:1. משנה בבא בתרא י א  (in Hebrew) – via Wikisource.
  40. ^ Ta'anit 30a. תענית ל א  (in Hebrew) – via Wikisource.
  41. ^ Ketubot 5:5. משנה כתובות ה ה  (in Hebrew) – via Wikisource.
  42. ^ Ketubot 7:9. משנה כתובות ז ט  (in Hebrew) – via Wikisource.
  43. ^ Ketubot 13:10. משנה כתובות יג י  (in Hebrew) – via Wikisource.
  44. ^ Gittin 12a. גיטין יב א  (in Hebrew) – via Wikisource.
  45. ^ a b Gittin 37b. גיטין לז ב  (in Hebrew) – via Wikisource.
  46. ^ Gittin 40b. גיטין מ ב  (in Hebrew) – via Wikisource.
  47. ^ Ketubot 52b. כתובות נב ב  (in Hebrew) – via Wikisource.
  48. ^ Ketubot 11:5. משנה כתובות יא ה  (in Hebrew) – via Wikisource.
  49. ^ Bava Batra 173b. בבא בתרא קעג ב  (in Hebrew) – via Wikisource.
  50. ^ Gittin 74b. גיטין עד ב  (in Hebrew) – via Wikisource.
  51. ^ Sanh. 31a. סנהדרין לא א  (in Hebrew) – via Wikisource.
  52. ^ Gittin 75a. גיטין עה א  (in Hebrew) – via Wikisource.
  53. ^ Ta'anit 4:8. משנה תענית ד ח  (in Hebrew) – via Wikisource.
  54. ^ Tosefta, Berachot. תוספתא ברכות ד  (in Hebrew). 4:9 etc. – via Wikisource.
  55. ^ Arakhin 10b. ערכין י ב  (in Hebrew) – via Wikisource.
  56. ^ Tosefta, Sanh (in Hebrew). 7:1. Retrieved January 5, 2014.
  57. ^ Tosef., Gittin (in Hebrew). 9:13. Retrieved January 5, 2014.
  58. ^ Ḳiddushin 76a. קידושין עו א  (in Hebrew) – via Wikisource.
  59. ^ Sifre, Deut. 25, Friedmann (ed.). Sifre (in Hebrew). Vienna. p. 70a. OCLC 233315936. Retrieved August 10, 2014.
  60. ^ Pereḳ Ha-shalom Pereḳ Ha-shalom (in Hebrew). Retrieved July 29, 2014.; compare Mal. 2:6
  61. ^ Sifre, Deut. 16, Friedmann (ed.). Sifre (in Hebrew). Vienna. p. 68b. OCLC 233315936. Retrieved August 10, 2014.
  62. ^ Jerusalem Talmud Shekalim 2:5; Genesis Rabbah 82:10
  63. ^ editors, editors. Midrash Rabba (Kohelet Rabba 7:41). Jerusalem.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)

Jewish Encyclopedia bibliography:

Preceded by
Gamaliel II
??? - ???
Succeeded by
Judah I (c. 165–220)
This page was last edited on 14 December 2020, at 23:53
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