(1247-af-ter 1298), Hebrew poet. He was born in Toledo and spent most of his life there. Todros was a member of a well-known family of the city, although his kinships with other Abulafias, such as Meir *Abulafia, or with "the Rav," Todros ben Joseph *Abulafia, are not completely clear. The branch of his own family was probably not very rich, and he had to search for a job serving the richest members of the Jewish community. He accompanied Don Isaac b. Don Solomon Zadok (Don Qaq de la Maleha; see *Ibn Zadok) on his travels, collecting taxes. He shared in his diversions and, apparently through his influence, was brought in touch with the royal court. In his presentation before the royal court, he offered to King Alfonso the Wise a goblet with an engraved Hebrew poem.

In his youth Abulafia composed numerous poems in honor of Jewish notables close to the court of Alfonso x of Castile and later Sancho iv, Solomon Ibn Zadok and his son Isaac, the rabbi Todros ben Joseph Abulafia and his son Joseph, etc., and even to persons of the royal family. He divided his time between poetry and finance and succeeded at both.

In common with others of his class at that period, his morals were lax and he had many liaisons with non-Jewish women. He was among the Jews of Castile arrested by royal order in January 1281, in connection with the revolts of Don Sancho, the son of the King, which had as a consequence the sentence of death for Don Qaq de la Maleha. In prison he wrote many poems which seem to indicate a change in outlook, although none of them expresses contrition for his past behavior. After the release of the prisoners, with the impact of their misfortune still fresh in their minds, the rabbi Todros ben Joseph Abulafia called upon his kinsmen to repent and demanded that all those who continued to consort with Muslim or Christian women be excommunicated. The poet himself, however, did not alter his own conduct nor did he see in it any contradiction of his religious views.

After great effort Abulafia succeeded in regaining his status at court; in 1289 he is mentioned among the men of affairs in the service of Sancho iv, and some years later headed a group of Jewish financiers who received important monopolies. The last certain date mentioned in his poems is 1298.

Abulafia was a prolific writer. His Gan ha-Meshalim ve-ha-Hidot ("Garden of Apologues and Saws," the diwan collected by himself, adding Arabic headings) contains more than 1,000 poems; it was published by M. Gaster in 1926 (as a facsimile of the manuscript), and in three volumes by D. Yellin (1934-37): an extensive selection appears in Schirmann’s anthology Ha-Shirah ha-Ivrit bi-Sefarad u-vi-Provence, 2 (1956), 413-48, 694. There are very different opinions on his virtues as a poet and on the value of his literary production. Although the themes, technique, and genres of his poems continue the classical traditions of Andalusian Hebrew literature, he lived in a post-classical period with clear signs of mannerism and a tendency to virtuosity. His poetry can be called epigonal in its search for surprising elements, plays on words, trivia, vulgar language, etc. For some scholars, most of Abulafia’s poems seem repetitive and superficial, although they are valuable for the historical material they contain and for the interesting relation to the general literature of the times that is revealed, for example, polemical verses, poems on spiritual love, etc. Without denying the interest of these poems as historical documents, many with an autobiographical character, they also show clear signs of the high literary qualities of their author. In some poems he appears wholly familiar with Andalusian conventions, trying to overcome them in a very sophisticated way. Writing in a different environment, and in accordance with the sociological and cultural changes of the Jewish communities in Castile, Todros imitated the Andalusian models, genres, motifs, and conventions, adapting them to the new tendencies of the time not only in Hebrew but also in Romance literature. Renouncing Hebrew-Arabic formalism, and being in contact with the life of the Castilian Court and its literary preferences, Abulafia followed the realistic tendencies of his time.

It is true that some of his poems may be seen as a low variety of literary texts in comparison with high literary compositions. Few of the Judeo-Spanish poets wrote about themselves as candidly as Abulafia, even on matters which were likely to arouse the resentment of his readers. The poet was able to deride even the physical defects of his opponents using an equivocal language. Following Romance patterns, like that of the tensones, Todros discusses with other poets, like Pinh as, in a tone varying between the festive and the serious, which of them is better qualified to write poetry. It is a display of skill in the use of language and verse, trying to show subtleness in praising the speaker’s own poetry and ridiculing the adversary with the kind of invectives that sometimes clearly enter the realm of obscenity. The tone is not of bitterness nor has it any tragic greatness; the poets are just mocking each other and trying to overcome the adversary with a sophisticated play on words. On other occasions, he maintained literary correspondence at a higher level with other poets of his time. Todros dedicated long series of poems to notable Jewish courtiers of his time, like "the Rav," or Solomon Ibn Zadok; the series are divided into sections, on different Andalusian topics, preceded by Arabic and Hebrew introductions, showing the ability of the poet to adapt the classical genres to the praise of the distinguished courtiers.

His "girdle" poems (47 muwashshahat) are very interesting, particularly due to the kharajat preserved in them, in old Spanish, Hebrew, and Arabic.


(Aboulker = Abu I-Khayr), Algerian family, whose members attained rabbinical and communal distinction. issac ben samuel (i) (late 15^-early 16th centuries), scholar, astronomer, and translator. Expelled from Spain in 1492, Abulker settled in Padua, Italy, where in 1496 he completed his Hebrew commentary on the "Extracts of the Almagest" of al-Farghani. According to some modern authors this commentary is actually only a copy of the work of an earlier Jewish astronomer, Moses H andali. Some time later Abulker translated from Latin into Hebrew under the title of Sefer ha-Moladot the Liber de Nativitatibus, originally written in Arabic by al-H asibi (on the appearance of the new moon). He also translated into Hebrew the Liber Completus, a Latin translation (Venice, 1485) by Petrus of Reggio of Ahkam al-

Nujum by the famous 12th-century Tunisian astronomer Ali ibn Abi al-Rijal (Abenragel). When isaac ben samuel abulker (ii), the rabbi of Algiers, denounced the abuses of Joseph Bacri, the latter depicted Abulker as a troublemaker and the bey had Abulker and six other Jewish notables beheaded in 1815. His son samuel and his grandson isaac (iii) were leaders of Algerian Jewry in the 19th century. The son of the latter, henri-samuel (1876-1957), professor of medicine and head of Algerian Jewry, formed and presided over the Algerian Zionist Federation and worked vigorously for organizations which fought antisemitism. As head of the wartime Resistance, he secretly collaborated with the Allies to assist the American landing in Algiers on Nov. 7-8, 1942. His son jose (b. 1920), a professor of neurosurgery in Paris, was the leader of the Resistance forces which occupied Algiers, thus facilitating the landing.


(also called Aldabi or Alrabi; first half of the 15th century), Sicilian-born biblical exegete, theologian, and polemicist. Born in Catania in Ara-gonese Sicily, Abulrabi became an itinerant scholar whose travels took him to Italy, Turkey, Alexandria, Damascus, Jerusalem, and Kaffa on the Black Sea. Along the way he engaged in intra- and interreligious discussion and dispute. He describes an exchange with an unnamed pope and his cardinals in Rome in which he refuted the Christian curialists’ suggestion that the tabernacle cherubs reflected "the craft of talismans," thereby breaching biblical prohibitions on "other gods" and the manufacture of "graven images." He also reports debates with a Karaite scholar in Jerusalem and various Christian interlocutors.

The only witness to Abulrabi’s life and thought is a tome that combines Torah commentary with supercommentary on Rashi’s Commentary on the Torah. The work postdates 1446 in the version that has come down. At its outset, Abul-rabi states that he will focus on Rashi’s words inasmuch as they were "mostly hewn from the eminent [rabbinic] oaks of old." At times, Abulrabi issues sharp criticisms of Mi-drashim in a forthright manner almost without precedent in Rabbanite literature. Abulrabi’s work was printed together with the supercommentaries on Rashi of Samuel Almosnino, Jacob Canizal, and Moses *Albelda under the title Perushim le-Rashi (Constantinople, 1525). In his commentary, Abulrabi mentions that he wrote the following other works: Sefer ha-Meyasher, on Hebrew grammar; Sefer Matteh Aharon, a polemical work; and three apparently theological studies: Nezer ha-Kodesh; Sefer ha-Nefesh; and Sefer Perah ha-Elohut. In the course of his commentary, he quotes philosophic and kabbalistic sources, though rarely by name. He also quotes his father, learned brothers Shalom, Baruch, Moses, Jacob, and his father-in-law Moses *Gabbai, who, like Abulrabi, composed a supercommentary on Rashi’s Commentary on the Torah.


(also Abuna, Bun), a variation of the Aramaic name "Abba," common in Palestine, France, and Spain. Several scholars and poets by this name were known in the Middle Ages, but there is little information available about them. (1) The father of a Palestinian liturgical poet, Eleazar, whose style and method are similar to those of Kallir, was called both Abun and Bun. (2) The grandfather of the Franco-German liturgical poet Simeon b. Isaac bore the name Abun, also Abuna. A native of Le Mans, France (it is conceivable that (Le) Mans is in fact a corruption of Mainz), who lived at the end of the ninth century, he may be the one to whom Solomon *Luria refers in his responsum 29 (Lublin, 1575): "R. Abun who excels in Torah, wisdom, wealth, and in all the innermost secrets, expounding every letter in 49 different ways." Some scholars identify him with Abun, a physician who was head of a school for medicine in Narbonne, some of whose disciples taught medicine in Montpellier. (3) A Spanish poet by the name Abun b. Sharada lived around the 11th century, first in Lucena and then in Seville. His poems were praised by his contemporaries as well as by later writers. Solomon ibn *Gabirol mentions him in his poems alongside *Menahem b. Saruk, *Dunash b. Labrat, and *Samuel ha-Nagid (Shirei Shelomo ibn Gabirol, ed. by H.N. Bialik and Y.H. Ravnitzky, 1 (19282), 65, no. 28). He is also mentioned in Moses *Ibn Ezra’s Shirat Yisrael (ed. by B. Halper (1924), 69) and in Judah *Al-H arizi’s Tah kemoni (ed. by A. Kaminka (1899), 40). From Moses Ibn Ezra it can be gathered that the poems of Abun were no longer current in his day and it seems evident that even he did not see them. (4) A Spanish scholar and philanthropist of the 12th century, to whom Moses Ibn Ezra addressed many poems and about whom he composed several lamentations on his death, calling him "Rabbana Abun," "Ha-Gevir" ("the Magnate"), and "Abun, the words of whose mouth were like a watercourse in a dry land." (5) A Spanish liturgical poet known from five poems written in the spirit and style of early paytanim of Spain. He may be the Abun b. R. Saul also known as "the pious R. Abun of Majorca."


(d. 1048), Egyptian financier and courtier. Muslim sources refer to him as Abu Sacd b. Sahl al-Tustari (i.e., from Tustar (Shustar) in southwestern Persia). In Jewish sources he appears as Abraham b. Yashar. Abu Sacd was primarily a dealer in precious objects and jewels, while his brother Abu Nasr Fadl (Hlesed in Hebrew) was a banker. Abu Sacd sold to the Caliph al-Zahir (1021-36) a female black slave, who gave birth to the later Caliph al-Mustansir. When at the age of seven the boy succeeded his father, his mother exercised great influence in the affairs of state, and Abu Sacd was one of her advisers. He utilized his position at court to help the Jews of Egypt and Syria, then under the rule of the Fatimid caliphs. Rabbanites as well as Karaites turned to him for help. Hence, scholars disputed to which community he belonged. Abu Sacd was murdered in 1048 by hired assassins of Sadaka b. Yusuf al-Falahi, a Jewish convert to Islam, who had been appointed vizier on Abu Sa’d's recommendations. Abu Sa’d's brother Abu Nasr, court financier and community representative, was also assassinated.


(1873-1935), student friend of R. Yihya *Kafah; among the heads of the Dor De’ah ("generation of wisdom") movement in Yemen. Abyad was renowned as a biblical scholar and as an expert in astronomy and natural medicine. His medical treatment acquired popular acclaim and many sick people, both Jews and Muslims, came to him for help, and he was noted for treating people free of charge. Abyad was head of the Maswari synagogue in San’a and taught Torah to the Jewish public; nonetheless, he earned his livelihood as a silver- and goldsmith. His ornaments were distinguished by their artistic delicacy. After the death of the chief rabbi, Yihya Isaac, in 1932, the community heads appointed him successor. However dissident groups and violent factions prevailed, and the rabbi’s health was soon undermined.

ABZARDIEL (Abazardiel, Abenzardel, Azardel), MOSES

(d. c. 1354), secretary to King Alfonso xi of Castile. A learned rabbinical scholar, Moses served for some time as dayyan in *Toledo. His signature appears in Latin characters in royal documents dealing with finance and taxes between 1331 and 1339. Its absence from later royal records may be related to the anti-Jewish reaction in Castile. Presumably he is the "R. Moses, the chief scribe of the king" mentioned by Ibn Verga in his Shevet Yehudah (ed. by Shochat (1947), 53ff.). He is probably identical with the Moses b. Joseph Abi Zardil commemorated on an elaborate tombstone in Toledo.


(1920-1998), U.S. social activist, politician, and advocate for women’s rights. Abzug was born in the Bronx, New York, to a religious, immigrant family. Her father, Emanuel Savitzky, a butcher, then salesman, died when Bella was 13, and her mother, Esther, became the family breadwinner. Abzug attended Walton High, an all-girls public school. Active as a teenager in the Labor Zionist group Ha-Shomer ha-Z a’ir, she studied Hebrew at the Florence Marshall Hebrew High, continuing her studies at the Jewish Theological Seminary. She taught Hebrew and Jewish history at a Bronx Jewish Center. In 1938, Abzug enrolled in Hunter College, where she led demonstrations against fascism. Graduating in 1942, she worked for a defense contractor, then entered Columbia University Law School on scholarship. One of only a few women in her class, she became an editor of the Columbia Law Review. Midway through law school, she married Martin Abzug; the couple had two daughters. Following graduation, Abzug opened her own law firm, specializing in labor union and civil liberties work.

In 1961, Abzug helped found Women’s Strike for Peace and served as its national legislative and political director. An early opponent of the Vietnam War, she founded the Coalition for a Democratic Alternative and helped to organize the Dump-Johnson campaign. She won election to Congress from Manhattan’s 19th Congressional District in 1970, becoming one of 12 women in the House, the first elected on a woman’s rights/peace platform. In 1971, she co-founded the National Women’s Political Caucus. Returned to the House twice more, Abzug’s major legislation included the Equal Credit Act, Social Security for homemakers, family planning, abortion rights, Title ix regulations, the Freedom of Information Act, the Right to Privacy Act, the "Government in the Sunshine" Law, and the Water Pollution Act. The first to call for President Nixon’s impeachment during the Watergate scandal, she conducted inquiries into covert and illegal activities of the ciA and fbi. Abzug also sponsored pioneering legislation to permit the free emigration of Soviet Jewry, and was a leading supporter of economic and military aid to Israel. In 1975, she led the fight to condemn the UN General Assembly’s resolution equating Zionism with racism, and played a leading role in condemning anti-Zionist and anti-Jewish attacks at international feminist conferences in Mexico and Copenhagen.

In 1976, Abzug left the House to run for the Senate from New York but lost to Daniel Patrick Moynihan in a four-way race. In 1977, she presided over the first National Women’s Conference in Houston. With colleagues in 1980, she established women usa; a decade later she co-founded and co-chaired the Women’s Economic Development Organization (wedo), an international advocacy group supporting women’s empowerment, economic development, and environmental security. Her books included Bella Abzugs Guide to Political Power for Women (1984), written with Mim Kelber.


(Heb.tmp2C36_thumbshittah), a tree of Israel considered to be identical to the shittah tree. In the past it was extensively used for construction. Today it is planted to beautify the arid regions of Israel. Acacia-wood is mentioned repeatedly (Ex. 25-27) as the sole wood used in the construction of the Tabernacle. The word also appears as several biblical place names: Shittim near Gilgal (Num. 25:1; etc.); "And all the brooks of Judah … shall water the valley of Shittim" (Joel 4:18); and Beth-Shittah near Beisan (Judg. 7:22). According to Isaiah, acacia trees would line the path of the returning exiles, and would make the wasteland bloom at the time of redemption (Isa. 4:19). There is almost universal agreement that the shittah is to be identified with the acacia. Several species of the tree grow in Israel, mostly in the wadis of the Judean desert and in the southern Negev. It is thorny and has leaves compounded of small leaflets. The yellow flowers are small and grow in globular clusters. It is not tall; its trunk is thin and generally bent sideways. It is therefore somewhat difficult to identify this tree with the shittah from which the Tabernacle boards "a cubit and a half the breadth of each" (Ex. 26:16) were cut. Noting this difficulty, the Midrash already asked the question: Where in the desert were our forefathers able to find acacia-wood? One solution suggests that the trees were brought from Migdal Z evo’aya in the Jordan Valley near the mouth of the Yarmuk and that a small forest existed there (Gen. R. 94:4). Regarded as holy, its trees were not cut down by the local inhabitants. At present, a small grove of Acacia albida, tall trees with thick trunks, which, in contrast to the other species in Israel, grows only in non-desert regions, stands there. This species must have been the "acacia-wood standing up," i.e., with an erect trunk, which provided the wood for the Tabernacle and its accessories. This tropical tree, too, would transform the desert, according to Isaiah, in contrast to the other varieties of acacia which had always grown in the dry regions. This wood is very hard, but light. It does not absorb moisture and so its volume remains constant. It is, therefore, most suitable for construction and was used in shipbuilding.


Designations The talmudic term for an academy, yeshivah (lit., "sitting"), derives from the fixed order of seating assigned to the sages and their pupils who regularly participated in the activities of the academy. Occasionally the term meant not an academy but the private activity of studying the Torah (Nid. 70b). There are several synonyms for yeshivah, such as bet ha-midrash (lit., "the house of study"), bet din (lit. "the house of law"), bet din gadol (lit. "the great house of law"), and metivta (or motva) rabba (lit. "the great session"; Bek. 5b). In Babylonia the expression metivta, the literal Aramaic rendering of yeshivah, was used.

As for bet vaad (lit. "meeting place"), this refers specifically to the yeshivah (bet din) of the nasi in Erez Israel.

History of the Academy in the Second Temple Period

According to the aggadah, the biblical patriarchs and their sons studied in a yeshivah. There was one in existence, too, during the Egyptian bondage, as also during the forty years of wandering in the wilderness (Yoma 28b; et al.).The expression "in my sitting" in parallelism with "my song," would seem to point to the ethical and wise maxims which Ben Sira taught in his school, and not to halakhic subjects. "Turn unto me, ye unlearned, and dwell in my house of learning" (bet ha-midrash), it is very probable that yeshivah and bet ha-midrash are synonyms for a school. More than a century later, Hillel the Elder said: "The more Torah, the more life; the more yeshivah, the more wisdom" (Avot 2, 7). There is no detailed information extant on the academies of Hillel and Shammai, nor on the arrangements relating to the discussions and studies prevailing in them. There is, however, information on the discussions of these two sages and their pupils on halakhic subjects. For example, "When grapes are being vintaged for the vat (i.e., for making wine), Shammai holds that they are susceptible of becoming unclean, while Hillel maintains that they are not.. A sword was planted in the bet ha-midrash and it was proclaimed: ‘He who would enter, let him enter, but he who would depart, let him not depart’ (so as to be present when a vote was taken). And on that day Hillel sat in submission before Shammai, like one of the pupils" (Shab. 17a). There were extremely bitter controversies on halakhah between the pupils of Hillel and those of Shammai which, on one occasion, ended in bloodshed (tj, Shab. 1:7, 3c). There were halakhic discussions in the bet ha-midrash that continued inconclusively for years (Er. 13b). On one occasion the halakhah was decided in accordance with Hillel’s view, outside the academy, in the courtyard of the Temple Mount (Tosef., H ag. 2:11; tj, Bezah 2:4, 61c). Generally, however, the halakhah was decided within the academy, after thorough consideration and discussion, by finally "taking a vote and deciding" according to the opinion of the majority.

The tannaim regarded the Great Sanhedrin, which had its seat in the Chamber of Hewn Stone, as a yeshivah (Mid. 5:4; Sanh. 32b) "from which Torah goes forth to all Israel" (Sif. Deut. 152). R. Ishmael relates "when a man brings the tithe of the poor to the Temple, he enters the Chamber of Hewn Stone and sees the sages and their pupils sitting and engaging in the study of the Torah, whereupon his heart prompts him to study the Torah" (Mid. Tan. to 14:22). In a like manner, Yose b. Halafta (of Sepphoris, who flourished in the middle of the second century c.e.) described the functions, procedures, and religious authority of this central institution: "… The bet din in the Chamber of Hewn Stone, though comprised of 71 members, may function with as few as 23. If one must go out, and sees that there are not 23, he remains. There they sit from the time of the daily burnt-offering of the morning until the time of the daily burnt-offering of the afternoon. On Sabbaths and festivals they enter the bet ha-midrash on the Temple Mount only. If a question was asked, and they had heard (the answer), they gave it; if not, they took a vote. If the majority held it to be levitically unclean, they declared it unclean; if the majority held it to be levitically clean, they declared it clean. From there the halakhah goes forth and spreads in Israel.. And from there they send and examine whoever is a sage and humble, pious, of unblemished reputation, and one in whom the spirit of his fellow-men takes delight, and make him a * dayyan in his town. After he has been made a dayyan in his town, they promote him and give him a seat in the Hel ("a place within the Temple area"), and from there they promote him and give him a seat in the Chamber of Hewn Stone. And there they sit and examine the pedigree of the priesthood and the pedigree of the levites" (Tosef., Sanh. 7:1). Although the participation of pupils in the debates was a characteristic feature of the academies, when it came to arriving at a decision, only their teachers, and not they, voted (ibid., 7:2).

The question has been raised as to whether an institution similar to the academy of the Pharisaic sages existed among other sects. C. Rabin (Qumran Studies (1957), 103ff.) regards the term moshav ("session") or moshav ha-rabbim ("the public session") in the Dead Sea Scrolls as referring to an academic-juridical institution, analogous to the academy mentioned in rabbinic literature, which met from time to time.

The Pupils at the Academies in the Second Temple Period

In rabbinic literature, information about the pupils who studied in the academies is extremely sparse. One aggadah relates of Hillel in his student days that "once, when he found nothing from which he could earn some money, the guard of the bet ha-midrash (who usually received half of what Hillel earned) would not allow him to enter. He climbed up and sat upon the skylight to hear the words of God from Shemaiah and Avtalyon" (Yoma 35b). It is further related that "Shammai and Hillel did not teach the Torah for remuneration" (Mid. Ps. to 15:6).Buy wisdom for yourselves without money." Hillel, of whom it is said that "he drew his fellow-men near to the Torah" (Avot 1:12), had 80 pupils and "the least among all of them was Johanan b. Zakkai" (bb 134a). On the subject of accepting pupils there was a divergence of opinion between Hillel and Shammai: "Bet Shammai maintain that one should only teach a person who is wise and humble, of a good pedigree, and rich (some read "worthy"), and Bet Hillel declare that one should teach every person, for there were many sinners in Israel who were attracted by the study of the Torah and from whom there came forth righteous, pious, and worthy men" (arn1 3, 14).

There is no information extant on academies for the study of the Torah outside of Jerusalem, except for an account of Johanan b. Zakkai, who spent some time in Galilee, where scarcely any pupils or householders sought instruction from him (tj, Shab. 16:8, 15d). One who wished to study had to leave his home and go to Jerusalem, and this naturally imposed a burden on the poor, who for years had to live away from their homes in order to spend the major part of the day in the company of their teachers, listening to their halakhic discussions, to their decisions, and to what took place in the academy, this being the accepted manner of the study of the Torah, known as "attendance on scholars." It is recorded of Eliezer b. Hyr-canus, that he left his father’s home, went to Jerusalem, where he studied under Johanan b. Zakkai, and suffered from hunger, as he received no support from his father (arn1 6; arn2 13, 30-1). Pupils also went from abroad to study the Torah in Jerusalem. They included Nehemiah of Bet Deli, who went from Babylonia and studied under Gamaliel the Elder (Yev. 16:7), and Saul of Tarsus, i.e., Paul, who went from Cilicia in Asia Minor (Acts 22:3). There were no written halakhic works available, for in general the principle was observed that "words which are transmitted orally are not permitted to be recited from writing" (Git. 60b).

From the Destruction of the Second Temple to the Close of the Mishnah

After the destruction of the Second Temple, several academies were established simultaneously. This is attested by a baraita (Sanh. 32b) which enumerates the academies and their heads, as follows: Johanan b. Zakkai at Beror Hayil, Gamaliel at Jabneh, Eliezer at Lydda, and Joshua at Peki’in. In the next generation there were Akiva at Bene-Berak, and Hanina b. Teradyon at Siknin, and these were followed by Yose at Sep-phoris, Mattiah b. H eresh in Rome, Judah b. Bathyra at Nisibis (in Mesopotamia), and Hananiah, the nephew of R. Joshua b. Hananiah, in Babylonia. The list, though incomplete, testifies to the founding of academies both in and outside Erez Israel during the second century c.e. (See Map: Main Academies.) It concludes with a reference to the academy at Bet She’arim, headed by Judah ha-Nasi, which, because of the unique nature of his position and of the religious authority with which he was invested, was apparently the only one in his day, although after his death, academies were again established simultaneously at Tiberias, Caesarea, and Lydda.

The Function and Authority of the Academies

On the assembly of the sages at Jabneh after the destruction of the Second Temple there is the following statement: "When the sages assembled at the academy of Johanan b. Zakkai at Jabneh, they said: A time will come when a man will seek one of the laws of the Torah and not find it, one of the rabbinic laws and not find it.’… They said: ‘Let us begin from Hillel and Shammai …’" (Tosef., Eduy. 1:). Hence, the sages began to receive "testimonies" from those who had survived the war against the Romans. They scrutinized these, arrived at a decision, and laid down the halakhah. At that time the arrangement of halakhic collections according to subject matter received renewed and fruitful impetus. The center of religious authority was the Great Academy, in whose activities the *nasi took part and over which he presided when not engaged in public affairs. In this bet din the new moon was proclaimed, as was the intercalation of the year (rh 2:8-9; Eduy. 7:7), the fixing of a uniform ^calendar for Erez Israel and the Diaspora contributing greatly to the preservation of national unity. Here, too, matters relating to the liturgy (Ber. 28b), and religious questions which were of public concern and on which no general agreement had hitherto been reached, were finally decided. In this central institution, 71 sages sat (Sanh. 1:6) when it was necessary to decide on basic halakhic matters affecting the people of Erez Israel as a whole – matters such as the levitical uncleanness of hands through touching sacred scrolls, etc. (Yad. 3:5; 4:2). The following description of the proceedings of the Sanhedrin may well have applied to the central academy at Jabneh: "The Sanhedrin sat in a semicircle so that its members might see one another, and two judges’ scribes stood before them, one on the right and one on the left, and wrote down the arguments of those in favor of acquittal and of those in favor of conviction.. In front of them sat three rows of scholars, each of whom knew his proper place. If they needed to ordain another judge, they ordained one from the first row, whereupon one from the second row moved up to the first, and one from the third row to the second. A member of the public was chosen and given a seat in the third row. He did not occupy the seat of the first scholar but one suitable for him" (Sanh. 4:3-4). The discussions in the Sanhedrin were thus conducted in public in the presence of pupils and of members of the community. In this way the pupils had learned the Torah in the days of the Second Temple. Both in Erez Israel and in Babylonia, a bet din was always an integral part of an academy. The order of discussion was as follows: If several matters of law came up, only one would be dealt with on one day (Tosef., Sanh. 7:2). "No vote is taken on two matters simultaneously, but votes are taken separately and questions put separately" (Tosef., Neg. 1:11). At the end of the discussions a vote was taken, where necessary, such as in cases where "one prohibits and one permits, one declares levitically unclean and one clean, and all say: We have not heard a tradition concerning this – in such instances a vote is taken" (Tosef., Sanh. 7:2). The Tosefta also describes procedural details and ceremonial arrangements customary in the academies in Erez Israel in tannaitic times.

Information on the academies in Erez Israel and Babylonia in the Days of the Amoraim is more detailed than on the preceding period, Generally, the amoraim adopted the arrangements and methods of instruction of their academies from the tannaim.

The Rosh Yeshivah and his Assistants

The rosh yeshivah – the head of the academy - would "sit and expound" and convey his remarks to the meturgeman ("interpreter"; Ber. 27b), also called an *amora. Where the audience was large, the rosh yeshivah would be assisted by numerous amoraim (Ket. 106a). Since all the pupils did not immediately grasp what was said, the outstanding pupils would repeat and explain the lesson (bk 117a, and Rashi, ibid.; Ta’an. 8a, Rashi). After they understood it, the pupils would repeat the lesson orally (Er. 54b). It is possible that the sages permanently attached to an academy prepared the pupils for the rosh yeshi-vah’s forthcoming lecture by teaching them the Mishnayot (see Meg. 28b; cf. Hor. 12a: Mesharsheya’s statement). The rosh yeshivah gave his lectures, at least in the large academies, in the morning and in the evening (Shab. 136b), the pupils spending the rest of the day in reviewing the lecture and perhaps also in preparing for the next one. These outstanding pupils were called reishei kallah ("the leaders of the rows"), possibly because of the permanent seating arrangements at the academy. Mention is made of seven rows of pupils, graded according to their knowledge, the first row being occupied by the outstanding pupils (bk 117a) and so on, There is also a reference to 24 rows of pupils (Meg. 28b), the youngest pupils occupying seats behind the fixed rows (H ul. 137b).

The rosh yeshivah was also assisted by a tanna, distinguished by his exceptional knowledge of the "Mishnah of the Tannaim" and of the Oral Law in general, which he memorized by constant repetition, the Oral Law generally not having been written down (Git. 60b). The services of the tanna were often required in the academy for the quoting of tan-naitic statements, his remarks being cited in the Babylonian Talmud, usually after the introductory formula: "A tanna taught before rabbi so-and-so" In general the tanna’s knowledge was mechanical and not rooted in an especially profound understanding of the material; in consequence the sages, especially in Babylonia (Meg. 28b), did not have a particularly high opinion of them.

Map showing the main academies in Babylonia and Erez Israel.

Map showing the main academies in Babylonia and Erez Israel.

The Election of a Rosh Yeshivah

A rosh yeshivah was generally appointed by the sages of the academy both in Erez Israel (Sot. 40a) and in Babylonia (Ber. 64a). Sometimes several candidates would compete for the position, the ability to make an irrefutable statement serving as the criterion for election (Hor. 14a).

The Academies in Babylonia in the Days of the Amoraim

The beginnings of the central academies in Babylonia are associated with Rav at *Sura and Samuel at *Nehardea. Each headed a famous school which possessed central religious authority in the Babylonian Diaspora. The academy at Sura flourished almost 800 years; that at Nehardea was destroyed at the end of the ’50s of the third century c.e. and was succeeded by a number of academies, finally settling in *Pumbed-ita, where it survived, with intermissions, until about the middle of the 11th century c.e. (See Map: Main Academies). The principal innovation of the Babylonian academies was the institution of the yarhei kallah (months of *kallah), the assembly of the Babylonian sages at one of the leading academies in the months of Adar and Elul, when they discussed a prescribed tractate which they had studied during the preceding five months. A detailed description of the arrangements of study during the yarhei kallah is given by R. Nathan ha-Bavli in Seder Olam Zuta (ed. Neubauer, 87-88). Although this account relates to the middle of the tenth century c.e. similar arrangements were presumably already in vogue in the days of the amoraim.

The Aim of the Studies in the Academies

The studies in the academies were designed to produce scholars who would be conversant in all fields of the Oral Law and who could derive from the existing halakhah laws applicable to new situations (see Rav’s statement and the discussion in H ul. 9a).

The Method of Study

The pupils participated actively in the rosh yeshivah’s lectures, as well as in the halakhic discussions in the formulation of the law, the students’ religious responsibility in this connection being duly stressed (Sanh. 7b). It was the duty of the pupils to raise objections when they believed their teacher to have erred in judgment (Shevu. 31a) and students even contested legal decisions of the rosh yeshivah (Ket. 51a). The rosh yeshivah often called in his students when deciding in cases of ritual law (Hul. 45b), when examining a slaughterer’s knife (ibid., 17b), or when dealing with questions concerning the ritual fitness of an animal (ibid., 44a-b), and similar questions. From time to time the rosh yeshivah would test his pupils in their knowledge and understanding of the halakhah (Er. 76a; H ul. 113a).


Israeli institution that is the supreme authority on the Hebrew language. Established by the Knesset in accordance with the "Law for the Supreme Institute for the Hebrew Language, 1953," it succeeded the Hebrew Language Committee (Vaad ha-Lashon ha-Ivrit) inaugurated in Jerusalem in 1890. In 1889 a group calling itself "Safah Berurah" had been formed, with the object of "spreading the Hebrew language and speech among people in all walks of life." This group elected the Committee, the first members of which were Eliezer *Ben-Yehuda, David *Yellin, R. H ayyim *Hirschenson, and A.M. *Luncz. Initially the Committee devoted itself to establishing Hebrew terms needed for daily use and to creating a uniform pronunciation for Hebrew speech to replace the then current variety of pronunciations. After only one year of existence, organizational problems disrupted the Committee’s activities, but in 1903 at the Teachers’ Conference in Zikhron Ya’akov, it was reconvened with an enlarged membership, and thereafter held regular monthly meetings.

In Principles of the Committees Activities, drafted by Ben-Yehuda, its purpose was declared to be: (1) "To prepare the Hebrew language for use as a spoken language in all facets of life – in the home, school, public life, business, industry, fine arts, and in the sciences." (2) "To preserve the Oriental qualities of the language and its distinctive form, in the pronunciation of the consonants, in word structure and in style, and to add the flexibility necessary to enable it fully to express contemporary human thought."

The sources used by the Committee were Hebrew literary vocabulary of all periods; Aramaic, provided it was given Hebrew forms; Hebrew roots from which new forms could develop; and Semitic roots, especially Arabic. Non-Semitic words found in the sources were used only if they already had a Hebrew form or had been absorbed into the language and were in common use.

Scientific problems of linguistic principle were discussed in the Zikhronot ("Records of the Committee on Language"). In 1912, the Committee was recognized by the Teachers’ Organization and the Committee for the Propagation of Hebrew as "the final authority in authorizing and choosing new words." In a lecture given at the convention of the Organization for Hebrew Language and Culture in Vienna in 1913 (published in Zikhronot, 4 (1914)), David Yellin defined the Committee as not merely a factory for new words, as its opponents alleged, but the highest authority for all matters of language, encouraging the coordinated work of all Hebrew linguists and writers. At the 11th Zionist Congress (1913), M. *Ussishkin proposed a resolution authorizing the Committee "to serve as the center of the renaissance and development of the Hebrew language" and urging the Zionist General Council to give it the necessary moral aid and material assistance. After World War 1, the beginning of the British Mandate and the Jewish National Home, Hebrew became an official language in Palestine. The Committee, which had been largely inactive during the war, now felt an obligation to expand the program of the Language Committee far beyond its previous range. Practical linguistics and the supply of new words were to be increased, and it engaged in language research, intended to lay the scientific foundations for the practical work.

With an increased membership, the Committee met frequently, establishing and publishing professional terminology. To prepare for the establishment of the Haifa Technion and the Hebrew University, as well as to facilitate the development of trade and industry, work in the various subjects was divided among subcommittees, consisting of members of the Committee and experts in the particular field. These met in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, and Haifa, referring their findings to other specialists in the field as well as to all members of the Language Committee. After final approval, lists were published in the Hebrew Language Committee’s quarterly, Leshonenu, or in a special dictionary.

The Sephardi pronunciation was established as the standard for spoken Hebrew and instruction in the schools. Rules of spelling were established: grammatical when the writing was vocalized and "full" (plene) in unvocalized writing. Rules of punctuation were determined, and doubtful matters of grammar clarified. While developments in technology and the sciences forced the committees on terminology to include many non-Semitic words in the Hebrew dictionary, the formation of verbs from foreign words was deliberately restricted because, while nouns are easily assimilated into Hebrew, verbs are not. Nevertheless, the formation of verbs such as ]sVt3 (talpen, "telephone") and flV? (galven, "galvanize") proved unavoidable. Grammatical nouns encountered certain scholarly and practical obstacles: the establishment of spelling rules was long delayed by disputes between adherents of biblical spelling and those of the "full" spelling current in post-biblical literature.

The law adopted by the Knesset in 1953 established the Academy and defined its function as the "development of Hebrew, based on the study of the language in its various periods and branches." The maximum number of members is 23. Well-known scholars in various fields of Jewish and Hebrew studies were appointed as members of the Academy, together with practicing writers, and a number of advisory and honorary members were invited to join them. N.H. *Tur-Sinai was chosen to be president of the Academy, a position he held until 1973. Subsequent presidents were Ze’ev Ben *H ayyim (1973-1981), Joshua *Blau (1981-1988), and Moshe Bar-Asher (1988- ).

The supreme body within the Academy is the plenum, to which linguistic problems discussed in the various committees are referred for final discussion and approval. The plenum meets five or six times a year. The committees on terminology hold weekly or biweekly meetings attended by at least two members from the Academy as well as by specialists in the areas under discussion. Scientific secretaries assemble the available linguistic material in each area, which is then checked against literary sources and decisions already taken in other areas. After discussion, the secretary collates the material and transmits it to all Academy members and to further specialists in the field, who are entitled to comment on, or take issue with, the committee’s findings. The material is finally presented to the plenum for discussion, authorization, and publication, either in the Zikhronot ha-Akademyah or in the series of technical dictionaries, originally instituted by the Hebrew Language Committee. Among dictionaries published in recent years are those on electronics, chemistry, molecular biology, psychology, library science, diplomacy, medicine, and home economics. Committees on terminology are at work in the fields of banking, law, sociology, nomenclature of plants, and artificial intelligence. The Haifa office for technical terminology is a joint body of the Academy and the Technion. Committees on grammar and spelling follow a similar work pattern, but since the problems in this area are complex, there are usually greater differences of opinion and theory, centering, as a rule, on the conflict between the dictates of historical grammar and those of living speech and practical teaching. Language forms created outside the Academy, whether originating in foreign influence, in slang, or in the language of children, also demand a clear decision by the Academy.

A practical problem over which the Academy, in common with its predecessor, has labored for many years, is the determining of Hebrew spelling. Hebrew writing is mostly consonantal, the vowels being represented by vocalization signs. This spelling, inadequate in the past, is even more so in the present, since the vowels are rarely indicated either in script or in print. The spelling used in the past generations, which substitutes matres lectionis for vowels, is incomplete (although it is called "full"), lacks uniformity, and is not universally accepted. The rules for unvocalized spelling, established by the Hebrew Language Committee, were never generally accepted and various systems have been retained. In 1968, after prolonged debate, the Academy decided to maintain two modes of spelling: one vocalized according to all the established grammatical rules, the other an unvocalized spelling in accordance with the rules of the Hebrew Language Committee. A related question is how to transliterate Hebrew into Latin letters in such a way that the non-Hebrew reader is able to pronounce the name as it is said in Hebrew, and after much discussion, a system was approved. In addition, rules have been determined for the transliteration of foreign names into Hebrew as well as for transliteration from Arabic into Hebrew. Rules have also been established for vocalization of foreign words. New rules for Hebrew punctuation were approved in 1993. The Academy assists public bodies requiring linguistic guidance, such as the National Committee on Names, scientific projects, the state broadcasting system, etc.

Academy decisions are published either as technical dictionaries, in lists of terms, or as collections of rules in the annual Zikhronot ha-Akademyah la-Lashon ha-Ivrit. A special project of the Academy is the Historical Dictionary of the Hebrew Language, begun in 1954 by an editorial board headed by Z. Ben-H ayyim, planned to include all Hebrew words and their uses from the earliest sources until the present. Preparatory work on material from tannaitic literature, the Talmud, and Midrash has been completed. Work continues on readying ancient piyyut, geonic, Karaite, and North African literature, and modern Hebrew literature (dating from 1750). The historical dictionary project is fully computerized and applies programs especially adapted to the dictionary’s requirements. In 1994 the Academy established the "Masie Institute" to bring the Academy closer to the public and for research into the history of the revival of Hebrew in Israel and the Diaspora from its earliest stages to the establishment of the State of Israel. The publications of the Committee and of the Academy are Zikhronot for the years 1920-28, vol. 5 edited by J. Klausner, vol. 6 by S. Ben-Zion, D. Yellin, and A. Zifroni. Afterwards the committee decisions were published in Leshonenu (see below) up to 1954. Then, when the Academy was established, a new series of Zikhronot was commenced under the name of

Zikhronot ha-Akademia la-Lashon ha-Ivrit: vols. 1-2 (1954-55), 3-4 (1956-57), 5 (1958), 6 (1959), 7-8 (1960-61), 9 (1962), 10-11 (1963-64), 12 (1965), 13 (1966), 14 (1967), 15 (1968), 16 (1969), 17 (1970), 18 (1971), 19-20 (1972-73), and 21-24 (1974-77) of the new series were probably edited by Meir Medan, but no name of an editor is specified; vols. 25-27 (1978-80), 28-30 (1981-83) and 31-34 (1984-87) were edited by Y. Yannai; 35-37 (1988-90) by Y. Yannai and J. Ofer; 38-40 (1991-93) and 41-43 (1994-96) by J. Ofer; and vol. 44-46 (1997-99) by D. Barak. Leshonenu, a quarterly, was edited by A. Zifroni (1929-34, five volumes) and N.H. Torczyner (*Tur-Sinai) from 1934 to 1954. These continued under the auspices of the Academy and were edited by Z. Ben-H ayyim from 1955 to 1965, by E. Kutscher from 1965 to 1971, by S. Abramson from 1972 to 1980, by Y. Blau from 1981 to 1999, and from 2000 by M. Bar-Asher. Le-shonenu la-Am, popular pamphlets on matters of language, consist of six pamphlets edited by A. Avrunin, M. Ezrahi, and I. Perez; (and more regularly from 1949 to date, a few pamphlets a year). There is also a series of technical dictionaries. The Academy’s lexical innovations used to be disseminated among the public through Lemad Leshonkha ("Learn Your Language") pages published bimonthly, and since 1989 in the framework of a regular newsletter called Aqaddem. Among the most important recent publications are the Maagarim cd which includes all the sources of the ancient period, the critical edition of the Talmud Yerushalmi according to the Leiden Ms, and the second part of Sefer ha-Mekorot (the Book of Sources) for the North African Hebrew literature from 1391 to date (1,941 pages).


In rabbinic tradition, a heavenly body of scholars. Post-mishnaic (talmudic and midrashic) literature speaks of an Academy on High, for which two terms are used: "Yeshivah shel Ma’lah" ("Academy on High") and "Metivta de-Rakia" ("Academy of the Sky"). It is clear from Bava Mezia 86a that the two terms are identical. Generally speaking, the Academy on High has the same features as an earthly academy. Scholars continue their studies and debates there; therefore the death of a sage is expressed as a summons to the Academy on High (bm 86a). Very daringly, the Almighty Himself is made to participate in its debates and is not even an absolute authority. One of His rulings is contested by all the other scholars, and a human, Rabbah b. Nahamani, is especially summoned from earth (i.e., to die) for a final decision, which he gives before he dies. Although his ruling concurs with that of the Almighty, it is given independently.

Every day God gives a new interpretation of the Torah (Gen. R. 49:2), and He cites the opinions of various scholars (H ag. 15b). He also instructs young children who died before they could study (Av. Zar. 3b; however, the Academy on High is not mentioned there). The most surprising of all students is *Asmodeus, the king of the demons, who is depicted as studying daily in both the heavenly and the earthly academies (Git. 68a). Admission to the Academy on High is automatic for scholars (Eccl. R. 5:11, no. 5), although it may be denied for certain reasons (Ber. 18b). Others may enjoy the privilege for particularly meritorious deeds. These include teaching Torah to a neighbor’s son (bm 85a) and assisting scholars to study by promoting their commercial ventures (Pes. 53b).

Greetings were sent from this Academy to people who were still alive. Abbaye received these once a week on the eve of the Sabbath. Rava, his contemporary, was greeted once a year, on the eve of the Day of Atonement. However, a certain *Abba Umana ("the bloodletter") was privileged to receive greetings daily because of the due proprieties which he observed when bleeding women patients. Scholars have their definite places there, according to rank. The great amora Johanan was not deemed worthy of sitting next to H iyya (bm 85b). They sit in a semi-circle, like the Sanhedrin on earth (Eccles. R. 1:11, no. 1). Nothing suggests that this academy is identical with paradise. On the Day of Atonement, before Kol Nidrei, the permission of the Academy on High is invoked to hold the Service together with "transgressors." It is also invoked in the prayer recited before changing the name of a sick person, see Seder Berakhot (Amsterdam, 1687), 259 ff.

In Kabbalah

The Zohar makes a clear distinction between the two terms "Academy of Heaven" and "Academy on High." The former is headed by *Metatron and the latter by God Himself (ii, 273b; iii, 163a, 192a, 197b, 241b, etc.). Promotion from one academy to the other is mentioned, as are some academy heads in certain departments of the heavenly academy, e.g., "the Academy of Moses", "the Academy of Aaron." A long section in the portion Shelah Lekha (iii, 162ff.) is devoted to a description of the imaginary wanderings of *Simeon b. Yohai in these academies and his meeting with the head of the Academy of Heaven. The place of Metatron in the Zohar is taken in the Testament of Rabbi Eliezer the Great, composed by the author of the Zohar himself, by Rav Gaddiel Na’ar, who forms the subject of a special legend (Seder Gan Eden, Beit Midrash of Jellinek, iii, 136). In order to distinguish between the two academies, Midrash ha-Ne’lam on Ruth (Zohar Hadash, 84a) changed the term "Academy of Heaven" which occurs in the Talmud (Ber. 12b) to "Academy on High." Legendary motifs concerning the Heavenly Academy which occur in the Talmud were completely remolded in the Zohar, especially in the story of R. H iyya’s ascent to the Academy of Heaven (Zohar I, 4a). The *Messiah seems also to come into this academy at certain times so as to study the Torah with the sages of the academy.


(Zaragua?; c. 1300), Catalan poet. Moses Afan, whose true name was probably Moses Nathan (Nafan), is known for his verse treatise in Catalan on chess. The introduction begins with an account of the Creation, stressing man’s obligation to worship God the Creator. It ends with an explanation of the rules of chess and a condemnation of other games, especially card playing. The work was translated into Castilian by a Jew or Jewish convert in 1350; a manuscript copy was preserved in El Escorial. He seems to be also the author of a collection of 58 short poems of ethical content, Tozaot Hayyim, published by Menahem ben Yehuda de Lonzano in 1618. Their originality and literary value are not very high. In the acrostic he calls himself Moses Ben-Netanel Bar-Solomon. He could also be identical with one of the notable Jews of the Crown of Aragon who signed the takkanot in Barcelona on 1354.

The author has been also identified with the Moses b. Joseph Afan who at Cuenca in 1271 warned King Alfonso x of a conspiracy of the Castilian nobles led by the Infante Felipe, but this identification is unfounded.

Next post:

Previous post: