The Deposing of Rabban Gamaliel

The Deposing of Rabban Gamaliel:

There is a braita: It happened that a student approached Rabbi Yehoshua and said, “The evening prayer; is it voluntary or obligatory?” He said to him, “Voluntary.” He approached Rabban Gamaliel and said, “The evening prayer; is it voluntary or obligatory?” He said, “Obligatory.” He said to him, “Did Rabbi Yehoshua not say to me, 'Voluntary?” He said, “Wait until the scholars enter the Study Hall.” When the scholars had entered, the questioner asked, “The evening prayer; is it voluntary or obligatory?” Rabban Gamaliel said to him, “Obligatory.” Rabban Gamaliel said to the sages, “Is there anyone who disagrees with this?” Rabbi Yehoshua said to him, “No.” Rabban Gamaliel replied, “Have they not said in your name, ‘Voluntary”?  Yehoshua, stand on your feet and they will testify against you!” Rabbi Yehoshua stood on his feet and said, “If I was alive and he was dead, in that case the living can contradict the dead. However, since we are both alive, how can the living contradict the living?” Rabban Gamaliel sat and lectured and Rabbi Yehoshua remained standing on his feet until the people protested and said to Hutzpit the Turgemon, “Stand!” and he stood. They said, “How long will he continue to persecute him? On Rosh Hashanah last year, he persecuted him, regarding the incident with first born of the herd and Rabbi Zadok he persecuted him, and now he is persecuting him again. Let’s depose him! Who will appoint as his replacement? Rabbi Yehoshua? No, he is directly involved in the affair. Rabbi Akiva? Perhaps he is vulnerable to retaliation from Rabban Gamaliel, as he lacks ancestral merit. Let us appoint rabbi Eleazar ben Azariah, since he is wise, wealthy, and a tenth generation descendant from Ezra. He is wise – If they question him, he will be able to answer them. He is wealthy – If the Roman government needs to be bribed, he can bribe them. He is a tenth generation descendant from Ezra – He has ancestral merit and Rabban Gamaliel will not be able to punish him. They went to him and said to him, “Would the gentleman find it acceptable to become the Head of the college?” He said to them, “Allow me to go and consult my household.” He went and asked his wife. She said to him, “Perhaps they will depose you?”  He said, “It is better for a man to use a fine cup for one day, even if it breaks the next day.” She said to him, “You have no gray hair.” On that day he was 18 years old. A miracle happened and 18 of his hairs turned gray. That is why Rabbi Eleazar ben Azariah said, “I am like a man of 70 years,” and not “…a man of 70 years.” On that day, they removed the bouncer from the entrance and permitted the students to enter. Rabban Gamaliel had announced, “Any student whose inside is not like his outside shall not enter the Study Hall.” On that day, they added many benches. [Here the editor interrupts the narrative to report divergent traditions as to precisely how many benches needed to be added] Rabban Gamaliel became demoralized. He said, “Perhaps, chas ve-shalom, I withheld Torah from Israel.” They showed him in a dream of white barrels filled with ashes. It was not a reliable dream, but was shown to him only to reassure him. Eduyot was taught on that day, and every place that we say "on that day" it is this day which is referred to. There was not a single halachah that depended upon Bet HaMidrash that was not clarified. Even Rabban Gamaliel did not remove himself from the Bet HaMidrash for even a single hour. On that day, Yehudah the Ammonite convert appeared before them in the Bet HaMidrash and said, "Am I permitted to join the community?" Rabban Gamaliel said to him, "Is it not written, 'Neither an Ammonite nor a Moabite may come into the community of HaShem (Deut. 23)?" Rabbi Yehoshua said to him, "Are Ammon and Moab dwelling in their original places? Sancherib, king of Ashur, arose and redistributed the populations of various nations, as it is said, 'I have removed the boundaries of the peoples and confiscated their treasures and I have brought down the number of inhabitants (Isa. 10:13)'  And, each member of a set that has been separated from the set possesses the legal status of the majority of the members of that set.  

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Rabban Gamaliel

Rabbi Yehoshua ben Hananiah

Rabbi Akiva ben Yosef

Rabbi Eleazar ben Azariah

Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai