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FROM 515 B.CE. TO 220 CE. 

(During the Periods of the Second Commonwealth 
and the Tannaim) 

Reprinted from The Johns Hopkins University Studies in Education, 

No. 29. 


FROM 515 B.C.E. TO 220 CEI V; 

(During the Periods .of the Second Commonwealth 
and the Tannaim) 










who have, at great self -sacrifice, endeavored 
to give me a thorough Jewish education 
in the spirit of the great Sages and 
Tannaim, whose idealistic edu- 
cational doctrines and 
efforts are discussed 

ufe JUN18194J) 


The aim and description of this study are set forth in 
the first few pages of the introductory chapter. Professor 
Swift's claim that his volume on " Education in Ancient 
Israel to 70 A. D." is " the first attempt in English to give 
education in Ancient Israel any such broad treatment as 
has long been accorded to that of other ancient peoples/' 
stands undisputed. Since the publication of that treatise, 
another study of considerable merit entitled, " The Jewish 
School from the Earliest Times to the Year 500 of the 
Present Era," has been offered by Nathan Morris. Both 
authors, however, undertook too long a period of Jewish 
history for exhaustive treatment. 

This study is limited to the periods of the Second Com- 
monwealth and the Tannaim, by which time the Jewish 
school was fully evolved and tested. It is the first attempt 
to give a full and comprehensive account of this ancient 
school system of the Jews. 

Problems not directly affecting Jewish education of the 
said periods are avoided. For this reason, such topics as 
the canonization of the Bible, the origin of the Pharisees 
and the Sadducees, and similar controversial subjects have 
been omitted. 

This study was originally prepared and submitted to the 
Board of University Studies of the Johns Hopkins Uni- 
versity in 1937 as a doctorate dissertation. Since then a 
careful revision of the entire manuscript has been made. 

The author gratefully acknowledges his indebtedness to 
Professor Florence E. Bamberger, and Doctors E. Earle 
Franklin, Sidney B. Hoenig and Samuel Rosenblatt for 
their constructive criticisms and helpful suggestions in the 
preparation of this volume. To his wife, Celia H. Dmin, 
the author acknowledges a deep debt of gratitude for her 
gentle encouragement at all times a true " help meet/ 1 
Special thanks are also due Misses Ida Friedman and 
Edythe Herman. 



In conclusion, the author sincerely thanks the Shaarei 
Tfiloh Congregation of Baltimore, of which he has been 
the spiritual leader for the last seven years, for their 
splendid cooperation and indulgence without which this 
volume would not be possible. 


October, 1940 




1. The Study and its Purpose 1 

2. Historical Setting of the Period .... 4 


1. The Essential Character of Jewish Education. 11 

2. Educational Ideals and Goals 15 

3. The Good Life 23 

4. The Importance of Jewish Education ... 27 


1. The Educational Setting of the Time ... 35 

2. The Development of the School System . . 37 

3. The Growth of the Colleges 49 


1. The School Buildings and the Classes. . . 57 

2. The Support and Maintenance of the Schools. 64 

3. The Supervisors and Administrators ... 66 

4. The Classes in Operation 67 

5. The Qualifications and the Position of the 

Teachers 72 

6. Adult Education. . . 74 


1. The Content of Elementary Education. . . 81 

2. The Content of Secondary Education ... 87 

3. The Content of Higher Education .... 93 

4. Educational Activities outside the School 

System 99 


1. Psychological Principles of Education . . . 105 

2. Methods of Teaching 109 





1. The Position of Women 119 

2. The Education of Girls 128 

3. The Education of Women 132 


1. Jewish Education Compared with Greek and 

Roman Education 137 

2. Jewish Education and Modern Education . . 143 


1. Primary Sources 151 

2. Secondary Sources 151 

A. Old Hebrew Sources 151 

B. Modern Hebrew Sources 152 

C. French and German Sources. . . . 152 

D. General Histories and Source Books in 

English 153 

E. Treatises on Jewish Education in English 154 

INDEX 157 


The Study and its Purpose 
Historical Setting of the Period 


The Study and its Purpose 

Although the history of education in general has already 
been studied by many able historians and educators, the 
special field o Jewish education has not as yet been 
systematically explored. Its special contributions have in 
a large measure been ignored. This is true in particular o 
the post-Biblical period which, to record an irony of fate, 
should really have been of the greatest interest to the his- 
torian of education even if for no other reason than that 
this period witnessed the evolution of the Jewish school 
system and the institution of general elementary and sec- 
ondary education for boys as shown later, not to mention 
the many other educational reforms of the time that render 
it the formative period in the development of Jewish 

The reason for this seemingly enigmatic situation is 
quite obvious. The Old Testament in translation was 
wholly available to those who cared to investigate the an- 
cient or Biblical period of Jewish history. Such was not 
the case, however, with the vast Rabbinic literature which 
came into existence later and which is indispensable for 
historical investigation of the classical or post-Biblical pe- 
riod. A knowledge of both Hebrew and Aramaic is still 
necessary to gain a full understanding of old Rabbinic 
lore. Because of this difficulty there were not many who 
could undertake research in this field. Then, too, most 
educators had been naively of the opinion that Greece and 
Rome already provided all the desirable educational ideas 
and practices of classical times. Cubberley's The History 
of Education, for example, contains less than three pages 
devoted to the history of the Jews, their religion and edu- 
cation, and Monroe's Text-Book in the History of Educa- 


tion has not even a single page. The colossal work, Cyclo- 
pedia of Education? devotes barely four pages to Jewish 
education o the entire ancient period of two thousand 

Aware, however, of the creative genius of the Jewish 
people in literature, in religious and moral law during the 
several centuries following the establishment of the Sec- 
ond Commonwealth one may reasonably conjecture that 
there would be a good educational system capable of pro- 
ducing such results. So, too, the persistence and preserva- 
tion of the Jewish nationality to this day may presumably 
be traced to certain elements in the educational system of 
the Jews, which already gained clear articulation in this 
post-Biblical period. An historical and educational re- 
search of this period may therefore reasonably be expected 
to yield new ideas and perspectives of value for contempo- 
rary education. 

In this study the writer proposes to survey critically and 
exhaustively the history of Jewish education during ap- 
proximately seven and one-half centuries, from 515 B. C. 
E. to 220 C. E., covering the periods of the Second Com- 
monwealth and the Tannaim up to the redaction of the 
Mishnah, the great legal digest that for the Jewish people 
ranks second in importance to the Holy Scriptures. The 
stated boundary dates have been selected, because though 
the chronology of these periods is still in dispute, most 
modern historians agree that at least in 515 B. C.E. the 
structure of the Second Temple at Jerusalem was already 
complete. Similarly, 220 C. E. is used because all his- 
torians do at least agree that the compilation of the 
Mishnah by Rabbi Judah the Patriarch, was already fin- 
ished by that date and many maintain, moreover, that its 
final redaction was also complete by that time. The name, 
Tannaim, teachers, is applied to those scholars whose 
statements are recorded in the Mishnah or in the other 
contemporary legal works. The first generation of Tan- 

1 For these and other works mentioned in the text, see bibliography 
at the end of this volume. 


naim is generally considered as having commenced circa 
10 C. E. The Tannaitic period, therefore, comprised ap- 
proximately two centuries, from 10 to 220 C. E. 2 

The method of procedure involved in this study is of a 
threefold nature: first, an exploration of the extant Jewish 
literature of the given periods for data bearing on educa- 
tion and the establishment of their dates of origin so that 
they may be introduced according to historical sequence; 
second, an examination of the general system of education 
of the ancient world in order to detect whatever foreign 
influences there were in the evolution of Jewish educa- 
tion; and finally, an examination of the Jewish history of 
the given periods so that the contributing causes of the 
educational reforms could be ascertained and evaluated 
with fair reliability. 8 

Before proceeding with the study, three more items of 
procedure and policy should be clarified. In the first place, 
wherever direct illustrations from the Mishnah or other 
ancient sources are used, only the most significant and com- 
plete statements are presented so as to avoid undue repe- 
tition. Secondly, the term, education, as used in this study 
must be explained. Although this work lays emphasis 
upon formal and purposeful education, other agencies or 
institutions influencing education during the periods under 
consideration are also examined. Both religious and secu- 
lar education are included in this treatise. Thirdly, an 
outline of the complete study follows. 

It has been thought advisable to treat all the educational 
data pertinent to this work under six inclusive headings: 
philosophy of education, evolution of the school system, 
administration, content of education, methods and princi- 
ples of teaching, and education of girls and women. A 
separate chapter is devoted to each of these topics. In the 

3 Historical dates mentioned in the text here and elsewhere are those 
generally accepted by modern historians. 

8 The writer hopes eventually to treat in a like manner the earlier and 
later periods of Jewish history in order to complete and make available 
the unabridged story of Jewish education from the earliest times to the 


concluding chapter, Jewish education is compared briefly 
with the Greek and Roman educational systems. A sum- 
mary of the important ideas and practices of Jewish edu- 
cation with a statement showing which were and which 
were not carried over into modern education is also offered. 
Finally, a bibliography is appended listing separately all 
the primary and secondary sources that have been consulted 
for this work. 

In order that the significance of the findings and the dis- 
cussions of this study should be clearly set forth, a brief 
historical account of the salient events of the periods of 
the Second Commonwealth and the Tannaim is presented. 
Matters directly concerning education are reserved, how- 
ever, for later chapters, 

Historical Setting of the Period 

A period of seventy years elapsed between the destruc- 
tion of the First (586 B. C. E.) and the erection of the 
Second Temple in Jerusalem. These years are generally 
referred to as the Babylonian Captivity. As the name sug- 
gests, most of the Jews spent those years in Babylonia after 
its king, Nebuchadnezzar, had destroyed the First Temple 
and had led the Jews into captivity. Finally when Baby- 
lonia had been conquered by the Persians, Cyrus permitted 
the Jews to go back to their homeland and to rebuild their 
Temple. The construction of the Second Temple was 
completed in the year 516 B. C. E. 

Not all the Jews, however, then returned to Palestine. 
In fact, the majority remained in Babylonia. The several 
tens of thousands who returned to Palestine found large 
tracts of land settled by foreign people who laid a claim 
thereto/ The land which the Jews were permitted to re- 
occupy was largely waste and much work was necessary to 
redeem the soil. There was not enough land at that time 

* The Talmudic reference to the above is as follows: " many cities that 
were conquered by those who had gone forth from Egypt were not 
reconquered by those who had gone out of Babylonia," Hagigak, 3b. 
See also Graetz, 1, 355 ff. 


for all the Jews, therefore some had to seek other means 
of livelihood. Because of this many new industries came 
into existence giving rise to a group of specialized artisans 
and craftsmen. The Jubilee Year no longer functioned, 5 
hence land could be sold in perpetuity. Thus as the years 
went on the land became the property of the few, while 
the many had to gain their livelihood in labor, commerce, 
or business. 

While all the Jews were still in Babylonia and mourn- 
ing the loss of their sacred Temple, they began to con- 
struct synagogues in which the people might gather for 
divine worship and prayer. 6 Similar synagogues were later 
established in the country towns of Palestine for those who 
found the Temple in Jerusalem not easily accessible. 
From these evolved in a short time " houses of instruc- 
tion, 1 ' which are fully discussed later. 

Another important event in the cultural life of the Jews 
in Babylonia was the acquisition of the Aramaic language. 
This was not a difficult task for the Jewish people, since 
Hebrew and Aramaic are cognate languages. Aramaic 
was the predominantly spoken language among the Jews 
until the rise of Hellenism. Shortly after the construction 
of the Second Temple, Hebrew script was revolutionized. 7 
The new square ("Assyrian") style was very simple in 
form and, therefore, easily mastered. The later Jewish set- 
tlement in Egypt used chiefly the Greek language. 

At the beginning of the Second Commonwealth, Pales- 
tine was a possession of Persia. When Greece conquered 
the Persian Empire, the Jews had to pay tribute to this 
new world power. Following the death of Alexander the 
Great, Palestine was the possession of either the Ptolemies 

8 For the function of the Jubilee Year, see Leviticus, 25, 8-24. That 
the laws of the Jubilee Year did not apply throughout the Second Com- 
monwealth is evident from the following Tannaitic source, Arakin, 32b, 

6 Yavetz, 111, 67 ff. 

'Sanhedrin, 21b, Him * .* nM MM 
JinitfK MM *nty nM an? rttrptf See also Graetz, 1, 395 ff., and 
Driver's Introduction to the Old Testament. 


of Egypt or the Seleucids of Syria. It continued as a tribu- 
tary state until the time of the Maccabean revolt. During 
all those years the High Priest was head for all matters 
affecting Jewish life. He was assisted at first by the Men 
of the Great Assembly and later by the Sanhedrin, bodies 
of learned men in whom was vested the authority to decide 
questions of Jewish Law. After the Maccabean victory in 
165 B. C E. Judah eventually became an autonomous state, 
and the High Priest was also crowned King. It enjoyed 
national independence for virtually a century. In 63 B. C. 
E. it came definitely under Roman domination. The the- 
ocracy, however, continued without any prolonged inter- 
ruption until 37 B. C. E. when a monarchy distinct from 
the High Priesthood was established, thereby separating 
state and religion officially. This separation persisted as 
long as the Jewish state lasted. 

Prior to the Maccabean victory there arose two opposing 
Jewish parties: the Hellenists who were willing to accept 
Greek culture and religion, and the pious Jews, Hasidim, 
who resisted them and aided the Maccabean uprising. 
About a century later the latter group gave rise to the 
Pharisees and perhaps to the Essenes, while the Sadducees 
became in some respects the spiritual heirs of the Hel- 
lenists. 8 The Pharisees accepted the oral legal traditions 
of their fathers which they deemed as sacred as the Writ- 
ten Law included in the Five Books of Moses and with 
remarkable diligence and precision developed the great 
legal literature of the Jews, thus becoming the teachers 
and masters of Israel for future times. The history of 
Jewish education is, therefore, intimately connected with 
the scholarly work of these men. 

When Jerusalem and the Temple were destroyed by 

8 The literature on the Pharisees, their origin and rise, as well as their 
conflicts with the Sadducees, is voluminous. The full bibliography tip to 
the beginning of the present century may be found in Schiirer's work. 
The discussion of this subject has been revived recently by such scholars 
as Klausner, Herford, Zeitlin, and Finkelstein (see bibliography). The 
view presented in the text coincides with that of Dr. Joseph Klausner in 

his book, vtfitD wn noru 


Titus of Rome in the year 70 C E., the Jews were dis- 
persed into many lands. A large number of Jews, how- 
ever, remained in the smaller towns of Palestine and tried 
in some measure to preserve their civilization. The large 
settlements of Jews in Babylonia and Egypt during the 
Second Commonwealth now increased heavily in numbers. 
An even greater proportionate increase was experienced by 
the Jewish settlement at Rome. 

Varied, indeed, were the political, social, and economic 
situations of the Jewish people during these first centuries 
of exile in foreign lands. The precariousness of their ex- 
istence varied with the period and the place of their resi- 
dence. Grave insecurity was the constant concomitant of 
the entire period of exile. At first, the Jews cherished a 
strong hope for an immediate restoration of their lost 
glory. This hope became very dim and faint after the 
failure of the Bar Kokba uprising of 132-135 C. E., which 
was supported by such famous men as Rabbi Akiba and 
his disciples. 

Solacing, however, to the Jews in the midst of their 
woes was the fact that at least a semblance of national or- 
ganization was still permitted them in their mother- 
country. The Sanhedrin of seventy elders still continued 
in office, although its functional character was changed. 
Previously it was a court; now it was primarily an academy 
of higher learning. Jews, however, still looked up to it for 
authoritative guidance in all affairs concerning their pri- 
vate lives. Its head possessed the title of Patriarch (nasi 
or Rabban) and was recognized as such by the imperial 
government. The patriarchal office was retained in Pales- 
tine for upward of three centuries. 



The Essential Character of Jewish Education 

Educational Ideals and Goals 

The Good Life 

The Importance of Jewish Education 


The Essential Character of ]ewish Education 

Probably no word is so misinterpreted in Jewish studies 
as the term "Jewish education." Many educators and 
historians have failed to grasp its true significance. The 
type o education which has been largely influenced by 
Plato and Aristotle is so well-known that few visualize 
the existence of other rational but different educational 
systems. Jewish education is generally considered as " edu- 
cation with Jewish content." 

The following quotations from Josephus, the outstand- 
ing Jewish historian of ancient times, however reveals in 
part the true character of Jewish education as distinguished 
from other systems. 

Indeed, the greatest part of mankind are so far from living 
according to their own laws, that they hardly know them; but 
when they have sinned they learn from others that they have 
transgressed the law. 

Our principal care of all is this, to educate our children well; 
and we think it to be the most necessary business of our whole 
life to observe the laws that have been given us, and to keep 
those rules of piety that have been delivered down to us. 

Our legislator (Moses) carefully joined the two methods of 
instruction together; for he neither left the practical exercises to 
go on without verbal instruction, nor did he permit the hearing 
of the law to proceed without the exercises for practice. 1 

Jewish education is thus focused upon the study and 
the observance of the Torah. The best translation of 
Torah, as implied also by Josephus, is Law, when this 
word is defined to include the Jewish legal and traditional 
regulation of all of life's activities. Torah is therefore 
often used as a synonym for Jewish education. In fact, 

1 Josephus, Against Apion, Book I., Sec. 12; Book II., Sec. 19. 



the Hebrew term for education used in the ancient period 
under consideration was Talmud Torab, the study of 
Torah. The emphasis of Jewish education is hence not on 
the pursuit of knowledge and the attainment of culture as 
in our modern systems, but rather on conduct. To say that 
Jewish education is entirely religious is also misleading 
unless the nature of Jewish religion is remembered. Even 
the emphasis on wisdom in the Sacred Writings has 
reference to the practical exercises of piety as indicated by 
the following Biblical maxims: "The fear of the Lord 
is the beginning of wisdom," and " The fear of the Lord 
is the instruction of wisdom/' 2 

Jewish education was never something extraneous to life 
or merely an instrument that served to prepare for life 
and that later could be discarded when its utility was 
exhausted. Jewish education was- rather synonymous with 
life. It unfolded life, giving it direction and meaning, 
In fact a modern Hebrew term for education, Hinuk, from 
a root found twice in the Bible in the sense of " to train," 2a 
etymologically means dedication or initiation, and hence 
may refer to the fact that the child on receiving Jewish 
education was dedicating his life to the service of God and 
to the observance of all His laws. This has been the 
characteristic essence of Jewish education from the earliest 
times and especially so in the periods of the Second Com- 
monwealth and the Tannaim. 

Jewish education was hence essentially character educa- 
tion. The Pentateuch, the source of all Jewish education, 
was not studied as literature but rather as the text of the 
Law that provided even the child with a broad outline of 
the complete ethical and religious life. Josephus credits 
Moses with saying, " Let the children also learn fhe laws, 
as the first thing they are taught, which will be the best 
thing they can be taught, and will be the cause of their 
future felicity." 3 The Books of the Prophets and the 

8 Proverbs, 9, 10; 15, 33. 

aa Genesis, 14, 14, WJn UK M>1; Proverbs, 22, 6, *>B 5$ IStt? "pfi 

8 Antiquities of the Jews, IV., chapter 8, 12. 


Hagiographa that were available emphasized many duties 
in which the Jews in the past had been found wanting. 
The study of these books served as an admonition and 
exhortation to the child to fear God, the Creator and Ruler 
of all things, and to follow rigidly all His teachings 
handed down to the children of Israel by His servant, 
Moses. The historical accounts related quite frequently in 
those books were believed and taught as intended solely 
for their moral lessons. " The deeds of the fathers are a 
sign for the children/* * Philo's books on the Bible are 
extreme examples of this fact. 

As the child grew older he began to study the manifold 
details of the various laws, most of which were believed 
to have been given orally to Moses simultaneously with the 
Written Law. From these details the adult mind would 
later evolve certain principles that would serve as a guide 
to new situations that might arise in life. Proper solutions 
for all novel problems of conduct could hence be safely 
and logically deduced by analogy or other methodical ways 
of reasoning that were taught and actually practiced in 
the higher schools discussed later. 

These factors contributed also toward the almost uni- 
versality of adult education among the Jews. Not only were 
fully mature persons enjoined to review constantly all that 
they had formerly learned lest they forget something and 
commit a sin, but they were drawn to it by appreciation of 
the fact that they had not learned as much as there was to 
learn of the Torah. Jewish education was as endless and 
as intricate and as subtle as life itself. "The measure 
tnereof is longer than the earth and broader than the 
sea." 8 Its infiniteness in scope and depth elicited great 
admiration on the part of its adherents as evidenced by 
the following statement of one of the Sages during the 
Second Commonwealth: " Turn it (the Torah) and turn 

* Although this expression was coined at a later date (see e. g. Midrash 
Rabba, Genesis, 68), there can be no doubt to one familiar with the 
teachings of the Tannaim that the purport of the statement was known 
and adhered to for many preceding generations. 

5 Job, 11,9. 


it over again for everything is in it, and contemplate it 
and grow grey and old over it and stir not from it for 
thou canst have no better rule than it" 6 

The levels of education previously referred to were 
clearly set forth by one of the late Tannaim, Judah beet 
Tema. The ages of five, ten, and fifteen respectively were 
designated by him for the study of Mikra, Mishnah, and 
Gemara or Talmud. 7 These three stages fall neatly in line 
with our modern divisions of elementary, secondary, and 
higher education. This point, however, must not be over- 
looked; there was no abrupt change from one level to the 
next. The three stages were really a gradual and contin- 
uous development of the study of Torah. 

Secular knowledge was brought to the child not as 
separate bits of knowledge, but in relation to the Law. In 
studying, for example, the laws of permitted and for- 
bidden foods, one learned directly and indirectly many 
facts of botany, zoology, physiology, anatomy, hygiene, 
and medicine as may be evidenced by the extant work, the 
Mishnah. To understand the Jewish calendar, the child 
had to be made familiar with certain elements of astron- 
omy. So, too, in studying the laws pertaining to distances 
that one was permitted to walk on the Sabbath, the pupil 
learned certain facts of arithmetic and geometry. The 
narrative portions of the Bible supplied the child with 
certain facts of history and geography. Thus the study of 
Torah completely integrated life. 

Specialized vocational and industrial training was 
achieved by the method of apprenticeship. Most of the 
children followed the trades and professions of their 
fathers. These arts and crafts were always regulated in 
conformity with the requirements of Jewish Law. The 
farmer, for example, had to observe the many laws relative 
to sowing a field with diverse kinds of seeds, the tithes and 
other offerings, the Sabbatical year, and kindred matters. 

5 Aboth, 5, 22. 

7 Ibid, t 5, 21. These terms ate fully defined in the fifth chapter, " Con- 
tent of Education." 


The carpenter and other craftsmen had to know measure- 
ments, weights, the various qualities o the tools and 
materials they worked with, and their respective names, 
in order that they might consummate an honest contract 
or an honest day's work. On having acquired the technical 
skill of his life's occupation and on having completed his 
formal schooling, the young adult was prepared for life 
and was ready to enter the world of affairs. The edu- 
cational process, through its very nature, accomplished 

Educational Ideals and Goals 

Seventy years prior to the construction of the Second 
Temple the Jewish people saw their own kingdom crushed 
by the powerful Babylonian empire. During the Captivity 
they witnessed the great glory of wealth and power that 
their conquerors enjoyed. They saw Babylonia as a world 
empire, serene and mighty. Yet within another generation 
the world trembled with a new upheaval. Babylonia was 
overthrown by a still more powerful people that laid it low 
without pity. The Jews, being permitted now to return to 
their homeland by Cyrus, founder of the Persian Empire, 
heeded the words of the Prophet who proclaimed that the 
survival of their own nation, small and weak as it was, can 
be assured not by fortresses, " not by might, nor by power, 
but by My spirit, saith the Lord of hosts/' 8 These words 
were construed to mean that Jewish nationhood must rest 
on a spiritual foundation. There ensued hence a revival 
of all the traditional customs and laws that became more 
articulate with the coming of Ezra and Nehemiah into 
Palestine. This spiritual reawakening brought with it a 
parallel ideal of education. 

This may be termed the nationalistic ideal of Jewish 
education. The term, " nationalistic ideal," is used in a 
different sense than the "national ideal" of education 
of the nineteenth century which aimed to preserve the 
national state through a unified secular system of educa- 
tion. The " nationalistic ideal " of the Second Common- 

8 Zechariah, 4, 6. 


wealth aimed to make religious education the goal of 
Jewish nationality. Its expression is found already in 
Deuteronomy where Israel is admonished to observe all 
the commandments for the following reason: u for this is 
your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the 
peoples, that, when they hear all these statutes, shall say: 
'Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding 
people/ " 9 This ideal is also implied in the earlier Biblical 
words: " and ye shall be unto Me a kingdom of priests and 
a holy nation." 10 

This Utopian dream always sought interpretation and 
realization in periods of great stress and strife in Jewish 
history. A complete return to all the laws and customs 
of their fathers and the intensification and spread of their 
education would, it was felt, not only assure the survival 
of their people but, what was more, give the Jewish nation 
a high and distinct position among the nations of the 

Such was the case early in the Hellenistic period. The 
Men of the Great Assembly then put into effect their 
decree: " Raise up many students." ai The factional strife 
prevalent in the Maccabean period prepared the way for 
Simon ben Shetah's contribution. The stress and uncer- 
tainties of the Roman period gave birth to the great con- 
tributions of Joshua ben Gamala and Johanan ben Zakkai. 
The defeat of Bar Kokba similarly gave rise in the next 
generation to the compilation of the Mishnah. As one 
Sage expressed it in those days, " all the good gifts that 
were granted to the Jews were taken away from them, and 
if not for the Book of Torah that remained with them, 
they would be no different from the nations of the 
world." 12 Torah or Jewish education, considered Israel's 
special endowment, was jealously preserved and enhanced. 

* Deuteronomy, 4, 6. 

10 Exodus, 19, 6. 

11 Aboth, 1, 1, The various educational contributions mentioned in this 
paragraph are discussed in the following chapter. 

"Sifra on Leviticus, 26, 44, tftM QH? UJW J1131& nittlD 53 

JD153 n"D DOPD vn ? on? mnw n"o ^u 


Parallel with the nationalistic ideal of education was 
the religious motive. This latter ideal transcended in fact 
all the others during the entire ancient period of Jewish 
history on account of the very nature and content of Jewish 
education. It is often repeated in the Pentateuch. King 
Solomon is credited with saying, " The fear of the Lord is 
the beginning of knowledge." 1S It also abounds in various 
garbs in the vast Tannaitic literature. 

This ideal of religious piety when analyzed is found to 
be a composite of two aspects: a full knowledge of the 
Law and a strict observance thereof in practice. That 
both aspects were held as highly important can be seen 
from the seemingly contradictory opinions of certain Tan- 
naim: " not learning but doing is the chief thing " and 
" learning is greater, for learning brings one to practice/' 14 
Ideally both these aspects should blend harmoniously; the 
eager and willing acceptance of the Law preceding, how- 
ever, its complete understanding thereby showing humble 
trust in God's infinite wisdom. Only the education that 
was achieved in this manner was in their judgment lasting, 
dignified, and deserving of heavenly awards. " He whose 
works are more abundant than his wisdom, to what is he 
like? To a tree whose branches are few but whose roots 
are many, so that even if all the winds in the world come 
and blow against it, it cannot be stirred from its place." 15 

Jewish religion, furthermore, invested education with 
sacredness and importance. The Rabbis interpreted the 
Biblical words, " and ye shall teach them to your children," 
to mean that every male adult was obligated to study 
Torah and to teach it to his sons. 16 Although theoretically 
this obligation could be discharged with the reading of 
certain Biblical verses morning and evening, 17 that was 
not the case in practice. To observe all the laws of his 

"Proverbs, 1,7. 

" Aboth, 1, 17 and Kiddushin, 40b. 

1B Aboth, 3, 17. 

18 Deuteronomy, 11, 19; Kiddushin, 29a and b. 

1T Menahoth,99b, 


faith, the Jew had to be highly educated. Hillel aptly 
said, " An empty-headed man cannot be a sinfearing man, 
nor can an ignorant person be pious." 1S Moreover, the 
more one engaged in the study of Torah all the greater 
the happiness he was to enjoy in this world and in the 
world to come. As one Sage appropriately put it, " if thou 
labourest in the Law He has abundant reward to give 
thee." 19 Morally, too, everyone was obligated to make 
utmost use of the talents and faculties with which he was 
endowed. " If thou hast wrought much in the Law claim 
not merit for thyself, for to this end wast thou created/' 20 

These nationalistic and religious ideals of education 
gave rise to a third goal, namely, to universalize Jewish 
education. The story of the attempt to realize this ideal is 
given in the following chapter. Although this wish as 
expressed by Isaiah, " and all thy children shall be taught 
of the Lord," 21 may have existed with some individuals 
in earlier periods, it did not come to pervade the minds of 
all the Jewish leaders as it did at the end of the Second 
Commonwealth. No longer did the leaders of Israel want 
the full knowledge of the Torah confined to a select few, 
like the priests and prophets, as it was in the earlier 
periods of Jewish history. In fact, the prevailing wish 
now was that every Jew might become a guardian priest of 
Torah. The achievement of this idealistic enterprise, it 
was now keenly felt, would also bring realization and 
fulfillment of the former ideals. Such a result would 
certainly gain the favor of God, and national prosperity 
would henceforth be assured. 

A great aid in the achievement of this goal of universal 
education was the emphasis that was put upon the obliga- 
tion of teaching to others what one has already learned 
for himself. This duty was clearly articulated in the 
Tannaitic writings. Rabbi Meir, for example, said, " Of 

"Aboth, 2, 5. 

"Ibid., 4, 10. See also Peah, 1, 1, tiTTllVfi 5O1K CHKtf fcnn tf K 

5w TOD min Titrfm * * * wn D5w5 tf no"p npm nrn 

a Aboth, 2,8. 21 Isaiah, 54, 13. 


him who learns Torah but does not teach it, is written ' he 
hath despised the word of the Lord/ " 22 Rabbi Akiba, 
similarly, taught that if one had raised many disciples in 
his young age, he should continue to do so even when he 
grew old. 23 The Sages, moreover, held that pupils were 
called in the Bible, children, and the teacher their father. 
Hence they interpreted the Biblical precept, " thou shalt 
teach them diligently unto thy children," to mean that the 
teacher was obligated to take good care of his profession. 24 
One instance of the above was that the teacher was 
required to teach the lesson to his pupil until the child 
knew it and was able to recite it without hesitation. 25 In 
turn the teacher had to be honored and respected even 
more than a father or mother, for the latter only bring 
the child into this world while the former brings his pupil 
into the blessings of this world and the world to come. 26 
This honor was not merited in vain, for teachers were not 
permitted to accept any compensation for teaching Torah. 
They were required to emulate Moses, who cheerfully 
taught all the children of Israel without thought of 
material reward. 27 

While the universalization of elementary education for 
the young was desired by all the Sages and Tannaim, we 
do find conflicting views regarding higher education. 28 
The School of Shammai held that it should be restricted 
only to those who were wise, modest, wealthy, and of good 
family. They probably thought that these would form a 
select group that would continue intact all the traditions. 
These would eventually become the true leaders of Jewry 

22 Sanhedrin, 99a. The Biblical phrase referred to is in Numbers, 15, 31. 

"Tanhuma, mtf "H, 6. 

2 * Sifri on Deuteronomy, 6, 7, TTB5D 15 TJl5 DWJBM 

26 Mekilta, Exodus, 21,1, HW pJD nn Dtf3 5 ^ Ji . . . K"jn 

a8 Baba Metzia, 2, 11; Sifri, Deuteronomy, 6, 5. 
S7 Bekhoroth,29a, DJfO DDK *| DJM 'JK HD 'H "O 
28 Aboth of Rabbi Nathan, end of chapter 2, HJB" 5 

dno w^i min 


whose rulings would be readily accepted. The School of 
Hillel, putting great faith in the educative and therapeu- 
tical effects of Torah, were of the contrary opinion. They 
wished that higher education should be offered to all. 
In the next chapter we will show how this controversy 
was finally resolved. 

Another educational ideal of the period of the Tannaim 
was expressed by one spokesman as follows: "Excellent 
is the study of the Law combined with some worldly 
occupation, for toil in them both puts sin out of mind. But 
all study of the Law without some labor comes in the end 
to naught and brings sin in its train." 29 During the Second 
Commonwealth the spiritual leaders were chiefly priests 
(Kohanim) whose livelihood was amply provided for by 
various Biblical regulations. It was, therefore, no accident 
that toward the close of the First Commonwealth the Scroll 
of the Torah was found in the Temple or that Ezra and 
most of the Sages during the Second Commonwealth were 
priests. " The lips of the priest should keep knowledge, 
and they should seek the Law at his mouth; for he is the 
messenger of the Lord of hosts." 80 These priests usually 
disdained all worldly occupations and held them in con- 
tempt They argued that manual labor must distract one's 
thought and attention from his studies, thus not permitting 
the attainment of wisdom. A good instance of their point 
of view is preserved in the writings of Jesus ben Sira, who 
traditionally was a priest. 81 Whether this view was in- 
fluenced by the Greek philosophers or whether the reverse 
was true is a very difficult matter to ascertain. When the 
Temple was destroyed, however, many of the gifts for 
the priests ceased. So, too, many of the Tannaim now 

a Aboth,2, 2. 

80 Malachi, 2, 7. 

81 Ecclesiasticus, 38, 24 to end of chapter. Regarding the conflicting 
views on the question whether ben Sira was a priest, see the Jewish 
Encyclopedia on "Sirach" and the "Introduction" by Judah Leib ben 
Zabe to his translation of Ecclesiasticus into Hebrew. The author is of 
the opinion that the view expressed by ben Sira regarding manual crafts 
definitely marks him as of the family of priests. 


were not of the family of priests. What should these 
scholars do for a living? Their ideal came to be exactly the 
opposite of that of ben Sira and of the Greek philosophers. 
They no longer despised manual work. On the contrary, 
they taught, " Love labor and hate lordship and seek not 
acquaintance with the ruling power/' 32 It is interesting 
to note that these words were first uttered, about a century 
before the destruction of the Second Temple, by Shemaiah, 
who, as an exception to the general rule, was not a priest 
To make a living from teaching was objectionable as it 
was forbidden by Jewish Law. Generally the Rabbis 
held that all honest work that provided one with sub- 
sistence was dignified and honorable. Self-support would, 
furthermore, make one completely independent and unin- 
fluenced in his judgment in questions of Jewish law. 
Hence we find recorded that many Tannaim were actu- 
ally engaged in all the various trades, crafts and arts 
that were prevalent in those days. 38 The few exceptions to 
this rule are listed in the chapter on " Administration." 

One exception, however, must be noted. This exception 
is in the realm of theory. Some few Tannaim still held the 
contrary ideal: " He that takes upon himself the yoke of 
the Law, from him the yoke of the kingdom and the 
yoke of worldly care shall be removed/* 84 In actual 
practice the Talmud records only the name of Rabbi Simon 
ben Yohai, who successfully lived up to this ideal and 
who was provided for in a miraculous manner. 85 

The ideal, however, that was actually practiced by the 
great majority of the Tannaim was to engage in some 
handicraft, just enough to eke out a meagre existence, and 
to spend the balance of their time in the study and in the 
teaching of Torah. As Rabbi Meir briefly expressed it, 

8 *Aboth, 1, 10. 

88 A reliable book on this subject in Hebrew is that of Rabbi Leopold 
Greenwald entitled " The Economic Status of the Rabbis," ^ 
This is one volume of the larger work called 

s * Aboth, 3, 5. See also the last Mishnah of Kiddushin. 
8S Berakoth, 35b; Sabbath, 33b. 



" engage not overmuch in business but occupy thyself with 
the Law." 36 In fact the Rabbis also ordained that every 
father was obligated to teach his son a craft as a means o 
support, preferably one that was clean and easy. Rabbi 
Akiba also obligated the father to teach his son how to 
swim so that he could save his life in time of peril. 57 

There still remains one matter that needs to be discussed. 
We do not find in the periods here investigated education 
idealized for its own sake. Some Greek philosophers held 
this point of view. They taught that abstract intellectual 
speculation yielded the greatest happiness, was the special 
privilege and sign of a freeman, and should be indulged 
in for this reason alone. Some modern educators still 
hold a similar view in regard to liberal education. The 
essential character of Jewish education, however, made the 
acceptance of such a theory by the Jewish Sages clearly im- 
possible. It was a perversion of the religious aim of Torah 
of putting its teachings into practice. The idiom, Torah 
lishmah** " Torah for its own sake/' hence has a different 
connotation in Tannaitic literature. It refers to the fact 
that no worldly use was permitted of the " crown of the 
Torah/' Even the pursuit of studies for the purpose of 
obtaining a title like Sage, Rabbi, or elder, or some other 
honor was highly reprehensible. 89 One should rather en- 
deavor to learn " Torah for its own sake," namely, for a 
full familiarity of all its sacred teachings in order to 
practice more and more of the moral and religious obliga- 
tions that the Law demanded of him and not in order to 
secure material gains. " He that learns in order to teach is 
granted the means to learn and to teach; but he that learns 
in order to perform is granted the means to learn and to 
teach, to observe and to perform." " He whose wisdom 
is more abundant than his deeds, to what is he like? To 
a tree whose branches are abundant but whose roots are 

86 Aboth, 4, 10. 

87 Last Mishnah of Kiddushin; Mekilta, Exodus, 13, 13. 

88 Aboth, 6, 1. 

89 Nedarim, 62a, D5H 'J1K1PW *OPK DTK 



few, and the wind comes and uproots it and overturns 
it." 39a Education, similarly, was not idealized as an avo- 
cation for leisure. On the contrary a great deal of leisure 
was necessary in order to make reasonable progress in the 
required study of the Torah. 

It seems reasonable, therefore, to conclude that the 
nationalistic and religious ideals, the universalization of 
Jewish education, and the combination of Torah with some 
worldly occupation formed four basic ideals that directed 
and molded the practices of Jewish education during the 
periods of the Second Commonwealth and the Tannaim. 
Other educational goals found in the literature of these 
periods, if analyzed, will be found to be fragmentary 
interpretations or elaborations of the above. 

The Good Life 

Having examined the essential character of Jewish edu- 
cation and the various ideals that motivated and directed 
it and having seen therefrom the great emphasis that was 
put on the strict observance of the Law, a presentation 
of the ideal good life that the Torah aimed to establish is 
now in order. Only a mere outline of it is here attempted, 

The precepts of the Torah can be classified under two 
headings: those that pertain to the duty of man to God, 
and those that relate between man and man. Among the 
former, the first and foremost duty is the belief that there 
is One God Who is the Creator of all things. " One must 
first take upon him the yoke of the kingdom of heaven 
and afterward take upon him the yoke of the command- 
ments." 40 That the conception of pure monotheism was 
already prevalent among the Jews during the days of the 
Second Commonwealth is generally admitted. From the 
beginning of that period we have the familiar and inspir- 
ing words of the Prophet: " Have we not all one father? 
Hath not one God created us ? Why do we deal treacher- 

M *Aboth, 4, 5; 3, 18. "Berakoth, 2, 2. 


ously every man against his brother, profaning the cove- 
nant of our fathers? " 41 The Sages and the Tannaim of 
this early period believed that this notion of the nature of 
God had already been fully disclosed by Moses. 42 In 
accepting this belief of monotheism the Jews were com- 
manded to love God and to fear Him and to emulate His 
noble and gracious qualities, made known through His 
Prophets. 48 Above all one had to be humble and slow to 
anger. 44 Jealousy, lust, and the seeking of glory were 
contemptible. These traits had to be abandoned entirely. 
On the other hand one had also to guard himself from 
becoming an ascetic and from forbidding himself pleasures 
that were actually permitted by the Torah. 45 

The Talmud records that Hillel the Elder once said that 
the Golden Rule, " what is hateful to thee, do not unto 
another," was inclusive of the entire Torah, all the rest 
being only commentary. 46 He thereby implied that the 
principle of true brotherhood was inclusive of all the 
divine commandments and precepts. Since the Torah, 
however, contains many laws that pertain only to the duty 
of man toward his Creator, the question naturally arises 
how could Hillel's Golden Rule possibly include such 
precepts. The answer involves another Tannaitic princi- 
ple: " All Jews are sureties for one another." 4T If one 
Jew defaults or errs, all Jews are held responsible. Hence, 
no Jew could violate any law of the Torah without trans- 
gressing at the same time this principle of brotherhood. 

Jewish ethics, therefore, were not confined to those 
matters arising between man and man that demand 
complete honesty, uprightness, and kindliness, but they 
were also concerned with all the actions of man, even 
those of a most personal nature. 48 All of man's activities 

41 Malachi, 2, 10. 

**An interesting brief statement of this view is found in Josephus' 
Against Apion, Book II., Sec. 17. See also the works of Philo, especially 
" On the Decalogue/' 

48 Sabbath, 133b; Mekilta, Exodus, 15, 2. 

** Gittin, 36b. * 8 Sabbath, 3 la. 

M Taanith, lla. 47 See Sotah, 37b. 

"See e.g. Berakoth, 62a, and Niddah, 13a. 


had to be pleasing in the sight of God, from Whom 
nothing is hidden. Since a healthy body can accomplish 
most in God's service, a person was obligated to safeguard 
his health. Hence we find many hygienic and sanitary pre- 
scriptions in the Tannaitic literature. Athletic activity as a 
mere matter of sport, an end in itself, was disdained and 
discouraged. In brief, in whatever activity one engaged, 
be it work, talk, or thought, he had to remember the 
presence of God and be guided by His Will. This was the 
fundamental rule of Jewish ethics. In reference to this 
principle the Rabbis taught that man should image the 
whole world hanging in balance, the merits of the people 
nicely balancing their transgressions. With any new deed, 
good or bad, the scales of the world would be weighed 
down accordingly to merit or guilt. " Fortunate and happy 
is the man that causes the good deeds of the whole world 
to overbalance its sins and woe to the man who does the 
contrary! " * 9 Such imagery was thought to be conducive 
to good ethical conduct. 

In case, however, a transgression was unwittingly com- 
mitted, a person had to do penitence and, in some cases, 
also bring a sacrifice to the Temple in Jerusalem. When 
the Temple was destroyed, all sacrifices ceased and prayer 
was instituted in their place. "It was generally recom- 
mended that a person should carefully survey his past 
actions at regular intervals, and if these were found 
unrighteous in any respect, to repent and pray for forgive- 
ness. Penitence involved two important phases: keen 
regret for the past evil deed and a firm resolution for 
improvement in the future. In case the sin was committed 
against a fellow man, it could never be abrogated unless 
that individual's pardon was humbly sought and obtained. 50 

Further mention should be made of those religious 
dutiesjthe performance of which was obligatory at r" 
'quent intervals. Usually the children were also initiatecT 
into these practices long before reaching adulthood, the 

* 8 Kiddushin, 40b. 80 Yoma, 8, 9, 


age of thirteen (Bar Mitzvah) . Prayers were recited three 
times a day, morning, afternoon, and evening. Special 
benedictions were said before and after eating, expressing 
gratitude to God for having provided the various foods. 
The hands had to be washed before and after partaking 
of a meal. They also had to be washed every morning on 
rising and always after attending to one's physical wants. 
In reciting the morning prayers one had to wear the tefillin 
and tallit with zizit, which served to impress one with the 
Unity of God and the sacred duty of observing all His 
commandments. 51 The mezuzah 52 on the doorpost served 
a similar purpose. The daily prayers had to be recited 
preferably in the synagogue and with a quorum of ten 
men. Sections of the Pentateuch were read four times a 
week at the services, twice on the Sabbath and once on 
every Monday and Thursday mornings. 63 Numerous bene- 
dictions had to be memorized and recited at all kinds of 
special occasions. The Sabbath and all the festivals had 
to be strictly observed in all their details. The second 
Order of the Mishnah, Moed, contains practically a de- 
scription of all these details. One was expected, further- 
more, to set for himself a fixed period morning and 
evening, and to grasp any other available opportunities, 
for the study of Torah. Similarly, hospitality and acts of 
loving-kindness to strangers and to the needy were re- 
ligious obligations unlimited by time. 

This brief sketch of some of the regular duties of every 
Jew is cited to show how Judaism invested life with 
sanctity. Through the daily prayers and the various bene- 
dictions, a person was continuously in communion with 
God. The good life was thus a holy life. It did not dis- 
dain, however, worldly affairs and pleasures, if these were 
morally and ethically becoming. Jewish ethics, on the 
whole, were highly practical. That may have been the 
cause of their popularity, because the masses of the people 

81 Sifri, Numbers, 15, 39- 

M A description of these articles can be found in any reference book on 
Jewish customs and ceremonials. 
68 Baba Kama, 82a, 


held in high esteem their Sages and masters and honored 
them for their wise moral teachings and piety. This love 
was also carried over into Jewish education for which 
the greatest respect was shown. 

The Importance of Jewish Education 

The survey of the educational ideals of the periods of 
the Second Commonwealth and the Tannaim revealed the 
close relationship existing then between education and 
the ideal good life. There remains to be discussed the very 
high regard that was shown in these periods for Jewish 
education as a part of their philosophy of education. 
Numerous statements, sufficient to fill a large volume, 
found in the extant writings of these periods reveal this 
esteem. A few sampling quotations have been selected 
for consideration here. 

Education has always been the pride and the cherished 
ideal of the Jewish people. In the words of Simon the 
Just, in the third century B. C. E., Torah is the first of the 
three pillars upon which the entire world is founded. 54 
That education should have been of such prime impor-' 
tance in their thinking is quite natural since they held 
that knowledge, logically, must precede the practice of well- 
directed activities. Of all education that of the children 
and of youth was held as the most important. 

The Book of Psalms, intensively studied and used in 
those days for the ritual in the Temple and for prayers in 
the Synagogues, had expressed this ideal very significantly 
as follows: "our sons are as plants grown up in their 
youth." l5e The implication here was well understood. 
Just as the agriculturist has to take special care of his 
young plants so that he may have assurance that they will 
grow to be healthy fruit-bearing trees, so, too, they 
thought if care was given to educate young children 

64 Aboth, 1, 2. The identification of this Simon is still in dispute. See 
"The History of the High Priests" in Hebrew by Rabbi Leopold 

155 Psalms, 144, 12. 


properly, parents or teachers might reasonably expect the 
children to grow to be good pious Jews, " delighting God 
and man." Youth was recognized as the great formative 
period of life in which future character was molded and 
directed. This thought was uppermost in the minds of the 
Jewish educators of these periods and they were unani- 
mous in desiring universal elementary education. The 
psychological significance of the Biblical verse, " Train a 
child in the way he should go, so that even when he is old, 
he will not depart from it," 66 was fully understood and 
appreciated. The Rabbis, in fact, preached similar proverbs 
of their own. " When one learns Torah in his childhood, 
the words of the Torah seep into his blood and come out 
distinctly from his mouth." 6T To neglect the education of 
the youth was felt to be an irreparable loss. " He that 
learns as a child, to what is he like? To ink written on 
new paper. He that learns as an old man, to what is he 
like? To ink written on paper that has been blotted out." 68 
In fact a scholar was not permitted to dwell in a town 
that had no teacher for the children. 59 

The importance attached to Jewish education in those 
days is also evidenced from the following saying of Jose 
ben Joezer of Zeredah, who lived about two generations 
after Simon the Just, " Let thy house be a meeting-house 
for the Sages and sit in the dust at their feet and drink 
in their words with thirst." A generation later Joshua 
ben Perahyah taught, " Provide thyself with a teacher and 
get thee a companion." * These latter words implied that 
one should never discontinue his education but always 
endeavor to increase his knowledge by the aid of learned 
teachers and companions. 

The high regard with which the masses of the people 

w Proverbs, 22, 6. 

57 Aboth of Rabbi Nathan, chapter 24. 

58 Aboth, 4, 20. 

M Sanhedrin,17b,Tn5fi p l55fi Dnm iTTW M PKP TJf ft KOJl 

JIIPWD T&5Di..*n:wn in? mm ton 

* Aboth, 1, 4 and 6. In reference to the given explanation see Hagiga, 
1, 7. 


looked upon education and the educated is illustrated by 
the following incident which is related in the Talmud. 
It was customary when the High Priest came out of the 
Holy of Holies unharmed on the Day of Atonement that 
all the people accompanied him to his home with cheers. 
Once, about the middle of the first century before the 
common era, while the people were giving an ovation of 
this kind to the High Priest, two Sages, Shemaiah and 
Abtalion, happened to pass by. At once all the people 
who were gathered there left the High Priest and followed 
these two Sages to the evident discomfiture of the former. 61 
The extremely high esteem in which Torah was held by 
some is attested by the words of a Jewish spokesman: " Our 
law was made agreeably to the will of God . . . What is 
there in it that anybody would change! And what can be 
invented better ! Or what can we take out of other people's 
laws that will exceed it! " 62 

The study of the Torah was regarded as so important 
that the Rabbis maintained that even poverty was no 
excuse for its neglect. Hillel was held as a shining ex- 
ample in this respect/ He worked as a woodcutter each 
day in order to earn a tropaic, half of which he used for 
providing himself and his family with the bare necessities 
of life and the other half he used as admission fee for 
entering the college of Shemaiah and Abtalion. One 
wintry day, it is related, he found no employment and 
was not admitted into the college. Thereupon he climbed 
to the roof of the building and listened through the sky- 
light to the discourses of his masters. When finally dis- 
covered, several feet of snow covered his body. Neithei 
great wealth nor indulgence in physical pleasures were 
permitted to serve as excuses for neglecting the Torah. 6J 

Education was regarded as a very important and sacred 
matter for the Jews. Unlike the Greeks and Romans, 
therefore, the Jews did not entrust the education of theii 

"Yoma, 71b. 

62 Josephus, Against Apion, Book II., Sec. 22. 

M Yoma, 35b. 


young to slaves. Notwithstanding the good character and 
attainments of some of the Greek and Roman slaves, the 
Jews were unwilling to entrust them with the future of 
their children. Slaves were never taught Torah and were 
never used as teachers. 64 Tabi, the slave of Rabban 
Gamaliel, although he was said to have been a learned 
scholar, 65 was no exception to the above rule. He attained 
knowledge of the Law indirectly, by attending constantly 
to his master. That teaching was considered a sacred task 
is evident from the Biblical verse, " and they that turn the 
many to righteousness shall shine as the stars for ever and 
ever/' which was interpreted as referring to the teachers of 
children, whose heavenly award was to be endless. 66 

Honor and special consideration was shown to every 
man who belonged to the aristocracy of learning no matter 
how humble otherwise was his station in life. The Rabbis, 
for instance, taught that " the bastard that is learned in the 
Law precedes the High Priest that is ignorant of the Law." 
Similarly, if a scholar and the King of Israel be taken 
captive, it was ordained that the scholar must be ransomed 
first for if he was put to death no one could take his place 
while if this fate overcame the King of Israel, all Jews 
were qualified for kingship. 67 Such was the respect and 
honor paid to the torchbearers of Torah. The importance 
of education is further attested to by the fact that the 
disciples of the Sages were permitted to stay away from 
home for thirty days against the will of their wives while 
they occupied themselves in the study of the Law. 68 Since 
the constant desire of the Rabbis was to preserve " the 
peace of the home/' this decree is significant. 

Torah was furthermore held to be a " rejoicing of the 
heart." Hence it was ordained that mourners for the first 
seven days of intense mourning during which they had 
to refrain from all joys ought not also to indulge in the 
study of Torah. Exception was made, however, for the 

"Ketuboth, 28a. 

96 Sukkah, 2, 1. 8T Horayoth, 13a. 

Daniel, 12, 3 ; Baba Batra, 8b. M Ketuboth, 5, 6. 


one whose services were needed by the many as, for 
example, the lecturer of the academy. 60 It is also recorded 
in the early writings of the period of the Tannaim that 
on a certain day when glad tidings reached the Jews that 
they were not to be restrained any more by the Imperial 
Government from the study of die Law, that date was 
decreed to be an annual holiday in which mourning was 
not permitted. 70 

Torah, moreover, was said to be the delight of God. 
Wherever two people sit and discuss the words of the 
Law, the Divine Presence abides between them. 71 Torah 
guards from all evil the one who studies it. 72 Rabbi Meir 
held that even the heathen who occupies himself with the 
study of the Law is equal before God to the High Priest. 78 
The elders of the Law, it was maintained, escape the ill 
effects of senescence for the older they grow the more 
stable grows their understanding. 74 In fact the Rabbis 
taught that the Biblical verse, " it shall be health to thy 
navel and marrow to thy bones/* referred to the supposed 
supernatural curative qualities of Torah. 75 

It is also interesting to note how the love of Torah was 
expressed through endearing epithets. Torah was likened 
unto water without which a person cannot exist. It was 
also called a " Tree of Life." It was further called " great 
spoil," on account of the Psalmist's expression, " I rejoice 
at Thy word as one that findeth great spoil." It was also 
likened unto the sun that constantly sheds light and 
warmth to the world. In fact, the Rabbis maintained, the 
Torah was comparable to the totality of all good things 
in life, for the Deuteronomic words, " in want of all 
things" actually referred to the lack of the study of the 

w Moed Katan, 21a. 

TO Megillat Taanit, chapter 12. Regarding the historical setting of the 
event, see S. Zeitlin's "Megillat Taanit and Jewish History," pp. 79-80. 
71 Aboth, 3, 2. 

7a The last Mishnah of Kiddushin. 
78 Sanhedrin, 59a. 
7 * Kinnim, 3, 6. 
78 Proverbs, 3, 8; Mekilta, Exodus, 15, 26. 


Law. 76 Cheerfully and heroically did many Jews sacrifice 
their lives at different intervals during the Greek and 
Roman periods for the study of Torah. The Jews clung 
tenaciously to the moral of Rabbi Akiba's famous fable of 
the fish and the fox/ T To leave the water, as the fox 
counselled, meant certain death to the fish. If it stayed in 
the water, as its own instincts dictated, it might eventually 
escape its enemies. Such was the fate of the Jews. If they 
ceased the study of die Torah, they would lose their 
identity; they would surely die. If they disobeyed Rome, 
' they exposed themselves to its maximum penalty, tortures 
and death of the body. Unlike spiritual death, this inflic- 
tion was not certain; there might be a chance for escape. 
To choose Torah was, therefore, the wiser course to which 
most Jews subscribed. Jewish education proved to be the 
salvation of the Jewish people. 

"Mekilta, Exodus, 17, 8; 15, 25; 20, 15; 19, 1; Sotah, 21a. 
"BeraJcoth, 6lb. 


The Educational Setting of the Time 
The Development of the School System 
The Growth of the Colleges 


The Educational Setting of the Time 

The historical periods with which we have been dealing 
have been classified as those o the Second Common- 
wealth and the Tannaim. This is too broad a classifica- 
tion for tracing details of the educational developments 
of these periods. In the first place, there is an overlap- 
ping of sixty years. The Second Commonwealth came to 
an end in the year 70 C. E., while the period of the Tan- 
naim is generally reckoned from the disciples of Hillel and 
Shammai the year 10 C. E. Secondly, the period of the 
Second Commonwealth is too large a unit for detailed his- 
torical treatment. The following division, convenient for 
the specific purposes of this chapter, is therefore adopted. 

These periods may be divided, educationally, into three 
parts: the periods of the Soferim, the Zugot, and the Tan- 
naim. The first period may be said to begin with the con- 
struction of the Second Temple about 515 B. C. E. and to 
end about 200 B. C. E. It is in this period that we find the 
obscure institution known as the Great Assembly. The 
Jewish leaders of this time were called Soferim, scribes. 
This appellation is found several times in the Books of 
Ezra and Nehemiah. Of Ezra it is written that " he was 
a ready scribe in the Law of Moses, which the Lord God 
o 'Israel had given." x This name was used to connote 
those men engaged in writing or copying the Law and in 
teaching and interpreting it to the people. Another inter- 
esting explanation is found in the Talmud. The Hebrew 
word, sofer, may also mean " one who counts." The Tal- 
mud hence maintains that these men were called Soferim 
because they were so devoted to their task that they ac- 

x Ezra, 7, 6. The traditional view presented in the text regarding th% 
Soferim still is the most acceptable one. 



tually counted the words and the letters of the Pentateuch, 
classified its contents, and recounted the number of laws, 
Sinaitic or Rabbinic, that pertained to each subject. 2 

The next two periods were approximately of equal dura- 
tion. The period of the Zugot began about 200 B. C. E. 
and came to an end in 10 C. E. when the period of the 
Tannaim began. This third period is generally considered 
to have come to a close in the year 220 C. E. Thus, each 
of these two latter periods lasted about two centuries and 
a decade. 

The term, Zugot, means " pairs." The second period is 
so called because during that time the Sanhedrin seems to 
have been headed by a duumvirate of distinguished rank 
and importance. According to later terminology one 
would be the nasi or president, and the other the ab bet 
din, the father of the court or the vice-president. During 
this period there were five such pairs beginning with Jose 
b. Joezer and Jose b. Johanan and ending with Hillel and 
Shammai. 3 

With the beginning of the period of the Tannaim the 
titles Rabbi (my master) for the ordained teachers and 
Rabban (our master) for the president of the Sanhedrin 
came into common usage. These titles are prefixed to the 
proper names of the spiritual masters of this period when- 
ever their sayings are recorded in the ancient literature of 
the Jews. The term, Tanna, for a teacher of the oral law, 
does not appear in Tannaitic literature. It originated in 
the succeeding period when the term was applied to the 
teacher whose opinions were mentioned in the Mishnah 
or Baraita. (This latter Aramaic word is used to designate 
generally all the Tannaitic teachings not incorporated in 
the Mishnah.) 

Each of these three periods made a distinct contribution 
in the evolution of the school system. 

* Kiddushin, 30a; J. T. Shekalim, 5, 1. The term, Soferim, in the late 
Tannaitic period is used for both the masters of the Law and the teachers 
of the primary schools as in Sotah, 15a,D'D3rt5 1*1 fH? 1D 
'5 1JVJn QnaiDand in Tosef. Megillah, 3, 19, TD?D 

8 Hagigah, 2, 2. 


The Development of the School System 

It is the thesis of the present writer that the develop- 
ment of the Jewish school system went through three 
stages: first, the founding of academies for higher learn- 
ing, later, establishing secondary schools for adolescents, 
and, lastly, providing universal elementary schools. These 
educational stages are attributed respectively to the Men 
of the Great Assembly, Simon b. Shetah, and Joshua b. 

The following partial evidence is offered in support of 
this thesis: an important early statement quoted in the 
Talmud mentions, but vaguely to be sure, three such edu- 
cational stages. In order to clarify this point, the quota- 
tion is divided into three paragraphs, and the specific 
words dealing with each level are italicized. Additional 
evidence is offered in the discussion. 

"Verily let this man be remembered for good, and Joshua 
b. Gamala is his name, for had he not been, Tbrah would have 
been forgotten in Israel. At first everyone that had a father was 
taught Torah, but he that had no father did not learn the Torah 
... So they ordained that teachers -for children should be set 
up in Jerusalem. Whence did they deduce this idea? From * For 
out of Zion shall go forth the Law, and the word of the Lord 
from Jerusalem/ 4 

"But this measure sufficed not, for he that had a father was 
brought by him there to be taught, but he that had no father did 
not go there. In consequence of this, they ordained that teachers 
should be set up in every district t to whom children should be 
sent at the age of sixteen or seventeen years. 

" Still when a teacher became angry with a pupil, the latter 
rebelled and walked away. In this condition education remained 
until the time of Joshua b. Gamala, who ordained that in every 
province and 'in every town teachers should be set up to whom 
children should be brought at the age of six or seven years" * 

4 Isaiah, 2, 3. 

6 Baba Batra, 2 la. This statement, very likely the most important his- 
torical document for Jewish educational research, is here given also in 
the original, llttf B"Kn 1D1K 1VDT tm m TOK mirp in 

nifc> ?*WD min nronBO Kin K^NG? IDB> Ktej 
mm no? nn K? IK 1? PKP *D mm nnfo IK 


In the quotation we find distinct reference to three new 
educational measures, the last of which is definitely said 
to have been decreed by Joshua b. Gamala, who was High 
Priest about the last days of the Second Temple. When, 
however, were the first two ordinances adopted? What, 
furthermore, did each innovation exactly contribute to the 
educational system? 

In exploring the ancient Jewish literature with reference 
to the history of the Second Commonwealth prior to 
Joshua b. Gamala, we find mention of two significant edu- 
cational decrees which are attributed respectively to the 
Men of the Great Assembly and to Simon b. Shetah, In 
the absence of any opposing evidence, it is reasonable to 
assume, therefore, that the first educational measure men- 
tioned in the preceding quotation refers to the contribution 
of the Great Assembly in the period of the Sof erim, while 
the second educational ordinance is that of Simon b. 
Shetah, who flourished in the first half of the second 
century of the period of the Zugot 

What, however, was the exact nature of each of the 
three educational contributions ? It is quite evident from 
the previous quotation that the second innovation was the 
establishment of high schools for youths of sixteen or 
seventeen years of age, while the last decree refers to the 
establishment of elementary schools for young children. 
What educational reform was to be accomplished by the 
first regulation"? The author believes that it was the found- 
ing of schools for higher learning in Jerusalem. The .fact 
that the Talmudic quotation speaks, in that connection, of 
" teachers for children " does not refute this thesis, for 
that phrase is often used in the Talmud for school teach- 
ers generally in contradistinction to employers of ap- 


'D PHJM iTrtfl fctttf) fPtfD *a tBMYf 'KB 

rtfw rvn 
pa T"B pa 

pa ^ pa 


prentices. Furthermore, the Talmudic word, tinokot, 
children, is used also for " lads " or " youths/* 6 So in this 
case, the translation of the Talmudic phrase may be 
" teachers for youths." 

But what positive evidence sustains this interpretation ? 
The fact that the first decree established schools only in 
Jerusalem indicates that these schools were intended pri- 
marily as centers of higher eduction. The great masters 
of the Law, the priests, the heads and the members of the 
highest tribunal in Israel were located then in the holy 
city of Jerusalem, hence colleges could be conveniently 
founded there. Furthermore, the fact that the Talmud 
declares that this decree was motivated by the idealistic 
prophecy of Isaiah, " For out of Zion shall go forth the 
Law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem," seems to 
indicate that the newly established schools were devoted 
to more than mere elementary or secondary education. 

Additional evidence may be secured from the following 
Mishnah that mentions an educational decree among the 
three ordinances of the Men of the Great Assembly: 
" They said three things: Be deliberate in judgment, raise 
up many disciples, and make a fence around the Law/' 7 
A critical study of this quotation seems to point to the 
fact that the first and third ordinances were addressed to 
the spiritual leaders who sat in the tribunals of Israel and 
who had the authority for passing judgment and creating 
new laws for guarding and preserving the Torah. It seems 
quite reasonable to assume that the second decree was also 
addressed to the same people. The Great Assembly's edu- 
cational ordinance meant, therefore, that every spiritual 
leader of Israel should endeavor to secure a large number 
of students to whom he would give advanced instruction 
of the Law, thus leading to the founding of colleges for 
higher learning. 

Prior to the Second Commonwealth teaching was a 

See e. g. Gittin, 58a, ITD ill 1?5ym IMPUtf) W and Yoma 23a, 

* * B>:m p5i 

. * PWn 5& 
7 Aboth, 1, 1. 


parental concern except for the specialized training schools 
of the priests and of the prophets. This system was fairly 
successful because being chiefly an agrarian people during 
the days of the First Temple and since agriculture is a 
seasonal occupation, the Jews had sufficient time to ad- 
vance their own education and to instruct their youth. 
With the rise, however, of the arts and industries in Pales- 
tine after the Babylonian Captivity, many of the people 
had to work all year round for their livelihood and 
so found little time for training their young. Higher 
education especially suffered. The adults had hardly 
any time to continue their own education, and the chil- 
dren, therefore, received very little instruction, merely 
the rudiments of Jewish education, thus precluding higher 
education. The decree of the Great Assembly aimed to 
safeguard higher learning by getting the great masters of 
the Law to establish schools in which they might give dis- 
courses and instruction to the many instead of devoting 
their talents solely to a few individuals. As for ele- 
mentary and secondary education, important as these were, 
it was felt that the fathers, even if their time was limited, 
could still continue to teach the elements to their sons. 
Torah would thus be preserved in its entirety. 

This educational reform of the Great Assembly estab- 
lished, for the first time in the history of Israel, schools 
catering to many students. A forerunner o these was the 
school said to have been founded earlier in Babylon dur- 
ing the Captivity. 8 Ezra, Nehemiah, and quite a number 
of the other Men of the Great Assembly very likely. re- 
ceived their education in this school. With the rise of the 
Jerusalem schools, the Babylonian institution took a subor- 
dinate position. Hence in a later century we find Hillel 
coming to Jerusalem from Babylon in order to continue his 
education at the school of Shemaiah and Abtalion. 8 . 

Before the Jerusalem schools were established it had 
been customary for the great masters of the Law of every 

9 Yavetz, III., p. 68. 
9 J. T. Pesahim, 6, 1, 


generation to select an unusually gifted student, unless 
their own sons were such, upon whom they concentrated 
all their scholarly efforts. To this disciple they " handed 
down " the Torah in its entirety. The chain of tradition 
and of higher learning was thus a selective process linked 
by deliberate planning. With the founding of the ad- 
vanced schools, however, higher education was demo- 
cratized to a certain extent and the learned leaders began 
to devote themselves not to one but to many disciples. 
Since all the students were not of the same relative ability, 
only a few were able to learn and to master not only the 
whole tradition but also all that was newly expounded. 
Those who were so successful were said to have " re- 
ceived " the Law from their masters, and later became 
their successors in the academies. 10 

Some Jewish commentators advance another very inter- 
esting explanation for the educational ordinance of the 
Men of the Great Assembly. They point out that the 
selective process of higher education was successful so 
long as there was prophecy in Israel. With that special 
faculty there could be no fear that the master would make 
an erroneous choice. When, however, the Men of the 
Great Assembly saw prophecy on the decline, they began 
really to fear the cessation of higher learning among the 
Jews. If the one selected student did not fulfill the mas- 
ter's expectation as far as mental capacities were con- 
cerned, or if he should die young, before he had a chance 
to " hand down " the traditions, the accumulated learning 
of the past would be lost For this reason, perhaps, the 
Men of the Great Assembly found it necessary to make 
higher education available to the many. 11 

When these higher schools were actually founded is still 
a matter of conjecture. It seems reasonable to assume that 

10 See the first chapter of Aboth. In reference to the chain of tradition 
from Moses to the Men of the Great Assembly, the term, ^iDfi , handed 
down, is used. Afterward, the expression used is ?!>, received. The 
change of idiom in this historical Mishnah is no mere accident. With 
the explanation given in the text, these phrases are indeed meaningful. 

"See jm5 I" on the first Mishnah of Aboth. 


the decree was first put into effect by Ezra during the lat- 
ter half o the first century of the Sof erim, for the Bible 
records of him that " Ezra had set his heart to expound the 
Law of the Lord, and to do it, and to teach in Israel 
statutes and ordinances/' 12 

The actual school system departed in practice from the 
theoretical intention. At first several higher schools or col- 
leges actually were established, but at the close of the 
period of the Sof erim they merged into one. All the stu- 
dents eligible for higher education desired to attend the 
lectures of the outstanding master of the day, and so they 
sought admission into his school. Furthermore, the entire 
student body seeking higher learning could easily be ac- 
commodated in one building. Consequently, in due time 
one large higher school was established at Jerusalem under 
the leadership of a president and vice-president. Very 
likely this dual leadership was the result of the merging 
of two smaller colleges each having its own head, but there 
are no historical data to establish this point. This college 
continued without change till the last "pair" of the 
Zugot, when it again became divided into two schools, 
Bet Hillel and Bet Shammai. 

How many students usually attended the lectures of this 
academy for higher learning? No direct answer can be 
found in the historical documents. We may safely infer, 
however, from several known facts that there were several 
hundred of these students. Many of the Priests and Le- 
vites received their higher education in this college. So, 
too, from this college came the elders who sat in the high- 
est tribunal of Israel, the Sanhedrin, consisting of seventy- 
one sages, as well as the judges of the lesser courts com- 
prising twenty-three men. Several of such tribunals existed 
throughout the land of Palestine. 

Although this college, like most of its predecessors, pro- 
vided instruction for several hundred students, the educa- 
tional system did not prove entirely satisfactory, nor did it 
live up to expectations. Instead of the thousands of stu- 

11 Ezra, 7, 10. 


dents who were expected to flock into Jerusalem desiring 
admission, only hundreds came. This disappointment may 
be attributed to three causes: first, the colleges were lo- 
cated only in Jerusalem and so were inconvenient for those 
who resided elsewhere in Palestine; second, the entrance 
requirements were too high; and finally, many students 
could not meet the financial expenditure involved in 
attending the colleges. 

The assumption of the Great Assembly that children 
would receive a complete elementary and secondary edu- 
cation from the hands of their parents did not work 
out in practice. Orphaned children were entirely de- 
prived of an education. Similarly, many children whose 
fathers were living would also be neglected because the 
parents were too preoccupied in their daily work earning 
a livelihood, or because the fathers themselves might not 
be conversant with the elements of Jewish learning. In 
addition, since the students had to take care of their living 
expenses while in Jerusalem and also since the colleges 
charged an admission fee, children of poor parents or or- 
phans could not hope to gain admission into the colleges. 
The Talmudic statement, " he that had a father was 
brought by him there to be taught," refers to the father 
who was able to provide his son, firstly, with a complete 
preparatory education, and, secondly, with enough money 
to enable him to meet all expenses while attending the 
school of higher learning in Jerusalem. 

With the Maccabean triumphs there came a revival of 
the Hebrew language and of Jewish studies and observ- 
ances. Many youths now eagerly desired a good Jewish 
education which, in the past, had been denied them. They 
were not far enough advanced in their studies, nor did 
they possess enough money to gain admission to the 
Jerusalem college. Nor could they find preparatory 
schools in which to satisfy their thirst for Jewish knowl- 
edge. Hence the need for free secondary schools gradually 
arose, and in time these schools became established 
throughout Palestine. 


Simon b. Shetah undertook to remedy and to reform the 
school system. The Jerusalem Talmud records that he 
decreed three new measures one of which was: " children 
should go to school." 13 This ordinance meant the estab- 
lishment of high schools for young adults from the age of 
sixteen or seventeen years. Being the brother of Queen 
Salome and the vice-president of the Sanhedrin, Simon's 
decree presumably did not go unheeded, and secondary 
schools may have been established in all the large towns 
or districts of Palestine. 

In about 75 B. C. E., for the first time in the history of 
the Jews, a " two level " school system came into existence. 
This consisted of the Jerusalem college for advanced stu- 
dents and the preparatory secondary schools which were 
spread throughout the lands in which Jews lived. Ele- 
mentary education was still a matter of parental care. 

These secondary schools provided free and compulsory 
education for all male adolescents. The compulsion as- 
pect, however, was secured only through constant moral 
and religious persuasion. Only by this means were the 
parents induced to send their children to the schools. Or- 
phaned boys were also prevailed upon to attend them 
regularly. If a student graduated from these schools, he 
was readily admitted into the Jerusalem college, provid- 
ing, of course, he had the admission fee. 

This new regulation created a problem at Jerusalem. 
The number of students at the college began to increase so 
rapidly that they could not be accommodated properly. 
Consequently, within approximately half a century after 
the founding of the high schools, another academy had to 
be established at Jerusalem with Shammai, formerly the 
vice-president of the college, as its head. Thus came into 
existence the two large and famous schools of Hillel and 
Shammai which were instrumental in developing and 
shaping Jewish Law for future generations. 

The success of Simon b. Shetah's reform was brief. 
Some of the bad conditions that Simon had aimed to re- 

18 J. T.Ketuboth, chapter 8, end, TBDil 


move had reappeared again, and threatened to disrupt the 
new educational system. It was not difficult to persuade 
parents to send their children -to school as long as it re- 
leased them of the religious obligation o teaching them. 
This, however, was not the case with adolescent orphans. 
Quite a number of them preferred to remain untutored. 
Furthermore, many children were deprived in their early 
youth of a complete elementary education either because 
they were orphans or on account of the negligence of their 
fathers. When these boys became of age, they were unable 
to meet the high school entrance requirements. This con- 
dition gradually brought about the lowering of standards 
in the secondary schools. In due time the Jerusalem col- 
leges were similarly affected. The spiritual masters of 
Israel expressed their dislike of this lowering of standards 
in no uncertain terms. 14 

Another factor that militated to some extent against the 
school system was the abrupt change in the pupils' educa- 
tional environment. The change, at the age of sixteen, 
from parental instruction to that of a formal school sys- 
tem found many of the newly admitted students entirely 
undisciplined in class decorum. The teachers could not 
handle such an emergency. "When a teacher became 
angry with a scholar, the latter rebelled and walked 
away/' A new reform in the educational system was 
greatly needed. Some parents who did not have the time 
to teach their own children arranged to send them to a 
friend's house for instruction. This friend was paid for 
his services. There arose, from this custom, elementary 
teachers who took care of a number of young students. 
Thus there came into existence the phrase, tinokot shel bet 
rabban, " children of the house of the master " for school 
children. This situation existed, however, only in isolated 
instances. For one reason, it could apply only to parents 
of means. Consequently, it helped little the vexing prob- 
lem. The man who lived up to the exigencies of the time 

Sotah, 47b, pll* 53 NWD'P K5& ?5?tt 

VIBO min rrwji Sawn niptfro 


was Joshua b. Gamala, the High Priest, of whom the 
Talmud says in praise, that if not for him, Torah would 
eventually have been forgotten in Israel. 

Joshua b. Gamala saw that these problems could be 
solved effectively only by the establishment of free ele- 
mentary schools for all boys. This reform he put into 
effect about the year 64 C. E, Through his ordinance such 
schools were founded in every town and in every province 
where Jews resided in large numbers. Parents were pub- 
licly notified and made to realize that the religious obliga- 
tion of teaching their children Torah could be discharged 
properly only by sending their boys to these elementary 
schools where they would be given instruction daily by 
fully qualified and competent teachers. Those who re- 
fused to heed this advice were ostracized to a certain ex- 
tent by the Jewish community which named them con- 
temptuously am haarez?* "people of the country" or 
better " common, ignorant people." Elementary education 
was hence made general. It was available for all boys 
from the age of six or seven, without distinction of class 
or caste. This is the first instance in recorded history that 
we find an institution of universal and compulsory ele- 
mentary education established. This completed the organi- 
zation of the Jewish school system with its three distinct 
levels of education. 

This newly completed system of education gained a 
permanent hold upon the Jews. It withstood the disasters 
of the destruction of the Temple and of the dissolution 
of the Jewish nation that came quickly in its wake. With 
the dispersion it spread to the lands of exile. At times 
it was suspended by the ruling power that was hostile 
to the Jewish religion, but invariably such action would 
be only temporary and the school system would quickly 
be restored to its former position. Not in vain does the 
Talmud give high praise to Joshua b. Gamala, for his 

See Berakoth 47b: WK1 D'JD 
5 D5-UB and Kiddushin, 4la: 

mon in n ITD 5i 


contribution not only solved effectively a grave crisis in 
the history of Jewish education but also introduced an 
important educational reform that persisted throughout 
future generations. It is well to note that the Jewish 
school system was developed during the Second Common- 
wealth and that each of the periods of the Soferim, 
Zugot, and Tannaim contributed materially toward its evo- 
lution. It is worthy of note, further, that the establish- 
ment first of colleges, then of secondary schools, and 
finally of primary schools seems to be the usual sequence 
in the evolution of a school system for a nation developing 
its own educational system from within instead of adopt- 
ing or having a system imposed upon it from without. 

It seems proper at this time to examine briefly a con- 
trary theory advanced by Mr. Nathan Morris in his recent 
book, " The Jewish School," in which he takes issue with 
practically all writers of Jewish history who claim that 
compulsory and universal elementary education was insti- 
tuted or completed by Joshua b. Gamala. Mr. Morris 
maintains that it was " by the fourth century C. E. the 
process of development had reached its completion with 
the elementary school for boys as a publicly organized and 
controlled institution/ ' 16 Much of his argument, how- 
ever, is based on assumption. Those Talmudic statements 
which do not fit his theory he dismisses as purely legen- 
dary or finds them faulty in some other respect. His 
main argument seems to be based on the following report 
of a discussion between two Rabbis in the third century 
C. E. which he quotes in full. 

" When Rabbi Hanina and Rabbi Hiyya had an argu- 
ment, Rabbi Hanina said, * How can you argue with me? 
If the Torah, God forbid, were forgotten in Israel, I 
would restore it by my dialectic powers/ Said Rabbi 
Hiyya, ' How can you argue with me? I am preventing 
the Torah from being forgotten in Israel. I go and plant 
flax and weave nets and catch gazelles. Their flesh I give 
to orphans for food; of the skins I make scrolls on which 

18 The Jewish School, p. 17. See also Chapter II. and Appendix I. 


I write out the five books of Moses. Then I go up to a 
town where there are no teachers for children and teach 
five boys to read the five books, each one a different book. 
Similarly, I teach six boys the six volumes of the Mishnah, 
and I say to them that until I come back let every one of 
them teach to his fellow the reading of his book of the 
Pentateuch, or his volume of the Mishnah/ " 17 The au- 
thor then concludes perhaps with a bit of sarcasm 
" such was the position in a community amongst whom we 
are told * compulsory ' and ' universal ' education had been 
introduced some centuries before/' 

Apparently, the arguer, in his zeal, overlooked the 
words: " then I go up to a town where there are no teach- 
ers for children." Although elementary education had 
theoretically been made compulsory and universal for boys 
by the decree of Joshua b. Gamala, that did not preclude 
the possibility of certain villages being without facilities 
for education, especially in the days of the dispersion. 
Even in America, where education is generally conceded 
to be universal and compulsory, one might formerly have 
found some small village or town without school build- 
ings or other facilities for educating the young. The claim 
by Rabbi Hiyya, " I am preventing the Torah from being 
forgotten in Israel " does not imply that Torah, at that 
time, was in a state of decline. Such an inference is ruled 
out by the obvious implication to the contrary of the state- 
ment of Rabbi Hanina, " If the Torah, God forbid, were 
forgotten in Israel. . . . " All Rabbi Hiyya meant, it 
would seem, was that his task was of the nature of a 
" school builder " and would help assure the continuation 
of Torah in Israel. 

Other Talmudic statements, quoted by Mr. Morris, of 
Rabbis living generations after Joshua b. Gamala, that 
emphasize the importance of " starting young/' offer no 
additional proof. The Rabbis wished to see compulsory 
and universal education, that had been earlier decreed, 
now be practiced to the fullest extent. Likewise, when the 

1T Ketuboth, 103b. 


Rabbis in the late Tannaitic period speak of a " father 
teaching his son/' they do not necessarily mean it literally. 
The phrase is used because the precept of Jewish educa- 
tion has its origin in the Bible which always speaks of 
" teaching thy sons." 1S 

The Growth of the Colleges 

The evolution of the Jewish school system during the 
Second Commonwealth has already been traced. So, too, 
the causes contributing toward the rise of each kind of 
school have been discussed in detail. This treatment suf- 
fices for the secondary and elementary schools, because 
the organization of these schools did not undergo any 
significant change from the time of their inception till the 
end of the Tannaitic period other than what has already 
been presented or which will be given in the following 
chapter under the caption, " The Classes in Operation." 

The colleges of higher education, however, went 
through additional evolutionary changes. In order that 
these important changes may be clearly set forth, they are 
treated separately. 

When the Men of the Great Assembly resolved to es- 
tablish colleges in Jerusalem, their idea was, it will be 
remembered, that every great scholar of the Law should 
gather about him many disciples and thus create his own 
academy of higher learning. However, one great college 
came into existence at Jerusalem and continued for several 
centuries till about the beginning of the common era when 
it stimulated the founding of the two rival schools of 

18 For a brief exposition of the views of other writers on this problem 
see Swift's "Education in Ancient Israel," pp. 91-95. One interesting 
statement that is wholly in agreement with the views of the author is here 
presented: "The universality of teachers in the first part of the first 
century C. E. and, by inference, of schools is shown by passages in the 
New Testament such as LUKE V. 17 ; ' There were Pharisees and doctors 
of the law, sitting by, who were come out of every village of Galilee and 
Judea and Jerusalem.' " This quotation evidently refers to the instructors 
of the secondary schools that were, by that time, established in every 
district where Jews lived. 

J* y*-^ * y 
JL f l-*C 


Hillel and Shammai. These famous colleges flourished 
till die destruction of the Temple and of Jerusalem in the 
year 70 C. E. 

In this dark hour, a ray of hope broke through the 
heavy clouds overhanging the Jewish people. Johanan 
b. Zakkai, through clever maneuverings, gained the per- 
mission of Vespasian to reestablish the Jerusalem college 
at Jabneh (Jamnia) . 19 This request came at that critical 
moment because the great scholar realized that the college 
was the fountainhead that nourished and maintained all 
Jewish life. Little, however, did Vespasian know that he 
was granting the Jews a lease on life by which they would 
outlive the glories of Rome. The schools of Hillel and 
Shammai were henceforth united in one academy under 
the leadership of Johanan b. Zakkai. 

This centralization of higher education at Jabneh con- 
tinued as long as the founder lived. At his death a num- 
ber of his best disciples settled in other communities and 
gathered about them flocks of students to whom they gave 
advanced instruction of the Law, thus establishing colleges 
of their own. The uncertainties of the times rendered 
specially advisable the establishment of these colleges in 
various centers. If one school was banned or closed by a 
Roman general, Torah would be preserved and studied in 
the other schools. The fact, too, that Jabneh did not pos- 
sess the traditional sanctity of Jerusalem made this inno- 
vation very feasible. Colleges of almost equal rank in 
scholarship were founded in Palestine, Babylonia, and 
Rome. Since, however, the curriculum and the methods of 
teaching varied to some extent within the different 
academies, some students made it a practice to visit more 
than one college. 20 Lydda, Bekiin, Bene Berak, Siknin> 
Usha, and Sepphoris were some of the more famous col- 
lege centers other than Jabneh. So, early in the days of 
the Roman exile, the ideal system of the Men of the Great 

19 Gittin, 56a and b. 

ao Sanhedrin, 32b. See also Yavet*, VI., p. 153 and the notes. 


Assembly, proposed half a millennium earlier, was finally 
put into practice and continued long beyond the Tannaitic 

Another sign of evolutionary growth in the colleges is 
the matter of the admission fee. While the secondary and 
elementary schools seem to have been established and con- 
tinued as free institutions, such was not the case with the 
colleges. The history of the change cannot with certainty 
be traced completely, since the data concerning this subject 
are very sparse. We do know definitely, however, that in 
the college of Shemaiah and Abtalion, about the middle of 
the first century before the common era, there was a daily 
admission fee exacted of each student. We are told, for 
example, that one day when Hillel, as a student, did not 
possess the required fee, he was not admitted into that 
college. 21 In the absence of opposing evidence it seems 
reasonable to assume that this practice was no innovation 
with these masters but was introduced when the schools 
were founded as a source of revenue as necessary for the 
maintenance of the buildings. The only exception to this 
rule was probably the free admittance of the Priests and 
Levites, who were also provided with means through the 
special gifts ordained for them by the Jewish Law. Since 
their services were required in the Temple and they could 
not earn enough to pay the fee, and since they needed the 
higher education for their duties in the Temple, these men 
were permitted free entrance in the college. 

That the admission fee was a usual requirement in tibe 
ancient colleges is further supported by the conflict be- 
tween the schools of Hillel and Shammai in regard to the 
restrictions to be placed on higher education. The school 
of Shammai, always eager to continue intact the old tradi- 
tions, favored the wealthy students and held that ma- 
terial wealth should be one of the four criteria to be ap- 
plied in the selection of students for the colleges. 22 They, 

21 See second chapter, " The Importance of Jewish Education/* 
" These are discussed in the second chapter under the heading, " Educa- 
tional Ideals and Goals." 


therefore, continued the old practice of charging admission 
fee on the ground that, besides providing the necessary 
revenue, it served as a basis of selection for admission. 
The school of Hillel, on the other hand, familiar with the 
difficulties their leader in his youth had to overcome in 
order to hear the lectures of Shemaiah and Abtalion, were 
of the contrary opinion. To them, wealth was not a proper 
criterion for admission, and so they were desirous of 
instituting a change. 

It is, furthermore, interesting to note that this contro- 
versy did not long remain merely theoretical, but became 
actual policies of the respective schools. This statement is 
based upon an old tradition that has come down through 
the ages, namely, that the students of Hillel were more 
numerous than those of Shammai, while the latter were 
more sagacious than the former, 23 consequences that might 
be expected of such differing policies. It may be asserted 
with fair certainty, then, that the school of Shammai con- 
tinued the traditional policy of exacting daily admission 
fees from its students, while that of Hillel, for the first 
time in the history of the Jewish colleges, established free 
higher education. 

These differing policies were rigidly adhered to as long 
as the schools of Hillel and Shammai remained as two 
separate institutions in Jerusalem. When the schools 
merged into one at Jabneh under the leadership of Jo- 
hanan b. Zakkai, a compromise was adopted. No admis- 
sion fee was collected any longer, but other restrictions 
still made admittance highly selective. No person could 
enter the college whose sincerity was held in doubt. A 
porter was still retained at the door of the schoolhouse 
to prevent the entrance of those who had not received 
certification from the head of the college. When the 
Patriarch Gamaliel, who succeeded Johanan, was deposed 
from office by the revolt of his colleagues and students, 
the porter was also removed from the door of the school, 

38 See Tosafot, Yebamoth, I4a. 


and students gained unobstructed admission. The Talmud 
records that on the day this change took place several hun- 
dred additional benches had to be placed in the college for 
the new students. 24 Arbitrary restrictions on admission 
were never revived, and candidates gained entrance on 
scholarship alone. The liberal policy of the school of 
Hillel prevailed. 

**Berakoth, 28a. See also Graetz, JL, p. 338; Yavetz, VI., p. 56. 



The School Buildings and the Classes 

The Support and Maintenance of the Schools 

The Supervisors and Administrators 

The Classes in Operation 

The Qualifications and the Position of the Teachers 

Adult Education 



The School Buildings and the Classes 

The earliest school building in the history of the Second 
Commonwealth of which mention is made in the ancient 
writings was constructed not later than the end of the 
period of the Sof erim as the centralized college of higher 
learning at Jerusalem. This building, known as the bet 
hamidrash, the house of study, was built on the Temple 
mount, so that not only the members of the Sanhedrin, 
the highest Jewish judiciary tribunal, but also the Priests 
and the Levites could conveniently attend and participate 
in the discussions and polemics of the college. This they 
did especially on the Sabbaths and holidays, 1 since on those 
days the courts were not in session and the sacrificial 
service at the temple was considerably curtailed. 

Another reason for the adjacency of the academy to the 
Temple may have been the desire for bringing into closer 
relationship the theoretical teachings of the school and the 
practical exercises thereof in the services of the Temple 
and in the administration of justice by the Sanhedrin, 
which was located in one of the halls of the Temple. Some 
ancient commentaries 2 advance still another reason from 
the Tannaitic sources. They claim that in the olden days 
it was felt that the sacred ceremonials and service of the 
Temple would have a psychological effect upon the stu- 
dents influencing them to become God-fearing as well as 
more industrious in the pursuit of their studies. 

This school building consisted chiefly of one main 
auditorium that was large enough to accommodate all the 
students. Even from the meagre evidence that is available, 


rwna * * . rpun MPto urn? 

mn Wtf 5 pWM V>n 5 See also Sukkah, 
2 Tosafot, BabaBatra, 21a, JI^D O H"! 



it seems obvious that there were no separate classrooms in 
the building. The entire school formed one class under 
the leadership of the nasi and the ab bet din of the San- 
hedrin. All students were expected to attend their lectures 
of instruction and then to participate in a general dis- 
cussion. The nasi or president devoted most of his time to 
the college, while the ab bet din, the father of the court 
or vice-president, as the Hebrew name of his office indi- 
cates, attended primarily to the duties of the Sanhedrin. 

The school building had no seats. It differed from the 
Peripatetic school of Aristotle in which both students and 
master walked around, and also from modern schools in 
which usually the class is seated and the teacher stands. 
The students of the ancient Jewish schools always pursued 
their studies standing. When a lecture was being de- 
livered, they flocked about their master, who also stood, 
and listened with awe and reverence to his discourse of 
the Torah. 3 This fact affords new significance to the state- 
ment of the Men of the Great Assembly, " Raise up many 
disciples/' The expression " Raise up " may now be inter- 
preted to mean " increase the number " as well as " cause 
to stand up." The old custom of standing proved a hard- 
ship on many students and was abolished with the death 
of Rabban Gamaliel the Elder, about the first half of the 
first century of the common era. The institution of benches 
at the college was, nevertheless, deprecated by many schol- 
ars who declared that " when Rabban Gamaliel died, the 
glory of the Law ceased/' This expression, " the glory of 
the Law," in reference to the custom of standing shows the 
importance attached to it by the Rabbis. These masters 
taught that whenever one learns Torah he should think 
that God was bestowing upon him the knowledge of His 
Law. Consequently, whenever a Jew pursues the study of 
Torah he should stand as did his forefathers at the foot of 
Mount Sinai when God first revealed the Torah. 

SeeMegillah, 21a, H^D HID^D Y'fl . . . miltt p PKP HD *Ofl 
*..nDlI?D *tfK min jno? Vn K> SK^D* pi IJ/1 . Maimonides 
holds, however, that the master used to sit while delivering the lecture; 
see Off fWD Drtfl ,l"n ,l" 


When the seats were finally permitted, they were ar- 
ranged in the same manner as were those of the Sanhe- 
drin. Each row of benches formed a semicircle with the 
lecturer seated in the center. This arrangement afforded 
the students a full view of their master as well as of many 
of their comrades who participated in the discussions. The 
Jewish Sages always insisted that the students see the face 
of their master during the lecture. The first few rows were 
generally reserved for members of the Sanhedrin, the 
Priests and Levites who occasionally attended the college. 

Even before the destruction of the Second Temple, the 
functions of the Sanhedrin were somewhat curtailed by 
the authority of the Roman procurator. After the Temple 
was destroyed by Titus, the Sanhedrin and the colleges of 
Jerusalem were amalgamated into one assemblage, the 
new college at Jabneh. However, instead of having one 
group of seventy elders, a lesser Sanhedrin of twenty- 
three Sages were selected. These were seated in one semi- 
circle. In front of them were three rows consisting also of 
twenty-three seats each for the advanced or ordained stu- 
dents of the college. Each of these had been assigned a 
special seat. In the event that the members of the lesser 
Sanhedrin were equally divided on a decision of law, 
their number would be augmented from the advanced 
students at times even up to seventy-one, the maximum 
number of the Sanhedrin. Other students in the college 
were seated in similar rows back of the lesser Sanhedrin. 
Freshmen were required to sit on the ground, as was the 
custom of the common people at that time. This custom 
is still practiced in many Oriental countries. Unlike the 
days of the Second Commonwealth wherein the Presidency 
of the Sanhedrin was to a certain extent an office in name 
only, since the High Priest presided at all important cases, 
the President of the college at Jabneh was the officially 
recognized Patriarch. When the college was fully occu- 
pied, the rows of students gave it the appearance of a vine- 
yard with rows of plants, therefore the colleges of the 
Tannaitic period were often called " vineyards " in the 


spoken Hebrew and Aramaic languages. The Mishnah, 
for example, says: " Rabbi Eleazar b. Azariah thus ex- 
pounded it before the Sages in the vineyard at Jabneh." 4 
This name was used, especially, to distinguish the academ- 
ies of higher learning from the high schools which were 
called bet bamidrash. 

When the secondary schools were instituted by Simon 
b. Shetah, proper accommodations for all the new schools 
had to be found at once. Fortunately, many synagogues 
had been established throughout Palestine as houses of 
worship. Since services were conducted only in the early 
mornings and in the late afternoons and evenings, the 
synagogues were unoccupied practically the entire day. 
They were therefore quickly utilized for housing the new 
high schools. The synagogue that was formerly known 
only as bet hakeneset, the house of assembly, became now 
known also as bet hamidvash, a house of study. As the 
ancient writings seem to indicate and has also been 
verified by modern archeological excavations, the syna- 
gogues in those days usually consisted of either two ad- 
joining rooms or of a main auditorium and gallery, 6 one 
for the men and the other for the women; therefore, two 
classes could be quite conveniently housed in any one 
synagogue. This arrangement proved completely satis- 
factory, and no special buildings were constructed at that 
time for the new project. 

Later when the elementary schools were established, the 
problem of accommodation was similarly solved. There 
were still numerous synagogues that were not used for 
school purposes in all the large towns of both Palestine 
and the other lands where Jews resided in large numbers. 
These synagogues were required by the decree of Joshua b. 
Gamala to be converted during daytime into schoolhouses 
for the youngsters. From that time on " synagogue " be- 
came synonymous with " school " whenever reference was 

4 Ketuboth, 4, 6; Sanhedrin, 4, 3 and 4, Rashi; Menahoth, 82b. See 
also Schiirer's chapter on " Sanhedrim." 

5 See the Hebrew Encyclopedia " Ozar Israel/' bet kakeneset, for the 
ancient and modern sources. 


made to the buildings. 6 A modern writer explains the fact 
that the word " school " is hardly mentioned in the New 
Testament as follows: " The school was so intimately asso- 
ciated with the synagogue that in ordinary speech the two 
were not distinguished." 7 In time the name, hazzan, for 
the synagogue official came to denote also a primary school 
teacher. 8 

There were, moreover, quite a number of synagogues that 
provided space under their roofs for both the elementary 
and secondary classes. Ancient sources clearly indicate 
that the different groups were never confused. The syna- 
gogues, therefore, housing the schools very likely had ex- 
tension rooms constructed especially to prevent this. The 
Jerusalem Talmud, for example, records: " There were 
four hundred and eighty synagogues in Jerusalem and each 
had its own bet sefer and its own bet Talmud, bet sefer 
for Mikra (elementary education) and bet Talmud for 
Mishnah (secondary education)/' 9 Although the number 
may be exaggerated, this statement, as well as similar 
ones found elsewhere in ancient Jewish sources, support 
the above conclusion. 

After the destruction of the Temple and Jerusalem in 
the year 70 C. E. and again after the defeat of Bar Kokba 
in 135 C. E. when hundreds of synagogues were completely 
destroyed by the Romans, there was a shortage of school- 
houses. The synagogues that had been newly constructed 
in the old cities which began to be reinhabited by the Jews, 
and those in the new centers which the Jews began to 
settle were reserved chiefly for the high schools. Special 
buildings were therefore constructed for elementary schools. 
Such a school was called bet sefer, the house of the book, 

6 See e.g. Hagigah, 15a, l 'U IV5"? fPfiWl . . . infcO HWD Y'fl 

winK rnwi3 *i5 n^^v . * . IPIDS *5 PIDS pw5 5" KtniD 

...IPIDfi ^ P1D3 KPW5 5"K 

7 G. H. B. in Cheyne's " Diet, of the Bible/' art. Educ. 

8 This, no doubt, is the simplest explanation of the Mishnaic text, 
Sabbath, 1, 3. See also Sotah, 49a, KOTW nSD1 . For other inter- 
pretations see Morris' The Jewish School, pp. 236-7. 

*J. T. Megillah, 3, 1. Compare Ketuboth, 105a. See also "Ozar 
Israel/' bet sefer. 


and its teachers were known as soferim, scribes. The high 
school was named bet Talmud, the house of learning or 
of study. Bet hamidrash became a general term for 
" school" 

It is interesting to note further that a number of teachers 
during the Tannaitic period had a custom, similar to that 
of some of the Greek philosophers, of conducting their 
classes outdoors. A reason for this practice seems to have 
been that the buildings were very warm during the sum- 
mer. However Rabbi Judah, the author of the Mishnah, 
forbade the practice, basing his objection on a Biblical 
verse. 10 The Talmud records elsewhere that once when 
Rabbi Judah found the school overcrowded he taught the 
students in the field. 11 His prohibition, therefore, seems 
to have been restricted only against teaching Torah in the 

An important fact in this history of Jewish education is 
that instruction was generally given to all the classes from 
morning till evening. From a rather lengthy story related 
in the Talmud, 12 it is evident that no lunch hour was 
provided for the children. That the children abstained 
from food the entire day at school is also suggested by 
a question raised in a later generation whether the school- 
house need be searched at all for bread crumbs and the 
like before the Passover holiday; 13 Abstaining from food 
was no unusual hardship for the school children, since the 
people generally in those days were accustomed to having 
only two meals a day, one in the morning and the other in 
the evening. Because of this arrangement, however, chil- 
dren did not enter school until the age of six or seven 
years receiving instruction at home from their parents for 
a year or two. 14 The childen were excused from attending 
classes on Friday afternoons and before holidays 15 in order 

10 Moed Katan, I6a and b. 13 Taanith, 23b. 

"Sabbath, 127a. 18 J. T. Pesahim, 1, 1. 

14 Compare Aboth, 5, 21, fcTlPD? &1W ^DH p with Baba Batra, 21a, 

nv pm w ps jniK aiD'jam. 

16 See ilSwn 1*O on Yoreh Dean, 245, 12, where he deduces the above 
from Tannaitic sources. 


to allow them time to prepare for the Sabbath or for the 
holiday. Short sessions were held on Sabbath evenings and 
afternoons 16 chiefly for the purpose of a general review, 
but also to afford parents an opportunity to visit the schools 
and hear their sons recite the lessons. 

The colleges were an exception to the above rule. Their 
students had two regular daily sessions, one during the day 
and the other in the evening. These sessions were not 
omitted even on holidays 17 although, perhaps, they were 
somewhat shortened. Generally the lecture was delivered 
in die afternoon. When the attendance at the college of 
Jabneh had increased greatly, in order to meet the needs of 
the many students who had to work for a livelihood during 
the day, the lectures were given in the evenings. 18 All 
other time at the college was devoted to review and to 
general discussion. 

Reliable evidence regarding the size of the classes of 
the elementary and secondary schools in the Tannaitic 
period is not available. 19 A Talmudic statement, however, 
offers us a clue. This statement is to the effect that if in a 
community the children find the journey to their school 
hazardous or difficult and if there are twenty-five children 
suffering from such conditions, the members of the com- 
munity can force one another to hire a teacher and estab- 
lish a classroom in their own vicinity. 20 The Talmud pre- 
faces this statement with the explanation that the law had 
been in force since the decree of Joshua b. Gamala. The 
purpose of this law, judged from the entire context, seems 
to be that twenty-five children were enough to form a class 

"Nedarim, 37a; Sabbath, 1, 3. 
"Betzah, 21a; Sukkah, 53a. 

18 That in the earlier days the lectures were delivered in the afternoons 
is evident from Sukkah, 53a, and Yoma, 35b. That in the later days a 
change was instituted may be inferred from Pesahim, 72b and Betzah, 2 la. 
It is interesting to note, furthermore, that in some colleges lectures were 
delivered even on Friday afternoons. Such seems to have been the case 
m the college of Shemaiah and Abtalion (see Yoma, 35b), and in the 
school of Rabbi Akiba (see Pesahim, 109a). 

19 The number of students attending the colleges is discussed in the 
preceding chapter. 

*Baba Batra, 2 la, and Tosafot. 


and it should be the concern of the community to provide a 
teacher. We may, therefore, with reason assume that the 
classes in the Tannaitic period consisted of twenty-five to 
forty-nine children, for if there were fifty boys, two classes 
would be formed. It is interesting to note that the Talmud 
explicitly so limits the size of classes. The restriction on size 
applied, however, only to elementary classes. From other 
ancient sources it is evident that the secondary classes 
were considerably larger in size and not so uniform. 21 For 
this reason it was convenient to conduct the secondary 
schools in the synagogues throughout the Tannaitic period. 
How many children were actually successful in gaining 
a secondary education in the Tannaitic period? The fol- 
lowing may supply the answer. The Mishnah, explains 
the Gemara, permits a body of three laymen to decide 
certain cases concerning money matters, because it was 
considered an impossibility to find from among the three 
one who would not have learned the law accurately and 
unable to enlighten his comrades. 22 This may be inter- 
preted to mean that at least one-third of the male adult 
population of the Jews at that time received a fairly com- 
plete education in the secondary schools. If this interpre- 
tation be correct, it might explain the following quotation 
from Philo: " Since the Jews esteem their laws as divine 
revelations, and are instructed in the knowledge of them 
from their earliest youth, they bear the image of the law 
in their souls." 22a 

The Support and Maintenance of the Schools 

The money necessary for the support and maintenance 
of the school system was derived from taxation and con- 

21 This explains in part the tradition quoted in Gittin, 58a, IfiK $3} 

*jm ma 5w mpirn niKD WIK me? wi IUKI 

aa Sanhedrin, 2a and 3a. That this proportion did not hold true several 
centuries later is evident from the familiar saying in Kabbah, Leviticus, 2, 

"* Legat. ad Cajum, 31. 


tribution. Each community taxed only the financially able 
members and perhaps only those whose children attended 
the schools. 23 This was an integral part of the decrees of 
Simon b. Shetah and of Joshua b. Gamala, without which 
their reforms could not have lasted. The only exception 
were the colleges. 

During the Second Commonwealth the money neces- 
sary for the maintenance of the colleges came chiefly 
from direct tuition fees. After the destruction of the 
Temple when the college, amalgamated with the Sanhe- 
drin, was reestablished at Jabneh and free tuition was 
instituted; special messengers were sent periodically by 
the Patriarch, the head of the college, to all the Jewish 
settlements to collect contributions. As the Jews had been 
accustomed to contribute annually for the upkeep of the 
Temple and the daily sacrifices at Jerusalem, they were 
willing to turn over their Shekalim to the college. Later 
when several additional colleges were founded, the heads 
of those academies continued the practice, and at times 
even took trips themselves to raise funds for the mainten- 
ance of their schools. 24 

The financing of the school system was not a burden- 
some matter for the people. The salaries of the teachers 
were the chief expense. The next item of expense was the 
maintenance of the school buildings. All the secondary 
and most of the elementary schools were not included in 
the latter category, since they were housed in the syna- 
gogues that were always kept in good condition by the 
community. The colleges and the special elementary 
school buildings represented the only additional burden as 
far as maintenance was concerned. 

Even the teachers' salaries did not present a great prob- 
lem. In the first place the teachers who could afford it, 
taught without pay. They cheerfully fulfilled the precept 
of the Law that required them to teach without thought 
of material rewards. Secondly, the salaries were in every 

28 See above note 20 and the text. 

** For a detailed discussion of this matter, see Rabbi Leopold Green- 
wald's book, rtfUH fiintfl ,5M ,5>*n& n the rst chapter. 


case very low. No teacher was permitted by the Law to 
make his profession " a spade wherewith to dig " 25 and to 
accept more pay than he was actually able to earn at some 
other work during the hours he devoted to teaching. 26 
Teachers were thus compensated only for their loss of 
time. Since all the people agreed that the teachers were 
entitled to at least that much, no difficulties were encoun- 
tered in collecting the taxes. The fact that the finances 
necessary for the schools were relatively insignificant 
played an important role in the survival of the Jewish 
school system in spite of the many persecutions and inter- 
ferences from the outside. 

The Supervisors and Administrators 

The supervision and administration of the schools dur- 
ing the periods of the Second Commonwealth and the Tan- 
naim was always the responsibility of the Sanhedrin or of 
the lesser courts. It has been pointed out before that the 
president of the Sanhedrin was also the head of the main 
college even when the two were separate and distinct. 
As president he was the chief lecturer, supervisor, and 

All the other schools, however, were under the super- 
vision and administration of the local Jewish courts, bet 
din. These consisted usually of three judges who were 
ordained rabbis or learned laymen. Every fairly large 
synagogue had also its own secondary and elementary 
school as well as its own court which was charged with the 
supervision and administration of the schools. The Baby- 
lonian Talmud records that Jerusalem had nearly four 
hundred such educational systems before Titus destroyed 
it. 27 If this number is not exaggerated and if we reckon a 
minimum average of one hundred children to a system, 
Jerusalem had at that time between thirty and forty thou- 
sand children attending school. This estimate is conser- 

aB Aboth, 4, 5. 

28 J. T. Nedarim, 4, 3. See also Bekhoroth, 29a. 

* 7 Ketuboth, 105a. 


vative as compared with the historical accounts of Josephus 
and Tacitus; the general Jewish population of Jerusalem 
according to them seems to have been at least ten times as 
much. Archaeologists, however, claim that the entire popu- 
lation of Jerusalem c. 40 C. E. could hardly have been over 
50,000; therefore, all the previous figures of the Talmud, 
as well as those of Josephus, and Tacitus are considered 
to be highly exaggerated. 

The judges of the large synagogues, who devoted all 
their time to the triple task of attending to the duties of 
the court, to the supervision and to the administration of 
the schools, received their salaries from the community 
in a manner similar to that of the teachers. The judges 
of the smaller synagogues whose duties were not so 
absorbing contributed their services gratis and derived 
their livelihood from other callings. There were certain 
courts in Jerusalem, however, that were charged with ad- 
ditional duties and these judges received their salaries 
from the Temple fund as did the teachers who taught the 
priests the special laws of the sacrifices. 28 

In their dual capacity of supervisor and administrator, 
the courts had the jurisdiction of appointing and discharg- 
ing teachers, of setting up new classes, of collecting the 
school taxes, of determining the salaries of all paid offi- 
cials, and other similar functions. 

In the case of a grievance on the part of an individual 
or on the part of the community, the case could be brought 
for a decision to a higher court or even to the Sanhedrin, 
the Jewish Supreme Court, whose ruling was final. There 
is no documentary evidence of any actual cases occurring 
during the periods of Jewish history here under con- 

The Classes in Operation 

So far, the organization of the schools in reference to 
the separate classes has not been determined. How many 
grades, for example, were there in each school ? How long 

M Ibid., 105a and 106a. 


was the school term for the average pupil? When did the 
schools have registration for new pupils? Were pupils 
admitted at all times? 

The data on these topics are very meagre indeed. The 
author believes, however, that the classes of the secondary 
and elementary schools, unlike those of today wherein pro- 
motion is made yearly or semi-annually, were organized as 
two-year units and that the children were registered only 
at the beginning of the term. But what evidence warrants 
such a belief? A careful study of a Talmudic text yields 
this suggestion. 

In describing the three decrees for the establishment of 
the Jewish school system, the Talmudic statement men- 
tions " sixteen or seventeen years" and "six or seven 
years " as the ages for admittance in the secondary and 
elementary schools, respectively. What do these alterna- 
tives signify? The commentaries on the Talmud explain 
the latter alternative as follows: if a child was physically 
strong, he was admitted at the age of six; if he was 
weak, he was admitted at seven years. 29 " These com- 
mentaries are surprisingly silent, however, about the pre- 
ceding phrase, " sixteen or seventeen years/' Their expla- 
nation is not adequate in this instance. 

If we posit, however, the above hypothesis, the phrase- 
ology of the Talmud becomes clearer. When the sec- 
ondary and elementary schools were organized, the age 
requirement for admission was theoretically set at sixteen 
and six years, respectively. Since the classes were organ- 
ized on a two-year basis, the children who at the begin- 
ning of the course were one year under age necessarily had 
to wait two years before they were admitted. They en- 
tered the schools at the age of seventeen or seven. This is 
the reason perhaps that the Talmud gives the alternatives 
in both instances; and, therefore, admittance to the sec- 
ondary schools was limited to boys precisely of " sixteen or 
seventeen years," and entrance into the elementary schools 
was similarly restricted to the age of " six or seven years." 

S9 Tosafot, Baba Batra, 2 la, and other commentaries. 


That at least the secondary classes were organized on a 
two-year basis may be assumed from the following. The 
Talmud records that in Usha, in the middle of the second 
century C. E., the Rabbis enacted that, " A father should 
bear with his son up^o the age of twelve, after which he 
should deal witfc him strictly even as far as to deprive him 
of his support/' 30 The final explanation given in tibfc 
Talmud is that this law has reference to the study of 
Mishnah (secondary education) . At that particular time 
the children usually entered the secondary schools at the 
age of ten years. We may, therefore, interpret the law 
enacted at Usha to mean that a father did not need to deal 
harshly with his son unless he failed the first grade of the 
secondary school and was required to repeat it. Then at 
the age of twelve the father should realize the apparent 
laziness of his son and should use all possible measures to 
correct him and make him more industrious in his studies. 
This seems to imply that the class was of two years' 

The above hypothesis is further supported by more cir- 
cumstantial evidence. It has been stated earlier that most 
of the synagogues housing the schools consisted of two 
rooms. To have several classes with different teachers in 
one room for the entire day was an impossibility then as it 
is today. Only two classes could be accommodated con- 
veniently in a synagogue. We know, furthermore, that 
five years was the period of time that was normally re- 
quired at the secondary or elementary levels of the cur- 
rent education. 81 Since the children received intruction at 
home for a year or two before entering the primary school, 
they could complete the course of study in four years. 
Similarly, since the secondary schools at first admitted only 
mature boys, their course could be completed also in four 
years. If these four years were divided into two classes of 
two-year terms, each synagogue could conveniently house a 
complete secondary or elementary school. Such seems to 
have been the case. 

Ketuboth, 50a. 81 Aboth, 5, 21. 



Some additional information is available in reference to 
the operation of the secondary classes. Notwithstanding 
the fact that these classes were organized at first for boys 
of at least sixteen years of age, they underwent a drastic 
change after the establishment of the elementary schools. 
The exigencies of the time compelled a change. The Ro- 
man yoke was becoming unbearable. Strife seemed un- 
avoidable. If under such uncertain conditions secondary 
education was postponed till the ages of sixteen to twenty, 
as in the past, many boys would never have a chance of 
gaining the fundamental elements of Jewish education. 
Therefore, in decreeing the establishment of the ele- 
mentary schools, Joshua b. Gamala arranged that all chil- 
dren completing the elementary studies satisfactorily 
should be promoted and admitted at once to the secondary 
schools. Thus at the age of fourteen or fifteen boys com- 
pleted the studies concerning the fundamental knowledge 
necessary for their daily life as Jews. This concentration 
of study in early youth proved especially helpful in the 
period of exile that immediately followed, because many 
of these boys had to begin earning their own livelihood 
and could attend school no longer. 

Some of these graduates, however, continued on to the 
colleges. Having officially completed the necessary en- 
trance requirements as far as knowledge was concerned, 
they were readily admitted. On account of their youth- 
fulness they were for a year or two excluded from the 
discussions. In fact, they were not even provided with 
benches, but had to sit on the ground. After passing this 
probationary period successfully, they were assigned seats 
in the back rows and permitted to participate in the dis- 
cussions. As a student progressed, he was promoted to a 
seat in a front row. The advanced students were called 
baale tresin, the shield-bearers, because they had to be well 
armed in Jewish lore in order to defend their opinions 
when these were contested in the discussions. 82 

After a student had completed satisfactorily his college 

M See Graetz, II., pp. 356-361. 


education, he was ordained as Rabbi in Israel. This was a 
simple ceremony. The master would officially lay his hand 
on the head of the student and declare him ordained. 
This ordination, smicha in Hebrew, gave to the student the 
title of Rabbij master or zaken, elder. It gave him also the 
authority to render decisions in questions of Jewish Law. 
It declared him, furthermore, to be an important link in 
the unbroken chain of tradition that was continuous from 
Moses, the law-giver of Israel. He could be elected to the 
Sanhedrin. Usually students were not ordained before 
reaching twenty-two years of age. There were, however, 
several exceptions. Eleazer b. Azariah, for example, was 
fully ordained and even elected to the presidency of the 
college when only eighteen years of age. 88 Josephus 
boasts that at the age of fourteen he was so fully ac- 
quainted with the law, that the high priests and principal 
men of Jerusalem used to come to consult his opinion 
regarding the accurate meaning of certain points of the 
law. 84 Oftentimes, even after being ordained, a student 
continued his studies at the academy. He was then given 
a seat in one of the three front rows. 

There still remains something to be said about the disci- 
pline in the classes. The decorum in the secondary classes 
that admitted boys of sixteen years and over has already 
been described in the preceding chapter. When these 
classes were coordinated with the elementary schools, 
much better order was established in the classrooms. 
Nevertheless, it is true that the strap was quite frequently 
used. The elementary school teachers, especially, are pic- 
tured as keeping a strap ready in their hands. 85 The doc- 
trine of the proverb, " He that spareth his rod hateth his 
son; but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes," se 
was certainly observed at this time. Such " chastening " 
was practised at times even in the colleges. The better 
students, we are told, used to take the scolding and pun- 
ishment good-naturedly in keeping with the sacred coun- 

"Kiddushin, 30a; Berakoth, 28a. "Sukkah, 29a. 

84 Vita, 2. 86 Proverbs, 13, 24 


sel, " Reprove not a scorner, lest he hate thee; reprove a 
wise man, and he will love thee." 87 Theoretically, a 
teacher could not be held responsible even for unwitting 
murder if the pupil died while he was being chastised. 88 
There is no evidence, however, of a single case of any 
such brutality. On the contrary, there is ample evidence 
that there existed, in a large measure, mutual understand- 
ing and respect between teachers and pupils as the follow- 
ing section illustrates. 

The Qualifications and the Position of the Teachers 

In the periods of Jewish history discussed in this study, 
there were of course no special teacher-training schools. 
Great stress was laid upon the possession of adequate 
knowledge by a man engaged to teach. In selecting, how- 
ever, a head for the college, the administrative abilities of 
the candidate were also taken into consideration. It is 
related, for instance, that Hillel the Elder had eighty dis- 
ciples of whom Jonathan b. Uzziel ranked highest and 
Johanan fr. Zakkai lowest. Yet Hillel suggested the latter 
as his successor. 89 A similar incident is recorded of Rabbi 
Judah, the author of the Mishnah. On his deathbed he 
called for the Sages of Israel and among other things he 
said to them: " Although my son Simon is the sage, my 
son Gamaliel should be nasi (president) ." 40 These facts 
seem to demonstrate that the high office of head of a col- 
lege demanded not only thorough knowledge of the Torah 
but other qualifications as well. 

An assertion made by several writers in the field of 
Jewish education seems to be incorrect. Because of the 
Tannaitic statement referred to in the foregoing, these 
writers claim that Hillel had only eighty disciples. The 
author offers the following Mishnaic saying as evidence 
of a misinterpretation: " Five disciples had Rabban Jo- 

87 Ibid., 9, 8. See also Sifri, Deuteronomy, 1, 1 ; Arakhin, l6b. 

"Makkoth, 2, 2. 

89 See Sukkah, 28a, and J. T. Nedarim, 5, 7. 

40 Ketuboth, 103b, 


hanan b. Zakkai, and these are they. 41 . . ." Did Jo- 
hanan b. Zakkai only have five disciples in his college at 
Jabneh? No one would be so naive as to give such 
a literal interpretation. This famous teacher must have 
had hundreds of students as did his predecessor, Hillel. 
The given Tannaitic sources, however, refer only to those 
disciples who were successful in " receiving " 42 the Torah 
in its entirety from their master and who were also 
ordained by him. 

The chief qualification of a teacher of the secondary or 
elementary school was, of course, his possession of suffi- 
cient knowledge of the Torah. Piety was a close second. 
In addition, he had to be patient with the children; 4S he 
had to have ability to teach; he had to be devoted to his 
sacred task. A woman was not permitted to be a teacher 
of children; nor was an unmarried man. 44 

The teachers, furthermore, were generally idealists. 
Their salaries, as stated previously, were at best no more 
than a mere compensation for their loss of time. Under 
such conditions, men engaged in teaching because they 
loved it, and because they felt that it was a sacred 
calling which permitted them to do a great deal of good. 
Therefore, the teachers were usually of high character. 
This arrangement made the discharging of a teacher a 
relatively simple task. No livelihood was at stake. A 
teacher often gladly turned his class over to another more 
competent than himself. The proof that this was the prac- 
tice is gathered from a record in the ancient writings that 
the Sons of Bethyrah surrendered their office as soon as 
they learned that Hillel was more informed of the Law 
than they, and had that Babylonian master chosen as presi- 
dent of the Sanhedrin. 45 This custom made it possible 

41 Aboth, 2, 8. 

42 See second chapter of this book, section entitled: " The Development 
of the School System." 
48 Aboth, 2, 5, Ifcfo 
"Kiddushin, 4, 13. 
48 Pesahim, 66a. 


that only the best qualified teachers were engaged to teach 
in the schools. 

These facts are evidence of the high respect in which 
Jewish teachers were held. It is no wonder that the Rabbis 
taught, " let the fear of thy teacher be as the fear of 
Heaven." 4e The teachers, on the other hand, were also 
enjoined to " Let the honor of thy disciple be as dear to 
thee as thine own." That mutual respect and trust be- 
tween teacher and pupil existed is evident from the saying 
of a great teacher: " I learned a great deal of Torah from 
my teachers, but from my companions I learned more, and 
from my disciples I learned most of all." 47 

Some masters of the academies, in order to have more 
personal contact with the students, arranged that their 
disciples should visit them at their homes on Sabbath. 
Each student was asked to come on a different Sabbath. 
Evidence of this is found in the following Tannaitic state- 
ment: " Said Rabbi Judah, ' it was my Sabbath, and I 
accompanied Rabbi Tarfon to his home . . .' " 48 This 
requirement did not apply, of course, to the youngsters of 
the elementary or secondary schools. On holidays, how- 
ever, it was a general custom that all pupils visit their 
teachers. So, too, even adults visited their rabbis on those 
festive occasions. This custom was already in vogue dur- 
ing the Biblical period. 49 It demonstrates die high respect 
that the Jews paid their teachers. 

Adult Education 

Sufficient evidence is available to show that adult educa- 
tion was offered and enjoyed by the public throughout the 
periods of the Second Commonwealth and the Tannaim. 
In fact, it was offered through a number of agencies and 
institutions. An examination of the forms in which it was 
conducted follows. 

The Biblical Books of Ezra and Nehemiah contain men- 

46 Aboth, 4, 12. "Tosef. Negaim, 8, 3. 

* 7 Makkoth, lOa. " Second Kings, 4, 23. 


tion of public massmeetings at Jerusalem in which the 
leaders of Israel exhorted the people to correct certain 
wrongdoings. At some of these gatherings portions of 
the Pentateuch were read. Explanations were also given 
at such times in order that the people might fully compre- 
hend the reading. 50 Similarly, at certain special services 
in the Temple, the High Priest and the King were re- 
quired to read several sections from the scroll of the Torah 
for the multitude of people gathered there. 51 

A more frequent form of adult education were the 
Biblical readings held in the synagogues. From the days 
of Ezra these readings were given four times a week, twice 
on Saturday, at the morning and afternoon services, and 
on Monday and Thursday mornings. 52 Readings were 
also held on every holiday, fast day, and on every Rosh 
Chodesh, first of the month. No reading assignment 
contained less than ten verses of the Five Books of Moses. 
Many contained a great deal more. A quorum of ten 
adult males was required for each reading. Each verse 
was read in the original Hebrew and interpreted into the 
Aramaic, 53 the vernacular of the time. Certain sections of 
the Prophets were also read and interpreted at many of 
these services. In that way, even the untutored quickly 
gained some knowledge of Jewish literature. No one 
needed to be ignorant of the Law. Clearly, Philo was not 
mistaken when he declared that the synagogues were 
chiefly " houses of instruction " in which " the native phi- 
losophy " was expounded and every good virtue taught 54 
Furthermore, even the services in the synagogue of those 
days were educational. Since the liturgy was not as yet 
entirely fixed and prearranged, the leader of the congre- 
gation could use considerable initiative in conducting the 
service. This arrangement was intended to make the peo- 
ple more attentive to the entire liturgy. It also created a 

50 Nehemiah, 8, 8. 

w Yoma, 7, 1 ; Sotah, 7, 8. 5 Megillah, 4, 4. 

" Baba Kama, 82a. w Vita Mosis, 3, 27. 


mild rivalry in the composition of finer and more devo- 
tional prayers. 

On holidays the Rabbis, in addition, held public dis- 
courses in the synagogues at which time they explained 
and expounded all the laws pertaining to the festival that 
was being celebrated. Because of the many laws dealing 
with Passover, such discourses were given several times 
during the thirty-day period preceding that holiday. 55 

During the Tannaitic period, moreover, the Rabbis de- 
livered sermons for the people twice on every Sabbath, 
one at the Friday evening service or shortly thereafter and 
the other at the Saturday morning service. 56 These ser- 
mons were usually well attended and served a dual pur- 
pose. In the first place, they were educative. People were 
informed of the details of the Law. Secondly, they were 
intended to arouse the people emotionally so they would 
seek more knowledge of their Law and yield a more 
perfect observance of it. 

Adult education was widespread and popular among 
the Jews. Every Jew knew that he was obligated by sacred 
Law to study Torah every day of his life. Consequently, 
many men, even artisans and industrial workers, reserved 
part of every day for study. Oftentimes, two or three 
people arranged to come to one home or to the synagogue 
in order to study together. Sometimes, too, ten people or 
more organized themselves into a class and secured an 
instructor to lead them in their studies and discussions. 
These facts are gathered from the words of the Sages who 
emphasized the importance of individual and group study. 
The following serve as illustrations: " If two sit together 
and words of the Law are spoken between them, the 
Divine Presence rests between them . . . even if one sits 
and occupies himself in the Law, the Holy One, blessed 
is He, appoints him a reward ... if three have eaten at 
one table and have spoken over it words of the Law, it is 
as if they had eaten from the table of God ... if ten men 

K5 Tosef. Megillah, 3,2. 

M Gettin, 38b; J. T. Sotah, 1, 4. 


sit together and occupy themselves in the Law, the Divine 
Presence rests among them. . . . " 57 

Adult education was administered in still another form. 
From the time that the porter at the door of the college at 
Jabneh was dismissed, 58 adults were permitted to enter the 
academy and seat themselves on the ground in the rear 
among the very youthful students, in order to listen to the 
proceedings. 59 Frequent attendance of this kind helped 
many people to gain an advanced education. 

57 Aboth, 3, 2-6. 

58 See end of preceding chapter. 

69 Graetz, II., p. 361. 



The Content o Elementary Education 

The Content of Secondary Education 

The Content of Higher Education 

Educational Activities outside the School System 


The Content of Elementary Education 

Unlike its formal administration, the subject matter 
o Jewish elementary education was relatively uniform 
throughout the periods of the Second Commonwealth and 
the Tannaim. This content was known as Mikra, reading. 
It referred chiefly to the reading and study of the Scrip- 
tures. Before the establishment of the elementary schools, 
parents in their leisure time taught their children. The 
course of study was prolonged under these conditions, 
and no student was admitted to the secondary schools 
before the age of sixteen years. With the organization 
of the primary schools, this early education was completed 
normally in four years as was previously shown. 

What did Mikra consist of? In brief, it contained the 
study of the Sacred Writings: the Pentateuch, the Pro- 
phets, and the Hagiographa. All of these Books were 
already in existence, according to the belief of most 
historical investigators, about the end of the period of 
the Sof erim. The Pentateuch and most of the Books of 
the Prophets and the Hagiographa were in existence 
even before the beginning of the Second Commonwealth. 
These formed the basis for elementary education during 
the periods of Jewish history under consideration here. In 
time the later works, Ezekiel, the Minor Prophets, Daniel, 
Esther, Ezra, Nehemiah, and Chronicles, were added to 
the curriculum. 1 The main emphasis was always placed, 
however, on the Pentateuch, which contained the divine 
Law which the Jews were ordained to follow at all times. 

At first the child was taught the Hebrew alphabet. He 
was required to identify each letter by its name. Then he 

1 According to the traditional view, authorship of these Books is 
credited to the Men of the Great Assembly, Ezra and Nehemiah. See 
Baba Batra, l4b-15a. 



was taught to identify complete words. With the mastery 
of a few reading exercises, the child was introduced^ 
the study of the Pentateuch. According to post-Tannaitic 
sources 2 the child began the study of the Pentateuch not 
with the Book of Genesis, but with Leviticus. Unfortu- 
nately we do not possess any documentary evidence of 
the Tannaitic period itself in regard to this matter. We 
are told further in the same sources that Rabbi Akiba, on 
starting his Hebrew studies and mastering the alphabet, 
began at once the study of Leviticus. This custom seems 
to have prevailed in the Tannaitic period. 

This custom demands some explanation. Why did the 
Rabbis deem it advisable to let the children forego at 
first the Book of Genesis with its appeal to the young 
imagination and have them begin with the Book of Levi- 
ticus that deals with the sacrificial rites of the Temple? 
The reason given by the Rabbis is, " Because the children 
are pure and the sacrifices are pure, let the pure (children) 
come and engage in the study of the pure (sacrifices) ." 
This reason seems hardly sufficient. Obviously, it attempts 
to explain homiletically the long established custom. Vari- 
ous explanations by several modern writers are also un- 
tenable as shown by Morris. 3 Neither does his explanation 
suffice. He says: " Its origin must be sought in post- 
Temple times probably after the defeat of Bar-Kokba. 
. . . There was the danger that the chapters of the Penta- 
teuch which dealt with the sacrificial ceremonial now 
fallen into disuse might be entirely forgotten. And so 
children were made to begin their studies with the ' law 
of the priests/ securing for that part of the Bible an 
honored place in the religious life of the community." If 
the Rabbis were afraid that the children in the elementary 
schools would not complete all the five Books of Moses, 
as this explanation seems to imply, it would seem natural 
to expect them to give preference to those laws that the 
children would have need to observe as they matured. 

*Rabbah, Leviticus, 7; Aboth of Rabbi Nathan, 6. 
8 The Jewish School, pp. 89*91. 


There is no evidence, moreover, o any such fears. On 
the other hand, it is known that children were expected 
to complete the Pentateuch in the primary school and 
so the sacrificial ceremonials, even without any given 
preference, would be studied along with the other parts 
of the five Books of Moses. No more satisfactory is the 
explanation given by Finkelstein in his book on Rabbi 
Akiba. He explains the custom as originating with the 
priests, who, according to him, were the teachers in the 
days of the Second Temple. In the first place, elementary 
education in the days of the Second Commonwealth was 
chiefly parental. Nor is there any evidence that the 
teachers in the established elementary schools were gen- 
erally priests. In the second place, why should the priests 
institute that custom? Is it not the logical procedure to 
introduce the child to the concepts of the Creator, His 
people, His revelation and His commandments on Mount 
Sinai before having him study His sacrificial laws ? 

The author does not believe that this custom originated 
during the Second Commonwealth or only after the defeat 
of Bar-Kokba. In the days of the Second Temple, the 
child, on starting the study of the Pentateuch, began with 
the first Book, Genesis, in accord with the traditionally 
established order of the five Books of Moses. The new 
custom was initiated immediately after the Temple was 
destroyed by Titus. In order that the hope for national 
independence and reestablishment of the Temple in Jeru- 
salem should never fade, the change was advised by the 
spiritual leaders of Israel. The child, introduced in his 
early youth to the study of Leviticus, was made aware of 
the lost glories of Israel and of the important significance 
that the Temple held in Jewish life. In this manner the 
hopes of the Jewish people were kept alive in the hearts 
of the young at a very impressionable age. This seems to 
be the true reason for the institution of this custom, 
but obviously it would not be wise to reveal this publicly. 
Very aptly, nevertheless, do the Rabbis say that the scholar 
and renowned patriot, Akiba, commenced his studies with 
the Book of Leviticus. 


The teaching of the Bible was not altogether a simple 
task. Since Hebrew has hardly any vowels, the child had 
to become familiar with the words and the meaning of 
the context. The latter served as a guide in reading, be- 
cause many words in Hebrew are spelled alike con- 
sonantally but vocalized differently with varying mean- 
ings. Since the great majority of the people spoke Ara- 
maic, the child was taught to translate the text into that 
language. At Alexandria they translated it into their 
vernacular, a dialect of Greek. Some scholars are in 
doubt whether Philo, the Alexandrian philospher (c. 20 
B. C. E.-45 C. E), knew the Bible in the original Hebrew, 
since he constantly quoted the Septuagint in his works. 
These scholars overlooked the fact that Philo wrote his 
works for non-Jews as well as for Jews and hence found 
the Septuagint better suited to his purpose. There is no 
reason, however, to believe that the Jewish schools of 
Alexandria did not teach the Scriptures from the original 

Not only was the child required to know the translation 
of the Hebrew words, but he also had to memorize pas- 
sages of the text. We find, therefore, that the children were 
often asked by their elders to quote the Biblical verses they 
learned at their lessons in school. 4 The translation in 
those days was by no means strictly literal. It contained 
oftentimes paraphrastic explanations of the text. This is 
evident from the ancient Targumim, the Aramaic transla- 
tions of the Bible, of which a great part is still extant 
and are frequently exegetical So, too, many explanatory 
notes of Josephus, in his Antiquities of the Jews in refer- 
ence to certain incidents and commandments related in 
the Bible, very likely were adopted from the expositions 
given in the schoolhouses in those days. 

Most historians have been of the opinion that writing 
was quite an uncommon art among the Jews in the Biblical 
and post-Biblical periods. One modern writer goes so far 
as to maintain that even in the Tannaitic period " the ele- 

* For example, see Hagigah, 15a-b, and Gittin, 58a. 


mentary school itself did not as a rule teach writing to its 
pupils." 5 We possess now, however, new archaeological 
evidence that throws considerable light on this subject. 
The author refers to the discovery that was made by the 
Wellcome Expedition in Palestine at Tell ed-Duweir, or 
the Biblical town of Lachish, in February 1935. The 
unearthed potsherds with the Hebrew inscriptions, gen- 
erally referred to as the Lachish ostraca, have already been 
definitely established as belonging to the period of the 
Prophet Jeremiah. These ostraca show that in the days of 
the great Prophets writing was more prevalent than was 
formerly believed. Writing was not limited to the literary 
addresses of the Prophets which were thought to possess a 
message beyond their own immediate generation. Neither 
was it restricted to sacred use and to the annalists of the 
kings; nor were the Prophets and Priests the only scribes. 
The Lachish ostraca contain a number of messages that 
were committed to writing by servants for their masters. 
In some of these reference is made to the preceding letters 
of the masters. Writing was hence used for general com- 
munication. The cursive style of the discovered inscrip- 
tions further shows the high development of the art of 
writing, even in the final days of the First Temple. The 
children were no doubt taught by their parents not only 
to read Hebrew but also to write it. When Aramaic be- 
came the native language of the Jews, a similar condition 
prevailed as is evidenced by the inscriptions of the Ele- 
phantine Papyri of the fifth century B. C. E. that were 
discovered earlier. That writing was common in the ele- 
mentary schools, when these were established, may be 
deduced also from the name given to the primary teach- 
ers soferim, scribes. The only kind of writing that was 
not so widespread was the special form used for the Holy 
Scrolls containing the Pentateuch. 

For textbooks, the Books of the Bible were written on 
separate scrolls and given to the children. The Pentateuch 
was also written on five separate scrolls. Some teachers 

5 Nathan Morris, The Jewish School, p. 83. 


desired to subdivide even these latter Books in order to 
simplify further teaching exercises. The authorities 
were, however, divided in opinion whether that was per- 
missible, 6 and so the status quo was generally continued in 
practice. Since numerous copies were not available at 
that time, usually several children studied from one text- 

Although the Bible was the chief content of elementary 
education, the child was taught a number of other sub- 
jects in relation to it. The Bible, it must be remembered, 
was not taught only as literature. It was taught as the 
Book of Life, whose principles and precepts were divine. 
Religion, ethics, and morality were hence the oustanding 
subjects of the curriculum. The knowledge and practice 
of these matters were most essential. The aphorisms and 
stories of many of the known books of the Apocrypha and 
the Pseudepigrapha were frequently used by the teachers 
for illustration and for moralization. 7 Since the contents 
of the Lachish ostraca and the Elephantine Papyri 
reveal a high literary form of classical Hebrew and 
Aramaic, we are justified in assuming that grammar 
and composition were taught to the children, probably 
not as distinct subjects but certainly in relation to reading 
and writing. Similarly, some elements of arithmetic, ge- 
ography, and history were probably taught in conjunction 
with the reading of the Bible. The child was also taught 
and made to memorize certain prayers of the liturgy of 
the Synagogue. Before reaching the secondary schools, 
the pupil was usually able to compute, from his knowl- 
edge of the Bible and a few other historical facts, the 
Jewish calendar year. Even oral Hebrew was mastered 
by the child through the study of the Bible. Therefore, 
Mikra was truly the all-inclusive subject matter of elemen- 
tary education. 

The discussion of the content of elementary education 

6 Gittm, 60a. 

7 See, for example, Sifri on Deuteronomy, 11, 22, DH'Drt 

DV mwn DK (nnno) 


would be incomplete without a statement of the pre-school 
education. As soon as the child was able to speak, it was 
customary that the father teach him to recite some Biblical 
verses, among which was the Sbema, " Hear, O Israel, the 
Lord our God, the Lord is One." This verse was under- 
stood as a confession of pure monotheism. 8 So, too, the 
child was initiated into the observance of various customs 
as soon as his age permitted. He was also taught to 
observe certain hygienic rules of cleanliness and health. 
Any child able, by holding on to his father's hand, to go 
from Jersualem up to the Temple Mount, was required to 
be brought to the Temple at the three Festivals of the 
year, Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles. 9 Before the 
holiday the child was told by his parents the significance 
of the forthcoming celebration. As the child grew a little 
older, he was required to memorize certain portions of the 
liturgy of the holiday. 10 In these ways many elements of 
Jewish lore and mores were impressed upon the minds of 
the children from their very early youth, long before their 
formal education in the elementary schools was begun. 

The Content of Secondary Education 

During the Tannaitic period secondary education was 
identified by the word, Mishnah, while higher education 
was called Talmud or Midrash, and elementary education, 
as previously stated, Mikra. The number of Tannaitic 
statements that may be cited as evidence of this is 
legion. Since this classification is important for the 
understanding of the Jewish educational system, three 
ancient sources are cited. First, the Mishnah which de- 
scribing the various stages of a person's life says, fi At five 

8 Deuteronomy, 6, 4 ; Sukkah, 42a. Professor Swift gives unfortunately 
a poor translation of this verse in his book, Education in Ancient Israel, 
p. 63. The Hebrew word, ehad, never means " alone," but rather " one." 
Compare with Genesis, 2, 18. 

9 Hagigah, 1, 1. 

10 See, for example, Pesahim, 10, 4, in regard to the " four questions " 
on Passover; also Sukkah, 3, 15. 


years the age is reached for the study of Mikra, at ten for 
the study of Mishnah ... at fifteen for the study of Tal- 
mud." X1 This statement clearly refers to the three levels 
of education that were current in the time of its spokes- 
man. Second, the Baraita which, giving in detail all the 
subjects that Johanan b. Zakkai mastered, lists them in the 
following order, " Mikra, Mishnah, and Talmud. . . . " 12 
This indicates that he completed first the three levels of 
the school curriculum of his time. The other subjects re- 
ferred to later in the quotation are either details of these 
three or themes that were usually not a part of the regu- 
lar program, but were, nevertheless, included in the educa- 
tion of this disciple of Hillel. Third, the Talmud records 
that once when a famine occurred in the days of Rabbi, 
he opened his store-houses and said, " Let those who mas- 
tered Mikra enter, and those who mastered Mishnah and 

those who mastered Talmud " 13 These are offered as 

evidence that the three levels of education in the Tan- 
naitic period were identified by Mikra, Mishnah, and 
Talmud, respectively. 

Some scholars maintain that the term Mishnah, etymo- 
logically, means " second/' It is true that its masculine 
form is frequently used in the Bible in that very sense. 
Because it came " second " or next to Mikra, it is alleged, 
Mishnah was used to connote secondary education. Simi- 
larly, since the word Gemara, which in a later age re- 
placed the word Talmud, means in its Hebrew origin 
" completion," these writers asserted that Gemara was 
used for higher education because with it one completed 
his schooling. While these views are interesting they do 
not seem to have historical accuracy. The word Mishnah 
is derived rather from a root shanak, which means " re- 
peat/' Unlike the subject matter of Mikra, that was 
written, Mishnah was the Oral Law that had to be memor- 

"Aboth, 5,21. 
12 Sukkah, 28a. 

18 Baba Batra, 8a. See also Baraitas of Baba Metzia, 33a and Sotah, 44a. 
Rabbi Judah the Patriarch was also called " Rabbi " par excellence. 


ized by constant repetition. From the corresponding 
Aramaic root tena, the word Tanna (pi. Tannaim) is 
derived, a name that was applied to a master whose say- 
ing was recorded in the Mishnah or in the other contem- 
porary legal works. Mishnah, par excellence, refers to 
the collection of Oral Laws made by Rabbi Judah, the 
Patriarch, at the close of the Tannaitic period. 14 

What did the old Mishnah consist of or what was the 
content of secondary education in the days of the Second 
Commonwealth and the Tannaim? To answer this ques- 
tion one needs to proceed very cautiously. Since the 
Mishnah was taught orally at the time, no definite docu- 
mentary evidence exists, nor can one take the text of the 
Mishnah as it exists today as an example of what second- 
ary education was several centuries ago. After a careful 
study and survey of the ancient sources, the following 
conclusions have been reached. 

When a child completed the Scriptures in the elemen- 
tary school, he did not stop studying the Bible. On the 
contrary, he proceeded to study it with more diligence and 
in more detail in the secondary school. That was true 
especially of the Pentateuch, for a new feature had been 
added. Whenever a certain portion that dealt with a 
matter of law was read in class, the teacher, orally, 
summarized all the details of that specific law that he 
knew, from tradition, and the children were required to 
memorize them. For example, when the class read the 
Biblical verse, "the seventh day is a Sabbath unto the 
Lord thy God, in it thou shalt not do any manner of 
work," 15 the teacher recited, " The main classes of work 
are forty save one: sowing, ploughing, reaping, binding 
sheaves, threshing . . . and taking out aught from one 
domain into another," " if a man took out aught in his 
right hand or in his left hand, in his bosom or on his 

14 See Strack's Introduction to the Talmud and Mtdrash, chapter I, and 
Herbert Danby's chapter entitled " Introduction " in his translation of 
The Mtshnah. See also next section on "The Content of Higher 

15 Exodus, 2U, 10. 


shoulder, he is culpable/' " if a man took out a loaf into 
the public domain he is culpable; if two men took it out 
they are not culpable/' " if a man built aught (on the 
Sabbath) how much must he build to become culpable? 
He is culpable who builds aught soever, or who at all 
hews stone, or wields a hammer, or chisels or bores a 
hole. This is the general rule: if a man performs work on 
the Sabbath and his work is enduring, he is culpable/* " he 
is culpable who ploughs aught soever, or who at all weeds 
or cuts off dead leaves or prunes/' and " he is culpable 
who writes two letters (of the alphabet), whether with his 
right hand or with his left, whether the same or different 
letters, whether in different inks or in any language." 16 
Many such details concerning a Scriptural law were thus 
included in the teacher's exposition. 

To cite another example, when a class studied the 
Biblical text, " And in the seventh month on the first day 
of the month, ... it is a day of blowing (the shof ar) unto 
you/' the teacher explained and had the class memorize 
ail the details of that particular law of which the follow- 
ing are illustrative: " All shofars are valid save that of a 
cow, since it is a ' horn/ " " the shofar (blown in the 
Temple) at the New Year was (made from the horn) of 
the wild goat, straight, with its mouthpiece overlaid with 
gold," " a shofar that has been split and stuck together 
again is not valid," and " the manner of blowing the 
shofar is three blasts (a sustained, a quavering, and 
another sustained blast) thrice repeated. A sustained 
blast is three times the length of a quavering blast, and 
a quavering blast is three times the length of a moan- 
ing." 1T In the same manner, when the secondary classes 
reached the Biblical injunction, " when ye pass over the 
Jordan into the land of Canaan, then ye shall appoint you 
cities to be cities of refuge for you that the man that 
killeth any person through error may flee thither," details 
of this law were presented by the teacher in somewhat the 

"Sabbath, 7, 2; 10, 3 and 5; 12, 1-3. 

"Numbers, 29, 1; Rosh Hashonah, 3, 2; 3, 3; 3, 6; 4, 9. 


following manner: " This is the general rule: he (that 
causes death) in the course of his coining down must 
escape into exile, but if not in the course of his coming 
down he need not escape into exile/' " the father must 
escape into exile because of his son, and the son because of 
his father/' and "Whither may they go into exile? To 
the cities of refuge; to the three that are beyond Jordan 
or to the three that are in the land of Canaan . . . the three 
cities beyond Jordan grant no right of asylum until the 
three were chosen in the land of Israel/' 1S This kind of 
treatment was the essential character of Mishnah in the 
days of the Second Commonwealth and the Tannaim. In 
its setting it resembled the Tannaitic works, Mekilta, 
Sifra, Sifre, that are based also on the text of the Penta- 
teuch; but in its content and conciseness it resembled more 
the Mishnah of Rabbi Judah the Patriarch and, still more, 
the old Megillat Taanit. 19 

The Mishnah which was redacted by Rabbi about the 
year 200 C E. is differently arranged. He compiled and 
summarized all the Mishnahs that were previously in use, 
and arranged them into six major Orders or Sections: 
Seeds, Festival, Women, Damages, Sacrifices, Purities. 
Each of these is divided into separate tractates or books 
numbering in all sixty-one. 20 Each book deals with cer- 
tain definite laws, and is divided into chapters and para- 
graphs. This Mishnah, written in new Hebrew, records 
all the traditional oral laws as well as brief expositions, 
disputations, and other sayings of the Rabbis which its 
author had investigated and thought valuable enough for 
inclusion in his authoritative work. Whether the Mishnah 
was actually written down by Rabbi is still a matter of 

"Numbers, 35, 10-11; Makkoth, 2, 1; 2, 3; 2, 4. 

18 An ancient legal chronicle that is quoted in the Mishnah. 

80 This is in accord with the view of Maimonides, given in the intro- 
duction of his commentary on the Mishnah. Other scholars consider 
Baba Kama, Baba Metzia and Baba Batra as three separate books and thus 
arrive at the number sixty-three. Still others hold the opinion of Mai- 
monides that these three ought to be considered as parts of one treatise 
but make one further combination, mostly of Sanhedrin and Makkoth, 
and thus get the even number of sixty. See also next chapter, note 26. 


dispute. Nevertheless, this great code of law became the 
standard textbook for secondary education for many 

The foregoing explains an old tradition that, from a 
superficial examination, seems perplexing. The tradition 
is to the effect that the six Orders of the Mishnah extant 
today are a condensation of the six or seven hundred 
Orders that had been in existence in the days of Rabbi. 21 
Recalling, however, that the Pentateuch contains six hun- 
dred and thirteen laws 22 and as each Scriptural law con- 
tained in those days its own Order or part of Mishnah, 
then the significance of the tradition is clear. 

Besides learning and memorizing the Mishnah, the 
child was also taught in the secondary schools traditions 
concerning the non-legal sections of the Bible. Very likely 
the child was required to work out and to memorize an 
historical chronology of the Jewish people on the order 
o the Tannaitic work, Seder Olam. Since the multi- 
farious details of the laws of the Torah involved many sub- 
jects, the child had to be made familiar, also, with mathe- 
matics and the sciences that were known in those days. 
For instance, in learning the laws of permissible and pro- 
hibitive foods and those relating to blemishes that render 
animals unfit for sacrifices in the Temple, the child learned 
some animal anatomy, physiology, zoology, and medicine. 
So, too, in learning to reckon the Jewish calendar, the 
child was familiarized with certain elements of mathe- 
matics and astronomy. The child also obtained some 
knowledge of botany and agriculture when he studied the 
laws applicable to mixing and planting seeds. Certain 
elements of architecture were presented to the child when 
he studied the laws relative to the building of the Taber- 

1 HI 

mD P DDK ini rWD. See also Sefer Hakritut, IV. 
1, 11. 

**Makkoth, 23b. Whether this exact number was accepted by all the 
ancient Rabbis is still a matter of conjecture. See Ramban at the beginning 
of Sefer ha-Mizvot. 


nacle and Temple. 23 These subjects were never studied 
directly, however; they were associated and integrated 
with the chief content o education Torah, the Law. 

The Content of Higher Education 

The foregoing section explained that the content of 
higher education was known by the term, Talmud or 
Midrash. What do these words really signify when used 
in reference to the periods of the Second Commonwealth 
and the Tannaim? 

This question, like the preceding one in regard to 
Mishnah, presents many difficulties, especially in view of 
the fact that these terms have now come to have very 
definite connotations. The word Talmud is now applied 
to the combined works of the Mishnah and the Gemara; 
the last term refers k to the Amoraic discussions on the 
Mishnah. Amoraim, speakers, is the general name for the 
Jewish learned masters who were active from the time of 
the conclusion of the Mishnah to about the end of the 
fifth century of the common era. There are, in fact, two 
Talmuds: the Babylonian, which records primarily the 
commentaries of the Babylonian scholars, and the Pales- 
tinian or the Jerusalem, which was redacted at least a 
century earlier and which is substantially concerned with 
the discussions of the Palestinian Amoraim. The term 
Midrash refers now to those extant literary works of the 
Rabbis that contain mostly interpretations and expositions 
of the non-legal sections of the Bible and that were re- 
dacted long after the Mishnah. Talmud and Midrash 
hence possess different meanings when used in reference 
to Jewish education during the several centuries preceding 
the redaction of the Mishnah. 

The word Midrash, that is commonly translated 
" study," in its Hebrew origin means " to search out/' " to 
inquire into," or " to expound." Of Ezra it is said in the 

88 This information may be gleaned from the various books of the 
Mishnah dealing with the special laws referred to. 


Bible that " he had set his heart to ' expound ' (derosh) 
the Law of the Lord and to do it and to teach in Israel 
statutes and judgments." 24 Midrash thus denotes " ex- 
position " of the Scriptures. The following may serve as 
an illustration: " This did Rabbi Eleazar b* Azariah ex- 
pound (darash) : ' From all your sin shall ye be clean 
before the Lord' for transgressions that are between 
man and God the Day of Atonement effects atonement; 
but for transgressions that are between a man and his 
fellow the Day of Atonement effects atonement only if he 
has appeased his fellow/' 25 This lesson is expounded 
from the Biblical phrase, " before the Lord." Hence it is 
a case of Midrash. 

How was this kind of educational exposition carried on 
in the schools ? In the colleges further study of the Penta- 
teuch was diligently pursued. This time the students 
already familiar with the written text of the Law and 
with the oral traditions that pertained to each subject, were 
required to study the text once more and to examine and 
to consider the meaning of each word and letter thereof. 
Everything in the Divine Book was considered purposeful 
and meaningful. Certain hermeneutical rules were used 
by which the text was fully expounded. Hillel listed seven 
such rules. Later others were added. 26 By this method 
the students were able to discover that most of the oral 
traditions of the Mishnah were actually inherent in the 
text. Similarly, they discovered certain underlying prin- 
ciples through which they were able to develop new details 
of the laws. If these were acceptable to a majority of the 
college, they were added to their Mishnah. In time these 
would percolate through to the secondary schools and be 
added to the Mishnah previously taught there. For that 
reason, the subject matter of the Mishnah varied at times 
in the different secondary schools. Consequently, in 
accordance with a late source, Rabbi, in redacting his 

24 Ezra, 7, 10. 

25 Leviticus, 16, 30; Yoma, 8, 9. 

** Tosef. Sanhedrin, 7 end; introductory chapter of the Sifra. 


Mishnati made use of thirteen separate versions o the 
Oral Laws. 27 Usually these additions, and especially those 
o the Tannaitic period, bore the name of their original 
author, examples of which abound in the Mishnah. Some- 
times conflicting views were also included. At other times, 
the discussions in the college yielded a conclusion con- 
trary to a traditional law of the Mishnah. In that case 
both versions of the law were given with some such 
explanation: " so was it enjoined in the first Mishnah, but 
after them the court taught . . ." or " after them Rabbi 
So and So said. . . ." 28 Oftentimes, the method of ap- 
proach at the colleges was exactly in reverse order. A 
practical question of law would be raised and brought into 
the college by a certain individual who asked for guidance. 
If the Mishnah did not contain an explicit answer, the 
question then became a real problem for the college. An 
answer would have to be found. The problem, then, was 
carefully analyzed in order to discover whether it was 
comparable to other matters already included in the 
Mishnah. If that was not the case, then further exposi- 
tion and exegesis of the Scriptural text were tried until a 
solution satisfactory to a majority present was reached. 
This method of approach was used especially at Jabneh, 29 
where the college was amalgamated with the Sanhedrin. 

The subject matter of the colleges, like that of the 
secondary schools, was committed to memory by the stu- 
dents. It was mastered so perfectly that quite a por- 
tion of it has come down to us in the Mekilta, Sifra, and 
Sifre. Some authentic and concise statements of the old 
Midrash may also be found in the Mishnah, Tosefta, and 
the Baraitas quoted in the Talmud. Much of it, however, 
has unfortunately been lost. 

Since the Pentateuch contained legal as well as non- 
legal materials, the Midrash might be classified as of two 
kinds: Halakah and Haggadah. Midrash Halakah con- 

87 See Nedarim, 4la. 

28 See, for example, Ketuboth, 5, 3; Nazir, 6, 1; Eduyot, 7, 2. 

89 See Berakoth, 28a. See also Rashi, Sotah, 20a, end. 


tained the exposition of the text that dealt with matters of 
law, while Midrash Haggadah was concerned with the 
non-legal parts of the text. 30 Thus the entire Pentateuch 
was expounded in the higher academies. Comparatively 
little has been preserved of the ancient Midrash Hag- 
gadah. A fine example of it, however, is found in the 
works of Philo, if we delete it of the philosophical doc- 
trines, mostly of Plato, that he attempted to read into the 
texts. What does remain of it in the Tannaitic sources is 
sufficient to show that it was more voluminous than the 
Midrash Halakah. The following may serve as an illus- 
tration of Midrash Halakah as expounded in the colleges: 

" Seven Days Shalt Thou Eat Unleavened Bread. One Scrip- 
tural passage says: 'Seven days shalt thou eat unleavened bread/ 
(Exodus, 13, 6) and one passage says: ' Six days shalt thou eat 
unleavened bread/ (Deuteronomy, 16, 8). How can both these 
passages be maintained? The seventh day had been included in 
the more inclusive statement and was then taken out of it. Now 
that which is singled out from a more inclusive statement means 
to teach us something about that whole statement. Hence just as 
on the seventh day it is optional, so on all the other days it is 
optional. Perhaps, however, just as on the seventh day it is 
optional, so on all the rest, including even the first night, it is 
optional? The Scriptural passage: 'In the first month, on the 
fourteenth day of the month, at even ye shall eat unleavened 
bread/ (Exodus, 12, 18) fixes it as an obligation to eat unleavened 
bread on the first night. It is therefore impossible for you to argue 
as in the latter version, but you must argue as in the former 
version: The seventh day had been included in the more inclusive 
statement and was taken out of it. Now, that which is singled 
out from a more inclusive statement means to teach us something 
about the whole statement, that is, just as on the seventh day it is 
optional, so on all the other days it is optional/ 1 31 

80 Note Sukkah 28a and Baba Batra 8a where Halakah and Haggadah 
are mentioned immediately after Mikra, Mishnah, Talmud (Gemara in 
the censored editions). Undoubtedly, Halakah and Haggadah are used 
here descriptively of the two aspects of Talmud. In the first instance both 
are explicitly included, while in the latter case they are used to exclude 
the necessity of both in that particular instance. For other views regarding 
the origin and significance of these terms, see the Jewish Encyclopedia on 
" Midrash." 

81 Mekilta on Exodus, 13, 6. 


In this manner it was argued that to eat matzo, unleavened 
bread, was obligatory only on the first night of Passover, 
while on the other days and nights of Passover this was 
not required by law unless one desired it. That a Jew was 
not permitted, however, to eat leavened bread during the 
entire holiday of Passover is explicitly stated in another 
Scriptural law. 

Another quotation from the Mekilta may similarly serve 
as an illustration of Midrash Haggadah as was taught 
in the colleges. 

"Now Jethro, priest of Midian, Moses* father-in-law, heard 
. . . (Exodus, 18, 1). Originally they called him merely Jether, 
as it is said: 'And Moses went and returned to Jether his father- 
in-law 1 (Exodus, 4, 18). After he had performed good deeds, 
they added one more letter to his name so that he was called 
Jethro. You find this also in the case of Abraham, whom they 
originally called merely Abram. And when he performed good 
deeds, they added one letter more, and he was called Abraham. 
You find this also in the case of Sarah. Originally they called 
her merely Sarai. But when she performed good deeds they added 
to her name by putting in a larger letter so that she was called 
Sarah. And so you find it also in the case of Joshua, whom they 
originally called merely Hoshea. And when he performed good 
deeds, they added one more letter to his name so that he was 
called Joshua, as it is said: * And Moses called Hoshea the son 
of Nun Joshua* (Numbers, 13, 16). And there are others from 
whose names they took off one letter. You can learn this from 
the case of Ephron, whom they originally called Ephrown. After 
he had taken the money from our father Abraham, they took 
off one letter from his name and he was called merely Ephron, as 
it is said: * And Abraham hearkened unto Ephrown and Abraham 
weighed to Ephron' (Genesis, 23, 16). And you see it also in 
the case of Jonadab whom they originally called Jehonadab. But 
after he had come to act as he did, they took off one letter from 
his name so that he was called merely Jonadab. In this connection 
the sages said: Let a man never associate with a wicked person, 
not even for the purpose of bringing him near to the Torah." 82 

Oftentimes the colleges would formulate their discus- 
sions and expositions very concisely and in a manner of a 

**Ibid., Exodus, 18, 1. 


running commentary on the Scriptural text as the follow- 
ing illustrates: "7 have not eaten thereof in my mourn- 
ing thus if he had eaten during mourning he may not 
make the Avowal; nor have I removed, aught thereof being 
unclean thus if he had set it apart in uncleanness he may 
not make the Avowal; nor given thereof for the dead I 
have not used aught thereof for a coffin or wrappings for 
a corpse nor have I given it to other mourners; 7 have 
hearkened to the voice of the Lord my God I have 
brought it to His chosen Temple; 7 have done according 
to all that Thou hast commanded me I have rejoiced and 
made others to rejoice therewith." 3S At times the Mid- 
rash would be so concisely formulated as to make the 
deductions seem unwarranted, as the following may illus- 
trate: " Nor shall he (the King of Israel) multiply wives 
to himself eighteen only . . . neither shall he greatly 
multiply to himself silver and gold enough to pay (his 
soldiers') wages only." ^ No doubt the colleges must 
have spent some time in expounding these Biblical texts 
in order to arrive at these conclusions. The lengthy ex- 
positions, however, were omitted from the permanent 
record, and the students were required to memorize only 
these brief statements which were expected to serve as 
clues for recalling all the discussions that justified the 
given conclusions. 

We are now ready to define the terms, Midrash and 
Talmud, used in reference to the periods of the Second 
Commonwealth and the Tannaim. Midrash refers to the 
method of exposition employed in the studies of the 
academies of higher Jewish learning and that was suffi- 
ciently illustrated in the above quotations. Talmud, the 
more general term meaning " study " or " learning," 
refers to the already formulated expositions that had to 
be memorized in the colleges. 

Before completing the discussion on the content of 
higher education, mention must be made of the conflict- 

88 Deuteronomy, 26, 14; Maaser Sheni, 5, 12. 
8 * Deuteronomy, 17, 17; Sanhedrin, 2, 4. 


ing views regarding its place in the school curriculum. 
At least one scholar of the second century C. E. held the 
opinion that Midrash should be offered in the secondary 
schools. 85 He believed that from a study of Midrash, the 
student would gradually come to know all the details of 
the laws, the essence of Misbnah. Although this view 
went unheeded in the Tannaitic times, it is of vital sig- 
nificance in the history of Jewish education, because of 
the fact that in the last few centuries this view finally pre- 
vailed in the Jewish European schools, for in them the 
child was generally introduced to the study of Gemara 
just after completing the Pentateuch. 

Educational Activities outside the School System 

That secular knowledge was not a foreign element in 
the elementary and secondary schools has previously been 
shown; that it was pursued even to a greater extent in the 
academies of higher learning is so obvious that mention 
need hardly be made. The following statement recorded 
in the Talmud in the name of a scholar who lived in the 
second century of the common era: " The man who un- 
derstands astronomy and does not pursue the study of it, 
of that man Scripture says, ' they regard not the work of 
the Lord, neither have they considered the operation of His 
hands/" 86 seems to indicate that this secular kind of 
knowledge was encouraged. What is more interesting in 
this connection is the record in the ancient writings of sev- 
eral scholars who conducted practical experiments outside 
of the school in order to establish the truth of certain mat- 
ters that they discussed at the college. Rabbi Simon b. Hal- 
afta of the second century C. E. was for this reason 
called the " experimenter." The Talmud relates a very 
fascinating experiment that he conducted with ants in 
order to verify whether the Biblical assertion that the ant 
has " no chief, overseer, or ruler " was literally true. This 
scholar also tried his hand at practical surgery. At one 

85 This is the author's interpretation of the Baraita, Kiddushin, 49a: 
"What is Mishnah? . . . Rabbi Judah says, Midrash." 
"Isaiah, 5, 12; Sabbath, 75a. 


time when his hen dislocated its hip-bone, he attached to 
it a tube of reed, and the hen recovered. We are also told 
that once he wanted to disprove Rabbi Judah's theory that 
a hen plucked alive was bound to have a fatal organic dis- 
ease and, therefore, be unfit for food. Rabbi Simon took 
a hen in this condition, wrapped it in the bronzer's apron 
and placed it near a warm stove. The report states that 
soon a great many new feathers began to grow out and 
the hen survived. 37 This scholar also conducted experi- 
ments with the mountain-cock. 38 The Talmud further 
relates that the disciples of Rabbi Ishmael, a noted con- 
temporary of Rabbi Akiba, once dissected the body of a 
prostitute who had been condemned to death by the king 
and discovered that a woman's body contains two hundred 
and fifty-two bones or joints. 39 

Although educational matters unrelated to the Torah 
were held in low esteem by the Jewish scholars, neverthe- 
less, there were a number of other subjects studied by many 
Jews outside the regular school system. The learning of 
foreign languages furnishes a good example of this. 
There is no doubt that during the Hellenistic period many 
Jews took up the study of Greek. Some even attempted to 
learn all the languages current at that time, numbering 
about seventy in all. 40 Many, foreign words forced their 
way into the vocabulary of the schools and can still be 
found in the Tannaitic writings. Very interesting is the 
testimony of Josephus, " I have taken a great deal of pains 
to obtain the learning of the Greeks and to understand 
the elements of the Greek language, although I have so 
long accustomed myself to speak our own language, that I 
cannot pronounce Greek with sufficient exactness; for our 
nation does not encourage those that learn the languages 

87 Hullin, 57b. 

88 Kabbah, Leviticus, 22, and on Ecclesiastes, 5, 8. Professor Joseph 
Klausner in his artide, 5fcWn fiTpnn mfcnfiJin?, " Hadoar," 1938, 
erred in asserting that it was Rabbi Simon b. Yohai, who conducted this 
experiment. Obviously, he was misled by referring only to the first source 
where the name given is Rabbi Simon. The second source, however, gives 
the name in full Rabbi Simon b. Halafta. 

89 Bekhoroth, 45a. * See, for example, Shekalim, 5, 1. 


of many nations . . . because they look upon this sort of 
accomplishment as common, not only to all sorts of free 
men, but to as many of the servants as please to learn 
them. But they give him the testimony of being a wise 
man, who is fully acquainted with our laws, and is able to 
interpret their meaning/' 41 From later sources it is evi- 
dent, however, that certain individuals were, at a later 
date, encouraged to learn Greek and that a special school 
was established for this purpose in order to make it easier 
for the Jews to contact the governmental authorities. 42 

Whether an interdict was ever imposed against learning 
Greek philosophy is still a matter of dispute. It certainly 
was deprecated by some scholars. 43 Others, nevertheless, 
did learn Greek philosophy, the best examples being, of 
course, Philo and Josephus. 

We find also that many were skilled in gymnastics."** 
Many were unusually skillful in military affairs 45 and in 
swimming. Josephus, for instance, relates in his " Life " 4C 
that when his boat was shipwrecked in the Adriatic Sea, 
he with others of the crew swam all night until they were 
saved by another ship. Mention is also made in the Mish- 
nah of certain people who possessed a special craft of 
writing, a special art in singing, and other unusual skills/ 7 
Great skill and dexterity were required of the priests for 
the performance of a number of the services in the Tem- 
ple. Special teachers were engaged to teach these arts to 
the young priests. 48 

The Jews also possessed some esoteric knowledge in the 
days of the Second Commonwealth and the Tannaim. 
What was the exact nature of that knowledge is a matter 
of dispute. It dealt with the first chapters of Genesis and 
Esekiel, the nature of creation and the " Chariot," merka- 

tt Antiquities of the Jews, Book XX., 11, 2. 
42 Sotah, 49b. 

"See Baba Kama, 82b; Sotah, 9, 14, and Maimonides on same, 
Menahoth, 99b; Sifra, Leviticus, 18, 4 (in some texts). 

44 See, for example, Baraita, Sukkah, 53a. 

45 See " Maccabees " and " Wars of the Jews." 
M Section, 3. 

* T Yoma, 3, 11. 

* 8 This information is gleaned from the Gemara, Ketuboth, 106a. 



bah. The Mishnah ordained: " the Story of Creation may 
not be expounded before two persons, nor the vision of the 
Chariot before one alone, unless he is a Sage that under- 
stands of his own knowledge." 49 Philo's works give the 
impression that he was of the conviction that these subjects 
were comparable to Greek philosophy. In fact, this idea 
was shared by many Jews in Alexandria in the first cen- 
tury B. C. E. who believed that the philosophic literature 
of the Greeks was originally borrowed or stolen from the 
Jews, who lost it in times of adversity and stress. 50 Such 
was also the firm conviction of the mediaeval Jewish phi- 
losopher, Maimonides. 51 Modern scholars are of the opin- 
ion that the mystical literature of the Jews was chiefly theo- 
sophical. There is no doubt, however, that the Jews did 
engage at times in philosophical speculations. Josephus, for 
instance, quotes the following from Aristotle's discourse 
concerning a certain Jew: "Now, for a great part of what 
this Jew said, it would be too long to recite it, but what 
includes in it both wonder and philosophy, it may not be 

JL JL J * J 

amiss to discourse of ... he conversed with us and with 
other philosophical persons, and made a trial of our skill 
in philosophy; and as he had lived with many learned 
men, he communicated to us more information than he 
received from us/' 52 

There is sufficient evidence in the ancient sources to 
demonstrate that the scholars possessed knowledge of a 
great many parables. Of Johanan b. Zakkai it is related 
that he learned many kinds of parables pertaining to va- 
rious subjects. 53 Rabbi Meir was described as a great 
maker of parables. 54 Many of the parables of the New 
Testament came originally from Jewish sources. These 
parables were used, especially, in public discourses and 
sermons as a device for holding the people's attention and 
for inculcating moral lessons. 

"Hagigah, 2, 1. 

50 Zeller, Die Philosophic der Griecken, III., 2, 3rd. ed. p. 347. 
51 " Guide of the Perplexed," 1, ch. 71. 

63 Against Apion, Book 1., section 22. For Tannaitic sources see, for. 
example, Erubin, 13b. 

68 Sukkah, 28a. M Sotah, $>, 15. 



Psychological Principles of Education 
Methods of Teaching 


Psychological Principles of Education 

Although the preceding chapters deal with specific 
aspects concerning the history of Jewish education, they 
contain, nevertheless, some information regarding the edu- 
cational methods and principles that were generally 
employed in instruction. These references were unavoid- 
able, because of the very nature of education. Education is 
a synthetic phenomenon that involves many aspects. To 
abstract one from the other may mar the entire conception. 
This chapter, in order to avoid repetition, is devoted ex- 
clusively to those methods and principles of teaching that 
have not been discussed before or that have not received 
sufficient treatment. 

The psychological principle of education that merits first 
consideration is cognizance of the relative differences ex- 
isting among pupils in regard to their mental abilities and 
capacities and that is now known by the term " individual 
differences." Notwithstanding that this concept is of re- 
cent origin and is associated with the modern techniques 
of objective tests and measurements, we find that the 
Rabbis of the Tannaitic period not only knew that such 
differences existed among the pupils but also endeavored 
to classify them. They said, for example, " There are four 
types among pupils; swift to hear and swift to lose his 
gain is cancelled by his loss; slow to hear and slow to 
lose his loss is cancelled by his gain; swift to hear and 
slow to lose this is a happy lot; slow to hear and swift to 
lose this is an evil lot." x " Slow to lose " obviously refers 
to a student whose memory is good and who retains the 
lesson indefinitely, while " swift to lose " implies the op- 
posite quality. Similarly, " swift to hear " applies to one 

1 Aboth, 5, 12. 



with a good memory who is able to repeat the entire exer- 
cise after hearing it once, and " slow to hear " refers to 
the pupil who requires several repetitions in order to recite 
it. The Rabbis thus recognized two kinds of retention, one 
for long range and the other for the immediate recall. 
This classification hence refers to the retentive faculties of 
the students. Another classification was given in reference 
to the intelligence of the disciples, as follows: " There are 
four types among them that sit in the presence of the 
Sages: the sponge, the funnel, the strainer, and the sieve. 
' The sponge ' which absorbs everything; ' the funnel ' 
which takes in at this end and lets out at the other; ' the 
strainer ' which lets out the wine and collects the lees; 
' the sieve ' which extracts the coarsely-ground flour and 
collects the fine flour/' 2 

Very likely these classifications were intended and used 
for different periods in the education of a child. The first 
must have been employed in the elementary and secondary 
schools where retentiveness played the most significant 
r61e. There the child had to memorize Biblical passages, 
the translation of many words, and the Misbnah. Imagi- 
nation and intelligence were of secondary importance. In 
the colleges, however, the reverse was true. To discover 
the correct exposition of a Scriptural text or to solve 
a problem of law, required intelligence. Although the 
students still had to memorize much of the discussion, 
nevertheless, the prime essential of a good student at 
college was a high grade of wisdom or native intelligence. 
The second classification was, therefore, applied in the 
colleges. The parallel introductory statements of the two 
quoted passages, " There are four types among pupils " 
and "There are four types among them that sit in 
the presence of the Sages," indicate and substantiate 
the above. 

How were these classifications used in the schools ? The 
teachers of old utilized them very much in the same man- 
ner as some of the modern classifications of pupils are 

*lbid., 15. 


used. Those children who were deficient in retentiveness 
were given additional drill; those who were slow in un- 
derstanding were given further explanation. At times the 
teacher required those pupils who were first to master the 
subject, to coach the others. Individual differences were 
thus taken care of. 

It is interesting to note that instead of the modern 
triple classification of bright, average, and inferior pupils, 
the old Jewish classification was fourfold. This provides 
more categories for taking care of individual differences, 
albeit not so easy. Another interesting factor is that this 
classification was based on observation of certain specific 
and well-defined traits, and so apparently avoided many 
of the fallacies of subjective testing, against which modern 
educators have objected. 

Although these classifications of pupils came into exist- 
ence toward the close of the Tannaitic period, yet we find 
evidence of some such classification in much earlier times. 
We are told, for instance, that the eighty disciples of 
Hillel were divided into three groups or categories. 8 Simi- 
larly, Johanan b. Zakkai characterized one of his disciples 
as " a plastered cistern which loses not a drop," and an- 
other as " an ever-flowing spring." 4 Similar attempts at 
classification were made by other Rabbis 5 before the above 
definite fourfold divisions were recorded in the Mishnah. 
In all, they show that the teachers were aware of the ex- 
istence of individual differences and that they tried in their 
own ways to cope with that problem. 

Several other psychological principles of education were 
known and applied during the Tannaitic times. Akiba, 
for example, advised his disciples, " when you teach your 
son, teach him out of a corrected book," 6 for he was aware 
of the psychological danger of exposing a child to error. 
Rabbi Judah similarly said, " Be heedful in study, for an 
unwitting error in study is accounted deliberate transgres- 

* Sukkah, 28a. 

4 Aboth, 2, 8. 

5 See, for example, Sifri on Deut, 11, 22, and Gittin, 67a. 

' Pesahim, 112a. 


sion." 7 Students were also advised to follow the Biblical 
precept, " thine eyes shall see thy teachers," for in facing 
the teacher, the pupil might better understand him and 
learn a great deal more than he would otherwise. 8 Simi- 
larly, pupils were advised to recite their exercises out loud. 
This was done for two reasons: first, as an aid for better 
retention, and second, as an aid for comprehension, since 
the student could thereby ascertain whether the ideas were 
clear and well-arranged in his mind. 9 Oftentimes the 
teacher would cross-examine his pupils or would present 
them with a false statement in order to excite their interest 
and to sharpen their wits. In correcting the teacher in such 
an instance, the pupil would usually say very humbly, 
"have you not, our Rabbi, taught us before the 
contrary? " 10 

Teachers, furthermore, were always advised to be con- 
cise in speech while giving instruction, so that their words 
might be better understood and remembered. This ac- 
counts, too, for the terseness of expression in the Tan- 
naitic writings. The teachers also encouraged the students 
to use only clean and wholesome language. 11 In fact, they 
advised the students to use their exact manner of speech. 12 
At times teachers would refuse to expound or even to 
repeat a statement, in order to make the students more 
attentive and industrious. 13 If a student made a keen ob- 
servation, the teacher at times would respond " thou sayest 
well," so as to encourage him to become even more zealous 
in his study. 14 People were advised that in studying the 
Torah they should choose those topics that had a special 
interest for them, " that their heart desired." 15 This psy- 

7 Aboth, 4, 13. *Ibid. f 53b-54a; Sifri on Deut., 6, 7. 

8 Isaiah, 30, 20; Erubin, 13b. 10 Sifri on Numbers, 19, 2. 
"Pesahim, 3b, iTW TH 1TO5n5 DIK W D5ljtf D"l DWD. 

Ibid., 3a, n"PJ P^l DIN "ISD 1 * D5W5 tWW ^1 'H WJl 

ia Eduyoth, 1, 3, im [IB^l *1D1? n^H DTKP 5>K also commen- 
taries on same. 

18 Sifra on Leviticus, 15, 13. 

14 Mekilta on Exodus, 19, 24. 

"Abodah Zarah, 19a, 


chological precept of education was followed as much as 
possible even in the schoolhouses. To begin the lesson 
from a point of common interest was a wise pedagogical 
principle of the Rabbis. 

Regarding discipline the Rabbis applied another wise 
psychological principle. They taught, " always push (the 
students) away with the left hand, and draw them near 
with your right." 16 This suggestion certainly required 
tact. Outwardly the teacher ought to appear to be very 
strict with his pupils, yet in reality he must be their friend 
and counsellor. Never must a pupil be afraid to ask his 
teacher for guidance or for an explanation of which he 
was in need. " Throw gall among the pupils " 17 was an 
advice to be followed only on rare occasions. Teachers 
were never to forget the case of Elisha the Prophet, who 
because of being too strict with his pupil, caused the 
disciple to degenerate. Such a thing, it was hoped, would 
not occur again. 

Methods of Teaching 

From the early period of the Sof erim we have extant the 
following Biblical verse that throws some light on the 
methods employed by the Scribes in conducting adult edu- 
cation: " And they read in the book, in the Law of God, 
distinctly; and they gave the sense, and caused them to 
understand the reading/' 18 Traditionally this passage was 
construed to mean that the text of the Scriptures was first 
read in the original Hebrew, then translated into the 
spoken Aramaic, and then studied in some detail. 18 From 
the text itself and from its traditional explanation it is 
safe to conclude that the Pentateuch was read carefully and 
distinctly in the original, translated into the vernacular, 
after which mention was made again of the specific laws 
referred to in the reading, including all their various tra- 
ditional details. Finally the people were made to see how 

18 Sotah, 47a. " Nehemiah, 8, 8. 

17 Ketuboth, 103b. "Nedarim, 37b; Megillah, 3a. 


all these details were expounded from and contained in the 
reading. This form of adult education was composed of 
all the three elements of Jewish education, Mikra, 
Mishnah, and Talmud. 

How were the children taught to read? At first the 
teacher would write several letters of the alphabet on a 
tablet and have the child identify each one by name. In 
order to be certain that the child could easily recognize 
them, the teacher at times reversed their order. 20 After 
having mastered the entire alphabet the child was intro- 
duced to some simple Hebrew words and shown how to 
associate the sounds of the single letters in the pronuncia- 
tion of these words. At the same time, the child was also 
told their meaning or translation. Since Hebrew has no 
vowels and the vowel signs had not as yet been developed, 
reading was not an easy task. In spite of these handi- 
caps, however, the study of reading was by no means 
mechanical. When the child was presented with a word 
that could be read in diverse ways, he was told to look at 
the context, a word or two before or after the word in 
question, in order to ascertain the correct meaning and 
reading. Certain elementary rules of grammar were taught 
the child simultaneously with reading. After completing 
successfully some such exercises, the child would be intro- 
duced to the reading and translation of the Pentateuch, 
whereby his Hebrew vocabulary increased to such an ex- 
tent that in a year or two he would be able to read and 
translate a lengthy Hebrew passage without assistance. 

Morris presents a fantastic theory in reference to He- 
brew reading of old. He would have us believe that read- 
ing as such did not exist even during Talmudic times. His 
argument, in part, is as follows: " One illustration will 
suffice. The three consonants, d b r, may be read in eight 
or nine different ways, according to the vowels with which 
they are combined. . . . Now, what could a teacher do 
with such material? ... He would not attempt the im- 

* Aboth of Rabbi Nathan, 6 and 15; Sabbath, 31a. 


possible: teaching single words. More than that: reading 
as a subject for itself, independent of a particular text, did 
not exist for him at all; there was no means of teaching it. 
In fact, it is nowhere mentioned. Reading in those times 
always meant the reading of a special book the only book 
available, the Bible. Writers who speak of * reading ' as 
a separate subject ... are projecting the conditions of 
their own time into the school of the Talmudic period." 21 

This theory of Morris confirms, of course, his other 
theory regarding the subject of writing. If reading was not 
a subject in the school curriculum of old, how could the 
children be expected to write? That writing was also ex- 
cluded from the school program is, therefore, a logical 
corollary of this newly expounded view in regard to 
reading. This entire theory, however, is, to say the 
least, an over-exaggeration. That writing was an in- 
tegral part of the curriculum has already been demon- 
strated. Similarly, reading was not excluded from the 
educational program. There are many words in Hebrew 
that can be read only one way. There are many more 
words in Hebrew that can be read only in two ways, one 
form when the word occurs in the middle of a pas- 
sage, and another reading, slightly changed, when the 
word occurs at the end of a sentence. The child would 
experience no difficulty in recognizing all these words. 
Even a Hebrew word that can be read in eight or nine 
different ways when singled out by itself, can only be 
read in one way when checked with the context. There is 
little reason for believing that on account of this difficulty, 
the subject of reading was entirely excluded from the 
educational system. 

Since most of the teachings in the secondary and higher 
schools had to be memorized by the pupils, it was cus- 
tomary that the teacher repeat each exercise several times. 
Generally, each assignment was repeated four times. 22 

al The Jewish School, pp. 154-5. 

"Erubin,54b, flJDIR nntfJtf flW? DTK 3n IW'SK Y'K 


Some teachers of the colleges followed a procedure of teach- 
ing a new lesson in the evening, repeating it in the morning, 
again at noon, and finally in the afternoon. 23 If neces- 
sary, the teacher repeated the lesson even more frequently. 
The students were given sufficient time to memorize each 
exercise. Usually they memorized the assignments by re- 
peating them with an intonation in the form of a song. 24 
They found that this method produced better retention. 
Constant repetition, the Rabbis taught, not only assured 
retentiveness but also produced greater clarity. Hillel said 
that he who studied his exercise one hundred and one 
times was much superior to him who studied it only one 
hundred times. 25 This should not be interpreted to mean 
that Hillel believed that there was a particular and mystic 
quality in the number, one hundred and one. The num- 
bers used are only illustrative. Hillel would similarly 
agree that the one who studied his exercise one hundred 
and two times was superior to the one who studied 
it only one hundred and one times. Some teachers em- 
ployed mnemonic devices in teaching. 26 This was of real 
aid to students in memorization. 

"Menahoth, 18a, 

i5 iun mm i^i 
in im^ IOTD iron? mm n am^n ^i i5 IDK fln*tf iv 
nnnv IBO i? IDN nniw IBO 15 IDK mmy IBO tf 

84 This explains the words of Rabbi Akiba, DP 5>^n IDT D^ 53n IDT 
" a song each day," (Sanhedrin, 99b, and Rashi) as meaning simply: be 
certain to study Torah each day of your life. See also Megillah, 32a, and 

25 Hagigah, 9b. 

38 This might explain a question that has puz^ed many scholars. "Why 
is the name of the second Order of the Mishnah in singular form, Moed, 
Festival, while all of the others are in plural? It is the opinion of the 
author that this is a mnemonic sign, like so many others in the Talmud, 
to indicate that the names of the first and last books of that one Order 
are also in the singular form, whereas the names of the first and last 
books of all the other Orders are in plural form just as the form of the 
name of the Order. If this be true, then the name of the first book of the 
fourth Order, Nezikin, Damages, would necessarily be in plural form. 
This would coincide with the view of Maimonides and other great 
scholars, who count the three Babas as one book. The name of this treatise 
would hence be Nezikin (or Babas) . 


Rabbi Judah b. Ilai was especially famous for using this 
method. The Mishnah, for example, records: "The Two 
Loaves were seven handbreadths long and four wide and 
their horns were four fingerbreadths high. The loaves of 
the Shewbread were ten handbreadths long and five wide 
and their horns were seven fingerbreadths high. Rabbi 
Judah says: Lest thou shouldest err (remember but the 
words) ZaDaD, YaHaZ." * 7 The six consonants of these 
last two words have, respectively, the numerical values 7, 
4, 4, 10, 5 and 7. In remembering these two words the 
students avoided confusing the various numbers mentioned 
in the exercise. At times, the letters of the alphabet were 
not used for their numerical values, but rather as abbrevia- 
tions of words beginning with those characters. A good 
illustration of the latter usage is the familiar statement of 
Rabbi Judah, " DeZaKh, EDaSh, B'AChaB," that is now 
said on the eve of Passover in the Haggadah and that indi- 
cates the names of the ten plagues that had come upon the 
Egyptians before they let the Jews depart from their land. 

Wherever possible the Rabbis, moreover, liked to tie up 
their explanations with the etymology of the words of 
Scriptures. They oftentimes analyzed certain difficult 
words of the Pentateuch as being compounds of two or 
more simpler words that really explained them. 28 This 
seems to be an early attempt at philology. 

In teaching, the Rabbis were always careful to report 
every statement in the name of him who first said it. 29 In 
this their task was not unlike that of the modern student 
of research who is required to give the source of his state- 
ments. In Jewish education this method was of paramount 
importance, so that the student could properly and logic- 
ally compare one statement with another, since the differ- 
ent authors might have held contrary opinions. Even when 
certain views were unacceptable as final law, they were 

37 Menahoth, 11, 4. 

88 See, for example, Hullin, <$3a, mSD VTlW flWl 'M 'BJ 
Sanhedrin, 4b, nil JD1K I3 nil mfitoltt? DDBttf DSDtD? 

29 Aboth, 6, 6 end. 


still recorded in the Misbnah for the moral effect they 
produced, as is explained in the following: "And why do 
they record the opinions of Shammai and Hillel when 
these do not prevail? To teach the future generations that 
none should persist in his opinion, for lo, * the fathers of 
the world ' did not persist in their opinion." 80 Where 
this explanation did not suffice, another reason was given 
for the above policy of the Rabbis as follows: " why do 
they record the opinion of the individual against that of 
the majority when it does not prevail? That if one shall 
say, * I have received such a tradition/ others may reply, 
* thou didst hear it only as the opinion of such-a-one/ " 31 

The teachers were, furthermore, advised to pause after 
every lesson or after every important point so that the 
students might reflect upon it and better understand it. The 
Rabbis were very emphatic in this advice. They explained 
that when God taught Moses the Law, He also paused 
after every section and after every subject. Now, if this 
were required by Moses who was taught by God Himself, 
how much more so in the case of the common man re- 
ceiving instruction from the common man, 82 These rest 
periods were not uniform in length, however. The teacher 
had to use his own discretion in the matter. 

The students were also advised not to ask their teacher 
a question as soon as he entered the schoolhouse, but to 
wait rather until he became composed. Similarly, a teacher 
on entering the academy and finding the students engaged 
in study, should not " jump " into the discussion, but 
should wait until he had ascertained the topic that was 
being studied. 83 

Another important method of teaching employed in the 
Tannaitic period and perhaps even earlier must not be 
overlooked. After teaching and discussing the laws in full 
detail, the teachers summarized the various items of each 
law or of several laws into a few brief general conclusions. 
This is shown from a careful observation of the text of 

80 Eduyoth, 1, 4. sa Sifra on Leviticus, 1, 1. 

, 6, S8 Tosefta, Sanhedrin, 7, 5. 


the Mishnah. The following may serve as an illustration: 
" Some women are permitted in marriage to their hus- 
bands and forbidden to their brothers-in-law; some are 
permitted in marriage to their brothers-in-law and forbid- 
den to their husbands; some are permitted to both, and 
some are forbidden to both." 34 At times the summary 
would be very much like a mathematical formula which 
if expounded or analyzed easily yielded all the various 
details that were inherent in it. This method was especially 
used in the colleges and in the secondary schools. 

In order to facilitate memorization the Rabbis, further- 
more, oftentimes combined the study of many different 
subjects that had one common feature. For example, when 
in the course of study the following characteristic was 
noted, two things differing from one another only in one 
or two respects, a total of thirteen various subjects that had 
this common feature were listed together, as follows: 
" First Adar differs from Second Adar only in the reading 
of the Scroll and in giving gifts to the poor. A Festival- 
day differs from the Sabbath only in the preparing of 
necessary food. The Sabbath differs from the Day of 
Atonement only in that for the wanton profaning of the 
one, punishment is by man's hand, and for the wanton 
profaning of the other by Extirpation. A man that is for- 
bidden by vow to have any benefit from his fellow differs 
from him that is forbidden by vow to take any food from 
him only in the treading of his foot (in the other's do- 
main) and the use of vessels in which necessary food is not 
prepared. . . . The leper that is pronounced clean after 
having been shut up differs from the leper that has been 
certified clean only in the cutting off of the hair and the 
Bird-offerings. The Books of Scripture differ from phy- 
lacteries and Mezuzahs only in that the Books may be 
written in any language, while phylacteries and Mezuzahs 
may be written in the Assyrian writing only. . . . " S5 
The Rabbis frequently, for the same reason, enumerated 

8 * Yebamoth, 9, 1, and Tosafot. 
"Megillah, 1,4-11. 


the definite number of laws relative to the subject. The 
following are illustrations selected at random: " The 
main classes of work (forbidden on Sabbath) are forty 
save one/' " Fifteen women render their co-wives, and the 
co-wives of their co-wives (and so on, without end) ex- 
empt from halitzab and levirate marriage; and these are 
they: . . ." and "The four primary causes of injury 
are . , . " 8a 

In conclusion a Tannaitic statement is presented that 
lists forty-eight qualities by which learning of the Law is 
acquired. It includes a number of the pedagogical methods 
and principles that are discussed above. It is more con- 
cerned, however, with listing the many elements of piety 
which merit, according to the views of the Rabbis, the 
acquisition of Torah. 

Torah is greater than priesthood or kingship; for kingship is 
acquired by thirty excellences and the priesthood by twenty-four; 
but Torah by forty-eight. And these are they: by study, by the 
hearing of the ear, by distinct pronunciation, by the understanding 
of the heart, by awe, by reverence, by humility, by cheerfulness, 
by attendance on the Sages, by consorting with fellow-students, 
by dose argument with disciples, by sedateness, by knowledge of 
the Scripture, by knowledge of the Mishnah; by moderation in 
business, in worldly occupation, in pleasure, in sleep, in laughter; 
by longsuffering, by a good heart, by faith in the Sages, by resig- 
nation under chastisement, by being one that recognizes his place, 
that rejoices in his lot, that makes a fence around his words, that 
claims no merit for himself; by being one that is beloved, that 
loves God, that loves mankind, that loves well-doing, that loves 
rectitude, that loves reproof, that shuns honour, that boasts not 
of his learning, that delights not in making decisions of law, that 
helps his fellow to bear his yoke, that judges him favorably, that 
establishes him in the truth, that establishes him in peace, that 
occupies himself assiduously in his study, that asks and makes 
answer, that hearkens and adds thereto, that learns in order to 
teach, that learns in order to practise, that makes his teacher 
wiser, that retells exactly what he has heard, and that reports a 
thing in the name of him that said it. 87 

38 Sabbath, 7, 2; Yebamoth, 1, 1; Baba Kama, 1, 1. 
87 Aboth, 6, 6. 



The Position of Women 
The Education of Gkls 
The Education of Women 


The Position of Women 

In order to evaluate properly female education in the 
periods of the Second Commonwealth and the Tannaim, 
one must be fully aware of the prevailing status of the 
Jewish woman. This subject has unfortunately not as yet 
received adequate and just treatment Some scholars have 
been confused in trying to make certain general conclusions 
hold good for the status of all Oriental women. Others 
have been confused in thinking that the position of the 
Jewish woman was uniform throughout the long and varied 
history of the Jews, and have, therefore, committed in 
their writings many anachronisms, especially in taking the 
notions prevalent during the last several centuries among 
the Jews of Eastern Europe as characteristic of Jewish 
regard toward womankind in general. Still others erred 
simply in comparing and in evaluating the ancient sources. 

To avoid these pitfalls, the following concise question 
is formulated as the basis for a brief discussion on the 
subject. Were women held as inferior to men by the Jews 
in the periods of the Second Commonwealth and the Tan- 
naim? The answer to this question may be found by one 
of two methods: an examination of the status of women 
in Jewish Law or a careful exploration of all the other 
ancient writings in reference to women. It is the opinion 
of the author, however, that both channels must be utilized 
to the fullest extent in the investigation if accuracy is 
desired. By comparing the one with the other and by 
letting each supplement the other, error may be eliminated. 

In examining the Jewish Law as it was formulated in 
the periods under consideration here, one may come to 



the superficial conclusion that women were regarded as 
far inferior to men. Women, for instance, were not 
permitted as witnesses or as judges. They were exempt, 
like slaves and minors, from observing a number of the 
Biblical precepts. They were exempt from the obligation 
of studying Torah. They could not be counted in the quo- 
rum of ten adults necessary for the divine service in the 
Synagogue. In fact women had a gallery separate from 
the men in the Temple at Jerusalem. As for divorce a wife 
was entirely subject to the will of her husband. Polygamy 
was permitted by Jewish Law only to the man. In case the 
husband died without offspring, the wife was subject to 
the will of his brother who had the alternative of either 
marrying her or releasing her by the ceremony of balitza, 
without which such a widow could not marry again in the 
lifetime of her husband's brothers. After the birth of a 
child the mother had to observe a period of purification, 
which was twice as long in the case of a female as of a 
male infant. These facts certainly tempt one to the above 
conclusion. Yet, to assert from these considerations that 
woman was generally disparaged and held inferior to man 
is questionable. It shows a lack of understanding of the 
essential character of the Law for the Jewish people. 

It must be remembered that the Jews believed that their 
Law originated from God, that it was handed down to 
Moses on Mount Sinai. To the Jews, the Law was like 
creation and nature, the work of God. An analogous ar- 
gument is now presented in defense of the above con- 
clusion. Let us say, for example, that since we find today 
that women are physically weaker than men and are by 
nature subject to the pains and hazards of childbearing, 
women are held to be inferior socially. This argument is, 
of course, ridiculous. Nature by itself cannot be taken as 
a criterion of social standing. Similarly, all the above 
related facts of Jewish Law cannot determine the social 
status of the Jewish woman. They might tell us of certain 
handicaps and restrictions that women experienced in 
Jewish life, but they do not reveal any evidence that the 


social status of the woman in those days was inferior to 
that of man. 

Similarly, the conclusion that "in Jewish Law, the 
woman was on the same plane with minors, slaves, and 
people of unsound mind " * is no proof. On the con- 
trary, women were legally required to observe all the 
prohibitions and many of the positive precepts of the 
Torah, while minors and people of unsound mind were 
not so obligated. Moreover, if a certain law applied 
to women and to minors, slaves, and people of unsound 
mind, it did not necessarily mean that these were all 
on the same plane even in reference to that detail un- 
less one could prove that the particular law applied to 
all of them for the one and same reason. One familiar 
with Jewish Law knows, however, that the contrary was 
invariably true. Take for illustration the fact that the 
King of Israel, women, slaves, minors and half-wits could 
not serve as witnesses or as judges in accordance with 
Jewish Law. Were all these excluded solely for the reason 
of their unreliability? If that were true, they would all be 
on the same plane in regard to that law. Obviously, all 
were not rejected for that reason, for the King of Israel 
would certainly not be put in that category. As for the 
women, one can easily demonstrate from other instances 
of Jewish Law, especially the law pertaining to prohibitive 
and permissible foods, that they were certainly considered 
reliable and trustworthy. Such generalizations as the above 
are untenable. 

The foregoing discussion has shown us the many ele- 
ments of Jewish Law that will not reflect the social status 
of women in the periods of the Second Commonwealth 
and the Tannaim. What elements then will yield us this 
information ? The laws that were newly developed during 
those periods by the Sages and Rabbis in relation to woman- 
hood and that were not expounded directly from the 

1 Mordecai M. Kaplan, "The Status of the Jewish Woman," in 
Hadassab News Letter, April, 1936. 


Pentateuch may afford a glimpse of the social status o 
the Jewish woman. 

During the Second Commonwealth marriage, for exam- 
ple, was solemnized with a contract containing the mutual 
obligations of the respective parties. 2 Most of these duties 
were decreed by the Sages to apply even in those cases 
where such a contract was not actually written. On the 
whole these laws show a high regard for womanhood. In 
fact the duties of the man to his wife were more numer- 
ous than the reciprocal obligations. 8 These laws aimed for 
the establishment of mutual respect and understanding as 
the basis of a happy home. Although a man was permitted 
by Law to practice polygamy in the days of the Second 
Commonwealth and the Tannaim, there is no record of 
such a case.* This furnishes some evidence that Jewish 
society was generally opposed to that practice. In addition, 
the Scriptural law that required a strict separation between 
man and wife at every menstruation for a period of at 
least seven days always made for better harmony and love 
within the home. As expressed by one Sage, " it endeared 
her to her husband as on the day she entered the nuptial 
canopy." 5 With such a happy state of affairs in the homes, 
it appears idle to talk of an inferior social status of 
women. This conclusion is supported further by the fact 
that although it was possible for a man to divorce his wife 
with ease according to the ancient Jewish Law, little evi- 
dence of such divorces in these periods of Jewish history 
is found. 

This brief and general discussion will suffice as evidence 

3 See, for example, Yebamoth, 15, 3. From the words, 
TIID?J, used by the Bet Shammai, we may infer that the marriage con- 
tract was quite an ancient .institution in Israel. See also J. T. 
Ketuboth, chapter 8 end. 

8 See Ketuboth, 4. An excellent summary of these laws is given by 
Maimonides, JYIP'K JTO?n, 12, 1-5. 

*The case of Rabbi Tarfon recorded in Tosefta, Ketuboth, 5, 1, is 
only to the effect that he betrothed three hundred women in a case of 
emergency, but he did not marry them. As for King Herod, he was 
considered among the Jews more Edomite than Jew. 

B Niddah, 3lb. 


of Jewish Law in reference to the social position of the 
Jewish woman. We shall now examine other ancient Jew- 
ish sources for further information on this subject. 

The most popular idea current among the Jews in the 
ancient days was probably none other than the story of 
creation as related in the first few chapters of Genesis. 
The child was introduced to it in his tenderest and most 
impressionable age. This lesson was supposed to have a 
dominant influence in moulding character. In the first 
place, it inculcated belief in the omnipotence of God, the 
Creator of all things. Secondly, it gave a definite explana- 
tion regarding the origin of man and woman. Man was 
created from the dust of the ground; woman from the rib 
of man. The origin of man was hence considered more 
humble than that of woman. Woman was created to be 
the helpmate of man. Jews, unlike the Greeks, did not 
regard marriage as primarily an obligation to the state or 
a necessary evil, but rather as the fulfillment of the good 
design of creation. Moreover, in the original plan of crea- 
tion man and woman were obviously intended to be one. 
Even when woman was separated from man, the unity was 
not entirely broken, for " therefore shall a man leave his 
father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife, and 
they shall be one flesh." 6 In accepting this Biblical narra- 
tive as sacred truth, men must have regarded women as 
their equals. 

The general spirit of the ancient writings in reference to 
the status of the Jewish woman is beautifully conveyed in 

8 Genesis, 2, 24. Usually scholars derive an altogether different 
sentiment from the story of creation. Nathan Morris in his chapter on 
" The Woman and her Education " says, for example, "Already in the 
story of the creation the woman is told in so many words: ' and he shall 
rule over thee.' " One familiar, however, with the original sources of 
Jewish learning knows that the Jews hardly ever interpreted those words 
so literally. They construed the sentence, "thy desire shall be to thy 
husband, and he shall rule over thee," to mean rather that although the 
longing for husband and motherhood is the most powerful instinct in 
woman, it is up to man to do the wooing. Even Josephus whose regard for 
womankind was not of the highest as shown later, omits entirely, for this 
reason, mention of this explicit Biblical statement in the opening chapter 
of his Antiquities of the Jews. See also Erubin, lOOb. 


the following words o the prophet Malachi: " she is thy 
companion and the wife of thy covenant." 7 

There are, however, certain statements recorded in some 
of the ancient sources that strike a different note. While 
they do not refute the above contention, they do represent 
different opinions current at this time, If these statements 
are carefully and correctly studied, they often yield a dif- 
ferent meaning. An illustration is, " and do not talk much 
with womankind/' 8 Superficially, this advice casts a reflec- 
tion upon women. A careful examination of the passage 
in the original reveals, however, that the Hebrew word 
used for " talk " refers only to " idle speech " or " gossip " 
and the like. 9 That advice parallels, therefore, the follow- 
ing: " All my days have I grown up among the Sages 
and I have found naught better for a man than silence 
. . . and he that multiplies words occasions sin/' 10 

As regards those individuals who spoke disparagingly 
of women, it is the opinion of the author that they might 
have been influenced by foreign philosophies and folk- 
ways. Among Alexandrian Jews, for instance, woman 
was held of less account than man, because Greek phi- 
losophy and mores greatly influenced them. The best ex- 
ample is, of course, Philo. In one place he says, " Dothan 
means ' a thorough forsaking/ and is the symbol of a 
soul that has in no half measure but completely run 
away from those empty notions which resemble the prac- 
tices of women rather than those of men/' X1 Perhaps 
Philo was imbued with this attitude toward women 
through Greek influences. In Palestine, however, Hellen- 
ism made comparatively little progress, and the Jewish 
attitude toward womankind generally prevailed. 

Another illustration of the above may be cited in the 
case of Josephus. In his summary of the laws of Moses he 
made the following observation: *' Let not the testimony of 
women be admitted on account of their levity and the 

7 Malachi, 2, 14. 

8 Aboth, 1, 5. "Aboth, 1, 17. 

See IUS5 P 1 on above. ""De Fuga et Inventione," XXIII. 


boldness of their sex." 12 This explanation of the law 
prohibiting women to act as witnesses was never given by 
the ancient Rabbis and Sages. In fact, their writings sug- 
gest an altogether different reason linked with the Psalmist 
statement, " All glorious is the king's daughter within the 
palace." 1S Doubtless, Josephus, writing his works in the 
city of Rome and in the Greek language, was influenced 
by the Greek and Roman attitudes toward women. 

There is, however, a Tannaitic statement to the effect 
that women are light-minded. 14 Chiefly on the strength 
of this assertion, a modern writer concludes that the 
woman in those days, " was usually regarded as a light- 
minded, irresponsible creature." 15 This conclusion seems 
unwarranted when one examines the context of the re- 
mark. In reviewing carefully the Talmudic sources one 
may ascertain that the statement was used by the Rabbis 
only relative to their belief that women could not with- 
stand great torture or temptation as well as men. 

Furthermore, the family was the base or foundation 
of all Jewish social life. In the home the mother was 
accorded honor and fear by her children equal to that of 
the father, as the following Tannaitic saying discloses: 
" It is revealed and known before Him by whose word the 
world came into being that a man honors his mother more 
than his father because she sways him with persuasive 
words. Therefore in the commandment to honor, He men- 
tions the father before the mother. And it is revealed and 
known before Him by whose word the world came into 
being that a man is more afraid of his father than of his 
mother because he teaches him the Torah, Therefore in 
the commandment to fear He mentions the mother before 
the father. Where something is imperfect Scripture seeks 
to make it complete." ie 

12 Antiquities of the Jews, IV., 8, 15. 

18 Psalms, 45, 14. 

"Kiddushin, 80b; Sabbath, 33b. 

15 Nathan Moms' The Jewish School, p. 220. 

"Mekilta on Exodus, 20, 12; Kiddushin, 30b-31a. 


From the moralistic writings of the Second Common- 
wealth, one may also infer that the Jews did not hold 
their women in low esteem. Unfortunately, many of the 
modern writers dealing with this theme have let their 
prejudices blind them. They have usually selected and dis- 
cussed only those sayings that fitted their pre-conceived 
ideas, and passed over in silence many passages that 
demonstrated the contrary. It is, similarly, wrong to argue 
on the strength of several recorded statements derogatory 
to women that the female sex was generally held inferior. 
Even in modern civilized countries one may find in news- 
papers, magazines and books many statements uncompli- 
mentary to women. A close study of all the ancient Jewish 
texts, moreover, reveals at least one flattering statement, 
if not more, for each unflattering statement about women. 

The following parallel verses of Ecclesiasticus illustrate 
the above: " Of the woman came the beginning of sin, 
and through her we all die. Forego not a wise and good 
woman, for her grace is above gold." " Give me any 
plague but the plague of the heart; and any wickedness, 
but the wickedness of a woman. A friend and companion 
never meet amiss, but above both is a wife with her hus- 
band." "A wicked woman abateth the courage and 
maketh an heavy countenance. . . . A slothful man is 
compared to the filth of a dunghill: every man that takes 
it up will shake his hand/' " An evilnurtured son is the 
dishonor of his father that begat him, and a foolish 
daughter is born to his disgrace." 17 

Although in Jewish social life the position of the 
woman was generally equal to that of the man, parents 
usually desired sons in preference to daughters, for two 
reasons. The first was a purely selfish one. The upbring- 
ing of a daughter required more care and anxiety on the 
part of parents than did that of a son as ben Sira force- 
fully claims: " The father waketh for the daughter, when 
no man knoweth, and the care for her taketh away sleep: 
when she is young, lest she pass away the flower of her 

17 Ecclesiasticus, 25, 24; 7, 19; 25, 13; 40, 23; 25, 23; 22, 2 and 3. 


age; and being married, lest she should be hated; in her 
virginity, lest she should be defiled and gotten with child 
in her father's house; and having a husband, lest she 
should misbehave herself; and when she is married, lest 
she should be barren." A morally lax daughter was the 
greatest calamity that could befall parents, as the further 
words of this sage indicate: " Keep a sure watch over a 
shameless daughter, lest she make thee a laughingstock 
to thine enemies, and a byword in the city and a reproach 
among the people, and make thee ashamed before the 
multitude." ls Then, too, since Jewish parents always de- 
sired to see their children happily married and blessed 
with progeny, they were more anxious about the daughters 
than sons. Theoretically, the man had two alternatives 
when he was not pleased with his wife or when he was not 
blessed with offspring: he could pay her the sum stipulated 
in the marriage contract and divorce her, or he was able 
to marry another woman and retain both wives. 

The second reason for the preference for sons was a 
purely idealistic one. Since women were exempt from 
fulfilling most of the positive precepts of the Torah, the 
observance of which was restricted to a certain time or sea- 
son, they could not serve God in as many ways as could 
the men. Parents, in religious piety, hence desired sons 
who would serve God to the fullest extent. This ex- 
planation is explicitly recorded in the following statement 
of Rabbi Judah (c. 160 C. E.) : " a man is obligated to 
offer three benedictions every day: for not being created a 
heathen, for not being created a woman, and for not being 
created an ignoramus ... a woman, for woman is exempt 
from the commandments; an ignoramus, for ' an ignora- 
mus dreads not sin, and an ignorant man cannot be 
saintly/ " 19 Although this statement is very likely not 
free of foreign influence, for it is recorded of Plato that 
he used to say, " I thank God that I was born Greek and 
not barbarian, freeman and not slave, man and not 

"ibid., 42, 9-11. 

"Tosef. Berakoth, 6, 23; Menahoth, 43b. 


woman; but above all, that I was born in the age of 
Socrates/' 20 it clearly demonstrates the truly Jewish point 
of view in regard to the preference for sons. 

The domestic and industrial occupations of women were 
carefully defined. The domestic duties consisted chiefly of 
" grinding flour and baking bread and washing clothes and 
cooking food and nursing her child and making ready the 
bed and working in wool." 21 The industrial occupations 
of women generally included spinning, weaving, dyeing, 
caring for flocks, and guarding vineyards. Usually women 
also cared for the destitute and needy. It is interesting to 
note that married women were never compelled to work 
in the fields or at other tasks that taxed their physical 
strength; and from the ancient writings it is evident that 
women rarely engaged in labor of that kind. 

The foregoing discussion, although in no way exhaus- 
tive, should suffice to convince an impartial critic who is 
able and willing to check all the sources mentioned of 
the truth. There can be little doubt that in Jewish social 
life woman was treated with respect and dignity. In this 
the Jews were different from most of the Oriental peoples 
as well as from the Greeks and Romans. 

The Education of Girls 

According to Jewish Law women were entirely exempt 
from studying Torah. 22 Fathers were not obligated to 
teach their daughters Torah, nor were women required to 
teach it to their sons. Girls and women were, therefore, 
not included at all by Law in the sphere of Jewish educa- 
tion and were actually excluded from the school system. 
Girls were not admitted as pupils in any of the schools, 
and women were not allowed as teachers. This does not 
mean, however, that girls received no education at all. In 
fact, the education of girls was quite extensive during the 
periods of the Second Commonwealth and the Tannaim. 

ao See Will Durant's The Story of Philosophy, chapter 1, 3. 
al Ketuboth, 5, 5. "Kiddushin, 29. 


Before elementary schools were established, girls re- 
ceived instruction in Mikra, the reading of the Scriptures, 
from the hands of their parents as did the boys. This 
practice was not discontinued with the founding of the 
elementary schools as far as the girls were concerned. 23 
They were taught to read and write; they were also made 
somewhat familiar with such subjects as grammar, arith- 
metic, geography, and history, a knowledge of which was 
necessary for the full understanding of the Scriptures. 
They learned many prayers. In addition, they received 
instruction from their mothers in household duties. If 
the girls were not privileged to study the Mishnah, they 
learned, nevertheless, a great deal of its contents by ob- 
serving and practising the customs of the home. 

The education of a daughter proved a greater problem 
for the parents than that of a son. Not only was this true 
after the secondary and elementary schools were founded, 
which relieved the parents of the burden of educating 
their sons, but it was equally true in earlier times. Parents 
were especially anxious about the moral upbringing of 
their daughters as shown above. The girls were, there- 
fore, carefully instructed in those axioms of the Bible and 
of the Apocrypha that stressed the importance of good 
manners and uprightness. That this education produced 
excellent results is evident from the ancient writings that 
relate the noble deeds of many virtuous women. 

Since the girls received their education solely from their 
parents, its scope naturally varied in direct proportion to 
the knowledge possessed by the parents. For this reason 
the Rabbis advised that a man should always endeavor 
to marry the daughter of a scholar, " for if he die or if he 
be exiled, he can rest assured that his children will be 
scholars." 24 It must be remembered that the education 

388 See Nedarim, 4, 3, fcOPD 1'Jim TIKI VJ* J1 1H 
The implication here is clearly to the effect that girls were generally 
taught Mikra. 

a *Pesahim, 49a. 


of girls was entirely optional, since the Law did not de- 
mand it. However, because o the fact that women en- 
joyed a social status equal to men, parents gladly and 
willingly provided their daughters with quite a thorough 
education. Very few girls, indeed, were deprived of an 
elementary education. 

As regards secondary and higher education, the practice 
among the Jews was not so uniform. Rabbi Eliezer (c. 
100 C, E.) and some of his colleagues, for example, were 
of the opinion that girls must not be taught the Oral Law, 
Mishnah and Talmud, these studies being meant exclu- 
sively for boys and men. Ben Azzai held a revolutionary 
view to the effect that not only was it optional but also 
obligatory for parents to teach all these subjects to the 
daughters. 25 It seems that neither extreme doctrine was 
accepted by the majority. The wife of Rabbi Meir was 
well learned in Jewish Law, and several of her wise state- 
ments are recorded in the Talmud. The quotation in the 
preceding paragraph, furthermore, indicates that scholars 
did provide their daughters with a higher Jewish educa- 
tion, which they, in time, imparted to their children. 
One must not be misled, however, in thinking that girls 
generally received quite a complete higher education. The 
parents did not have sufficient time to give them all the 
necessary instruction. When elementary education of boys 
was parental, it was normally completed only at the age 
of sixteen years. In the periods of Jewish history which 
are here under investigation, girls were married about that 
age,, thus excluding the possibility of their obtaining much 
of secondary or of higher education. 

.Why were the girls excluded entirely from the school 
system? If the Jews were opposed on moral grounds to a 
system of coeducation, why did they not establish sepa- 
rate schools for girls? This question is all the more puz- 
zling in view of the fact that women enjoyed then a social 
status equal to men. The answer may be discovered in 

Sotah, 3, 4. See also Maimonides, mill 1110511 flttSn, 1, 13. 


either of the two sources, the Jewish Law and the special 
character of Jewish education. Fathers were compelled 
by the law to teach only their sons the Torah and all the 
inherited traditions. Likewise, adolescent boys and men 
were commanded to study Torah. " This book of the 
law shall not depart out of thy mouth, but thou shalt 
meditate therein day and night/' 26 Girls and women 
were not so obligated. The school system was, therefore, 
established only for the boys in order to fulfil in proper 
manner these requirements of Jewish Law. 

Furthermore, had the goal of Jewish education been 
merely intended for higher intellectual development, the 
Jews, perhaps, would have provided girls with educa- 
tional facilities equal to that of the boys. The Jews did 
not consider the woman inferior in regard to mental 
capacities. In fact, the Jews believed that girls matured 
both physically and mentally earlier than the boys. There 
is evidence that some Rabbis were of the opinion that 
women also were endowed with greater intelligence than 
men. 27 However, since Jewish education was essentially 
devoted to character building, the girls could more 
readily forego the maximum education provided by the 
school system. Experience taught the Jews that the girls 
received a satisfactory character education at home. Their 
daughters learned those elements of virtue and piety that 
Torah and custom demanded in their homes. Boys, on 
the other hand, had to learn a great deal more: all the 
details of the many laws of the Torah and how these were 
deduced from Scripture. Girls, by nature, were also easier 
to handle than boys. So, if the fathers were occupied, 
mothers could successfully attend to the education of their 
daughters without undue hardship. 

26 Joshua, 1, 8. 
S7 Niddah, 45b, 

mw nro if'spri \r\w nfo jtftfn n 'n p-n 



The Education of Women 

Although women were not obligated to study Torah, 
it is interesting to note that they were definitely included 
in the set-up of practically all the agencies and institutions 
that were organized for the advancement of adult educa- 
tion. During the early part of the Second Commonwealth 
we find that " Ezra the priest brought the Law before the 
congregation, both men and women * . . and he read 
therein . . . from early morning until midday, in the pres- 
ence of the men and the women, and of those that could 
understand; and the ears of all the people were attentive 
unto the book of the Law/' 28 

Women attended, especially on Sabbaths and holidays, 
the divine services at the Temple in Jerusalem and at all 
the synagogues in Palestine and the lands of the Diaspora 
where special galleries or halls were provided for them. 
Although they were not permitted to lead the congrega- 
tion in worship or to read publicly the Holy Scriptures, 
they participated in all the prayers and listened to the 
readings and translations of the portions of the Pentateuch 
and the Prophets. They were present also at the sermons 
of the Rabbis on Friday evenings and Saturday mornings. 
In fact some women attended these sermons more regu- 
larly than their husbands. 29 They were also regular at- 
tendants at the public discourses that were delivered at 
the synagogues prior to each festival. The only type 
of adult education denied to women was admission into 
the academies as auditors. All schoolhouses were closed 
to members of the female sex. 

Many women assisted their husbands in teaching their 
sons, in the days when elementary education was parental. 
The whole precept of Proverbs, " My son, keep the com- 
mandment of thy father, and forsake not the teaching of 
thy mother," 80 applied in its literal sense in the days of 
the Second Commonwealth as it did in the First. The 

28 Nehemiah, 8, 2-3. " J. T. Sotah, 1, 4. "Proverbs, 6, 20. 


girls, of course, were entrusted chiefly to the care of their 
mothers. This voluntary task of teaching perhaps made 
the mothers desirous of extending their own education as 
much as possible, in order to gain and maintain the respect 
of their pupil-children. 

Some women were so imbued with a love for Torah 
that they encouraged their husbands to devote themselves 
for a number of years solely to Jewish education, while 
they willingly shouldered the economic responsibilities. 
The wife of Rabbi Akiba is an illustration of such a case. 
The Talmud records that this famous scholar once publicly 
acknowledged in the presence of his many disciples the 
debt he owed to his wife with these frank words: " All 
that I am, and all that you are, is owing to her." 31 

81 Nedarim, 50a. 




Jewish Education Compared with Greek and Roman 

Jewish Education and Modern Education 



Jewish Education Compared with Greek and Roman 

The history of Jewish education during the days of the 
Second Commonwealth and the Tannaim a period of 
approximately seven and one-half centuries has already 
been presented in some detail. Several of the more promi- 
nent features of Jewish education are now briefly com- 
pared with those of the contemporary Greek and Roman 
educational systems. In conclusion, there is offered a 
summary of the important educational ideas and practices 
of the Jews together with a statement showing those which 
have and those which have not been carried over into 
modern education. 

The outstanding difference between Jewish and Greek 
and Roman education was, of course, in the matter of 
aims. In Sparta and for the early Athenians the chief aim 
of education was to make good citizens. Individual excel- 
lence was stressed in its relation to public usefulness. 
" The whole purpose of early Athenian education was the 
development of virtue, but the virtues were always civic 
virtues." x Since good citizenship demanded the utmost 
development of the body and mind, a dual system of edu- 
cation consisting of the gymnasium and the music school 
was established. Great stress was laid on physical and 
military training. Notwithstanding the fact that the cen- 
ter of gravity of education for Plato was different from 
that which was proposed by Aristotle, for the one society 
and for the other the individual, the final goal was never- 
theless essentially the same the establishment of a well 
organized state. As for higher education, two additional 
aims were advanced by some of the Greek philosophers. 

* Elmer H. Wilds, The Foundations of Modern Education, p. 93. 



The goal o education for Socrates was the development 
of the power of thinking in order to enable man to 
arrive at fundamental universal moral principles. Other 
Greek philosophers held that since reflective reasoning 
was man's peculiar function, the pursuit of knowledge f 01 
its own sake was man's highest good. University or 
higher education consisted primarily of philosophical 
speculations, although only a select few were considered 
capable of fully appreciating these studies. Greek phi- 
losophy, moreover, was little concerned with practical 
problems. It devoted itself to a thorough search for ulti- 
mate truth. It afforded a liberal education. 

The chief aim of education in Rome was very much the 
same. In the early periods, it was undoubtedly prepara- 
tion for full Roman citizenship including military, civic 
and economic aspects. Even in the later periods, when 
the goal of higher education was formulated in the one 
word, oratory, the underlying philosophy did not radically 
change. The orator was considered the finest type of citizen. 

For the Jews, on the other hand, the religious motive 
was the dominating factor of education. All Jews were 
required to know the Law and to observe it in practice. 
Their education was hence thoroughly practical. It was 
integrated with all the activities of life. The develop- 
ment of the intellectual faculty was only a by-product of 
that education. The Jewish spirit was generally hostile 
to physical and military education. The Jews sought to 
excel other people only in the knowledge and observance 
of their laws. The complete universalization of this knowl- 
edge as expressed by the Prophet Isaiah, " for the earth 
shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters 
cover the sea," ia was always a Utopian dream of the 
Jewish people. The Jewish school system, as fully or- 
ganized toward the end of the Second Commonwealth, 
certainly endeavored to carry this ideal into practice in 
so far as the Jews were concerned. 

aa Isaiah, 11> 9. 


The subject matter of early Roman education, from the 
middle of the fifth century to the middle of the third cen- 
tury before the common era, was comparable, to a certain 
extent, to that of Jewish education of the same time. The 
laws of the Twelve Tables comprised the chief content 
of Roman education in this early period. A modern 
American scholar in his history of education makes the 
following comments: " Not only were these laws com- 
mitted to memory, but they were understood and mastered 
as a source of practical guidance for after life. In fact, 
with ' the Romans the subject matter of education bore 
directly upon life as it has done with few people. The 
importance of this study from the intellectual point of 
view must also be considered . . . the study of the Twelve 
Tables formed no mean intellectual discipline ... no peo- 
ple, either before or since, has made such use of its own 
history in education. History, including biography and 
the study of Roman law, comprised the subject matter of 
eairly Roman education." 2 That Doctor Paul Monroe, in 
making these observations, did not conclude the history of 
Jewish education is unfortunate, because the Jewish edu- 
cational system, while similar in character was more ex- 
tensive than that of Rome. In the first place, the Holy 
Scriptures were exceedingly more inclusive and extensive 
than the Twelve Tables. Secondly, the Jewish child was 
not confined to the study of the written laws alone. He 
was also required to learn and memorize many specific oral 
details of each Scriptural law and how these were deduced 
from the text or otherwise originated. The early Roman 
education was not nearly as complete in this respect as that 
of the contemporary Jewish educational system. Whether 
the Romans knew of the early Jewish plan and employed 
it in their education would be interesting to investigate. 

Unlike the elementary and secondary schools of the 
Jews which were free for rich and poor alike, most of the 
Greek and all of the Roman schools charged tuition fees. 

" Paul Monroe, Source Book of the History of Education for the Greek 
and Roman Period, pp. 333-4. 


As for the colleges, the practice of the Jews was the exact 
opposite to that of the Greeks. The founders of the Greek 
academies, for example, Plato, Aristotle, Zeno, and Epi- 
curus, did not accept fees, but their successors did; while 
with the Jews, the colleges at first did exact a daily fee 
from the students for upkeep and administration; but, in 
time, during the Tannaitic period, this practice was 

Another marked point of difference between the Jewish 
and the Greek and Roman schools was in the arrangement 
of the subject matter. The music school of the Greeks, 
it will be remembered, was presided over by the Nine 
Muses, which signified nine separate subjects or branches 
of study. The Roman schools similarly offered distinct 
subjects to their pupils. For the Jews, all subjects were inte- 
grated with the study of Torah. Music and dancing there- 
fore had no place in the Jewish curriculutn. These were 
learned, if at all, at the home or by way of apprenticeship 
as were the industrial arts and crafts of the time. Higher 
Jewish education fostered a creative spirit of originality to 
no lesser extent than did the philosophical and oratorical 
academies of Greece and Rome. 

The general attitude toward all manual labor to the 
effect that it was menial and degrading persisted with 
the Greeks and the Romans much longer than it did with 
the Jews. During the Tannaitic period the great ma- 
jority of Rabbis were decidedly in favor of earning a 
livelihood by means of some worldly occupation. These 
conditions may be accounted for by the fact the Greek 
emphasis was generally upon beauty and grace, while the 
Jews emphasi2ed good moral action or character. 

In regard to several points, however, Jewish education 
was essentially like that of the Greeks and the Romans. 
Jewish elementary schools admitted children at the age of 
six or seven years, while the Greek and Roman schools 
admitted them also at the age of seven. Up to that time 
all children were taught at home. Another point of simi- 
larity was in the education of the girls. Although Plato 


held that women possessed the same abilities as men and 
should therefore receive a similar education, the view of 
Aristotle that " woman is a child in a larger growth " 
generally prevailed, and girls were excluded from the 
schools. Like their Jewish contemporaries, the girls of 
Greece and Rome received their education at home. 

While the old Jewish system of education was also 
similar to that of the Greeks and Romans in some peda- 
gogical methods and principles, yet, in others it was 
superior. Both endeavored to make the utmost use of 
memorization and of various means for developing and 
facilitating it. The Jews took greater account of individual 
.differences. On the whole the wise principles of Quin- 
tilian were practiced in the Jewish elementary and second- 
ary schools many decades before he wrote his treatise 
on education. The Jews did not believe, however, in 
teaching even their very young children through plays 
and games. To them education or Torah was a very 
serious matter. The interest of the child was aroused 
through other psychological methods as pointed out 
earlier in this study. 

The specific points of similarity that have been noted 
between Jewish education and that of Greece and Rome 
do not necessarily imply, however, that one system was 
influenced by the other. The lack of evidence pertaining 
to this problem relegates such an assertion to the realm 
of pure conjecture. Doctor Boyd's statement, " There is a 
curious irony in the fact that the Jews, in seeking to save 
themselves from being overborne by the Greek culture, 
should have adopted the Hellenic institution of the school 
for their children and the Hellenic practice of disputation 
for their young men," 8 has little documentary proof. The 
Jewish colleges were founded by the Men of the Great 
Assembly who flourished in the fourth century before the 
common era. The story of the evolution of the Jewish 
school system and the internal contributing factors have 

* William Boyd, History of Western Education, p. 64. 


been presented. No one familiar with this history could 
see in it an " adoption of the Hellenic institution of the 
school." Similarly, the practice of disputation or discus- 
sion as the method of higher Jewish education goes back 
to a distant period of antiquity long before we hear of 
it practiced among the Greeks. 

Jewish education differs from that of the Greeks and 
Romans in regard to the social position of the teachers. 
For the latter, the position of the schoolmaster was often 
that of a menial. The education of the young was usually 
entrusted to the slaves acquired by conquest. Intellec- 
tually and from an educational standpoint they no doubt 
were superior. With the Jews, this was not the practice. 
Not only were those who possessed considerable knowl- 
edge of the Law and who were known for their piety 
and sincerity able to qualify as teachers but socially they 
were held in highest regard. Slaves were excluded from 
Jewish education. 

The greatest practical difference between the Jewish and 
the Greek and Roman schools, as may be inferred from 
the previous discussion, was in the content of education. 
For the Jews, Torah was the all-inclusive subject matter 
of education. It was concerned with guiding their daily 
conduct. The Rabbis taught that all other knowledge 
like " astronomy and geometry are but the peripheries of 
wisdom/* 4 For the Greeks and Romans, however, these 
" peripheries of wisdom " were the central subjects. Even 
for Aristotle the subject of ethics, educationally, was not 
judged more important than the other subjects which he 
discussed. Furthermore, the Greek study of ethics con- 
sisted mainly of theoretical speculation upon the nature 
of man and the universe and was not primarily concerned 
with practical problems of conduct. Unlike Torah, it was, 
moreover, a subject for higher education only. 

Which of the above systems of education was on the 
whole superior to the others? The fact that the Jewish 

4 Aboth, 3 end. 


people still exist today, in spite of terrific persecutions, is 
an eloquent testimony of the fruit of one of the systems. 

Jewish Education and Modem Education 

From this study of Jewish education during the periods 
of the Second Commonwealth and the Tannaim several 
general conclusions can be drawn. About two thousand 
years ago the Jews developed an elaborate school system 
that provided free universal and compulsory education for 
young and adolescent boys. The academies of higher 
learning at first charged an admission fee but later 
abolished this practice. In that respect they were in ad- 
vance of most of the modern universities and colleges. 
In treating the evolution of the Jewish school system, 
note was taken of the fact that the colleges were founded 
first, later the secondary, and finally the elementary schools. 
Apparently, this seems the natural development of school 
systems to which the American system is no exception. 

The main emphasis of Jewish education was upon 
ethical living instead of upon the pursuit of knowledge 
and the attainment of culture. The educational philoso- 
phy of Dewey and other modern educators to the effect 
that education is activity and life properly lived, in opposi- 
tion to the older doctrine that education is a storing up of 
knowledge as a preparation for life, is in many respects 
that of the ancient Jewish system of education. The criti- 
cism of modern education that it devotes so much time to 
teaching unrelated subjects, not properly fitted together, 
would not apply to ancient Jewish education which inte- 
grated even secular matters with the study of Torah, which 
was practically synonymous with Jewish life. Jewish edu- 
cation guarded against abrupt changes occurring when 
pupils were promoted from one level of education to the 
next higher. Modern education, however, is also striving 
to solve this problem. 

Jewish education, moreover, was so constituted that it 
avoided the modern educational problem of how to re- 


late attitudes to behavior or thought to action. Torah 
directed all conduct. The verbal instruction of the schools 
was directly tied up with all the practical exercises of life. 
All Jews knew that their every action must be performed 
in conformity with the Law. In this connection Josephus 
says, " For there are two ways of coming at any sort of 
learning, and a moral conduct of life; the one is by instruc- 
tion in words, the other by practical exercises. Now, 
other lawgivers have separated these two ways in their 
opinions, and choosing one of those ways of instruction, 
or that which best pleased every one of them, neglected 
the other. . . . But for our legislator (Moses), he very 
carefully joined these two methods of instruction together: 
for he neither left these practical exercises to go on with- 
out verbal instruction, nor did he permit the hearing 'of the 
Law to proceed without the exercises for practice, but 
beginning immediately from the earliest infancy, and the 
appointment of every one's diet, he left nothing of the 
very smallest consequence to be done at the pleasure and 
disposal of the person himself. . . ." 5 

Of the seven cardinal aims of modern education 
health, command of fundamental processes, worthy home 
membership, vocation, citizenship, worthy use of leisure 
time, and ethical character, there is only one with which 
the Jewish school system was practically unconcerned. 
This was vocation. In the ancient days vocational and 
industrial training was achieved only by the method of 
apprenticeship as shown earlier in the study. The only 
exception to this rule was in the case of certain profes- 
sions such as teacher, scribe, and judge. Jewish education 
definitely concerned itself with the other six items. Torah 
fostered their realization. Even citizenship was cared for, 
if this term be defined more broadly to include the con- 
cord of minds and manners among a people. 

In one respect Jewish education of old outstrips modern 

' Against Apion, Book IL, 17-18. 


education. For the Jews, education was definitely a life- 
long affair and did 'not cease with graduation. Every 
Jew, be he rich or poor, young or old, was obligated to 
study Torah every day of his life. The history of Jewish 
education, especially of the period of the Tannaim, affords 
many examples of artisans and industrial workers reserv- 
ing part of their day for the further study of Torah. Of 
course, modern education expresses its hope that its gradu- 
ates will continue their education, but just recently are 
organized efforts being made to transform this hope into 

If we except the fact that girls were excluded from the 
Jewish school system, Jewish education compares very 
favorably with the organization of modern education even 
in America. In giving equal consideration to the higher 
intellectual development of girls as of boys, modern edu- 
cation has neglected, on the other hand, to provide all 
girls with the knowledge of practical household duties 
which is necessary for training efficient and industrious 
home-makers. Modern feminine society certainly needs 
this sort of knowledge and training. 

As noted earlier in the study, the Jews provided many 
forms of adult education for both men and women. These 
agencies, although perhaps not superior to or more numer- 
ous than the modern institutions, were utilized perhaps by 
a greater percentage of the community. More modern 
agencies of adult education; such as the press, the cinema, 
and the radio, of course are exempted from this comparison. 

As for the pedagogical methods and principles em- 
ployed in the schools, the Jews showed practical judgment 
and wisdom. Modern education benefits greatly from 
the study of psychology that has been recently developed. 
However, methodology apart from content has been over- 
emphasized in some modern progressive schools with not 
too happy results. Jewish education of old can still show 
a wise discretionary course in this matter. 

Regarding the success of the Jewish educational system, 
certain general observations might bear repetition. The 


Jewish school system was completely organized during the 
period of the Second Commonwealth. That practically 
all Jewish boys received a good elementary training is 
evident from many ancient sources of which the following 
saying of Josephus may serve as example: " but for our 
people, if anybody do but ask any one of them about our 
laws, he will more readily tell them all than he will tell 
his own name, and this in consequence of our having 
learned them immediately as soon as ever we became 
sensible of any thing, and of our having them as it were 
engraven on our souls. Our transgressors of them are 
but few, and it is impossible, when any do offend, to 
escape punishment/* e Evidence was given earlier that at 
least one-third of the general male population received 
also a rather thorough secondary education during the 
days of the Tannaim. These figures .compare favorably 
with those of modern education even that of America. 

The author has sympathy but not much understanding 
for a modern writer seemingly possessed at times with a 
desire for being different and ultra-scientific who claims 
that the " generally accepted view that a system of popular 
education, compulsory and * universal/ whatever this latter 
term may be intended to express, was introduced among 
Jews by some authority before the destruction of the 
Second Temple shows a curious lack of historic perspec- 
tive; it is the projection of a modern idea into a time and 
a set of conditions where it could not fit. Compulsory 
education in the modern sense, never existed among the 
Jews, nor, for that matter, amongst any other people in 
ancient times/' 7 

Sufficient evidence has been presented that warrants our 
conclusions on this point; " historic perspective " notwith- 
standing, all our previous views are still sustained. As for 
the statement that compulsory education never existed 
among the Jews, the author believes the exact opposite. 

7 Nathan Morris, The Jewish School, pp. 19-20. 


In fact, education then was compulsory no less than it is 
today in modern society, because to the Jew, it was a 
religious obligation. Parents who neglected to provide 
their children with an education were practically, as was 
pointed out earlier in the study, ostracized from the 
Jewish community. 

On the whole the history of Jewish education of the 
periods of the Second Commonwealth and the Tannaim 
presents a picture of a practical and efficient educational 
system motivated by high ideals, which gradually developed 
into a system designed to meet the needs of the entire 
population as early as two thousand years ago, approxi- 
mately. In final conclusion we quote Philo: " For the 
nature of the self-taught is new and higher than our reason- 
ing, and in very deed Divine. . . . Do you not know that 
Hebrew mothers need no midwives for their delivery, but 
as Moses says, ' before the midwife come unto them, they 
are delivered/ that is before systems, arts, sciences, come 
in, they give birth with the cooperation of nature alone? " 8 
That a people could develop such a satisfactory and com- 
plete educational system at so early a period of history is 
an astonishing phenomenon that indicates their genuine 
social insight and efficiency. 

8 " De Fuga et Inventione," XXX; Exodus, 1, 19. 



A. Old Hebrew Sources 

B. Modern Hebrew Sources 

C. French and German Sources 

D. General Histories and Source Books in 


E. Treatises on Jewish Education in English 


This bibliography includes a list of all the books or treatises 
relating to the subject of Jewish education in the periods of the 
Second Commonwealth and the Tannaim that were consulted in 
the preparation of this volume. In order that this list should be 
complete, even the popular compilations that offer no original 
and scholarly contribution and several treatises like that of Imber, 
purely fantastic and unreliable, were included. 

Under primary sources are listed all the ancient writings that 
have been preserved from the days of the Second Commonwealth 
and the Tannaim. Some books of an earlier period; for example, 
many of the Books of the Bible, are also included under this 
heading, because they were used as texts for instruction during 
the periods investigated in this study. Under secondary sources 
are listed all the books that have originated in later periods but 
bear definite relation to the subject under discussion. 

Though texts were examined in the original for the purpose of 
clarity of English style, accepted translations were consulted and 
often used in quoting; for example, the new translation of the 
Jewish Publication Society of America for the Bible, the Author- 
ized Version for the New Testament, Colson's and Whitaker's 
for the works of Philo, Danby's for the Mishnah, and Lauter- 
bach's for the Mekilta. 


1. Bible (The Old Testament) . 

2. Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha. 

3. Mishnah, Mekilta, Sifra, Sifre, and Tosefta. 

4. Baraitas quoted in the two Talmuds. 

5. Josephus and Philo. 

6. Targumim. 

7. Megillat Taanit, Seder Olam, Midrash Tannaim, Mekilta de-Rabbi 

Shimon, Sifre Zuta, and other small works or fragments recently 

8. The New Testament. 


1. The Babylonian Talmud and the Jerusalem Talmud together with 
their many commentaries. 



2. Midrashim. 

3. Maimonides' " Yad Hahazakah." 

4. "Shulhan Arukh" and its commentaries. 



anno .a^nn nnj IT pom ,IM 3 


.1927 /runm mn 5 ^ ,rinin 7 
^wnn irnn pn^K pn^ ,^5n 8 
*1927 ^SKI^^H Tunn niin n^n f inMWTn 9 
.1927 ,iojnDi in nn *o ^KooaKii 10 
JL904,wini nn nn Bn-Ti pn ,0^11 11 
*nio5nai KIPDI Tunn nn5in ^ ^ ,wi^tD 12 
.1934 ,na5nn rm5ifi a^n 7 ri^i^b 13 
.1935 ,KJin:Difl r\w> .1 .D f rni5nv 14 
.1790 ,DHD?D m:tf n ,miiTD noiK nao ^5 p niin 1 ' 15 
.1932-7, ,5*w nn5in nr ,ny^ 16 
.1924 ,nfcmnm nurrn nnJin \>nv ,PPID 17 
.1921 ,IWKI 1^ ,5i^^ n-'aiDi^an nn5in in ^ID^ 18 
.1929 ,n&>*n IID nii^ ^IPO inn f pnDBw 19 

.d?^n iny 20 

.1914 f wnnji IID nii^u *no5n ^m nn^in nw 21 

.1936 ^iin .D^nani a^pn^n ittfr n^w ,p?^^ 22 

.1930 ,in5naa ^t^n nnn ^IDV ,un5p 23 

.1887 ^wnn n5^? nnowo man .D ,innjo5p 24 



1. Bacher, W. Das Altjiidische Schulwesen, Jahrb. f. Jud. Gesch. u. 

Lit., vol. 6. 

2. Blach-Gudensberg Das Padagogische im Talmud, Halberstadt, 1881, 

3. Delit2sch, Friedrich ^Assyrisches Handworterbuch, Leipzig, J. C. 

Hinrichs, 1896. 

4. Durr, L. ^Die Erziehung im Alten Testament, 1932. 

5. Duschak, M. Schulgesetzgebung und Methodik d. alten Israeliten, 

Wien, 1872. 

6. Fischel, Walter Die Juedische Padagogik in der Tannaitischen 

Literatur, 1928. 


7. Frankfurter, S. F. Die Altjudische Erziehungswesen im Lichte 

modernen Bestrebungen, 1910. 

8. Gudemann, M. Quellenschriften zar Geschichte des Unterrichts 

und der Erziehung bei den deutschen Juden, Berlin, 1891. 

9. Guttmann, J. Die Scholastik des XIII. Jahrhunderts in ihren 

Beziehungen zum Judentum und zur jiidischen Literatur, Breslau, 

10. Herner, S. Erziehung und Unterricht in Israel, Haupt Oriental vol. 

pp. 58-66. 

11. Hirsch, S. R. Aus der Rabbinische Schulleben inbesonders im 

Talmudischem Zeit, 1871. 

12. Kottek, H. Die Hochschulen in Palastina und Babylonia, in Jahrb. 

f. Jud. Gesch. u. Lit. 

13. Krauss, S. Griechische und lateinische Lehnworter in Talmud, 

Midrash, und Targum, 2 vols., 1898. 

14. Krauss, S. Talmudische Archaologie, 3 vols., 1909-12. Band III, 

chapter XII, " Schule." 
L5. Lewit, J. Darstallung der theoretischen und praktischen Padagogik 

im jiidischen Altertume nach dem Talmud, Berlin, 1896. 
L6. Marcus, Samuel Die Padagogik des israelitischen Volkes, 2 vols., 

Vienna, 1877. 
L7. Perlow, T. L'&lucation et 1'enseignement chez les Juifs a l'6poque 

talmudique, 1931. 

L8. Rosenberg, E. Die jiidische Volkschule der Tradition, 1890. 
L9. Schargorodzka, F. Die padagogischen Grundlagen des Pharisaischen 

Judentums des tannaitischen Zeitalters in Palastina, 1913. 
20. Schwarz, Ad. Hochschulen in Palastina und Babylonien, in Jahrb. 

f. Jud. Gesch. u. Lit., 1899. 

11. Simon, Joseph L'education et 1'instruction des enfants chez les 

anciens Juifs d'apres la Bible et le Talmud, Paris, 1879. 

12. Stern, J. Die Talmudische Padagogik, 1915. 

13. Strassburger, Baruch Geschichte der Erziehung und des Unterrichts 

bei den Israeliten, Stuttgart, 1885. 

14. Wiesen, Joseph Geschichte und Methodik des Schulwesens im 

talmudischen Altertume, Strassburg, 1892. 
5. Wiesner, L. Die Jugendlehrer in der talmudischen Zeit, 1914, pp. 

26. Zeller, Eduard Die Philosophic der Griechen, 3rd ed., Leipzig, 

Fues's verlag, 1879. 


1. Cheyne, Thomas K. and Black, J. S. Encyclopedia Biblica, 4 vols., 

New York, The Macmillan Co., 1899. 

2. Cubberley, Ellwood P. The History of Education, Boston, Houghton 

Mifflin Co., 1920. 

3. Durant, Will The Story of Philosophy, Toronto, Doubleday, Doran 

& Gundy, Ltd., 1927. 

4. Ewald, G. H. A. The History of Israel (tr. from the German), 

8 vols., London, Longmans, Green & Co., 1878-86. 

5. Finkelstein, Louis Akiba, Scholar, Saint and Martyr, New York, 

Covici Fried Publishers, 1936. 


6. Finkelstein, Louis The Pharisees, Philadelphia, Jewish Publication 

Society of America, 1938. 

7. Graetz, H. History of the Jews, 6 vols., Philadelphia, Jewish Pub- 

lication Society, 1898, 

8. Hastings Dictionary of the Bible, 5 vols., New York, Charles 

Scribner's Sons, 1903. 

9. Herford, R. Travers The Pharisees, New York, The Macmillan Co., 


10. Hosmer, James K. The Jews, Ancient, Medieval, and Modern, 

New York, G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1911. 

11. Jewish Encyclopedia, 12 vols., New York, Funk and Wagnalls, 1901. 

12. Kent, Charles Foster Biblical Geography and History, New York, 

Charles Scribner's Sons, 1911. 

13. Kent, Charles Foster The Makers and Teachers of Judaism, New 

York, Charles Scribner's Sons, 1911- 

14. Mielziner, M.- Introduction to the Talmud, Cincinnati, Bloch Pub- 

lishing Co., 1894. 

15. Monroe, Paul Source Book of the History of Education for the 

Greek and Roman Period, New York, The Macmillan Co., 1928. 

16. Monroe, Paul Text-Book in the History of Education, New York, 

The Macmillan Co., 1938. 

17. Moore, George Foot Judaism in the first Centuries of the Christian 

Era, The Age of the Tannaim, 3 vols., Cambridge, Harvard Uni- 
versity Press, 1927. 

18. Renan, Ernest History of the People of Israel, 5 vols. (tr. from 

the French), Boston, Little Brown & Co., 1905. 

19. Rodkinson, Michael L. The History of the Talmud, Boston, 1916. 

20. Schechter, S. Studies in Judaism, 3 vols,, Philadelphia, Jewish 

Publication Society, 1896-1924. 

21. Strack, Hermann L. Introduction to the Talmud and Midrash, (tr. 

from the German), Philadelphia, Jewish Publication Society, 1931. 

22. Schiirer, Emil History of the Jewish People, 5 vols., Edinburgh, T. 

& T. Clark, 1908. 

23. Waxman, Meyer A History of Jewish Literature, Vol. 1, 2nd ed., 

New York, Bloch Publishing Co., 1938. 

24. Wellhausen, Julius Sketch of the History of Israel and Judah, 

London, Black, 1891. 

25. Zeitlin, S. Megillat Taanit and Jewish History, Philadelphia, 1922. 


1. Almond, D. Hebrew Religious Education, 1922. 

2. Berger, J. Elementary Education in the Talmud, Montreal, Eagle 

Publishing Co., 1929. 

3. Cornill, Carl Heinrich " Education of Children," Ancient Israel 

Monist, Vol. 13, pp. 1-22. 

4. Cornill, Carl Heinrich The Culture of Ancient Israel, Chicago, 

The Open Court Publishing Co., 1914. 

5. Edersheim, Alfred Sketches of Jewish Social Life, Boston, 1876, 

Chapters VI-VIII. 

6. Ellis, G. Harold'* Origin and Development of Jewish Education/' 

Ped. Seminary, 1902, IX, 50-62. 


7. Feldman, William Moses The Jewish Child; its history, folklore, 

biology, and sociology. London, Bailliere, Tindall & Co., pp. 
275-288, 1917. 

8. Ginzberg, Louis Students, Scholars and Saints, Philadelphia, Jewish 

Publication Society of America, 1928, pp. 1-87. 

9. Gollancz, Hermann Pedagogics of the Talmud and that of Modern 

Times, London, Oxford University Press, 1924. 

10. Graves, Frank P. A History of Education before the Middle Ages, 

New York, The Macmillan Co., 1919, pp. 110-137. 

11. Hertz, J. Jewish Religious Education, London, 1924. 

12. Imber, N. H. " Education and the Talmud," Report of the U. S. 

Commissioner of Education, 1894-95, II, pp. 1795-1820. 

13. Kretzmann, Paul Edward Education Among the Jews from the 

Earliest Times to the end of the Talmudic Period, 500 A.D., 
Boston, R. G. Badger, 1916. 

14. Laurie, Simon S. Historical Survey of Pre-Christian Education, New 

York, Longmans, Green & Co., 1900, pp. 65-100. 

15. Lauterbach, Jacob Z. Names of Rabbinical Schools and Assemblies 

in Babylonia, H.U.C.A. Jubilee Vol., 1925, pp. 211-222. 

16. Maynard, John Albert A Survey of Hebrew Education, Milwaukee, 

Wisconsin, Morehouse Publishing Co., 1924. 

17. Monroe, Paul A Cyclopedia of Education, New York, Macmillan 

Co., 1925, "Jewish Education." 

18. Morris, Nathan The Jewish School from the Earliest Times to the 

Year 500 of the Present Era, London, Eyre and Spottiswoode, 1937. 

19. Pearce, Clarence The Education of Hebrew Youth from the Earliest 

Times to the Maccabean Period. 

20. Rosenberg, Meyer J. The Historical Development of Hebrew Edu- 

cation from Ancient Times to 135 C.E., New York, 1927. 

21. Shapiro, Joseph Education among Early Hebrews with Emphasis 

on Talmudic Period, "Abstracts of Thesis Researches Completed 
and Bibliography of Publications," University of Pittsburgh, 1938. 

22. Spiers, Baer The School System of the Talmud, London, E. Stock, 


23. Swift, Fletcher H. Education in Ancient Israel from Earliest Times 

to 70 C. E., Chicago, Open Court Publishing Co., 1919. 

24. Swift, Fletcher H. Open Court, Vol. 31, pp. 725-740; Vol. 32, pp. 

9-29; Vol. 41, pp. 220-231. 

25. Wilds, Elmer Harrison The Foundations of Modern Education, 

New York, Farrar 8c Rinehart, 1939, pp. 60-77. 


Ab bet dm, 36, 58. 

Abbreviations, 113. 

Abraham, 97. 

Abtalion, 29, 40, 51, 52. 

Adar, 115. 

Administration, 57-77. 

Admission fee, 44, 51, 139, 140, 

Adriatic Sea, 101. 

Adulthood, see Bar Mitzvab. 

Agriculture, 40, 92. 

Aims of education, see Ideals. 

Akiba, Rabbi, 7, 19, 22, 32, 82, 83, 
100, 107, 133. 

Alexander the Great, 5. 

Alexandria, 84, 102, 124. 

Alphabet, 81, 82, 90, 110. 

America, 48, 143, 145, 146. 

Am haarez, 46. 

Amoraim, 93. 

Anatomy, 14, 92, 100. 

Antiquities of the Jews, 84. 

Apocrypha, 86, 129. 

Apprenticeship, 14, 140, 144. 

Aramaic, 1, 5, 36, 60, 75, 84-86, 

Architecture, 92. 

Aristotle, 11, 58, 102, 137, 140- 

Arithmetic, 14, 86, 129. See Mathe- 

Arts and crafts, 5, 14, 21, 22, 40, 
140, 145. 

Asceticism, 24. 

" Assyrian " script, 5, 115. 

Astronomy, 14, 92, 99, 142, 

Athenians, 137. 

Athletic activity, 25, 101, 137, 138. 

Atonement, Day of, 29, 94, 115. 

Avocation, 23. 

Avowal, 98. 

Bade tresin, 70. 
Babylonia, 4, 5, 7, 15, 40, 50. 
Babylonian Exile, see Captivity. 
Baraita, 36, 88, 95. 

Bar Kokba, 7, 16,61,82,83. 

BarMitzvah, 25, 26. 

Bekiin, 50. 

BenAzzai, 130. 

BeneBerak, 50. 

Benedictions, 26. 

Ben Sira, see Jesus-. 

Bet din, 66. See Judges. 

Bet hakeneset, 60. See Synagogue. 

Bet hamidrash, 57, 60, 62, 

Bet HUM, see School of Hillel. 


Bet Skammai, see School of Sham- 


Bet Talmud, 61, 62. 
Bible, 2, 6, 12-14, 16, 17, 19, 20, 

28, 30, 42, 48, 49, 62, 75, 81-86, 

89, 92-94, 99, 109, 113, 116, 125, 

129, 131, 132, 139. 
Biography, 139. 
Books, see Scrolls. 
Botany, 14, 92. 
Boyd, 141. 
Brotherhood, 24. 

Calendar, 14, 86, 92. 

Canaan, 90, 91. 

Captivity, Babylonian, 4, 15, 40. 

Chariot, see Merkabab. 

Chronicles, 81. 

Citizenship, 137, 144. 

Classes, size, 63-64. 

Commerce, 5. See Industries. 

Composition, 86, 

Compulsory education, see Educa- 

Corporal punishment, 71-72. 

Courts, see Sanhedrin; Bet din; 

Crafts, see Arts. 

Creation, 83, 102. 

Cubberley, 1. 

Curriculum, 50, 81-99, 111. 

Cyclopedia of Education, 2. 

Cyrus, 4, 15. 


158 INDEX 

Dancing, 140. 
Daniel, 81. 
Decorum, 45, 71, 109. 
Deuteronomy, 16, 31, 96. 
Dewey, 143. 

Diaspora, 132. See Exile. 
Divine Presence, 31, 76, 77. 
Divorce, 120, 127. 
Dothan, 124. 

Eastern Europe, 119. 

Ecclesiasticus, 126. 

Education, adult, 74-77, 109, 132, 
145; aims of, see Ideals; compul- 
sory, 44, 46, 48, 143, 146-147; 
contemporary, 2, 145, 146; 
liberal, 22; pre-school, 87; secu- 
lar, 3, 14, 99; universal, 46, 48, 
138, 143, 146. 

Egypt, 4, 6, 7, 113. 

Elder, see Zaken. 

Eleazar b. Azariah, Rabbi, 60, 71, 

Elephantine Papyri, 85, 86. 

Eliezer, Rabbi, 130. 

Elisha, 109- 

Ephron, 97. 

Epicurus, 140. 

Esoteric knowledge, 101-102. 

Essenes, 6. 

Esther, 81. 

Ethics, 24-26, 86, 142. 

European Jewish Schools, 99. 

Evolution of the school system, 35- 
53, 141. 

Exile, 7, 46, 50, 70. See Diaspora. 

Exodus, 96, 97. 

Experiments, 99-100. 

Extirpation, 115. 

Ezekiel, 81, 101. 

Ezra, 15, 20, 35, 40, 42, 74, 75, 81, 
93, 132. 

Fees, see Admission fee; Salaries. 
Festivals, see Holidays. 
Finkelstein, 83. 
Five Books of Moses, see Bible; 

Fringes, see Zizit. 

Gamaliel, Rabban, 30, 52, 72. 

Gamaliel, Rabban, the Elder, 58. 
Gemara, 14, 64, 88, 93, 99. 
Genesis, 82, 83, 97, 101, 123. 
Geography, 14, 86, 129. 
Geometry, 14, 142. 
Golden Rule, 24. 
Grammar, 86, 110, 129. 
Greece (Greek), 1, 4-6, 20-22, 29, 

32, 62, 100-102, 123-125, 127, 

128, 137-142. 
Great Assembly, see Men of . 

Haggadah, 95-97. 

Hetggctdah, Passover, 113. 

Hagiographa, 13, 81. 

Halakab, 95-96. 

Halitza, 116, 120. 

Hanina, Rabbi, 47, 48. 

Hasidtm t 6. 

Hazztw, 61. 

Heathen, 31. 

Hebrew, 1, 5, 12, 43, 60, 75, 84- 

86, 109. 

Hebrew script, 5. 
Hellenism, 5, 6, 16, 100, 124, 141, 


Hermeneutical rules, 94. 
High Priest, 6, 29, 30, 38, 46, 59, 

71, 75. 
Hillel, 18, 24, 29, 35, 36, 40, 44, 

50, 51, 72, 73, 88, 94, 107, 112, 


Hinuk, 12. 

History, subject, 14, 86, 129, 139. 
Hiyya, Rabbi, 47, 48. 
Holidays, 57, 62, 63, 74, 76, 87, 

115, 132. 

Holy of Holies, 29. 
Holy Scriptures, see Bible. 
Hospitality, 26, 128. 
Hygiene, 14, 25, 87. 

Ideals of Education, combined with 
occupation, 20-22; nationalistic, 
15-16; religious, 17-18; universal, 

Imperial Government, 7, 31. See 

Individual differences, 105-107. 

Industries, 5, 40, 128, 144, 145. 
See Arts. 



Intelligence, 106, 131. 
Isaiah, 39, 138. 
Ishmael, Rabbi, 100. 

Jabneh, 50, 52, 59, 60, 63, 65, 77, 


Jamnia, see Jabneh. 
Jeremiah, 85. 
Jerusalem, 5, 6, 25, 37-40, 43-45, 

49, 50, 57, 59, 61, 66, 67, 71, 

75, 87, 120. 

Jesus ben Sira, 20, 21, 126. 
Jethro, 97. 
Johanan ben Zakkai, 16, 50, 52, 72, 

73, 88, 102, 107. 
Jonadab, 97. 
Jonathan b. Uzziel, 72. 
Jordan, 90, 91. 

Jose ben Joezer of Zeredah, 28, 36. 
Jose ben Johanan, 36. 
Josephus, 11, 12, 67, 71, 84, 100- 

102, 124, 125, 144, 146. 
Joshua, 97. 
Joshua ben Gamala, 16, 37, 38, 46- 

48, 60, 63, 65, 70. 
Joshua ben Perahyah, 28. 
Jubilee Year, 5. 
Judah b. Ilai, Rabbi, 74, 100, 107, 

113, 127. 

Judah, Land of, see Palestine. 
Judah, Rabbi, the Patriarch, 2, 62, 

72, 88, 89, 91, 92, 94. 
Judah ben Tema, 14. 
Judges, 42, 66, 67, 120, 144. See 


Kingship, 30, 116. 
Kohanim, 20. See Priests. 

Lachish, 85, 86. 

Languages, foreign, 100. 

Law, see Torah. 

Law, Oral, 88, 89, 95, 130. 

Law, Written, 6, 13. See Bible. 

Leisure, 23, 144. 

Levirate marriage, 116, 120. 

Levites, 42, 51, 57, 59. 

Leviticus, 82, 83. 

Liberal education, see Education. 

Liturgy, 75, 86, 87. 

Lydda, 50. 

Maccabean period, 6, 16, 43. 

Maimonides, 102. 

Malachi, 124. 

Manual labor, 20-22, 140. 

Marriage, 122, 127. 

Mathematics, 92. See Arithmetic; 

Matzo, 97. 
Measurements, 15. 
Medicine, 14, 92. 
Megttlat Taamt, 91. 
Meir, Rabbi, 18, 21, 31, 102, 130. 
Mtkilta, 91, 95, 97. 
Memorization, 84, 87, 89, 92, 106, 

108, 111, 112, 115, 141. 
Men of the Great Assembly, 6, 16, 

35, 37-41, 43, 49, 50, 58, 141. 
Merkabah, 101. 
Methods of teaching, 109-116, 141, 


Mezuzak, 26, 115. 
Midian, 97. 

Mtdrash, 87, 93-95, 98, 99. 
Mikra, 14, 61, 81, 86-88, 110, 129. 
Military, 101, 137, 138. 
Minor Prophets, 81. 
Mishnah, 2, 3, 14, 16, 26, 36, 39, 

48, 60, 61, 64, 69, 87-89, 91-95, 

99, 101, 102, 106, 110, 113-116, 

129, 130. 

Mnemonics, 112-113. 
Moed, 26, 112. 
Monotheism, 23, 24, 87. 
Monroe, 1, 139. 
Moralization, 86. 
Morris, Nathan, 47, 48, 82, 110. 
Moses, 6, 11-13, 19, 24, 35, 48, 71, 

97, 114, 120, 124, 144, 147. 
Mourning, 30, 31, 98. 
Music, 137, 140. 

Nasi, 7, 36, 58, 72. 
Nationhood, 2, 15, 16. 
Nebuchadnezzar, 4. 
Nehemiah, 15, 35, 40, 74, 81. 
New Testament, 49, 61, 102. 
New Year, 90. 
Nine Muses, 140. 
Numbers, 97. 

Offerings, 14, 115. 



Old Testament, 1. See Bible. 
Orator, 138. 
Orphans, 43, 45, 47. 

Rabbi, see Judah, Rabbi, the Patri- 

Rabbi, title, 22, 36, 71. 

Readings of Torah, 75, 132. 
Palestine, 4-7, 15, 40, 42-44, 50, Reading, subject, 86, 110-111, 129. 

See Mikra. 

Registration, 68-69. 

60, 85, 124, 132. 
Parables, 102. 
Parental instruction, 40, 43, 45, 69, Review, 65. 

81, 83, 87, 129-131. 
Passover, 62, 76, 87, 97, 113. 
Patriarch, title, 7, 59, 65. 
Penitence, 25. 
Pentateuch, 12, 17, 26, 36, 48, 75, 
81-83, 85, 89, 92, 94-96, 99, 109, Sabbath, 14, 26, 57, 63, 74-76, 89, 

90, 115, 116, 132. 
Sabbatical year, 14. 
Sacred Writings, see Bible. 

Rome (Roman), 1, 4, 6, 7, 16, 29, 
32, 50, 59, 61, 70, 125, 128, 

Rosh Chodesh, 75. 

110, 113, 132. 
Pentecost, 87. 
Peripatetic school, 58. 
Persia, 4, 5, 15. 
Pharisees, 6, 49. 

Sacrifices, 25, 82. 
Sadducees, 6. 

Philo, 13, 64, 75, 84, 96, 101, 102, Sage, title, 22. See Zaken. 

124, 147. 
Philology, 113. 
Philosophy, 102. 
Philosophy of Education, 11-32. 
Phylacteries, see Tefllin. 
Physiology, 14, 92. 
Plato, 11, 96, 127, 137, 140. 
Polygamy, 120, 122. 
Prayers, 5,25-27,86, 129. 

Salaries, 65, 67, 73. 
Salome, Queen, 44. 
Sanhedrin, 6, 7, 36, 42, 44, 57-59, 

65-67, 71, 73, 85. See Bet din. 
Sarah, 97. 
School of Hillel, 20, 42, 52, 53, 

See Hillel. 
School of Shammai, 19, 42. See 


Precepts of the Torah, 23, 120, Scriptures, see Bible. 

121, 127. 

Scrolls, 20, 75, 85. 

Pre-school education, see Education. Secular education, see Education. 

President, see Nast. 
Priesthood, 116. 

Seder Olam, 92. 
Seleucids, 6. 

Priests, 16, 18, 20, 21, 39, 40, 42, Sepphoris, 50. 

51, 57, 59, 83, 85, 101. Septuagint, 84. 

Prophecy, 41. Sermons, 76, 102, 132. 

Prophets, 12, 18, 24, 40, 75, 81, Shammai, 35, 36, 44, 50-52, 114. 

85, 132. 
Proverbs, 12, 71, 72, 132. 
Psalms, 27, 31, 125. 
Pseudepigrapha, 86. 

Psychological principles of Educa- Shofar,9Q. 

ShekaUm, 65. 

Shema, 87. 

Shemaiah, 21, 29, 40, 51, 52. 

Shewbread, 113. 

tion, 105-109. 
Ptolemies, 5. 
Punishment, see Corporal-. 

Quintilian, 141. 
Quorum, 26, 120. 

Rabban, title, 7, 36. 

Siffa, 91, 95. 

Stfre, 91, 95. 

Siknin, 50. 

Simon b. Halafta, Rabbi, 99, 100. 

Simon ben Shetah, 16, 37, 38, 44, 

60, 65. 

Simon ben Yohai, Rabbi, 21. 
Simon, son of Rabbi Judah, 72. 



Simon the Just, 27, 28. 

Sinai, 36, 58, 83, 120. 

Singing, 101, 112. 

Slaves, 30, 120, 121, 142. 

Smicha, 71. 

Socrates, 128, 138. 

Sojerim, 35, 38, 42, 47, 57, 62, 81, 

85, 109. 
Solomon, 17. 
Sons of Bethyrah, 73. 
Sparta, 137. 

Sports, 25. See Athletic activity. 
Summarization, 89, 114-115. 
Supervisors, 66-67. 
Supreme Court, see Sanhedrin. 
Surgery, 99. 
Swimming, 22, 101. 
Synagogue, 5, 26, 27, 60, 61, 64, 

69, 76, 86, 120, 132. 
Syria, 6. 

Tabernacles, 87, 92. 

Tabi, 30. 

Tacitus, 67. 

Taltit, 26. 

Talmud, 14, 24, 29, 35, 37-39, 46, 

53, 62-64, 66-69, 88, 93, 95, 99, 

100, 130, 133. 
Talmud, higher education, 87, 88, 

93, 98, 110, 130. 
Talmud, Jerusalem, 44, 61, 93. 
Talmud Torab, 12. 
Tanna, 36, 89- 
Tarfon, Rabbi, 74. 
Targumim, 84. 
Taxes, 64-66. 
Tefllin, 26, 115. 
Tell ed-Duweir, 85. 

Temple mount, 57, 87. 

Tinokot, 39. 

Tinokot sbel bet rabban, 45. 

Tithes, 14. 

Titus, 7, 59, 83. 

Tools, 15. 

Torab, defined, 11-12. 

Torab lisbmah f 22. 

Tosefta, 95. 

Trades, 14, 21. See Industries. 

Translation, 84, 110, 132. 

"Tree of Life," 31. 

Tropaic, 29. 

Twelve Tables, 139. 

Two loaves, 113. 

Universal education, see Education. 
Usha, 50, 69. 

Vespasian, 50. 

Vice-President, see Ab bet din. 
Vineyards, 59-60. 
Vocational training, 14, 144. 

Weights, 15. 

Wellcome Expedition, 85. 

Women, education, 128-133; status, 

Writing, 84-86, 101, 111. 

Youth, 28, 64, 83. 

Zaken, 22, 71. 

Zeno, 140. 

Zion, 37, 39. 

Zizit, 26. 

Zoology, 14, 92. 

Zugot, 35, 36, 38, 42, 47.