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HISTORY OF JEWISH EDUCATION
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,
HISTORY OF JEWISH E
FROM 515 B.C.E. TO 220 CEI V;
(During the Periods .of the Second Commonwealth
and the Tannaim)
THE JOHNS HOPKINS PRESS
COPYRIGHT 1940, THE JOHNS HOPKINS PRESS
SECOND PRINTING, 1941
PRINTED IN TEE UNITED STATUS 0? AMERICA
BT <T. E. FURBT COMPANY, BALTIMORE, MARYLAND
IN AFFECTION AND IN GRATITUDE
TO MY DEAR PARENTS
AARON AND MALKA DRAZIN
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
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
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
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.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
L INTRODUCTION 1
1. The Study and its Purpose 1
2. Historical Setting of the Period .... 4
II. PHILOSOPHY OF EDUCATION 11
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
III. EVOLUTION OF THE SCHOOL SYSTEM .... 35
1. The Educational Setting of the Time ... 35
2. The Development of the School System . . 37
3. The Growth of the Colleges 49
IV. ADMINISTRATION 57
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
6. Adult Education. . . 74
V. CONTENT OF EDUCATION 81
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
VI. PEDAGOGICAL METHODS AND PRINCIPLES ... 105
1. Psychological Principles of Education . . . 105
2. Methods of Teaching 109
VII. EDUCATION OF GIRLS AND WOMEN 117
1. The Position of Women 119
2. The Education of Girls 128
3. The Education of Women 132
VIIL CONCLUSION 137
1. Jewish Education Compared with Greek and
Roman Education 137
2. Jewish Education and Modern Education . . 143
SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHY 151
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
E. Treatises on Jewish Education in English 154
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-
2 HISTORY OF JEWISH EDUCATION
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-
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
4 HISTORY OF JEWISH EDUCATION
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,
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.
6 HISTORY OF JEWISH EDUCATION
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
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.
PHILOSOPHY OF EDUCATION
The Essential Character of Jewish Education
Educational Ideals and Goals
The Good Life
The Importance of Jewish Education
PHILOSOPHY OF 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.
12 HISTORY OF JEWISH EDUCATION
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.
PHILOSOPHY OF EDUCATION 13
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.
14 HISTORY OF JEWISH EDUCATION
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."
PHILOSOPHY OF EDUCATION 15
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.
16 HISTORY OF JEWISH EDUCATION
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
PHILOSOPHY OF EDUCATION 17
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
" Aboth, 1, 17 and Kiddushin, 40b.
1B Aboth, 3, 17.
18 Deuteronomy, 11, 19; Kiddushin, 29a and b.
18 HISTORY OF JEWISH EDUCATION
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.
PHILOSOPHY OF EDUCATION 19
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
20 HISTORY OF JEWISH EDUCATION
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.
PHILOSOPHY OF EDUCATION 21
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.
22 HISTORY OF JEWISH EDUCATION
" 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
/DI JPT HTIKP
PHILOSOPHY OF EDUCATION 23
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.
24 HISTORY OF JEWISH EDUCATION
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.
PHILOSOPHY OP EDUCATION 25
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,
26 HISTORY OF JEWISH EDUCATION
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,
PHILOSOPHY OF EDUCATION 27
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.
28 HISTORY OF JEWISH EDUCATION
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,
PHILOSOPHY OF EDUCATION 2.9
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
62 Josephus, Against Apion, Book II., Sec. 22.
M Yoma, 35b.
30 HISTORY OF JEWISH EDUCATION
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
96 Sukkah, 2, 1. 8T Horayoth, 13a.
Daniel, 12, 3 ; Baba Batra, 8b. M Ketuboth, 5, 6.
PHILOSOPHY OF EDUCATION 31
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.
32 HISTORY OF JEWISH EDUCATION
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.
EVOLUTION OF THE SCHOOL SYSTEM
The Educational Setting of the Time
The Development of the School System
The Growth of the Colleges
EVOLUTION OF THE SCHOOL SYSTEM
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.
36 HISTORY OF JEWISH EDUCATION
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
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
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
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.
EVOLUTION OF THE SCHOOL SYSTEM 37
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
38 HISTORY OF JEWISH EDUCATION
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
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
pa T"B pa
pa ^ pa
EVOLUTION OF THE SCHOOL SYSTEM 39
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
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.
40 HISTORY OF JEWISH EDUCATION
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,
EVOLUTION OF THE SCHOOL SYSTEM 4l
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.
42 HISTORY OF JEWISH EDUCATION
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.
EVOLUTION OF THE SCHOOL SYSTEM 43
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
44 HISTORY OF JEWISH EDUCATION
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
EVOLUTION OF THE SCHOOL SYSTEM 45
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
46 HISTORY OF JEWISH EDUCATION
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
EVOLUTION OF THE SCHOOL SYSTEM 47
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.
48 HISTORY OF JEWISH EDUCATION
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.
EVOLUTION OF THE SCHOOL SYSTEM 49
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
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
50 HISTORY OF JEWISH EDUCATION
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.
EVOLUTION OF THE SCHOOL SYSTEM 51
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."
52 HISTORY OF JEWISH EDUCATION
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
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.
EVOLUTION OF THE SCHOOL SYSTEM 53
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
**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
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"!
58 HISTORY OF JEWISH EDUCATION
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
60 HISTORY OF JEWISH EDUCATION
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
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.
62 HISTORY OF JEWISH EDUCATION
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
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
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
*Baba Batra, 2 la, and Tosafot.
64 HISTORY OF JEWISH EDUCATION
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.
66 HISTORY OF JEWISH EDUCATION
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.
68 HISTORY OF JEWISH EDUCATION
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
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.
70 HISTORY OF JEWISH EDUCATION
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
72 HISTORY OF JEWISH EDUCATION
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.
74 HISTORY OF JEWISH EDUCATION
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.
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
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.
76 HISTORY OF JEWISH EDUCATION
mild rivalry in the composition of finer and more devo-
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.
CONTENT OF EDUCATION
The Content o Elementary Education
The Content of Secondary Education
The Content of Higher Education
Educational Activities outside the School System
CONTENT OF EDUCATION
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.
82 HISTORY OF JEWISH EDUCATION
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.
CONTENT OF EDUCATION 83
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.
84 HISTORY OF JEWISH EDUCATION
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.
CONTENT OF EDUCATION 85
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.
86 HISTORY OF JEWISH EDUCATION
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-
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)
CONTENT OF EDUCATION 87
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.
88 HISTORY OF JEWISH EDUCATION
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
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-
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.
CONTENT OF EDUCATION 89
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.
90 HISTORY OF JEWISH EDUCATION
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.
CONTENT OF EDUCATION 91
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.
92 HISTORY OF JEWISH EDUCATION
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-
mD P DDK ini rWD. See also Sefer Hakritut, IV.
**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.
CONTENT OF EDUCATION 93
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.
94 HISTORY OF JEWISH EDUCATION
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.
CONTENT OF EDUCATION 95
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.
96 HISTORY OF JEWISH EDUCATION
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
81 Mekilta on Exodus, 13, 6.
CONTENT OF EDUCATION 97
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
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.
98 HISTORY OF JEWISH EDUCATION
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
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.
CONTENT OF EDUCATION 99
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.
100 HISTORY OF JEWISH EDUCATION
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.
CONTENT OF EDUCATION 101
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.
102 HISTORY OF JEWISH EDUCATION
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.
PEDAGOGICAL METHODS AND
Psychological Principles of Education
Methods of Teaching
PEDAGOGICAL METHODS AND PRINCIPLES
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
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.
106 HISTORY OF JEWISH EDUCATION
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
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
PEDAGOGICAL METHODS AND PRINCIPLES 107
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.
108 HISTORY OF JEWISH EDUCATION
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,
PEDAGOGICAL METHODS AND PRINCIPLES 109
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.
110 HISTORY OF JEWISH EDUCATION
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.
PEDAGOGICAL METHODS AND PRINCIPLES 111
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
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
112 HISTORY OF JEWISH EDUCATION
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.
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) .
PEDAGOGICAL METHODS AND PRINCIPLES 113
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.
114 HISTORY OF JEWISH EDUCATION
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.
PEDAGOGICAL METHODS AND PRINCIPLES 115
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.
116 HISTORY OF JEWISH EDUCATION
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.
EDUCATION OF GIRLS AND WOMEN
The Position of Women
The Education of Gkls
The Education of Women
EDUCATION OF GIRLS AND 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
120 HISTORY OF JEWISH EDUCATION
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
EDUCATION OF GIRLS AND WOMEN 121
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
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.
122 HISTORY OP JEWISH EDUCATION
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
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.
EDUCATION OF GIRLS AND WOMEN 123
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
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.
124 HISTORY OF JEWISH EDUCATION
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.
EDUCATION OF GIRLS AND WOMEN 125
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.
126 HISTORY OF JEWISH EDUCATION
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.
EDUCATION OF GIRLS AND WOMEN 127
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.
128 HISTORY OF JEWISH EDUCATION
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.
EDUCATION OF GIRLS AND WOMEN 129
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
a *Pesahim, 49a.
130 HISTORY OF JEWISH EDUCATION
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
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.
EDUCATION OF GIRLS AND WOMEN 131
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
132 HISTORY OF JEWISH EDUCATION
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.
EDUCATION OF GIRLS AND WOMEN 133
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
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.
138 HISTORY OF JEWISH EDUCATION
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.
140 HISTORY OF JEWISH EDUCATION
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.
142 HISTORY OF JEWISH EDUCATION
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
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-
144 HISTORY OF JEWISH EDUCATION
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
146 HISTORY OF JEWISH EDUCATION
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
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.
I. PRIMARY SOURCES
II. SECONDARY SOURCES
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.
I, PRIMARY SOURCES
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.
7. Megillat Taanit, Seder Olam, Midrash Tannaim, Mekilta de-Rabbi
Shimon, Sifre Zuta, and other small works or fragments recently
8. The New Testament.
II. SECONDARY SOURCES
A. OLD HEBREW SOURCES
1. The Babylonian Talmud and the Jerusalem Talmud together with
their many commentaries.
152 HISTORY OF JEWISH EDUCATION
3. Maimonides' " Yad Hahazakah."
4. "Shulhan Arukh" and its commentaries.
B. MODERN HEBREW SOURCES
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
C. FRENCH AND GERMAN SOURCES
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.
4. Durr, L. ^Die Erziehung im Alten Testament, 1932.
5. Duschak, M. Schulgesetzgebung und Methodik d. alten Israeliten,
6. Fischel, Walter Die Juedische Padagogik in der Tannaitischen
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.
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.,
L7. Perlow, T. L'&lucation et 1'enseignement chez les Juifs a l'6poque
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.
D. GENERAL HISTORIES AND SOURCE BOOKS IN ENGLISH
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.
154 HISTORY OP JEWISH EDUCATION
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.
E. TREATISES ON JEWISH EDUCATION IN ENGLISH
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,
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.
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.
Abtalion, 29, 40, 51, 52.
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.
Anatomy, 14, 92, 100.
Antiquities of the Jews, 84.
Apocrypha, 86, 129.
Apprenticeship, 14, 140, 144.
Aramaic, 1, 5, 36, 60, 75, 84-86,
Aristotle, 11, 58, 102, 137, 140-
Arithmetic, 14, 86, 129. See Mathe-
Arts and crafts, 5, 14, 21, 22, 40,
" Assyrian " script, 5, 115.
Astronomy, 14, 92, 99, 142,
Athletic activity, 25, 101, 137, 138.
Atonement, Day of, 29, 94, 115.
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.
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.
Books, see Scrolls.
Botany, 14, 92.
Calendar, 14, 86, 92.
Canaan, 90, 91.
Captivity, Babylonian, 4, 15, 40.
Chariot, see Merkabab.
Citizenship, 137, 144.
Classes, size, 63-64.
Commerce, 5. See Industries.
Compulsory education, see Educa-
Corporal punishment, 71-72.
Courts, see Sanhedrin; Bet din;
Crafts, see Arts.
Creation, 83, 102.
Curriculum, 50, 81-99, 111.
Cyclopedia of Education, 2.
Cyrus, 4, 15.
Decorum, 45, 71, 109.
Deuteronomy, 16, 31, 96.
Diaspora, 132. See Exile.
Divine Presence, 31, 76, 77.
Divorce, 120, 127.
Eastern Europe, 119.
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.
Esoteric knowledge, 101-102.
Ethics, 24-26, 86, 142.
European Jewish Schools, 99.
Evolution of the school system, 35-
Exile, 7, 46, 50, 70. See Diaspora.
Exodus, 96, 97.
Ezekiel, 81, 101.
Ezra, 15, 20, 35, 40, 42, 74, 75, 81,
Fees, see Admission fee; Salaries.
Festivals, see Holidays.
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,
Great Assembly, see Men of .
Hetggctdah, Passover, 113.
Hagiographa, 13, 81.
Halitza, 116, 120.
Hanina, Rabbi, 47, 48.
Hasidtm t 6.
Hebrew, 1, 5, 12, 43, 60, 75, 84-
Hebrew script, 5.
Hellenism, 5, 6, 16, 100, 124, 141,
Hermeneutical rules, 94.
High Priest, 6, 29, 30, 38, 46, 59,
Hillel, 18, 24, 29, 35, 36, 40, 44,
50, 51, 72, 73, 88, 94, 107, 112,
History, subject, 14, 86, 129, 139.
Hiyya, Rabbi, 47, 48.
Holidays, 57, 62, 63, 74, 76, 87,
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.
Intelligence, 106, 131.
Isaiah, 39, 138.
Ishmael, Rabbi, 100.
Jabneh, 50, 52, 59, 60, 63, 65, 77,
Jamnia, see Jabneh.
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.
Johanan ben Zakkai, 16, 50, 52, 72,
73, 88, 102, 107.
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 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,
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.
Maccabean period, 6, 16, 43.
Manual labor, 20-22, 140.
Marriage, 122, 127.
Mathematics, 92. See Arithmetic;
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.
Methods of teaching, 109-116, 141,
Mezuzak, 26, 115.
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,
Moed, 26, 112.
Monotheism, 23, 24, 87.
Monroe, 1, 139.
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.
Nehemiah, 15, 35, 40, 74, 81.
New Testament, 49, 61, 102.
New Year, 90.
Nine Muses, 140.
Offerings, 14, 115.
Old Testament, 1. See Bible.
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.
60, 85, 124, 132.
Parental instruction, 40, 43, 45, 69, Review, 65.
81, 83, 87, 129-131.
Passover, 62, 76, 87, 97, 113.
Patriarch, title, 7, 59, 65.
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.
Peripatetic school, 58.
Persia, 4, 5, 15.
Pharisees, 6, 49.
Sacrifices, 25, 82.
Philo, 13, 64, 75, 84, 96, 101, 102, Sage, title, 22. See Zaken.
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.
School of Hillel, 20, 42, 52, 53,
School of Shammai, 19, 42. See
Precepts of the Torah, 23, 120, Scriptures, see Bible.
Scrolls, 20, 75, 85.
Pre-school education, see Education. Secular education, see Education.
President, see Nast.
Seder Olam, 92.
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.
Proverbs, 12, 71, 72, 132.
Psalms, 27, 31, 125.
Psychological principles of Educa- Shofar,9Q.
Shemaiah, 21, 29, 40, 51, 52.
Punishment, see Corporal-.
Quorum, 26, 120.
Rabban, title, 7, 36.
Siffa, 91, 95.
Stfre, 91, 95.
Simon b. Halafta, Rabbi, 99, 100.
Simon ben Shetah, 16, 37, 38, 44,
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.
Socrates, 128, 138.
Sojerim, 35, 38, 42, 47, 57, 62, 81,
Sons of Bethyrah, 73.
Sports, 25. See Athletic activity.
Summarization, 89, 114-115.
Supreme Court, see Sanhedrin.
Swimming, 22, 101.
Synagogue, 5, 26, 27, 60, 61, 64,
69, 76, 86, 120, 132.
Tabernacles, 87, 92.
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.
Tefllin, 26, 115.
Tell ed-Duweir, 85.
Temple mount, 57, 87.
Tinokot sbel bet rabban, 45.
Titus, 7, 59, 83.
Torab, defined, 11-12.
Torab lisbmah f 22.
Trades, 14, 21. See Industries.
Translation, 84, 110, 132.
"Tree of Life," 31.
Twelve Tables, 139.
Two loaves, 113.
Universal education, see Education.
Usha, 50, 69.
Vice-President, see Ab bet din.
Vocational training, 14, 144.
Wellcome Expedition, 85.
Women, education, 128-133; status,
Writing, 84-86, 101, 111.
Youth, 28, 64, 83.
Zaken, 22, 71.
Zion, 37, 39.
Zoology, 14, 92.
Zugot, 35, 36, 38, 42, 47.