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THE HOLY ASSEMBLY OF JERUSALEM / קהלא קדישא דבירושלם

שמואל ספראי and S. Safrai
Zion / ציון
Vol. כב‎, חוברת ד‎ (תשי"ז / 1957), pp. 183-193
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/23549015
Page Count: 11
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THE HOLY ASSEMBLY OF JERUSALEM / קהלא קדישא דבירושלם
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Abstract

Several traditions concerning the Holy Assembly (Kehilla Kadisha) of Jerusalem are recorded in both the halakhik and aggadic sections of the Babylonian Talmud. These traditions are given in the name of sages who lived at the end of the 2nd century. Although by edict the Jews were prohibited from living in Jerusalem following the Bar Kochba revolt, it is quite possible that the prohibition was relaxed somewhat during the rule of the Severi or was not strictly enforced and thus a small group of sages could have lived in Jerusalem. The Gaonic tradition as well as what stems from a corrected passage in the Babylonian Talmud indicate that the Holy Assembly of Jerusalem is identical with the Holy Community (Edah Kedoshah) mentioned in Palestinian sources (Jerusalem Talmud and Koheleth Rabbah). Two leaders or members of this community were Rabbi Simeon ben Menassya and Rabbi Jose ben Hameshulam. Both were pupils of Rabbi Meir. The traditions recorded in the name of the Holy Assembly of Jerusalem have a close affinity with the teaching of Rabbi Meir or with what was handed down in the name of his pupils. According to Koheleth Rabbah the name Edah Kedoshah was given them because they would divide their day into three parts: one for the study of Torah, one for prayer and one for work (or alternately, they would work in the summer and spend the winter in the study of Torah). This practice finds emphasis in the teachings of R. Meir and his disciples. The appelation "holy" tells us that they are their food in a state of purity, keeping all the strict regulations of the Pharisaic community. The importance of eating even profane food under conditions of purity has an important place in the teachings of R. Meir, and both he and his disciples are strict in their demands for membership in the Pharisaic community. It may be conjectured that a group of R. Meir's disciples joined together and chose Jerusalem as their center, because of its holiness, in order to be able to better observe their own standards of purity. It could be thus that they came to be called by the name of the city. From what is recorded about the group, it can be learned that they did agricultural work on a community basis. The various sages of this generation who carry the application of the city of Jerusalem and who were at the same time disciples of R. Meir should be considered as members of the Holy Assembly of Jerusalem. As a member of the group should be considered Rabbi Samuel of Frygia whose name appears on a grave inscription in Jerusalem belonging to this period. A sage going by this name taught in the name of R. Meir, according to tradition. This group has certain characteristics in common with other communal groups of the Second Temple period, such as the Dead Sea Sect and the Essenes, except that this group did not divorce itself from the general Jewish community but joined in the development and establishment of the Halakha, as well as in the editing of the Mishna completed in their generation.

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