Johanan ben Zakkai

Born some years before Jesus, Johanan ben Zakkai was the great rabbi at the Council of Jamnia about AD 90, surviving by over a decade the fall of Jerusalem. He was notable in the leadership of the peace party. Never did he waver even for a moment in his opposition to the rebellion, which he felt was to bring destruction on the people, the sanctuary and the land. Fearful lest the carnage should destroy all teachers and transmitters of the oral tradition, Johanan ben Zakkai escaped from the city, and set up an academy in a vineyard at Yabne, or Jamnia, near the Mediterranean coast. He had left Jerusalem before the final catastrophe and the story is that he simulated death and had himself carried out of Jerusalem during the seige and carried out in a coffin. Seeing the destruction of Jerusalem imminent, the rabbi prophesied to Vespasian and asked the Roman General the gift of Jabneh, where he might assemble the scholars of the nation and asked build the academy there.

He organized a new Sanhedrin at Jamnia, composed not of priests, politicians and rich men, but of Pharisees and rabbis i.e. teachers of the Law. At the Council of Jamnia, about AD 90, Johanan ben Zakkai was notable in the leadership of the peace party. It was the liberal tradition of Oral Law that Rabbi ben Zakkai wanted to safeguard, especially that of Hillel's. This is why the academy at Jabneh was so important after Jerusalem's destruction. In the world around them the Jews were scattered and being lost to other nations. How does one go about preventing the disappearance of a people which has lost its country, defragmentized into thousands of segments, and which has been strewn over. The Pharisees alone, the men of the center, had a program ready made for a constructive policy of spiritual recuperation, and to that task they resolutely applied themselves. Their leader was Hohanan son of Zaccai, a pupil of Hillel. The present day Jewish religion may be said to have descended from what Johan did to preserve the faith of Abraham.
[343, 315, 15, 327, 376]

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