History of the Talmud VIII:

20. Jewish Autonomy throughout history:

The Jewish legal system.

The Tannaim: Tana, a word of Aramaic origin, is the title given to the
lawyers, judges, and legal scholars of the Jewish community who laid the foundations of the Torah Shè-Be-Al Pè, the so-called “Oral Law.” Shimon Ha-Tzaddik, Simon the Just was one of the last of the “Men of the Great Assembly.” He lived sometime in the 3rd century before the Common Era. The last of the Tannaim was of the generation of Rabbi Yehudah Ha-Nasi, the editor of the final edition of the Mishnah, and his date is approximately 200 C.E.

21. Growth of the Mishnah – the Sanhedrin
What is the Mishnah? The Mishnah is the first important codification of Jewish Law. In a sense one could say that the Mishnah is the basic Constitution of the Jewish Nation, the basis of the Jewish Legal System.

22. Hillel and Shammai. Hillel and Shammai were the last of the great Zugot, the “Pairs” who led the Jewish People after the period of the Great Assembly. They are of prime importance in the development of the Jewish Legal system, because they led two major schools of legal philosophy. Their period of activity was around the beginning of the Common Era.

23. Hillel and Shammai: Their many debates on law are recorded in the Talmud. The so-called “Schools” of Hillel and Shammai represent two approaches to the problem of law. Briefly, they can be characterized as follows. Shammai can be described as the one who was –to use an American term– a “Strict Constructionist.” That is to say, he felt the letter of the law must be adhered to as closely a possible.

Hillel, in contrast to his opponent, felt that in dealing with a legal problem, one must take into account the element of “intention.” Thus were two philosophies of law developed, and their reasoning is at the basis of their many disagreements. In most cases Hillel’s arguments won, because the majority of the judges on the Supreme Sanhedrin were in agreement with his views and the rule of decision-making was, “The majority decides.”

Decisions according to Beit Shammai.

There are, however, six famous cases in which Shammai’s side swayed a majority and the law was decided according to his view.

24. The decisions of the Sanhedrin, which sat in the Hall of Polished Stones in the complex of buildings of the Temple in Jerusalem, were binding on all Jewish communities throughout the world, from the communities of South Asia to the northwestern limits of the Roman Empire.

25. We need not go into the many reasons which led the Jewish People to rebel against the Roman Empire, but the preparations for that fatal conflict led to one of the first changes in the.status of the Sanhedrin.

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