Love of the Land

For the week ending 21 May 2011 / 16 Iyyar 5771

Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakkai - Savior of the Sanhedrin

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
Library Library Library

When this great Talmudic Sage managed to maneuver his way through the Zealot barriers and arrange a meeting with the Roman conqueror of Eretz Yisrael he was blessed with success in his mission. The general, who had been hailed by the Sage as emperor upon his arrival, saw the quick fulfillment of that prophecy when a messenger from Rome appeared to inform him that the emperor had died and that he had been elected as his successor.

In gratitude he agreed to grant the Sage whatever he wished before leaving to ascend the throne. Fearful of asking him to spare the Beit Hamikdash because an extreme request would result in a rejection of any other pleas, Rabbi Yochanan limited himself to three more moderate requests. "Spare me Yavneh and its Sages" was the most important of the three, and referred to the Sanhedrin whose court at that time was in the city of Yavneh. The granting of this request enabled the Jewish community to maintain its center of learning and spiritual leadership even in the dark period of destruction and exile.

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