Monday, August 20, 2007

Yehoshua Ben Gamla II

Following requests from commenters, I am presenting a few other relevant views on the subject of Yehoshua Ben Gamla.

Tosafos (Bava Basra 21a sv. zekhor) say that the Yehoshua Ben Gamla who instituted the educational reform is the same one whose wife bought him the position of high priest. While he was completely righteous, there were other candidates for the position who were more important and therefore his wife had to buy him the job.

The Chasam Sofer (Responsa 5:21) writes that Yehoshua Ben Gamla was not listed in Yoma (9a) among the righteous high priests because he acquired his position as high priest from King Yannai. This partnership with a wicked man was sufficient to remove him from the list of the righteous and be considered wicked himself.

The Sheyarei Korban (Yerushalmi Kesuvos 8:11) writes that both Shimon Ben Shetach and Yehoshua Ben Gamla instituted the educational reform together.

The Avodas Ha-Melekh (Hilkhos Talmud Torah 1:7) suggests that there were two distinct decrees. Yehoshua Ben Gamla instituted that there be teachers in every locality so that children could have the option to go to school. Shimon Ben Shetach instituted that every child must go to school. (Kudos to the commenter who informed us about this source.)

And regarding Yehoshua Ben Gamla, R. Reuven Margoliyos (Nitzotzei Or, Bava Basra 21a) quotes a Gaonic responsum that explains that part of Yehoshua Ben Gamla's decree was that if there was a bridge between two areas then, rather than forcing children to cross the bridge, the local people were obligated to pay for a teacher on each side of the bridge. Because of this, he was called "Ben Gamla" (Gamla meaning bridge). This would seem to distinguish him significantly from the Ben Gamliel that Josephus mentions.

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