|About this title|
|One of the most important books on the subject, it deals with the origin and development of the Great Synagogue, the Society of Hasideans, and the Pharisees. The author examines the Rabbinic tradition connected with these institutions in the light of data available from other sources and the apparent contradiction between different sets of data.|
The work attempts to reconstruct the cultural history of the Jews during the later Persian and Hellenistic period. The basic thesis of this book, following its Summary is “that Ezra and his coworkers established the Society of Hasideans, who would, he hoped, become the core of "the Kingdom of Priests and Holy Nation." The affairs of the Society of Hasideans were to be directed by the Keneset Ha-Gedolah, (a term usually translated "Great Synagogue," in reality meaning, "Great Court"). The constitution of the Society of Hasideans is preserved, but only in part, in the Nehemiah, chapters 9 and 10.
Toward the end of the third century B. C. E., the Society was greatly strengthened, when Simeon II, the Just, associated himself with it, and became its leader. With him a large group of leading priests identified themselves with the Hasideans; and, for the first time in history, the lay scholars of their Keneset Ha-Gedolah became members of the Gerousia or ruling council of the Commonwealth.
The union between the high priesthood and the Hasideans was dissolved after Simeon's death when increasing tensions among the various factions in Judah led to the persecutions of Antiochus IV and the Maccabean revolt. Thereafter the followers of the high priesthood called themselves Sadducees (i. e., adherents of the family of Sadok, the first high priest of the Temple), and dubbed their opponents (who had remained within the Society of Hasideans), Pharisees or "heretics." In the process of reorganization, the Society of Hasideans (or as we must now call them, the Pharisees) developed two factions, one pro-priestly, the other anti-priestly. Each was directed by a Bet Din or court, headed by the Ab Bet Din, chief of the court. Each group dealt with problems according to its traditions. Both courts met together from time to time, as the Bet Din Ha-Gadol, the "Great" Bet Din of the whole society, the successor of the Keneset HaGedolah of earlier days.
|Louis Finkelstein —|
A former Chancellor of the Jewish Theological Seminary, Louis Finkelstein (June 14, 1895 in Cincinnati, Ohio – 29 November 1991) was a scholar of Talmud and an expert in Jewish law. He was one of the most important and dynamic leaders of American Jewry. Author, thinker, and doer, he served as a Rabbi of Congregation Kehilath Israel in New York City. He was president of the Rabbinical Assembly from 1928 until 1930 and was the presidential advisor for Judaism under President Roosevelt. His research centered around study of history and literature of the Second Temple period.