Enlightenment, education, and freedom from religion
 
Hebrew Russian English French Yiddish





 



Home
Pamphlets
Essays
Weekly Portion
Talmud Issues
Torah Text
Religion & Ethics
Press
Lectures
Q&A
Books & Studies
About Us
Sources
Contact

The legend of a meeting between Alexander of Macedon and Simon the Just

search: -and -or   


Respond Print version


Question: Publication date: 18-12-2005
Title:   The legend of a meeting between Alexander of Macedon and Simon the Just
Content:   Did Rabbi Shimon the Just, one of the remnants of the Great Assembly, meet with Alexander of Macedon or not? I think I remember hearing that this story could not have taken place because the two men did not live at the same time.

Noam

Answer: Publication date: 23-01-2006
Title:   The legend of a meeting between Alexander of Macedon and Simon the Just
Content:   Dear Noam,

In general, you should know that "historical" events described in the Talmud and the medrashim were not written after research and examination, they are stories which were made up within the study hall, sometimes in the wake of rumors and sometimes in the wake of empty sophistry, all to meet the social and political ends of the religious. This is what the religious academic Dr. Mordechai Breuer wrote: Chazal did not intend to pass historical information down the generations, they meant to teach us a world view. When it comes to the chronology and history of the Persian kingdom we may safely ignore the opinion of Chazal.
Rabbi Shmuel HaCohen, in his book "Introduction to the Scriptural Return-to-Zion literature" he wrote: "Chazal saw the words of Prophets and the Writings as ethical teachings for the Children of Israel…Chazal did not investigate history and chronology, and their words were said in a pedagogical bent and from a special view of historic events, a view hidden from the eye of the common man" (Shamatin, year 9 [5733], issue 36-37).

Now to your question, which should have been sent to historians, so that is what we did:
Alexander of Macedon could not have met Simon the Just for one simple reason. Alexander of Macedon died in 323 BCE while Simon the Just lived 130 years later.

The following is taken from the booklet "From Exile to Independence," published by the Open University and written by Prof. Uriel Rappaport.
We will present the words of the Talmud and similar testimony from Josephus, and then the words of Uriel Rappaport, the historian.

Babylonian Talmud:

On the 25th of Tevet, the Samaritans asked Alexander of Macedon for permission to destroy the house of our Lord, and their request was granted. They announced this to Simon the Just. What did he do? He dressed up in the priestly garments and wrapped himself in the priestly garments. He took the prestigious amongst the Jews with him with torches of light in their hands. The whole night they walked, each from their own end, until dawn broke. When he saw this he asked, "Who are these?" They told him "These are Jews who rebelled against you." When he reached Antipatris [near modern-day Rosh HaAyin] the sun came up, and they harmed each the other. When he saw Simon the Just, he descended from his chariot and bowed down before him. They asked him, "Why does such a great and mighty king as you bow before this Jew?" He told them, "I have seen this visage before my victories in battle" (Yoma 69b).



Josephus:

After Alexander captured Gaza he hurried to go to the city of Jerusalem. The priest Jedduah heard of this and became fearful…He went out with the priests and many citizens and welcomed [Alexander of Macedon]...When Alexander saw, from a far, the multitudes in their white clothing...he kneeled and bowed before the Lord and greeted the high priest (Antiquities of the Jews 11).


The story of Alexander of Macedon's arrival in Jerusalem is told in both the Talmud and in Josephus, but in Josephus the high priest's name was Jedduah and in the Talmud it was Simon the Just.
What do scholars say of these stories? This is what professor Uri Rappaport has written:

Undoubtedly, some of the details of the story, in its various versions, are not factually correct. Some are anachronisms, reflecting a reality later than the days of Alexander, for the city Antipatris was founded by King Herod and did not exist in the days of Alexander…Simon the Just is apparently the high priest Simon II, who led the nation approximately 130 years after [Alexander of Macedon's reign, so the story of Simon's encounter with Alexander did not happen]...As for a visit to Jerusalem, we have no testimony of such a thing from sources outside this story itself.



Sincerely,

Daat Emet

Answer: Publication date: 23-01-2006
Title:   The legend of a meeting between Alexander of Macedon and Simon the Just
Content:   I recommend that you look at the writings of Rav Yehuda Ashlag. In his writings he notes something simple: all holy writings are actually written in four different types of language (halacha, Scriptures, Aggadah, and Kabbalah), but all are focused in one direction. The language of the Sages is a language which speaks of spiritual values only (something above what can be grasped by the five senses and therefore has no direct relation to names, events, and places). One cannot say their words are erroneous or factual, for from the very start the sages speak of and explain spiritual systems within man, and the view of his reality is subjective. I strongly suggest you read his writings, because this confusion has continued for hundreds if not for thousands of years.

All the best, and may G-d be with you.

Dudi


Answer: Publication date: 23-01-2006
Title:   The legend of a meeting between Alexander of Macedon and Simon the Just
Content:   Dear Dudi,

The religious view that the sages spoke of spiritual values has been explored in the essay Dealing with the Contradictions Between Torah and Reason.
I have a question for you. Is there anywhere the sages spoke in a realistic manner? Are the laws they legislated for practical use, the laws meant to be carried out in everyday reality, laws only in spiritual terms?
Since Rav Ashlag was known as a person who was scrupulous in observing the commandments, here in the physical world, he must have understood them in their plain meaning, or at least in the plain meaning as well as in any other. If so, how do you explain Chazal's errors on Halacha? Please read the nine pamphlets we have written.

Sincerely,

Daat Emet




Back to Questions and Answers