Sotah, Chapter Nine, Mishnah Fourteen

 

Introduction

This mishnah discusses three wars that the Jews fought with the Romans during the Second Temple and mishnaic periods.  The first was with Vespasian, three years before the destruction of the Temple.  The second was with Quietus about forty years after the destruction.  The war with Quietus was fought mostly by the Jews in Egypt.  [Other versions of the mishnah say that the second war was with Titus, who ended up destroying the Temple.] The third was the Bar-Kochba revolt, fought from 132-135, with Hadrian.  After the Jews lost this war, they no longer had any political autonomy or power and Jerusalem was razed to the ground.

During each of these wars, all of which the Jews ended up losing, the rabbis decreed that certain celebratory actions were no longer appropriate.  Most of the decrees were against elements of the wedding celebration.

 

Mishnah Fourteen

1)      During the war with Vespasian they [the rabbis] decreed against [the use of] crowns worn by bridegrooms and against [the use of] the bell.

2)      During the war with Quietus they decreed against [the use of] crowns worn by brides and that nobody should teach their child Greek.

3)      During the final war they decreed that a bride should not go out in a palanquin inside the city, but our rabbis decreed that a bride may go out in a palanquin inside the city.

 

Explanation

Section one:  Before the war with Vespasian, the Jews used a crown to adorn bridegrooms during the wedding ceremony (see Isaiah 61:10).  They also used a special bell to play music at the wedding feast.  They decreed against both of these during what is known by historians as “The Great Revolt”.

Section two:  During the second revolt, they decreed against the crowns worn by the brides.  On these crowns was embedded the image of Jerusalem.  From them we have the phrase “Jerusalem of Gold”, immortalized in Naomi Shemer’s song “Yerushalayim Shel Zahav”.  They also decreed that people should not teach their children Greek, the lingua franca of the eastern parts of the Roman Empire.  So great was their hatred for the Romans, that they refused even to learn their language.

Section three:  In the last war, they decreed that a bride should no longer use a palanquin, a covered seat carried on poles which is held parallel to the ground on the shoulders of two or four people (according to the Encarta Dictionary).  This seat is mentioned in Song of Songs 3:9.  However, in a later period “our rabbis”, identified by Maimonides as Rabbi Judah Hanasi, decreed that the bride may again use the palanquin.  The Talmud explains that since the palanquin preserved the bride’s modesty, it was allowed.

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