Yohanan Ben Zakkai

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Yohanan Ben Zakkai

Hebrew: יוחנן בן זכאי
Birthplace: Israel
Death: Died
Place of Burial: Tiberias, Israel
Immediate Family:

Son of Zakkai

Occupation: Tanna, Sanhedrin Nassi
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:
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Immediate Family

About Yohanan Ben Zakkai

רבן יוחנן בן זכאי


Yohanan ben Zakai - יוחנן בן זכאי‎, (c. 30 - 90 CE), also known as Johanan B. Zakkai, or in short ריב״ז (Ribaz), was one of the tannaim, an important Jewish sage in the era of the Second Temple, and a primary contributor to the core text of Rabbinical Judaism, the Mishnah. He is widely regarded as one of the most important Jewish figures of his time. His tomb is located in Tiberias, within the Maimonides burial compound.


The Talmud reports that, in the mid first century, he was particularly active in opposing the Sadducees' interpretations of Jewish law, and produced counter-arguments to the Sadducees' objection to the Pharisees. So dedicated was he to opposing the Sadducee view of Jewish law, that he prevented the Jewish high priest, who was a Sadducee, from following the Sadducee interpretation of the Red Heifer ritual.

His home, at this time, was in 'Arav, a location in the Galilee. However, although living among them, he found the secular attitude of Galileans to be objectionable, allegedly exclaiming that they hated the Torah and would therefore "fall into the hands of robbers."

During the siege of Jerusalem in the Great Jewish Revolt, he argued in favour of peace; according to the Talmud, when he found the anger of the besieged populace to be intolerable, he arranged a secret escape from the city inside a coffin, so that he could negotiate with Vespasian (who, at this time, was still just a military commander). Yochanan correctly predicted that Vespasian would become Emperor, and that the temple would soon be destroyed; in return, Vespasian granted Yochanan three wishes: the salvation of Yavne and its sages, the descendants of Rabban Gamliel, who was of the Davidic dynasty, and a physician to treat Rabbi Tzadok, who had fasted for 40 years to stave off the destruction of Jerusalem.

Upon the destruction of Jerusalem, Jochanan converted his school at Yavne into the Jewish religious centre, insisting that certain privileges, given by Jewish law uniquely to Jerusalem, should be transferred to Yavne. His school functioned as a re-establishment of the Sanhedrin, so that Judaism could decide how to deal with the loss of the sacrificial altars of the temple in Jerusalem, and other pertinent questions. Referring to a passage in the Book of Hosea, "I desired mercy, and not sacrifice", he helped persuade the council to replace animal sacrifice with prayer, a practice that continues in today's worship services; eventually Rabbinic Judaism emerged from the council's conclusions.

In his last years he taught at Berur Hayil, a location near Yavne. His students were present at his deathbed, and were requested by him, in his penultimate words, according to the Talmudic record, to reduce the risk of ritual impurity due to the presence of death: "Put the vessels out of the house, that they may not become unclean."

More enigmatic were the Talmud's record of his last words, which seem to relate to Jewish messianism: "prepare a throne for Hezekiah, the King of Judah, who is coming."

His students returned to Yavne upon his death, and he was buried in the city of Tiberias; eleven centuries later, Maimonides was buried nearby. In his role as leader of the Jewish Council, he was succeeded by Gamliel II.

About יוחנן בן זכאי (עברית)

סביבות 30 - 90 לספירה - היה מגדולי התנאים, ומנהיג חשוב בתקופת חורבן בית שני והמרד הגדול. נחשב לדמות המרכזית שפעלה לשיקום היהדות הרוחנית לאחר החורבן. התואר רבן ניתן לו משום שכיהן תקופה מסוימת כנשיא הסנהדרין, על אף שלא השתייך למשפחת נשיאי בית הלל הזקן. הוא היה תלמידו של הלל הזקן, וכרבו הלל גם הוא חי מאה ועשרים שנה‏


רבי יוחנן התייחס ככהן‏ וחי בגליל, בירושלים וביבנה, ובשנותיו האחרונות בברור חיל. ההיסטוריון החשוב של התקופה, יוסף בן מתתיהו, אינו מזכירו כלל.

בזמן המרד הגדול וחורבן ירושלים, נשאר רבי יוחנן לפליטה מבין חברי בית הדין בירושלים, והיה חלק מקבוצה קטנה של "רודפי שלום" שישבו ביבנה והתנגדו ל"קנאים". משם התבוננו בימי מצור ירושלים בגסיסה של ארצם ומולדם. הוא ייסד בה את בית המדרש ("כרם יבנה") שם הונח היסוד לסידור ולעריכת התורה שבעל פה, שכונסה מאוחר יותר לששה סדרי משנה.

בנו מת בחייו והוא הצטער עליו צער גדול. לבסוף התנחם כאשר המשיל לו תלמידו רבי אלעזר בן ערך משל על פיקדון יקר שניתן מהמלך לאדם. כל זמן שהפיקדון בידו הוא מודאג ומוטרד שמא יתקלקל בידיו. בנמשל בנו הוא הפקדון וכאשר נפטר בנו זך ובלא חטא, ניתן לומר כי הוחזר הפיקדון בשלימות.‏

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Yohanan Ben Zakkai's Timeline

Age 59
Age 59
Tiberias, Israel