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Ancient Jewish Music 25: Jewish music in the Diaspora

The Jews in the Greek-Hellenistic space were more involved in everything related to Greek customs that penetrated Judaism such as the hemansion and especially music

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Ancient Greek culture. Illustration:
Ancient Greek culture. Illustration:

In this part, I would like to raise a personal question as follows: In fact, during the collection of the material for my major research topic, I made the assumption in my mind that of the sources available to the potential researcher, i.e. the literary, epigraphic and archaeological sources, the music that developed in the Land of Israel would probably occupy the more prominent place, or the lion's share of the research, whereas with regard to Jewish music outside the ancient Land of Israel - in the Jewish Diaspora in Egypt, Babylon, Syria, Asia Minor or Rome, this will only feed one chapter of the work.

However, when I entered the front and the front of the research in Jewish music, I came to know that the paucity of the evidence about the music of the aforementioned Diaspora Jews binds my hands. However, even so, I would like to expand a little on this matter, since a false impression may be received as if Jewish music in the Diaspora did not receive the place it deserves in my work.

And before we expand the canvas, I would like to point out and emphasize that it was possible to split this topic between the chapters dealing with sacred and profane music, however, again, due to the paucity of evidence, it would undoubtedly have been swallowed up by the enormous and rich burden of music in the Land of Israel. And although I wanted to hint here and there about the contribution of Diaspora Jews to the subject of music, whether when it comes to the artists of Alexandria or references from Philo, it is necessary to gather the evidence in order to shed full light on the whole phenomenon. And since the music of the Diaspora Jews was greatly influenced by foreign, local music, I chose to set aside a separate section for it here, in this chapter, in which the foreign influence on Jewish music is emphasized,

The Jewish diaspora, with the exception of the one in Babylon, was indeed confused between two mutually contradictory principles: between the desire for assimilation and adherence to tradition. However, naturally, it was much more exposed to Hellenistic influences than the center of Palestine. These influences found expression in many areas - the Greek language which was very common on her tongue; The names that were Greek and even the orders of the communities that were Greekized when the foreign political institutions set an example for the Jews. In short - the entire external pattern of the life of the Jewish community was according to the pattern of public life in the Greek polis.

Jews took, here and there, an active part in the life of the gymnasium and the Greek-Hellenistic apebion. Some of them were more than their friends in Israel. In Philo's view, the sports life over the physical exercises and the other activities of the gymnasium was a matter of everyday life and hence he did not find any fault in them. In Miletus in Asia Minor there was a special and permanent place in the theater reserved for Jewish spectators; An inscription from Asia Minor mentioned a Jew who donated a sum of money of one hundred drachmas to hold a celebration for the god Dionysus' and a pair of inscriptions from Bayes in Egypt testified to Jewish gratitude to God. These were found in the temple of the Greek god Pan, who was mythologically in charge of music in an athletic context. It should be noted that both Dionysus and Pan were directly related to Greek and Hellenistic music.

There is no doubt that those young people who took an active part in the life of the gymnasium, were well-founded by quite a bit of Greek-Hellenistic music, which served as the foundation of an institution in the gymnasium and Ephebian education. Even the regular spectators in the theater had musical experiences.

The connection of the Jews to the gymnasium education in Alexandria

An interesting case in itself was the question of the connection of the Jews to the gymnasium education in Alexandria, during the time of the Roman emperor Claudius (54-41 AD). This question was folded into the testimony proving that the Jews asked to be accepted as members of gymnasiums and in this way to gain the honorable Alexandrian citizenship.

This case seems to have gained special significance in its reference to the Jewish synagogue in Alexandria. The aforementioned magnificent synagogue, one that was built in the Greek-Hellenistic style and whose orders are slightly reminiscent of the structure of the Temple, and especially the figure of the "Monitor" with the "Soderin", who prevailed in light of the Mishna on the "Amen" response of the public (Tosefta Sukkah, D. 6).

This synagogue, which was also used as a hostel for Jewish professional associations, according to Sage sources, was very similar to the Jewish synagogue that was discovered in the city of Sardis in Asia Minor, not only in that the latter was also connected to Jewish professional associations, but, above all, in terms of affinity between the synagogue and the local gymnasium. The Alexandrian Synagogue was adjacent to the Municipal Gymnasium, and in Sardis, near the Municipal Gymnasium, the aforementioned magnificent Synagogue was uncovered, so that both - the Synagogue and the Gymnasium created one architectural-structural unity, just like the hall for the idolatrous worship of the Ephebians in the Greek Gymnasium.

This archaeological evidence testified to taking an active part in the life of the urban gymnasium, and not under coercion, God forbid. However, just in case it is possible that we can surmise that it has something to indicate the influence of the gymnasium music that was played very close to the synagogue.

It should be noted first - that the architectural closeness between the two aforementioned buildings, in Egypt on the one hand and in Asia Minor on the other, indicates a desire to imitate a similar connection in the Herodian Land of Israel, Jerusalem on the one hand and Caesarea on the other; Second - a foreign environmental influence was at work here regarding the connection between music and physical activity; Thirdly - it is about an assimilative process of the Jewish community in view of the influence of the foreign, Greek, Hellenistic and then Roman environment; Fourth - and throwing something into the modern era, both in the USA and in Canada, for example, the synagogue structure is used beyond and outside of the days and hours of prayer, also for social, physical, musical and even theatrical activities to this day. And you have it from a personal visual source.

The above assumptions may help shed light on a similar, previous case, which was mentioned in connection with the music of the temple. In other words, several cases were known in which they turned to "artisans in Alexandria" in order to repair one or another musical instrument that broke down in the temple. Lest those "artisans" were none other than those who belonged to the magnificent Alexandrian Synagogue, in terms of the professional associations that gathered there. And how interesting it is that in those cases where we discussed the repair of the aforementioned musical instruments, it was about gold coatings, and the sources mentioned
Those who showered praise on the magnificent synagogue in Alexandria, testified mainly to the Jewish "golden" and "silver" associations that housed themselves in the condemned synagogue.

Lest, even if very narrowly, we raise that the reason for the lack of success of those "artisans" in relation to the temple instruments, was rooted in the fact that, naturally, they sought to repair the instruments according to the degree of their expertise and skill, which was Hellenistic by nature, and this was not favorable to the spirit of Jewish music which flourished in the temple. However, this is only a conjecture.

Either way, it seems that Jewish music in Egypt was influenced quite a bit by foreign, Hellenistic music, which was highly developed in Egypt.

Philo of Alexandria who tried to bridge the two cultures

An affair in itself folded in the many testimonies of Philo of Alexandria. Philo who saw in his philosophical ideas a vocation that might bridge the gap between Hellenism and Judaism. Philo discusses the mathematical foundations of music, as determined by the view of the great Greeks, finding them a common denominator for the general language of sounds. Philo expanded on the relationship between the four musical adaptations included in the number 4 and the relationship between music and the number 7.

A careful reader of the musical memorials embedded in Philo's writings will find it difficult to find in them substantial and principled originality from the pen of that Jewish philosopher. For the most part, these are Greek-Hellenistic theories that put a candle to his feet, examining a model according to which he acted. This is beautiful, by the way, also in relation to the abundance of Philonistic evidence about physical culture, i.e. gymnastics. 

However, even so, his musical examinations and studies, such as those concerning gymnastics and agonistics, may shed light on the extent of the influence of Hellenism on the high Alexandrian Jewish society, such that its sons were brought up on the knees of the above-mentioned philosophy and the above-mentioned patterns of behavior and culture, patterns that music caught in them A respectable place, both in law and in practice, and as far as the Jewish approach is concerned, it can be said that Philo's writings are aimed more at the music of the profane than at the sacred.

We will also note that the Jews of Alexandria spent the night, after the imprisonment of their enemy, Flaccus, singing hymns and songs of victory. And in the collection of inscriptions of the Jews of Egypt, a Jew is mentioned whose profession is "playing the flute" and he was among the military colony in Samaria in the Fayum area.

Egyptian Jewry, as an exile, fell almost completely off the stage of history following the brutal rebellion that took place in Egypt (mainly in Alexandria), and the rebellion against the Roman emperor Trianus between 115 and 117 CE.

Before turning to the Babylonian exile, we should note that in Rome a number of Jews were mentioned who took part in the "mimus" performances in the theater, and Martials told of a Jewish singer or actor who practiced in front of an audience in the middle of the Palestra, which is the wrestling arena that

In gymnasium, as an accepted professional.

As for the great exile in Babylon, the news about it actually started from 219 AD onwards, it is the year of the departure of a rabbi (Abba Aricha) to Babylon, that is with the exception of faint, sporadic information here and there, such as the rebellion of the Hanilai and Hasinai brothers, the contribution of half the shekel collected in Nazibin and Nahardea, a trip Rabbi Akiva and Yeridat Hananiah, my brother Rabbi Yehoshua to Babylon, when I published testimonies about everything in the essay for receiving the qualified degree in humanities, p. 11 et seq.). So we know very little about the Babylonian exile during the Second Temple period and the days of the Mishna.

As for Jewish music in Babylon from the third century CE onward, two basic facts must be separated: Babylonian citations and Jewish music.

As for the Babylonian citations, it is said that the sages of Babylon possessed many testimonies about the music of the temple and musical aspects of the Land of Israel after the destruction. From these testimonies it is possible to speculate how deep the musical consciousness was among at least some of the Babylonian scholars, but this may not teach us anything about Jewish music in Babylon.

As for music in Babylon, it can be said that from examining all the Babylonian sources that appeared in the Talmud, it can be said that the musical practices in the Babylonian synagogue did not differ in the purpose of change from those found in the Land of Israel. The use of the shofar, the chants and the types of public response, and this with the exception of a number of changes and a few differences (such as the 6 blasts that were customary in the Land of Israel, and their people only 5 in Babylon).. This whole affair, including the great imagination that is stretched between Babylon and the Land of Israel, involves in my opinion the extent of the influence of the Land of Israel Center On this the Babylonian.. when this influence became very strong from the days of the presidency of Rabbi Gamaliel Dibna and onwards, throughout the entire conditional period.

Babylon did not copy musical effects that were prevalent in the second temple for obvious reasons. However, this was the case during the period of the Mishnah and the Talmud, when it was convenient to copy various musical formulas from the Israeli synagogue institution. When this institution is widespread in all Jewish communities in the Land of Israel, and there was no challenge to the authority of the Land of Israel. The opposite was true - in this way the important connection between the center and the Diaspora was cast.

This is not the case with the musical instruments, the musical instruments in the sand. From these tools that were spread in Babylon, it could be said in general terms that here the influence of the foreign environment stood out, that is, the Babylonian-Persian environment. This itself will clean up quite a bit from Greek-Hellenistic music. Mainly and mainly with the Macedonian occupation.

We can summarize up to this point and say that the Jewish music in the Diaspora, as it emerged from the sources, whether directly or indirectly, was naturally close to being exposed to foreign influences as far as the singing of the sand was concerned, while the sacred music was not far from that which flourished in the synagogues of the Land of Israel. However, as mentioned, the paucity of the evidence does not allow us, in our opinion, to find them a respectable place on the shelf of research books of Jewish music in the period in question.

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