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Am Yisrael sings 8: the days of Herod and Agrippa - the music reaches its peak

During the time of the last Jewish kings, the Roman government rarely interfered with the internal affairs, therefore a regular continuation was possible with regard to the Temple and within it - the musical management

The model of the Second Temple. Illustration: depositphotos.com
The model of the Second Temple. Illustration: depositphotos.com

1. The reasons for the organization of music and its institutionalization

A. A period of relative peace and tranquility from the rise of the Hasmonean dynasty until the destruction of the Second Temple (141 BC - 73 AD), with the exception of minor and sporadic rebellions. The absence of significant political, economic, social and cultural crises enabled the development of proper management of the life of the temple and within it - the musical management.

B. The Roman government rarely, as much as possible, interfered directly in the internal affairs of Judaism, which allowed for an orderly continuation as far as the life of the Temple was concerned.

third. Judea, although overseen by Roman procurators, was most of the time under Jewish rule and this fact influenced either directly or indirectly the relatively calm management of temple life in Jerusalem.

We will briefly present here, what will be developed later in the lecture, a number of elements that were involved in the enterprises of the Jewish rulers in relation to music:

The days of Herod - Under the pressure of many and varied motives, Herod initiated unprecedented construction projects in Israel and abroad. As an integral part of the sporting enterprises initiated by Herod, there were international musical competitions in Jerusalem and Caesarea. And even if there is no clear evidence for this, there is reason to assume that wherever in the country he established a gymnasium, theater, or held sports competitions, music occupied a prominent place, and this was due to the influence of Hellenic and Roman culture in such establishments.

The highlight of Herod's enterprises was none other than the construction of the Second Temple in Jerusalem in 20/22 BC and where various musical events took place, both vocal and instrumental.

Agrippa I (10 BC - 44 AD) initiated musical and poetic performances in Brutus (later Beirut) and held theatrical plays in Caesarea, which, as is known, involved musical performances. Agrippa contributed a lot to the development of Jerusalem, kept the laws of the ancestors and took care of funds in the temple.

Agrippa II (92-28 CE) was also not a cane killer as far as theatrical performances were concerned. The affinity between him and music stemmed from his upbringing in Rome and his being accepted by the aristocracy circles and the leaders of the Roman Senate, and archaeological finds will attest to this. For example, a coin was found in Penias and on it is engraved a figure playing the Pan flute and around it the inscription - "of King Agrippa". Year 27" and referring to the number of years of his reign, i.e. year 83 AD.

Agrippa received from the Roman emperor Claudius the oversight of the Temple in Jerusalem, and as such he granted an important privilege to the Levites-poets. It should be noted that this king was very popular and accepted by the Jewish population and even participated in certain ceremonies held in the temple.

The pilgrimage - this affair, as emphasized above, became a special, religious and social phenomenon unprecedented in the Second Temple period. This tremendous enterprise stood out in the sources of the Mishnah and the Tosefta, especially from the time of King Herod onwards, which then became a significant public enterprise. In part, it involved music as a cause and effect at the same time. The pilgrimage bravely connected to the music of the temple, and this to her. Thus, a special fusion was created between the two and the connection between the people and their temple was strengthened, especially in certain ceremonies.

Fear of foreign worship - the Greekization that began in the days of Jason and Menelaus before the Maccabean revolt became, at least in the external contexts, a vision that broke through during the Hasmonean days and was defined among the Jewish aristocracy in Jerusalem and the Jewish affluent in the various cities.

The Greek cities that arose in the Hellenistic period had a significant flourishing in the Roman era in the Land of Israel. When it tended to lean, politically, militarily and socio-economically on the population of the Greek cities. In these cities, Hellenistic music gained a strong expression in its mainly ritual-ritual contexts.

It seems that the Jews of the Land of Israel, and especially those who came into economic contact with those cities, or even lived near them, were exposed to various influences of foreign worship. And it would not be far from supposing that the sages who were particularly sensitive to this problem, saw it as serious, and asked to erect a fence in view of its influence. A fence, one of whose pillars will be - the musical activity in the Temple. The music might have attracted the people to Jerusalem, to the Temple, and especially during the pilgrimage.

However, even though it was so, the dust of a foreign influence did even penetrate the temple. This influence can be seen, among other things, in new types of musical instruments that were not accepted before, and originate from a certain foreign influence, and it should be noted that the adoption of foreign musical instruments did not amount to a technical change alone, but was also expressed in the combination of musical theories, in the organization of the music and everything that accompanied these instruments.

The Synagogue - even in the development of this institution, it was a threat, even if it was an extremely light one, to the Temple. The Jews, whose settlement in Israel had an unprecedented radius, relative to the pre-Roman era, did not hurry as before to gather in the Temple, and this, once again, excluded the days of the pilgrimages. It is possible that by developing the temple music and its setting, the holy leadership wanted to breathe life and a fresh spirit into the temple, in an institution that was 400 years old and more. And naturally, the routine has already begun to eat away at him and he has begun to lose his original, initial strength. And so they sought, and not without success, to attract the people to the temple courtyards and confirm the connection between it and the sacred center.

However, the mind gives that a pair of pliers is made. That is, there was a mutual influence between the temple and the synagogue. The consciousness and recognition of the use of music in the synagogue penetrated deeply among the public and even contributed to the glorification of the importance of music as a tool and as an important means in both institutions.

The refinement of musical instruments - the period of our discussion is blessed with the refinement of musical instruments - the structure of the instrument, the material from which it was composed and more. This perfection was expressed in the sound output produced by all the musical instruments. Therefore, the settlement of these instruments in the temple contributed greatly to the development of music in this institution.

The centrality of Jerusalem - the period of our discussion witnessed the rise of Jerusalem and its transformation into the heart of the centers in the Land of Israel in an unprecedented way. This city became the political, economic, social and cultural-religious center for the Jews of the Land of Israel, and as such many Jews were concentrated and walked in it in a variety of positions and occupations. The presence of many Jews in Jerusalem was of great significance regarding the Temple. The holy leadership saw this as a blessing and a request to bring them closer to the life of the temple. And this, among other things, by the development and refinement of the music, through which she was able to find ways to the hearts of the many Jews who gathered in Jerusalem, in addition to those days of feast and feast, i.e. the days of the pilgrimage.

We will conclude the discussed section by raising two very significant points to the topic of our discussion. These involved the rise of the status and position of the Levites-poets and the staffing of those responsible for the singing of the temple. And this has a particularly direct impact on the subject of our discussion in the current chapter. We will discuss this in different sections of this chapter and this will help clarify various matters and present a comprehensive picture of the temple music in the period under discussion.

2. Upheaval 64/63

Some believe that in 62/63 AD, special circumstances arose such as the removal of the high priest Hanan ben-Hanan, a distinct Sadducee, at which time a decisive change was made in the work of the temple, and the Pharisaic law, in response to the systematic opposition of the Sadducee high priest, was applied with complete consistency to such an extent , which encompassed the religious life in all its aspects.

In the general structure of temple life, the status of the Levites also rose and there were significant changes in the various functions performed in the temple. The Pharisees led to the appointment of new officials in the temple, and among them those in charge of music occupied an important place such as ben Arza and Hogars ben Levi. A discussion on the question of whether these were priests or Levites will be held later in the chapter. However, we are not exempt from emphasizing that the changes in the structure of the temple had a great significance for everything that concerns the development of music. This fact serves to strengthen the assumption that the attribution of excessive importance to the musical activity following the changes is to testify that the music of the temple occupied an extremely important place in this period in all respects and senses.

Furthermore, it seems that these changes were in fact the result of a historical chain of events related to the tensions that existed between the Pharisees and the Sadducees, and if such were the case, there is reason to assume that the musical instructions and regulations (which we will deal with later) that were formulated as a binding instruction towards the last decade of the Temple days, had some echo in them certain, even though it is approximate, for the same tension.

It is believed that in light of the extensive experience accumulated among the temple musicians, the Levites, an experience dating back to the days of the Second Temple, decided one day to cast it into definite, fixed and binding patterns, in the form of musical instructions and regulations. And these were naturally formulated during the period when the status of the musicians - the status of the Levites - was strengthened and weakened.

And yet, not only the fact that the contributions of King Agrippa II (whom we will mention later) played an important role here, but also the circumstances of the time, namely the unrest that began to emerge in the second half of the first century CE. Unrest in the form of the increasing power of the zealots who opposed the yoke of Rome's rule; The island of calm that was typical in the various provinces during the decline of the Julio-Claudian Empire and more.

It seems that the uncomfortable feeling at the cliff of the times accompanied quite a few Jews and was naturally especially felt in the center, in the temple. And just as the leaders asked to preserve the existing in terms of coming to their senses before a storm and to confirm the work of the temple. Such actions resulted in the drafting of decrees and the publication of regulations and instructions concerning the work of the sacrifices and in addition to everything that involves temple music. And if indeed this was the case, then we have before us a very interesting aspect about the musical arrangement of the temple. This system was built, layer upon layer, over a period of about six hundred years, which they sought to preserve in an era of crisis.

Following the changes brought about by the Pharisee revolution, the firstborn were once again brought to Jerusalem in great splendor; The laws of Passover were strictly observed; The Yom Kippur service, the Joy of Beit Hashuava, the beating of the willow, the burning of a red heifer, and more, everything that the Sadducees disbelieved in, disputed about, or held in some other way, was once again surrounded by warmth and enthusiasm, and these two elements were in them to contribute to the flourishing of temple music.

An important testimony, among many, to the subject under discussion, is embodied in the Mishnah according to which Yochanan, the high priest of the Sadducees, canceled the "Me'arain" and with the victory of the Pharisees, the crown was returned to its former state. According to the Tosefta (Tosefta Sota 8:24) - "They are the Levites who say on the pulpit: 'Your skin, why do you sleep?'" (Psalms 225:XNUMX) That is, seek to harm the motivated, musical playing of this psalm. In the singing of this psalm, by the way, there was an analogy to a pagan ceremony, such as the one that took place in the Egyptian temple (S. Lieberman, Greek and Greek in the Land of Israel, p. XNUMX).

Also, it seems that the Greek-Hellenistic tendency, adhering to some of the Sadducean ideologies, may correspond with the orientation of King Agrippa and with the presentation of instruments of Greek-Hellenistic origin in the Temple, including musical instruments as we will see later.

3. Privileges for poets on behalf of King Agrippa

In his composition, The Antiquities of the Jews, Joseph ben Matthieu testified as follows: "And those of the Levites, that is a tribe who were poets, tempted the king (Agrippa II) to seat a Sanhedrin and give them permission to wear cloth clothing like the priests. They claimed that it was the peak of his reign that an act of innovation would be done in them, thanks to which he would be remembered. This demand was fulfilled, for the king permitted the poets ("hymnodei" in Greek), on the opinion of those gathered in the Sanhedrin, to take off their former clothing and wear the cloth clothing they wanted. And when one part of the tribe (Levi) sang in the sanctuary, he also allowed them to learn the songs as they requested. All this contradicted the laws of the ancestors, and after they had been transgressed it was no longer possible to escape the punishment" (Jews' Antiquities 217-216).

From this section we can present some interesting points, the most important of which is Joseph ben Matthieu's observation that "Levites" and "poets" are an examination of synonyms as an innovation, which began at the beginning of the Second Temple period until it was established as a accepted concept, as a linguistic currency, and for our purposes this holds little the plural

The poets asked the king to allow them, legally and officially, to wear the cloth garment and thus raise their status to that of the priests serving in the sanctuary. Here too you can see the end of a process that continued in the days of the Second Temple and originated in a power struggle between the Levites and the priests.

Their request is a valid acceptance since the Sanhedrin's ruling was based on an examination of a fact that gave each case a special dimension. What's more, the Sanhedrin was staffed by the Pharisees and not the Sadducees. The demand of the poets to be fulfilled is expressed in the writings of Josephus and in the later Jewish tradition.

It should be pointed out here that the decision regarding the holy clothes for the poets who served in the Temple was wrapped up in the question of whether or not their singing and playing should be considered part of the holy service. And this phrase, it seems, served as an echo of the secret struggle that was going on between the Levites and the priesthood.. Indeed, the fulfillment of their request was like a final ruling on the matter and an expression to raise the status and position of the Levites-poets.

The Sipa in the source that was brought from the name of Yosef ben Mattheyahu raises a certain question - "And when one part of the tribe sang in the holy place he also allowed them to learn the songs as they requested" (The Jewish Antiquities 94:93-XNUMX).

Who is that "part"? It seems that these are not "poets" but "gatekeepers" as a position that was also filled by the Levites. It seems that there was some tension between the "poets" and the "gatekeepers" since the poets held a more senior, more important and more significant position. So what was the point of allowing the "gatekeepers" to learn the songs as well? If it was a kind of lip service and nothing, or was there a deeper intention? This cannot be known. However, bringing the "gatekeepers" in the secret of the "poets" caused the consolidation of the funeral status as a whole.

In the passage quoted from Yosef ben Matthieu, the trending character stood out. Yosef ben Matthew was a priest from a respectable priestly family. He sought to blacken the faces of the Levites, as he did so several times, to the extent that he laid the blame for the calamities that befell the people later in the period on the persistent demand of the Levites. It is possible and Joseph ben Matthiyahu was used here by the priests who refused to grant the Levites the rights they requested. And let's not forget the circumstances of the time and Agrippa's approach to the matter when at that time the construction of the temple was finished. As is known, Agrippa was not overly fond of the high priests in Jerusalem and it is possible that he granted privileges to the Levites in order to erode the status of the priests, as he did by raising high priests and demoting them on his own initiative.

However, the above request had to come from the Levites themselves and, in truth, they requested it after the victory of the Pharisee, popular party in 64/63 AD, since the Levites were closer to the Pharisees than to the Sadducees.

This erosion of the priestly status, which began already in the days of King Herod, and for clear political-personal reasons, years before, was gradual and served as a lever for the rise of the Levites' status. And the elevation of the status of the Levites was nothing but the elevation of the status of the poets, since this role was one of the very important tasks of the Levites.

Moreover, Joseph ben Matthew considered the opportunity given to that part (to the "gatekeepers" as it turns out) to learn the songs as a great harm to the Jewish tradition. This is to teach us, to what extent mankind has come to know that temple music is nothing but the property of the Levites, their sacred property.

In conclusion - during the period of our discussion many factors - political related to the monarchy, social related to the Jewish leadership and prestigious connected to the status of the Levites - joined together. These joined together, and with coincidental timing, or partly deliberate, the result of circumstances, brought about the elevation of the status of the Levites and of them the poets. Alba events had a good impact on the subject of our discussion - temple music.

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