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The economic situation in the Land of Israel from the second century AD onwards - Chapter Two - Agriculture: Capital and Government

A series on the economy in the Land of Israel from the second century AD onwards. The current chapter discusses the subject of agriculture and its various aspects in the period.

Illustration. In the picture - Gat, displayed in the Bible Days Museum, Ein Kerem. Photo: Y.S., Wikipedia.
Illustration. In the picture - Gat, displayed in the Bible Days Museum, Ein Kerem. Photo: Y.S., Wikipedia.

Additional episodes in the series:

Agriculture, in all its aspects and characteristics, has always served as the main foundation on which the economy in the Land of Israel rests. Over time, and in particular after the destruction of the Second Temple, its importance intensified. It developed and went through a process of "modernization" compared to the periods that preceded it. Indeed, from this point of view, President Raban Shimon ben Gamliel stated: "Even one who has land, they write Prozbol on him. The lender has land and the borrower does not have land, there is no prozbol written on it. If he does not have land, and if he pledges land, and those who owe him land, they write a prozbol on him" (Tosefta VII, 9:11) and in another case, the aforementioned president noted: "Selling slaves will take land, but not land, he will take slaves" (Tosefta Trumot XNUMX:XNUMX).

The main economic damage after the destruction of the house and after the revolt of Ben Kusva was, as expected, in the field of agriculture and fell on the Judean region, what's more, the rebellious movement, the Kusva, was mainly rural. However, and within a relatively short time, the economy in Judea began to recover and recover, not to mention the great boom in the agricultural field, which the Galilee region received after that revolt. The extent of his involvement in the rebellion was minimal and he was able to absorb quite a few residents from Judea and as a result became the main economic support of the Land of Israel from the beginning of the second century AD onwards. Let's not forget that the destruction of the Second Temple drastically reduced the demand for agricultural and other products for its ritual and secondary function, and as a result that economic growth and restoration in Judah was quite limited.

A significant phenomenon that intensified at that time focused on the infiltration of Greek and Roman residents into the agricultural farms in the Land of Israel. This wave resulted in the creation of a new norm of joint, agrarian activity between Jews and foreigners, while the Sage constantly sought to find different voices in order to reach a modus vivendi between the two populations. This phenomenon brought with it a wave of expansion of the relatively limited economic unit, which contained a distinct Roman influence, which is the "villa" (which we dealt with in the previous chapter, the first in the current series) - the "city" in the language of the Sages, and which according to its properties, its parts , its crops, its work methods and procedures, there is no avoiding pointing to a clear Roman influence that led to the creation of intensive and cohesive farming units, i.e. the agricultural farms. And this, it seems, became the leverage of the agrarian infrastructure in the ancient Land of Israel after the Holocaust.

An important impetus for the development of the agricultural branch was tied to the reality of multiple Roman military units in our time and alongside them - a rich Roman clerical network, as these served as important consumers of multiple and diverse agricultural products.

Add to this the normal taxes from this and the exceptional from this, which began to become more frequent towards the end of the second century AD and the beginning of the third, which were paid in "fruits" (crops and forced labor), and we will therefore understand why the farmer was in a hurry to improve his crops and his produce in general in order to deal with these problems, survive and succeed.

During this period, an urban-agrarian phenomenon takes shape, which is the condensation of the city on its rural-agricultural domain into a cohesive and solid unit, with the city serving as a body that has an influence on the marketing of produce, its prices and quality.

The Roman authorities encouraged the phenomenon of the "Bullutin" who were rich in municipal jobs in the cities, and these were, of course, owners of land in that rural territory, peripheral to the city, and it is clear that a considerable part of their income stemmed from the agricultural wealth and therefore they tried to develop it and introduce changes and innovations in it. What's more, in our time, artisanal and industrial production, which are mostly urban products, received a great boost, and trade is also leveraged by them. And apart from the fact that they cause a significant mass distribution of various work tools, storage and other devices at relatively cheap prices, which are most necessary for agricultural activity, they attract wealthy bodies to the cities, and these served as an important and expensive consumer of the agricultural products of that rural territory. Evidence of this lies in the fact that cities such as Tiberias, Caesarea, Acre, Beit Shean, Lod, etc., enjoyed an industrial and commercial boom during our time, and agricultural settlements of Jews who worked the land sprang up alongside them, and these were called in the Sage language by the names of towns or kiriyas, which they created together with the central city A network of extensive and stable economic relations. It should also be noted that along with the testimony of sages regarding the appearance of new settlements, or the development of existing settlements in the Galilee, Bashan and Golan, the same halachic voices of the president and the sages of the Sanhedrin are joined in the laws of Shabbat, donations and tithes to encourage Jews to settle in agricultural areas.

After the revolt of Ben Khosva, there was a considerable development in the law of the "Sikrikon" (not to be confused, as is the practice almost to this day, to identify the "Sikrikon" with the sect of the Sikriim of the late Second Temple period), when the halacha saw the tenants who had been cultivating the land for generations, a sort of private owners of The land, and the encouragement of the house of the president and the sages to create such a type of land owners, served as an authentic introduction to the approach of the Roman Empire in relation to the encouragement and development of productive forces in the agricultural economy. For this reason, many testimonies of Sages were found regarding the purchase of land and even regarding certain Roman supervision in this context, such as: "taking from the Gentiles fields, houses... and writing and going up in the courts" (Tosefta Moed Ketan 1) we were in "taboo", including a pragmatic complement with the phenomenon of courts of strangers.

This phenomenon was also manifested in the territories of the imperial lands ("Gay Basilikie"), when the "peers" who lived there after the destruction of the Second Temple disappeared, and Jewish owners appear under them, the fact that Rabbi Yehuda Hanasi won a "tender" to lease large areas of land from the hands of the Roman Empire , from which he produced fruits and vegetables for the imperial court.

All those cases focus on one point and that is the productivity of the economy. The intensive method spread and gained a reputation in all agricultural communities for utilizing everything possible on the land. This was, so it seems, encouraged by the Roman Empire on the one hand, and at the same time, the drafting of various permits on behalf of the presidency and the sages, for the sake of all that is involved in the issue of usury, the laws of seventh and more. The permits in Shaviat Law, for example, were used faithfully for technological development in cultivation methods, land reclamation, faster processing and greater output. Even those innovations in plowing, weeding, sowing, harvesting, gathering and irrigation testified to a trend of intensity and even to the influence of Roman agriculture. It is interesting to come across the testimonies of sages, exaggerated and imaginary as they may be, regarding the size of the fruit, its nature and quality. As a legendary garnet it ultimately points to factual essences in the field.

The same intense tendency affected the workers in the farm, so that the number of Haris increased and the laws of the Sages were in favor of the Haris. Professional bodies appeared such as the "craftsman farmer", who is subordinate to the landlord, and hourly workers, who are the typical laborers of the intensive economy, who are hired for seasonal work, along with the lessees and tenants.

The agricultural economy was indeed damaged during the Ben Khosva rebellion, but not as the Roman historian Dio Cassius's scream and testimony regarding the destruction of hundreds of villages in the rebellion deserves proportionality, and in any case it referred only to the battle areas which were not numerous, and in general the farms were tiny.

A picture of the above-mentioned matter is reflected in the books of the Sages, who say, "When will they retire from walking in the fields? Mestarad Rabia second (the second rainy season). Rabbi Yossi said: What are the words supposed to be? While the years are normal (on normal days). (f) Now that we have been fined (years of drought as if as a punishment, as a fine and the grain was scarce) these years, it didn't even fall but only one rain, we have to go" (Tosefta 18:XNUMX) and the same Rabbi Yossi laments the Roman damage to the olive trees to such an extent that "Olives are not forgotten" (Talmud Yerushalmi Pah, XNUMX p. XNUMX).

The area that was hit relatively hard during the rebellion of Ben Kusava was probably Judah and Sage sources attest to the destruction of Tor Malka (perhaps Mount Hamelech) in the lowland of Judea and Bitar. And how interesting it is that one of the legends of the Sages connects the destruction of Beitar, Ben Kuseva's stronghold, with the fierce rivalry that prevailed between Beitar and Jerusalem regarding the usurpation of land ownership, the main part of which is the fraudulent business of the wealthy of Jerusalem, the land owners. The relationship between the economic and the political infrastructure is very interesting in this context.

An illustration of the Bar Kusva Rebellion. The main economic damage after the destruction of the house and after the revolt of Ben Kusva was, as expected, in the field of agriculture and fell on the Judean region, what's more, the rebellious movement, the Kusva, was mainly rural. However, and within a relatively short time, the economy in Judea began to recover and recover, not to mention the great boom in the agricultural field, which the Galilee region received after that revolt. Illustration: Arthur Szyk.
An illustration of the Bar Kusva Rebellion. The main economic damage after the destruction of the house and after the revolt of Ben Kusva was, as expected, in the field of agriculture and fell on the Judean region, what's more, the rebellious movement, the Kusva, was mainly rural. However, and within a relatively short time, the economy in Judea began to recover and recover, not to mention the great boom in the agricultural field, which the Galilee region received after that revolt. illustration: Arthur Szyk.

After this rebellion, from the year 135 AD, we are exposed to Talmudic expressions such as "torn towns" as well as "properties of captives", "properties of Netushin" (those fleeing from the battle zones) and "properties of Retoshin" (I published about this in my articles Hellenistic-Roman cradle customs reflected in literature Chazal, Zion Lat, 217, p. XNUMX et seq.), which can be paralleled to the Roman term agri captive), which if a court allowed others to enter the property, even though their owners may and are still alive, the importance of cultivating the land can be understood, Despite the deep moral dilemma involved.

The urban city in the Land of Israel was autarkic in the same relationship between it and its rural domains, and even here not without a great influence of the Roman economy. In this regard, Rabbi Yehuda declares as follows: "And collect all food, etc. Field food in the city whose surroundings he gave in it. Rabbi Yehuda says: He gave what was in the border of Tiberias in Tiberias, and what was in the border of the birds with the birds, because every land and land produces its fruits (that is, its agricultural produce)" (Beresheet Rabbah ch. 5) The rural area appears in Sage sources in different terms: in the form of "towns", and sometimes it is called a settlement After the name of the city to which he belonged, such as "Kfar Akko", or "Kfar Amiko".

There are and appear to be the villages of the area in the form of "kariyata", like the same "kariyat" that gathered to eulogize Rabbi Yehuda Hanasi at the time of his death. And sometimes the phrase "friendship" comes up in the above context, such as "Kiserin and her friends", Ashkelon and her friends", or "Susita and her friends". This contiguity implies more social ties between the center and its economic sphere.

A clear Roman influence on the agricultural structure in the Land of Israel is confirmed by the term "pagi" or "pagi vicinales", which are rural districts with a certain degree of internal administration. Epigraphical evidence about those farms in the Acre region intersects well with some of the Sage sources such as the one in the Jerusalem Talmud about Rabbi Yochanan the Tiberiani who went to the "Pegti Derbi Yodan Nisiah to Acre" (Avoda Zerah chapter 2 MA p. 221), or the Midrash Attesting to "And all the nations will hear and they will come together and come to rest and over Acre and they will weep over the areas of Acre spread out" (Song of Songs Zota XNUMX:XNUMX). And for this I published an article entitled Rabbinical evidence about the Pagi Vicinales in Israel, Jewish quarterly Review, vol lxv, pp. XNUMX ff).

The management of the pagi and those towns was handed over to a council whose name since the Greek and Hellenistic period was Boli (the LMD in axis scoring), considering a degree of self-government as found in the villages of the Bashan and the Golan in the third and fourth centuries CE and according to the Roman administrative patterns. This term sinks in the articles of sages under the term of "stamps" or "kiriots".

The central city had a great influence on the determination of produce prices in terms of fiscal regulation, and in this direction we can understand the Jerusalem Talmud which testifies to "all the towns adjacent to Tiberias, because the gate of Tiberias (the pricing of the produce) Puskin (determines as above)" (Baba Metzia chapter XNUMX) XNUMX p. b) and in this context, expressions such as "litra of birds" or "sah of birds" appear indicating the relationship between price and weight, which is evident in the functionary of the Greek and Hellenistic polis and his official name "Agoranomos" (supervisor of the markets). And it is clear that all of this took place when the Galilee hosted the presidency, such as in Tiberias, and therefore the above-mentioned determinations have a clear connection between capital and government.

The mayors of the city, the Boli, the "Bulvotin", were wealthy people by nature, and the statement of the Babylonian Talmud that the foundation of wealth lies in agriculture and its branches, makes it very clear who were the leaders and opinion in the economy of the Land of Israel. And those that many and good people have contributed to their development, including the great president of the Sanhedrin, aka Rabbi Yehuda Hanasi, of whom it is said that he "respects the rich", in terms of the phrase "washed" in connection with wealth and power, and associates with close ties to those with large assets, whose wealth is indicated by sages in a measured form such as Owners of a thousand towns or a thousand ships. A coin has two sides, and the negative aspect arising from this phenomenon should not be avoided. Therefore, we should not be surprised that Rabbi Yehuda Hanasi served as a distinguished "conductor" for the Roman imperial estates in the Land of Israel, such as in the area of ​​Beit Shaarim and even in the Golan, from which he made a great deal of money. The Jerusalem Talmud tells about "Antoninus (perhaps an imperial figure whose identity is in scholarly dispute) Yahva (Messer) Tarin Alpin (Thousands) Dashnin Barisu(T)" (VII, Chapter XNUMX, p. XNUMX). Beyond the employment of thousands of farmers as a result of this, his winning a high political position, his use as a mediator between Jews and the Roman government even doing the word of the Romans, the president obtained from this important industrial peace.

It will be noted in the logical context between "the chicken and the egg", when urban centers grew next to agricultural farms and vice versa, as well as an urban craft center nourished an agrarian periphery and vice versa. Such as the production of glass in Tiberias or the linen ware in Beit Shan dyeing centers in the cities of the "South" such as Lod and Beit Govrin.

In any case, it is enough to name the agricultural settlements that sprung up and grew in the Galilee and its surroundings after the destruction of the Second Temple in order to gauge the dimensions of the aforementioned demographic phenomenon that only grew stronger over the years, since, among other things, the emptying of the status and importance of Jerusalem after the destruction, served to strengthen the demographic wave that "To. And the laws of relief and permissibility of the sages never ceased to be formulated, such as that of Rabbi Yehuda Hanasi - "Rabbi Hatir (the obligation of tithing) Beit Shean, Rabbi Hatir Kisarin, Rabbi Hatir Beit Govrin, Rabbi Hatir Kfar Tzemach..." (Talmud Yerushalmi Pesachim Chapter XNUMX L p. d), when it comes to industrial centers and the permit is intended to encourage Jewish farmers and artisans to settle in those centers, and perhaps the result of this, although quite extreme, appears in sources such as "Dataniya said Rabbi Meir (although at the time he preceded Rabbi Yehuda's president): I saw in the valley Beit Shan, Beit Sa'ah makes seventy Korin" (Talmud Babylon without inscriptions Kib p. XNUMX). This president also had many cribs in the area of ​​Bashan, Trachon and Horan.

Rabbi Yehuda Hanasi established an important regulation in the Sikrikon law, the purpose of which was to normalize the ownership of the land, and its wording was: "Rabbi convened a court (special for the purpose of legislation) and they determined (decided) that if (the land) remained before the Sikrikon for twelve months, the first to take Wins, but gives the owner a quarter (a quarter of the price of the property)." The law of Sikrikon, that is, the expropriation of assets on behalf of the government directly or indirectly, was analyzed in depth at the time by my teacher and rabbi, Prof. Shmuel Safrai (Sikrikon, Zion, 64 56 pp. XNUMX-XNUMX) and the question that arose is whether this is a deliberate sale, if No?! And in general, was there not a legal-moral distortion in respect of those owners who had difficulty reaching their farms due to the battles that took place during the rebellion, to such an extent that the Jerusalem Talmud raised concerns that "...and the land was desolate (extorted) by the hand of Sikrikon..." (Yerushalmi Gitin Talmud, Chapter XNUMX, M) XNUMX p. XNUMX) and he continues: "They (the owners) refrained from washing. They decreed that there would be no Sikrikon in Judah. What are things supposed to be? In war dead (owners) before the war (rebellion). But the dead who were killed from the war and beyond (onward) do not have any sikrikon in them" (ibid.) ... Galilee, there is always a sikrikon in them ... Tani - tenants of old people's homes (land leased for a long period of time). The one who descends (leaves) because of (on garlic) and because of anafrot (taxes to the authorities) there is no Sikrikon in them..." (ibid.).

Prof. Safrai concluded that the first step in the Sikrikon regulations involves, first of all, equalizing with the weaker party at this time, and not preempting and buying from the stronger side, and offering the purchase to the weaker party, as if it were a done deal, who might give his consent to this out of lack of choice, and by virtue of the Sikrikon law, who does not recognize the purchase of the land which was bought from Sikrikon.

In the second stage, they canceled the Sikrikon law for an hour, referring to the days of danger on the eve of a rebellion, its course and immediate results), and then, when the time was right in terms of the security and socio-economic situation, they went back and fixed it. And the third stage, as mentioned, was signed by President Rabbi Yehuda's regulation and stated that the taker/buyer must compensate the legal owners in the amount of a quarter of the value of the land. Moreover, the halacha clearly distinguished between Judea and Galilee, when during the days of Ben Kuseva's rebellion and the restoration process that followed, the Sikrikon din was expropriated from Judea and still remained in Galilee.

On the one hand, there was a lot of sense, social and moral, in the Sikrikon law, on the other hand, it was in order to preserve the legality of the purchase under the stamp of the authorities. Rabbi Yehuda Hanasi was therefore able to maneuver between these two poles, with quite a few economic and political profits rolling into his pocket.

Moreover, and here we descend to the bottom of the chronological scale of our matter, namely - from the destruction of the second temple onwards. All the "wanderers" in the literature of the Sages often encountered conflicts, and sometimes sharp ones, between the presidency, starting with Rabbi Gamaliel (116-85 CE) and onward and the urban leaderships, not on behalf of the Sanhedrin and outside its supervision and leadership, such as "the head of a city ”, Bulvotin and more. This conflict had a clear political dimension and was accompanied by an economic aspect, such as payments of judgments that were transferred to the municipal court and not to the Sanhedrin, and so on. The Sanhedrin and at its head the Presidency tried to fight bitterly against these phenomena and without much success to say the least.

Let's not forget that after the Second Holocaust the power of the High Priesthood gradually diminished to the point where it was almost zero, and it was the one that until then controlled the economic, political, social and certainly the religious and ritual dome. After the Holocaust, the presidency inherits the status of the great priesthood, for all its aspects and importance, including the effect of nepotism, and in particular when it was well supported by the Roman authorities, when between the two poles of leadership - presidency and emperorship - there prevailed more than understanding and even mutual respects (no wonder, therefore, that the phrase "towel of the sages" was born ” – financial support in relation to travel/cruises managed by the Presidency in the Mediterranean Diaspora).

Moreover, it was not for nothing that Rabbi Yohanan ben Zakai uprooted his seat from Jerusalem, which was besieged during the days of the rebellion, left there under the auspices of the Romans and built the center in Yavneh, including the renewal of the Sanhedrin and the presidency, in terms of a Roman marionette on the one hand and strengthening his personal status on the other. It is true that to this day they seek to present his work as the savior of Jewish society after the Great Revolt, but my dear, let us not be stunned by his political and economic achievements/profits, and this is "knowledge" to bequeath to his successors.

Here, then, we close a circle of dynamic tension between the social aspects and the monetary-personal ones, and it is difficult to judge what surpassed what, and in any case, the magic of the win-win wave worked here like a staff, and in the words of the sages - "it is enjoyed and it is not lacking". And yet, the presidency, especially during the days of Rabbi Yehuda Hanasi and later, operated when it was supported, directly and indirectly, by the Roman imperial government, for the benefit of its economic profits.

This phenomenon intensified and reached unprecedented, and rather alarming, dimensions between the years 280-235 AD, a period known in Roman history as the Age of Anarchy. The presidents of the Sanhedrin, the descendants of Rabbi Yehuda the Hanasi, slowly began to make the office of the president as part of their private domain, to such an extent that the concept of capital-rule became a common currency in society.

3 תגובות

  1. Indeed, the rabbis after the destruction of the Bar Kochva rebellion were partly rich, such as Rabbi Yehuda Hanasi, and their friends were mainly wealthy. The other part of them, Rabbi Meir Baal Hans, were not rich, were called Kantaranim and were forbidden to enter the walls of the presidency's midrash. And we didn't give them an opening here. About Rabbi Meir Baal Hans or Rashbi it was said that we did not go to the end of his opinion and Halachah was not my rabbi.

  2. The series Sages by Rabbi Dr. Binyamin Lau. Reveals a window for the secular to a beautiful world that they would not have seen otherwise. I recently read his book about Isaiah. A bit solid and does not include secular biblical criticism of the Gentiles. The Wallhuizen school

  3. Even kippah wearers will find it difficult to argue with the current article. Although I often disagree with you (I don't wear a kippah) but I like your defiance. Unless you were instructed to be "solid" don't hesitate to annoy. It forces additional thinking on the readers contrary to their established opinions. The article is beautiful and similar to writing, for example, in volume XNUMX of the Sages series between the Mishnah and the Talmud

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