Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Yemenite Jews & Antiquity

Concerning the Priestly-Wards, Tradition and the Antiquity of Yemenite Jews
By Aviva Klein-Franke


A Hebrew stone inscription[1] was discovered in the early 1970's, used to support a column in a mosque in the Yemeni village of Bayt al-Hādir. The inscription includes a partial list of the priestly-wards.[2] The complete list of sacerdotal names would, normally, have included twenty-four priestly-wards, however, the above inscription only contained a roster of names beginning from the fourth ward, and ending with the fourteenth ward. This was because the stone had been partially broken. (see: Appendix A). This is the longest roster of names of this sort ever discovered, unto this day. And what makes this find even more impressive is that, for the first time, a similar roster has been discovered outside the land of Israel.

Professor Avi-Yonah helped to reconstruct a complete list of the names by comparing the priestly-wards found on the fragments of other stone inscriptions discovered in archaeological sites at a synagogue in Ašqelon, in Kisūfin and in Caesarea (Appendix B).[3] The discovery of the stone inscription in Yemen awakened a renewed interest in the priestly-wards, causing scholars to probe the subject, each from his own perspective. In content, the stone inscription is identical to some liturgical poems (piyūtim) describing the priestly-wards, and which were written between the 6th and 10th centuries C.E.[4]

Many scholars expressed their bewilderment how the stone inscription may have reached Yemen, and what the connexion might be between the priestly-wards and the Jewish exiles of Arabia. As a result, little attention was given to the ancient traditions bequeathed by the Jews of Yemen, or to those early traditions mentioned in the volumes of historical books dating back to pre-Islamic Arabia. Nor was any mention made of the importance of this discovery when investigating the antiquity of the Jews of Yemen.

Some thinking points for future research which came to mind as a result of the discovery of this inscription bearing the names of the priestly-wards were as follows:
1) What are the age and the source of the column?
2) What is the estimated time given for the stone's inscription?
3) Was the source of the column originally from outside of Yemen?
4) Was there, either, family or social contact between the priests of the wards living in Yemen, and those other priests living in Arabia and in Tiberius?
5) Does the existence of a roster showing the priestly-wards in Yemen attest to the nobility of birth of those priests living in Yemen?
6) How did the stone's existence (i.e. that stone inscription found in Bayt al- Hādir) eventually become forgotten?

I. Who were the twenty-four priestly-wards, and how did they officiate in their turn of duty?

King David determined before his death, together with the high priest, Sadoq, and Ahimelekh the son of Aviathar, that Aaron's progeny would serve in the holy place, within the Temple that was to be built by Solomon (I Chronicles 23:13). Unto Aaron (the brother of Moses) were born four sons, as it is written (I Chronicles 24:1-4):

"The sons of Aaron were Nadav, Avihu, El‘azar and Itammar. Yet, Nadav and Avihu predeceased their father, leaving behind them no offspring. And so it was that El‘azar and Itammar officiated in the office of priesthood…Now it was found that the sons of El‘azar were, by their principal families, more numerous than the sons of Itammar, and so they divided the sons of El‘azar by the heads of their clans, sixteen families all told. But to the sons of Itammar were only eight families all told."
In the Palestinian Talmud (JT, Ta‘anith 4:2 / 20a) it is also written:

"Eight wards of the priest were established by Moses – four from the line of El‘azar, and four from the line of Itammar. This practice continued until David and Samuel the Prophet came along and added thereto another eight – four belonging to El‘azar, and four belonging to Itammar. When they sought to add yet another eight [wards] to make-up a total of twenty-four [wards], they were able to find the number needed from the line of El‘azar, but they could not find an additional four wards from the line of Itammar, seeing that the sons of El‘azar were more numerous in their principal families than the sons of Itammar."

It was this roster of family names from the time of the first Temple, wherein there are twenty-four principal clans amongst the priests who served in the Temple, which would become the basis for all later compilations of names of this sort. In those rosters showing the twenty-four priestly-wards taken from the second Temple period, the arrangement of their names, in their successive order, has been preserved. Likewise, after the destruction of the Temple in 68 C.E., the order and arrangement of their names had still mostly been preserved, with only certain supplementary details being added thereto.

The expression, "ward" ( משמרת= in the sense of its meaning "watch"), in this regard, was not known to them during the first Temple period. When they were appointed by King David and Sadoq the priest, it was said (I Chronicles 24:3):

"And David divided them, that is, Sadoq from amongst the sons of El‘azar, and Ahimelekh from amongst the sons of Itammar, according to their commission in their line of service."

The expression "ward," on the other hand, has the connotation of "watching," or "guarding" (I Chronicles 23:32), such as what we find with the Levites:

"So that they might keep the watch over the Tent of Convocation (Ohel Mo'ed), and the watch over the holy place, as also the watch over the sons of Aaron their brethren, in the service of the House of G-D."

With Ezra the scribe, suddenly there appear newer expressions (Ezra 6:18):

"And they set the priests in their divisions, and the Levites in their courses, for the service of G-d…"

(See also the term "courses" = מחלקות as it is used in I Chronicles 23:6), while with Nehemiah (Nehemiah 13:30) there appears the term "wards" = משמרות, as it is written:

"…and I set up wards for the priests and Levites, each man according to his labour." (See also Nehemiah 12:45; 6:13, 14).[5]

King David and Sadoq, the high priest, cast lots in order to determine who would be the first to serve in the Temple, and the name that came forth was Yehoiariv [Jehoiarib] (I Chronicles 24:7). Although the roster of priests is neither a pedigree, nor a family's genealogical record as that which we find with the Levites, the clan of Yehoiariv still enjoyed great repute amongst the other priestly wards (see infra.). Yehoiariv, whose ward was selected to serve first, on the first week of each new year, his ward was also that which served in the Temple on the twenty-fifth week after the commencement of these ministerial shifts, and once again on the forty-ninth week. By way of rotation, each ward served in the Temple either twice or three times during the course of one year, differing only at the times in which they were appointed to serve.[6] Each week, a ward would take its turn; hundreds of priests belonging to the same ward serving in the sanctuary that once stood on the Temple precincts.

The order and manner of service of the priestly-wards are not fully detailed in the Book of Chronicles. In post-biblical sources, we find references to the effect that the wards were further broken down into households claiming common descent to an illustrious ancestor (Heb. batei av), and these were they who served together in the Temple. Each ward divided its members into groups according to their households. This enabled each group to actually serve in the Temple for only one day. At the conclusion of the week, on the Sabbath during the time of the offering known as the Musaf, the officiating ward was changed. During the three major religious holidays and festivals (Pesah, Shavu‘oth and Sukkoth), all wards shared all things commonly alike, and there was no preferential treatment of one ward above the other.
During the second Temple period, the position of the priests had augmented. Public affairs centred upon their work in the Temple. Thousands of priests came to serve each week in the Temple, the majority of whom did not even live in Jerusalem, but had come there from places without the city. So is it stated in the Palestinian Talmud (JT, Ta‘anith 4:2 / 19b):
"There were twenty-four [priestly]-wards, and over each ward there was a ma‘amad in Jerusalem comprised of priests, Levites and Israelites. When the time had arrived for a ward to take its turn of duty, its priests and Levites would go up to Jerusalem."
The Talmud outlines in detail the various laws and codes of practice associated with these priests, which same laws can be broken down into three categories: a) Those who do not recognise their ward; b) Those who do not recognise their particular household; c) Those who do not recognise both of these. In our first case, he is made exempt from service on the day when his turn would have otherwise come. In the second case, he is exempt from service on the Sabbath day. In the third case, he stands the risk of being exempted from service altogether.[7]

It is not known if the roster of names containing the twenty-four priestly-wards was, indeed, distributed amongst the priests or amongst the public during the time of the first Temple. Perhaps there was only an oral tradition amongst the priests, requiring them to remember it from generation to generation, seeing that their lineage was kept unblemished during the Babylonian captivity, and the order of their priestly service, according to what was established for it in antiquity, was preserved until the end of the second Temple. Those priests living in the diaspora also knew the family wards to which they belonged, and kept their lines of descent pure and untainted, according to the laws prescribed for the priests, so that no ignobility would befall their pedigree and, thereby, make them disqualified from acting in the priesthood. It is to be noted that several priests had lost their family registers and, thereby, relinquished their right to officiate as priests. In the book of Ezra (ibid., 2: 61-62), as well as in the Palestinian Talmud (JT, Kiddushin 1:3 / 41b), it is written:

"And of the sons of the priests, both, the sons of Chabiah and the sons of Haqotz, etc., ...these sought after their family register showing those reckoned by their lines of descent, but they were not found. Therefore they were considered impure, and put out of the priesthood."

It was, therefore, with great zeal that the priests preserved a record of their genealogy, and set themselves apart from others, while their daughters were given in marriage only to those sons of other priests. In this way, they were able, if called upon, to prove their pure line of descent.

It is also noted in Ezra (ibid., 2: 36-39) that only four wards of the priests came up with Ezra out of exile, as it is written:

"The priests, the sons of Yedaiah [Jedaiah] of the house of Yeshua, were numbered at nine-hundred and seventy-three; the sons of Immer were numbered at one-thousand and fifty-two; the sons of Pashchur were numbered at one-thousand and forty-seven; the sons of Harim were numbered at one-thousand and seventeen."

According to the Palestinian Talmud (JT, Ta‘anith 4:2 / 20a), we learn that the ward of Yehoiariv [Jehoiarib] had the choicest rank amongst the wards, as it is written:

"Four wards came up out of exile: Yedaiah, Harim, Pashchur and Immer. The prophets among them had made a stipulation with them, namely, that even if Yehoiariv should come up out of exile, the officiating ward that serves in the Temple at that time should not be rejected on his account, but rather, he is to become secondary unto them."[8]

Only four family wards came up out of the exile. Yet, with the renewal of the Temple service, these same families were broken-down into twenty-four smaller priestly-wards, according to what was established for the wards at the time of the first Temple.[9] It was during the days of Yoiakim [Joiakim] the high priest (Nehemiah 13:31) that they put down in writing the names of the priestly-wards. Livor reasons that at the very start of the Temple's re-building, the priests also began the process of re-organisation according to their shifts, instead of by their families. Possibly, even, the same four wards that came up out of the exile were divided into twenty-four additional wards, or that this division took place after they were joined by their other exiled brethren, the priests, who had come up out of exile. The renewed structural divisions in the wards were also due to other reasons as well, as we read in the Palestinian Talmud (JT, Ta‘anith 4:2 / 20a) that there were smaller households that joined up with a single ward, and, conversely, there were branched-out households that needed to be broken-down into smaller units, just as it is mentioned concerning the ward of Amok, and of Yedaiah [Jedaiah], of ‘Iddo, and of Avihu. The traditional order in which the wards appear was preserved throughout generations, as well as after the destruction of the Temple, with the addition of place names in the Galilee being added to the roster. So, too, a record of these things have been preserved in liturgical poems.[10] Even with the sect that once inhabited the shores of the Dead Sea, a record of the priestly-wards and their order was kept, although in their numbering of the wards there was a total of twenty-six! Thus, we find written:

"The chiefs of the wards are twenty-six [in number], each of them serving in his own ward, and after them come the heads of the Levites." (cf. I Chronicles 24:7-18).[11]

Based after the pattern used by the priests, the Levites also divided themselves into twenty-four wards, as it is written in the Palestinian Talmud (JT, Ta‘anith 4:2 / 19b): "For each ward there was a ma‘amad (station)." Just like the priestly-wards, so, too, the Levites in their ma‘amad observed diligently their turn of duty, even when their service in the Temple came to an end. They had also a written record of their wards, and are mentioned when the nation of Israel took to mourning over the destruction of the Temple.[12]

The position held by the priests was one of great esteem; the high priest also served as the head of the Sanhedrin, while his fellow priests served as judges. The majority of the priests from the wards did not make their living from the public tithes and offerings. They were, rather, land and property owners, and their influence could be felt in all walks of life. They were a decisive factor in, both, political and economical affairs, up to the time of the destruction of the second Temple. Also, when their service in the Temple came to an end, they continued to keep their vaunted position owing to their organisation into wards, or households, in their respective settlements in the Galilee. Gradually, they joined other communities in the Galilee, taking an active role in the civil and spiritual development of their society.[13]

II. The roster of the priestly-wards after the destruction of the second Temple:

After the destruction of the Temple by Titus, and to a greater extent, after the Bar-Cochba revolt, Judaea was emptied of its settlements made-up of priests. Many of them moved to the Galilee. They either joined existing settlements of priests, or established new villages of their own. In the rosters of priestly-wards that appeared after the destruction of the second Temple, alongside the name of each ward was mentioned also his place of settlement in the Galilee. With several of the wards, there were added biographical details, or epithets, by which we learn of historical events (see: Appendix C)[14]; For example: with Pethahiah, we find the added appellation of 'Achelah;' with Yedaiah [Jedaiah], we find the added appellation of '‘Amok;' with Yeshua, we find the added appellation of 'Nišdaf,' or 'Nišraf.' Unto Yehoiariv [Jehoiarib] was added the epithet of 'Mesarvae,' signifying that he was a person who liked to contend with others. A dispute arose over Yehoiariv's ward's official duties in the Temple on the last night of their shift, which happened to fall on the receding of the Sabbath (Motza’ei Shabbath) on the Ninth of Av fast day, in the year 68 C.E. The Palestinian Talmud (JT, Ta‘anith 4:5 / 24a) writes:

"Said Rebbe Levi: [The ward of] Yehoiariv, that man of Meron, [from] the town of Mesarvae, delivered the sanctuary unto the enemies. Said Rebbe Berachiah: Yehoiariv – Ya-h (G-d) hariv (caused a contention) ‘im benau (with his sons) over his watch, and they rejected him; Yedaiah, [from] ‘Amok Sepporayim [Sepphoris]. Yedaiah – ‘eisah ‘amūkah (deep counsel) šebelev (that lay in the heart) wehiglam lesepporayin (wherefore, he banished them to Sepporayim)."

In addition to that source in the Talmudic tractate of Ta‘anith, we find yet piyūtim (anthologies) that allude to the men of the ward from the family of Yehoiariv, and their conduct on that last fateful day when the Sabbath receded. The paytan, Eleazar Kallir, mentions them in his lamentation for the Ninth of Av fast day, entitled: "How doth the narcissus of Sharon sit [solitary]," writing: "…as the sanctuary was delivered by the Mesarvae of Meron." So, too, in that piyut attributed to the poet, Phinehas Hakohen, they are mentioned: "Yehoiariv took courage at the time appointed, even the Mesarvae of Meron." While in that lamentation written by an anonymous poet for the Ninth of Av fast day, found in the Cairo Geniza at Fustat (T.S. 14/15 H), the ward of Yehoiariv is mentioned in rhymed lyrics: "attoh qilqalta kol sevivai / we-hosafta yagon ‘al mach'ovai / lamah rammah qeren mahrivai / pe‘amayim bemišmar Mesarvai."

(Thou hast spoiled all my surroundings / and hast added grief to my sorrows / why are my destroyers uplifted / twice it has been, during the ward of Mesarvae!)

While yet in another place, we find:
"Yehoiariv we-Yedaiah mehadar / u'vaū tahtehem benei Nevayoth we-Qedar (lines 3 & 4); aikh lohatu Pethahiah we- Yehezqel me[ma‘ama]dan / u'vaū tahtehen Sheva we-Dedan."

(Yehoiariv and Yedaiah working sumptuously! / But there came in their stead the Nabataeans and Kedar (i.e. the Arabs)…How were Pethahiah and Yehezqel [Ezekiel] inflamed out of their stations! / And there came in their stead Sheba and Dedan!)[15]

Presumably, after the destruction of the Temple, the priests of each ward carried on a practice in their respective villages to make mention of their ward. When these priests wandered from their places and mixed with the communities of Israel, these same rosters became public property and were distributed also amongst the synagogues, whose congregants were not numbered amongst the priests. In time, the roster served also as a way to determine the time of the appointed feasts.[16] The discoveries found in the synagogues in the land of Israel strengthen the supposition that, indeed, they were being used for determining the time of the appointed feasts.

The fact that, to this day, there have been no other discoveries of rosters found like these dating back to a time prior to the 3rd Century C.E., suggests that they were inscribed for the priests. (Furthermore, most of the paytanim who incorporated the roster of the wards into their own liturgies were, themselves, priests who belonged to a certain ward.) With their relocation into villages not inhabited by the priestly clan, the tradition continued unabated with them and was, apparently, appreciated by the public as a legacy having important literary value. The liturgical poems and dirges compiled by Eleazar Kallir over the twenty-four priestly-wards were said in the synagogue on Tish‘ah be’av (the Ninth of Av fast day). Those liturgical poems compiled by Rebbe Phinehas were intended for the Sabbath.[17] He had it as a practice to declare the ward that would normally have had duty on that Sabbath, before the reading of the weekly biblical lection. With the passing of time, in order to make it easier for the congregation, the synagogue elders inscribed the names of the wards in their order upon a stone tablet. S. Klein supposes that at the hour of the actual mentioning of the ward, the roster was covered over, excepting that place wherein was marked the officiating ward. Eshel purports, on the other hand, that had all the rosters been as the reconstructed roster of Avi-Yonah (Appendix B), this would have been possible. However, in the roster of Bayt al-Hādir (Appendix A), there are lines wherein are mentioned more than one ward.[18] The names of the wards were frequently mentioned, as well, outside of the synagogue, and, as it would seem, a man's affiliation to a certain ward would often find mention, seeing that his ward was placed as an honorary title next to his name, just as it is mentioned in a certain lamentation over a dead man that he belonged to such-and-such ward:

"May all Israel find consolation therein / when he anon causes Menahem to sprout / and they rebuild Jerusalem and the nation in a moment / those who are in mourning within the ward of Yehoiariv."[19]

The esteemed position held by the priests, and their responsibility towards the nation, loomed high in the mind of the nation, whether in Israel or in the diaspora, at a time when they no longer served in their full capacity and the people had only oral tradition and custom to rely upon.[20] The rosters of the wards marking their turn of duty in the holy place were preserved in hope that the day would come when the Temple would, once again, be erected in its place, and the Temple service renewed therein. The expectation for an autonomous future, and the hope for its fulfillment, gave life to many generations.

III. The mosque in the village Bayt al-Hādir, its relationship with the Jews of the village Tan‘im, and its antiquities:

The village, Bayt al-Hādir, belongs to the district known as Benei Chowlān, and is situate about 27 km. south-east of San‘ā’. The village lies on the side of a hill that makes up part of a mountain range called 'Qūrban,' adjoining which is a shallow valley named Wadi al-Ja‘bar. It is located between the more popular town of Jimān and the village of Tan‘im, both of which are ancient settlements. Jews settled in them back in ancient times, continuing therein uninterrupted until their mass immigration to Israel, known as 'On Eagles' Wings,' in the middle of the 20th century C.E.

Many are the archaeological sites in this area that have not yet been excavated. The village Tan‘im is located about 15 km. eastward of Bayt al-Hādir. According to a tradition passed down by its Jewish population, Tan‘im was one of the principal strongholds established by the first Jewish exiles who came to settle in Yemen, places known as Resh Galuth. At Tan‘im, Uzal (San‘ā’), and at Jebal Sabir, the first Jews arrived.[21] Jews settled originally upon the mountain top, and, apparently, the settlement there also bore formerly the name Tan‘im.[22] In the foothills of the village, towards the north, there is a fresh-water lake, used by the local inhabitants for drinking. The village of Tan‘im is nestled in the side of a mountain, and on either side are two large mountains; on the west rises a mountain with almond orchards formerly owned by Jews, while on the east of the village rises a lofty mountain which, according to a tradition passed down by the Jews of Tan‘im, used to be their dwelling place until the Romans came. The reason given for their descent from the mountain top is connected to a story of romance between a Roman soldier and Yemenite lass. The commander of the Roman forces fell in love with a Jewish damsel, whom he espied while the damsel went down to draw water from a certain well, or from the lake. He desired to take her in marriage, but the Jews refused to give her unto him. The Roman commander then sent an ultimatum unto the Jews, saying that if they persisted in their refusal, he would be obliged to ascend the mountain and fight against them. The Jews returned an answer, saying that they would send the damsel unto him on the next full-moon. On that day, and at that appointed hour, an indiscernible figure in human shape and form descended the mountain while riding upon a donkey. With outstretched arms, the indiscernible figure riding upon the donkey approached the Roman camp. The Roman garrison, anticipating a gallant wedding ceremony thrown on behalf of the damsel and the Roman officer, were already given-over to much revelling and merriment, and had drunk to their full that very evening. Yet, when they understood that the Jews had beguiled their commander, and had sent unto them an effigy to which had been fastened the leaves of aloe vera, like unto arms outstretched, they were deeply offended. The Roman commander, who was insulted by this act of mockery from the Jews, went out to make war against them, and, in this way, he subdued them. As a result of the Roman victory, they were compelled to come down from the mountain.[23] The Romans did not stay on the mountain for any lengthy period of time. (They had problems in securing their food and water supply.) When they eventually forsook their mountain post, the Jews returned to the mountain, yet, at some later time in their history, during the period of Islam, they once again came down from the mountain due to harsh decrees and persecutions. During this time, they settled on the side of the mountain opposite them, near to their source of water and to their fields. They apparently called their new place Tan‘im, after the name of their former settlement on the mountain.[24] Jews continued to visit the mountain top opposite Tan‘im until the middle of the 20th century C.E. From their testimony, there still exists on the mountain top much evidence attesting to a Jewish settlement there. The local inhabitants were prevented from going up the mountain out of fear of it being haunted by jinn, that is to say, demons and all sorts of evil spirits.[25]

Among the archaeological finds of the region, both, in the south as well as to the north of the city, there are other stone inscriptions reputed to have belonged to the country's Jewish citizens, appearing in either Hebrew (Assyrian) script, Aramaic or Sabaean script. In Tan‘im, Professor Walter Müller discovered in the central mosque of the village an important Judeo-Himyarite inscription, which also happened to be engraved upon a column. Yet, even here, part of the inscription was embedded in the ground belonging to the mosque.[26] The inscription is believed to be from the 4th century C.E., and attests to the antiquity of the Jews in that area. The column was erected in a house of prayer, or what was called in Aramaic: misgadan. This word does not appear in pre-Islamic inscriptions of South Arabia.[27] One can only speculate that the column was brought to the mosque from some other place, but one cannot rule out the possibility that it stands where it has always stood, viz., the structure once served as a house of prayer for the Jews before its function had been altered. To that same period belongs another bilingual Sabaean-Hebrew inscription, which Professor Giovānnī Garbinī of Naples discovered in 1970. The inscription is found on a column in Bayt al-Ašwāl near Zafār [Dhofār] (ca. 17 km. from the town of Yarim). It can be assumed, likewise, that the origin of this column is from a house of prayer belonging to the Jews.[28] The inscription found by Garbinī, and the inscription of Bayt al-Hādir, are the only inscriptions in Hebrew that were found to this day in South Arabia. (The inscription that was found in al-Hāsī in Yemen's eastern quarter is not a Hebrew inscription, although its content pertains to the Jews. It mentions therein that a certain Jew purchased a parcel of land. Part of it was set up within a synagogue, while another part served as a testimony in the Jewish cemetery.)

The Stone Inscription Discovered By Prof. Garbini

Today, the village Bayt al-Hādir, as also the village Tan‘im, are small agricultural villages. According to the testimony of some of the inhabitants of Bayt al-Hādir, there was no Jewish community living in the village during the 1930's and 1940's (the generation preceding the immigration known as "On Eagles' Wings.") Still, as an elder of the village pointed out, skilled Jewish craftsmen would come to the village, while some of them would extend their stay there for short intervals, under the protection of the village sheikh. One such person would repair shoes, or working tools. Others worked in construction, or repaired broken pieces of jewellery. There were present in the village some of the older men who still remembered them. It is conjectured that, in the past, Jews resided in Bayt al-Hādir, possibly it being even a settlement made-up of priests before their expulsion to Mawza‘.

The mosque wherein was found the inscription is situate in the north-western quarter of the village, and is enclosed by a wall. The entrance to the mosque, attained by passing through a low standing door, leads first to an open area, part of which is open to the sky, while the other part is covered over by a ceiling, through which one enters an inner-courtyard, built about a metre lower than the ground floor of the mosque. There, a dome-like structure and a pool of water greet the visitor, the pool, perhaps at one time, serving as a ritual ablution (Heb. miqwah). The mosque is a single storeyed building. Professor Grjaznevic believes the mosque to be the oldest structure in the village. The place designated for performing one's prayers is a medium-sized room, and its ceiling is not very high, about 250 cm. (8 ft. 2 in.) Wooden rafters make-up the ceiling. Within the mosque, there are three columns. The column bearing the inscription can be divided into three parts: The two upper parts are octagonal in shape, while the lower third part, upon which is the inscription, is square (with the inscription being turned upside-down).

On the right side of the entrance to the room of the mosque there is another inscription. Upon hewn stone is engraved an inscription in the Arabic language, the contents of which read: "Al-Mahdi al-Hādī al-Qāsim," while the year inscribed is [A.H.] 211; marking that the mosque had been built by the Imam al-Hādī al-Hāq Yihye, ibn al-Husayn, ibn al-Qāsim. The Imam al-Hādī appeared for the first time in this area in the autumn of 903 C.E., and from here he went out to capture San‘ā’ from its southern quarter. He ruled over Yemen in the beginning of the 10th century C.E., and was a zealous Moslem, one who wielded great authority over the people.[29] The mosque at Bayt al-Hādir is considered to be one of seven holy mosques in Yemen to have been built by the Imam al-Hādī. (The mosque which bears his name in Sa‘adah is the more reputable of these mosques.)

The word 'Hādir' is an ancient word, the root of which is made-up of the letters: H - D - R. Grjaznevic has explained its meaning as implying "someone or something that makes another glad," – hence: being prepared at all times to make God happy. The place was known in ancient times as a place of pilgrimage (Al-Hamdānī, who lived in the 10th century C.E., mentioned the village by its name). The houses of the village are built upon what remains of an old settlement, part of which – according to Grjaznevic – are still buried to a depth of three metres. In the foundations of many structures, they had made use of ancient building materials. One can see that, while constructing the mosque which now stands upon the ruins of a synagogue, they used the columns and the stones belonging to the former structure. Could he have been the first in Yemen during the period of Islam to have persecuted the Jews? Did he destroy houses of prayer, uproot them from their places, plunder them and persecute them?

The Hebrew inscription is positioned upside-down; what was to be the upper part of the stone inscription being turned downwards. The inscription is spread out, reaching as far as the floor of the mosque, while the rug touches it. One can see that its end is embedded within the cement floor of the mosque. The column above the inscription has been painted in turquoise, and while the paint was still fresh, some of it had dripped upon the inscription. This had happened, apparently, sometime after the visits of Müller and Grjaznevic, seeing that in the photograph taken by Müller there are no signs of the paint. The inscription is positioned at the lower base of an octagonal column, and is made of limestone. The height of the column is roughly 250 cm. (8 ft. 2 in.) The surface whereon is engraved the inscription is measured at roughly 65 cm., while the column at this place is squared. The letters are made in relief. The width of each line is not consistent, measuring between 26 cm. to 32 cm. Only thirteen lines of the inscription are visible to the eye. The shortest line contains ten letters, while the longest contains twenty-eight letters. The size of each letter is not consistent, while the spaces between the letters also vary in size, anywhere between 1 cm. to 1.2 cm. The space between the lines vary between 1.2 cm. to 2.2 cm. Since part of the inscription is embedded within the ground of the mosque, one can suspect that the floor had been raised, thus burying part of the inscription treating on the priestly-wards. If that had indeed happened, the floor of the room had originally been on the same ground level with that of the courtyard. Part of the inscription, most certainly, still lies beneath the floor of the mosque, meaning, the continuation of what is missing of the roster, beginning with the first ward to the third. Since the inscription's end is not really the end of the roster showing the priestly-wards, it is suggested that, perhaps, there was yet another column. That is to say, there was more than one column in the synagogue. We can only hope that it, too, will be found some day. It is, moreover, argued that it is highly unlikely that Jews had a hand in erecting the column with the inscription placed in a reverse position, insomuch that Jews have never forgotten the Hebrew language.[30]

Professor Grjaznevic assumed that, originally, the column was not of that place, but had been brought there from the village Tan‘im. Professor Müller also suggested that Tan‘im is the more likely place where the column discovered in Bayt al-Hādir would have come from.[31] The question, however, remains – which Tan‘im: that which is built-up today, or that which once lay upon the mountain top? Jews that had come from Tan‘im have presumed that the column originally stood in a synagogue. It cannot be ruled out, in my opinion, the possibility that the column found at Bayt al-Hādir belonged to an ancient Jewish settlement. On the mountain opposite the village of Bayt al-Hādir there are many Jewish relics attesting to the fact that it, too, like Tan‘im, was once a Jewish settlement. Did the Jews descend from that mountain top and establish Bayt al-Hādir of today? If so, when did this happen?

The roster of the priestly-wards appears in a certain order. Each ward is shown in three categories: the arranged order of each ward; the name of the ward itself; the name of its village. The addition of an epithet, or detail hinting on the character of the person from that ward, also appears on the inscription just as it appears in the majority of rosters taken from the liturgical poems. (See Appendix A, and the comparisons in Appendix D).[32]

IV. Contacts maintained by the Jews of Arabia and the priests with the land of Israel and with diaspora Jews and the connexion between Tiberius and Himyar:

The Bible supplies us with much information about the connexions between Canaan and the land of Sheba. Not only were there trade and family connexions with South Arabia, but also with central and northern Arabia. The cities Taimā and Ra‘amah, identified with Najran (according to Müller, the name is a translation of the Sabaean word 'Ra‘am.'), were popular centres of trade. Trading villages were established along caravan routes, wherein Nabataean merchants played an important part in this trade. In Jewish sources there is hardly any information about the Jews of Arabia in the 1st century C.E. Concerning the settlement of Jews in Central and North Arabia there are findings in Himyarite, Ethiopian and Nabataean sources.

Aside from a period of some three-hundred years between the 10th century and 13th century C.E. (during which years and afterwards, more than 100,000 fragments of documents were stored at the Cairo Geniza, some of which were letters written by the Jews of Yemen, while others written to them from places outside of Yemen), there are very few records on the Jews of Yemen and their history between the years of the destruction of the second Temple and the expulsion of the Jews to Mawza‘ during the years 1679-1680. Those records that do exist and which were recovered from the Cairo Geniza attest to a vital community in Yemen that maintained contact with Jewish communities abroad, including family correspondence and trade & business transactions extending as far as the Levant.[33] Moreover, the contacts that did exist at the end of the 1st millennia C.E. did not just spring up overnight, although perhaps this period did not mark a high-point of extra limitem activity. The Jews of Arabia maintained contact with centres of Jewry in the land of Israel and in Babylon long before this. Josephus writes in his introduction to 'the Jewish War' that he informed the Jews living in South Arabia about the outcome of the war with the Romans, a fact which often goes unnoticed by many.[34] We know, also, that in the 6th century C.E. there were strong ties between the priests of Tiberius and the Jews of Himyar (Yemen). Even though some might be tempted to think that this connexion had somewhat to do with the establishment of a Jewish monarchy in Yemen, it is difficult to imagine that this connexion came into being only in lieu of that fact, or that it did not exist prior to this. Throughout the entire Arabian Peninsula Jewish communities prospered, in whose midst were priests who, without question, maintained some form of family contact with the priests of the Galilee. For the same reason, the Jews of Himyar, likewise, maintained contact with Jewish settlements in central and northern Arabia.

From epigraphs dating back to the 1st century to the 6th century C.E., as well as from those literary and historical accounts written in Arabic,[35] there is evidence to the effect that Jews maintained a presence in nearly all of Arabia, while they also had open links of communication between themselves and the land of Israel. According to Nabataean sources, after the defeat of the Jews in Israel during their war with the Romans, they moved away and settled in Madāyn Sālih, formerly known as al-Hijru, while others settled in al-’Ulā, a place like unto Taimā, the ancient city of Arabia, which was abundant in water and situate on one of the water courses that served as a tributary to yet another water course flowing through a valley known as Wadi Qūra, while to its east were the people of the biblical Dedan. Al-Hijru, or al-Hajra, was a city that loomed second in importance to the Nabataeans after Petra. These settlements are located in a south-westerly direction from Taimā, along the caravan routes and 'the Incense Trail' where spices and commodities were transported from Sheba and from Himyar to Palmyra (the ancient Tadmor). In the 4th century C.E., members of the same family ruled in Taimā and in Hajra. In an area attributed to be a place of their settlement, tombstones have been found from the 1st century to the 4th century C.E., the insignia thereof showing that the occupants of those graves were Jews. As for the tombs of Jews from Himyar discovered in Beith Ša‘arīm in the Galilee and believed to date back to the 4th century C.E.,[36] perhaps one of the visitors from Himyar had passed away while visiting a relative. It can also be conjectured that it was a custom (perhaps of the priests?) to be buried in the land of Israel in a parcel of ground purchased by the family for a burial site.

Written in Greek uncials are the words: "Belonging to the people of Himyar."

The Jewish settlement in Taimā existed for more than one-thousand years, continuing up to nearly the time of the advent of Islam. Important personages once lived in Taimā, among whom was the poet, Samau’al ibn ‘Adiyah (6th century C.E.), who was also the governor of the fortress at Taimā. He also mentions the priests who possessed a lineal descent that was seen as unblemished, living in Hijaz. Another famous personality from Taimā was the Rabbi, Šimeon of Taimā (שמעון הַתִּימְנִי), who is mentioned in the Babylonian Talmud (Zevahim 32b; Kiddushin 74b) who lived in the 2nd century C.E. From the same period, we hear of Rabbi Akiva's arrival in South Arabia in anno 130 C.E., where it is reported he spoke with the king of that place who was of the Negroid race, perhaps an Abyssinian. It is not clear what the import of his journey was, but it can be assumed that he came there on their behalf, sought them out and made contact with them.[37]

In the vicinity of Yathrib (a city whose name was changed to Medina after Muhammad settled there) many Jews had lived until the advent of Islam. A philological study conducted on their language and their customs of purity infers that they are the direct descendants of Jews from the land of Israel and that they did not come to central Arabia from some other diaspora community.[38] In this area, the Jewish clans of Qurayza and Nadīr had come to settle, clans that were related one to another, whose origins were from those priests that had served in the 1st Temple. They were known by the name of 'al-Kahaninān' and were numbered among the families of priests from the land of Israel having an unblemished lineal descent. In addition to contacts with the land of Israel, the Jews of Yathrib maintained family and commercial ties with Jewish groups in Arabia: Mecca, Khaibar, Maqnah and Benei Hanina, and, presumably, also with the Jews of Himyar.

The Jews of Hijaz subsided on agriculture and on craftsmanship, as did most of the Jews living in the Arabian Peninsula, bringing growth and prosperity to the country. While the Jews of north and central Arabia lived peaceably and in tranquility in their desert oases, enjoying autonomy until the appearance of Muhammad and the manifestation of his code of law which, eventually, led to their eviction from their strongholds and to the community's demise. Around the time of their expulsion, dramatic geopolitical changes passed over the Jews of South Arabia during the pre-Islamic period. An independent Jewish State made it easier for them to nurture ties with Jewish groups in the diaspora and in the land of Israel, as well as to develop their own political aspirations over the outlying districts.

In Himyar, the Jewish community amassed in strength from the beginning of the 4th century. Jews held positions in politics and in the military and their influence was great.[39] Amongst those that manned the many positions were, presumably, the priests and the aristocracy of Judah. It's reasonable to say that in addition to maintaining family links of communication, they also maintained political contacts with the Jewish rulers in central and northern Arabia and in the land of Israel. To these family and political ties there was attached great political importance in the 6th century C.E. During this period, South Arabia served as a very important political, religious and economic cross-road. The growing political aspirations of Himyar led her into capturing territories along the eastern basin of the Erythraean Sea,[40] resulting in her spreading her hegemony there and, also, giving rise to Jewish influence. The rising power of Judaism in South Arabia encouraged ambitions of autonomy with its Jewish citizens. The sovereign of Himyar, Yosef As’ar Masrūq, otherwise known as Dhū-Nuwās (reigned circa 517 – 525 C.E.) was born unto the royal family of Himyar, a family that had embraced Judaism before him. His mother, according to Nestorian records, was formerly a Jewess captive brought to Yemen from Nisibis. During the reign of his father, Judaism became the official religion of the State.[41]

During this glittering period of Judaism in South Arabia, important political changes were taking place in other centres of world Jewry. One-hundred years after the highly coveted position of Nasi had been canceled in the land of Israel (in anno 425 C.E.) and, approximately, twenty years after the termination of Jewish independence in Mahoza, Mar Zūtra b. Mar Zūtra was invited to come from Babylon to Tiberius and to serve there under the capacity of Israel's chief Rabbi.[42] The appearance of Mar Zūtra in Tiberius, a man whose lineage was traced back to the house of David, awakened hope for renewed independence. Public affairs under him in Tiberius would doubtless have seen a renewed contact and interest in the Jewish communities abroad.

At the time when Judaism in South Arabia flourished and Christians in that country were persecuted by the Jewish monarch, the situation of the Jews in the land of Israel was just the opposite under the emperor, Justinian I. He persecuted them. On the other hand, the status of the priests living in Israel at that time became greatly enhanced. They were well-trained army officers and held whole armies under their command. They were perhaps even the driving force behind changing the fate of the Jews in Yemen. They tried changing political conditions, while they were given an audience before kings and governors all throughout the region. The priests wanted to weaken the control of the Christians over the land of Israel, but knew that they could not do so alone. They, therefore, sought the intervention of a neighbouring super-power. They – it is presumed the priests – turned to the Persian ruler with an offer that they would be willing to support his designs in the land of Israel and come to his assistance with troops on the condition that he'd give them independence and help in restoring their Temple. Thus, a natural alliance was made owing to, both, religious and geopolitical needs of the time. For the Jews and for the Persians there was a common enemy. Many expressed a willingness to fight in order to advance the cause of Persia against the Christians, among which also were many of the priests who were aroused by the idea of a renewed Jewish way of life in Jerusalem and the re-building of its Temple. With Persia's unrelenting support for the Jews in the land of Israel, she breathed down the back of Byzantium. The weakening of the Byzantine emperor in the land of Israel would bring about some amelioration in the Jewish condition (a plan which failed).

The proselytization of the Himyarite State during the 6th century C.E. fueled resentment amongst the Christian community in Najran, a large community made-up of established merchants and one that aspired to be released from the yoke of Himyar's governance. The urgent visit of priests from Tiberius in the country of Himyar,[43] as well as the appearance of Jews from Himyar in the land of Israel, kindled the suspicions amongst Christians in South Arabia and in the land of Israel. For not only did the Christian citizens of Najran view an empowered Jewish State as a threat to their very existence, but also, the connexions that had developed between the priests of Tiberius and South Arabia awakened within the priests a sense of political drive and ambition and one that they hoped would eventually lead to territorial expansion stretching from the land of Israel, on the one end, to the Jewish State in South Arabia, on the other. The presence of Jewish priests from Tiberius was so apparent in Himyar that they are mentioned in a chronicle dating back to the 6th century C.E., belonging to Šimeon of Bayt-Aršam, who mentions that they have it as a practice to visit their Jewish brethren in Himyar on a regular yearly basis.[44] Some say that this connexion was encouraged by the Himyarite king himself. The question remains, however, according to Hirschberg, why did the Himyarite king prefer making contact with the priests of the land of Israel and not, rather, with the priests of northern Arabia? Afterall, he says, the priests of central Hijaz were skilled in warfare, besides being closer geographically.[45]

The support which the Christians of Najran received from the Abyssinians encouraged them to engage in open rebellion against the Jewish sovereign. Dhū-Nuwās viewed such foreign intervention as a sign of worsening conditions within the State. He viewed Najran's appeal for help from Christian outsiders as an act of belligerence and treachery. The Himyarite king, Joseph Dhū-Nuwās, decided to go to war against the insurgents in Najran. The conflict soon progressed from a local rebellion into a religious, political and economic confrontation between Abyssinia and Himyar. Soon, the struggle took on new dimensions, bringing on the involvement of two world super-powers – Persia and Byzantium. Did the priests of Tiberius, those having contacts with the Persian ruler, seek the Persian ruler's assistance on behalf of Himyar? Did there actually happen what Hirschberg terms "the catalyst" (the thing that put everything else in motion)? The Jews in the land of Israel found an ally upon whom they could rely in the super-power of Persia whose own enemies were their oppressors, while the Christians of Arabia sought help with their allies, the Christians.[46]

As to the distinguished position held by the priests and to their outstanding duties we find references thereof in a Himyarite inscription.[47] At the height of military conflict, Dhū-Nuwās sent emissaries to the Abyssinians in Dhofār with the aim of persuading them to surrender. The emissaries were comprised of two Jewish priests and two Nestorian Christians. Could these have been priests that were sent to mediate from outside the State, or were they only local people wielding authority who knew the political situation of the time, or at least knew the country and her tendencies? Could they have also been skilled in warfare?

Dhū-Nuwās' war against the Christians was devastating, insomuch that all hopes for a bright political future in a Jewish State were lost and his country's independence was soon taken away from them, while his own fate was also sealed. The Himyarite king who worked so hard to attain Jewish independence in South Arabia invariably brought about its own end. As a result of his defeat and his death in the battle against the Abyssinians, political changes swept over the region and the situation of the Jews worsened while as yet Islam had not become a dynamic force in the Arabian Peninsula.[48] Two generations after Dhū-Nuwās, once again there were joint military operations between Persia and the underground leaders of South Arabia who helped to cast out the Abyssinian captors that had invaded Himyar, but which also turned Himyar into a Persian vassal-State.[49]

In this region, during the one-hundred years until the advent of Islam, Christians and Jews fought with one another over their rights to political freedom. The government and the State religion were changed in South Arabia, while the Christians also vanished from the region. However, Jewish concentrations continued to exist there without interruption, and they continue to exist even to this very day.[50]

V. Priests from the house of Yehoiariv in Yemen

An old tradition preserved by the Jews of Yemen, passed down generation after generation and existing even unto our day, states that amongst the exiles of Yemen lived priests that had preserved a record of their lineage, keeping themselves untainted and linked to the nobility of Judah.[51] Among whom were those reckoned from the high priest of the 'house of Yehoiariv;' and others, priests from the 'house of Phinehas.' Families of gentility held to their social status and kept records of their pedigree as proof of their descent. Much has been written about this, here being mentioned only a few aspects. For example: The burning of the family registers belonging to Yemenite Jewry's nobility is connected to the family of Rabbi Aaron al-‘Araqi Hacohen al-Ousta, which had been perpetrated by him. It, too, is a family of priests, but they could not prove their pure line of descent. The only genealogical records that survived the episode of burning were that of the Sālih family (who trace their lineage to ‘Obed, who came from Peretz, one of Judah's progeny) and that of Maghori-Cohen who trace their line of descent to the priests of the house of Yehoiariv.[52] In the case of Maghori-Cohen, although no one recalls seeing the family's pedigree in these latter generations, it should not be assumed thereby that it did not exist. We do not know today what role the Maghori-Cohen family played at the time of the dispute with the ‘Araqi family, for it is told how that the opposition to intermarry with that family was instigated by several of the more prominent families in San‘ā’ having pure lines of descent. It is presumed that the opposition shown by either the Maghori-Cohen family or the Sālih family was very adamant, for they refused to deliver up their own family registers. There was yet another dispute linked to the family of ‘Araqi Hacohen regarding the Spanish-rite Prayer Book. Likewise, here, it does not come within the scope of our present inquiry, although it is possible to conjecture that in the ensuing argument that developed there were involved also priests. As for the custom to suppress one's joy during the days known as "between the straits" (בין הַמְּצָרִים), the days associated with the destruction of the Temple between the 17th day of the lunar month Tammuz and the 9th day of the lunar month Av, as also the prohibition to shave one's head in the week wherein falls the 9th of Av, there is a custom connected to the wards of the priests and to the ma‘amads ever since the Temple's destruction, just as we find in the Palestinian Talmud (JT, Ta‘anith 4:6, 25b): "The people of the wards and the people of the ma‘amad are prohibited to shave [their heads] and to wash [their clothes]."[53]

It is uncertain when priests from the house of Yehoiariv reached Sheba, or Himyar, but there is reason to believe that a branch of this family arrived in Yemen after the expulsion of Jews from the land of Israel at the end of the first Temple period, or either came there directly from Babylon. It is also probable that another branch of this family remained behind in Babylon and maintained contact with the branch in South Arabia. In the days of Ezra the scribe, perhaps even by using them as emissaries, he sent ambassadors to the Jews of Yemen (the priests of the wards?) asking them to join him in his return to the land of Israel in order to take part in the re-building of the Temple and to renew therein their ministerial duty – a thing perhaps alluded to in Ezra 10:8:

"And whosoever there be who shall not come within three days…all his property shall be forfeited."

According to an oral tradition, they answered him by saying the Temple is destined to be destroyed again, just as its predecessor.[54] Perhaps other events in the history of Yemen's Jewry can be attributed to this family, even though their names were not explicitly mentioned in that regard. The ward of Yehoiariv is connected, historically, to events relating to the destruction of the two temples. On Tish‘ah be’av (the Ninth of Av fast day), it was Yehoiariv's ward's turn of duty in Solomon's Temple when it was destroyed by the Babylonians. Again, it happened to be Yehoiariv's ward's turn of duty on the Ninth of Av fast day, the day in which the Temple was desecrated by the Romans. Was the tradition to count on the night of Tish‘ah be’av the number of years since the destruction of both temples (a tradition preserved by the Jews of Yemen) connected in any way to the family of Yehoiariv? During latter years, it was also said: "The generation in whose days the Temple has not been rebuilt is as though it had been destroyed in its days."[55]

In succeeding generations, the family of Yehoiariv changed their name to Maghari-Cohen, or Maghori-Cohen, but it is not known when this actually took place. The name Yehoiariv is derived from two words, Yeho – Yariv, meaning "To contend with G-d," or "To contend for G-d." Ya‘akov Sapir, who visited Yemen in 1859 C.E.[56], conducted a little research into the background of this family and concluded that the name Maghari, or Maghori, is an epithet given to the family, and that the name is a translation from Arabic having the same meaning as their original name, Yeho – Yariv, or "one who contends."[57]

What moved the priests of Yehoiariv's ward to hide their name and origin? The act of hiding their origin, or concealing their true identity, would not have happened in front of their fellow Jewish countrymen in the Yemen, seeing that they knew all along that priests of reputable standing lived amongst them. Could they have done this when they fled for their lives and went into exile in Yemen – owing to the schism that had arisen about their duties during the events of the final day of Temple service? Did they have an active part in those events which led up to the expulsion of Jews to Mawza‘ – that is, when the followers of Shabbatai Tzvi (Shivtai Sebi) in Yemen spoke about restoring Jewish independence and rebelling against the Islamic state? Or what is that they changed their surname when they returned from Mawza‘, in order not to be a victim of persecution or harassment? Still, could they have received this new epithet from other priests?

VI. Conclusion (which is not the final word)

Based on the discovery of the inscription bearing the priestly-wards, it is reasonable to assume that in Yemen, also, there existed a tradition amid families of the priests belonging to the several wards to preserve its writing intact. Whatever the motivation being for preserving their genealogical records, so, too, they paid close attention to their ward's turn of duty.[58] Others had no such practice of displaying the roster within their synagogues. That is to say, the wards were not mentioned before the reading of the weekly biblical lection, and neither did the roster serve for them as a calendar system. The reason given for the disappearance of this tradition amongst the congregations of non-priests can haply be explained as a result of her past, viz., the priests always stood aloof from the Levites and the Israelites. Just as Hayim Hibšūš noted[59] that the Jewish community in Yemen was never homogenous. Colonies after colonies of immigrants arriving in South Arabia established autonomous settlements. Until the Exile of Mawza‘ it was a stationary society. (In certain ways, especially in San‘ā’, it remained that way long after the exile). Not only the priests, but also those tracing their descent from the nobility of Judah preserved their genealogical records, testifying to the good origin of their birth. Not only do we find that the communal organisation and social structures given for the priests and the Levites were distinctly different, particularly, as they related one to the other and to those from the remaining tribes, they also held separate burial plots. Also after the Exile of Mawza‘, the priests, the Levites and others of good stock, were all reluctant to engage socially with those of Israel considered to be of ignoble birth. This situation continued even up to the mid-20th century C.E.; they did not eat their ritually slaughtered animals even though they had been slaughtered properly according to the dietary laws prescribed in Judaism, neither did they pray in their company.[60]

Even though we might not know when the priests broke-off the tradition of recalling, generation after generation, the order of the wards, we can suspect that this happened a long time before the Exile of Mawza‘ (during the years 1679-1680 C.E.)[61]. Had the duration of exile been known unto the priests, certainly they would have preserved its memorial even after the Exile of Mawza‘, whether in writing or by some oral teaching. Although the expulsion of Jews to Mawza‘ shook-up the very foundation of Yemenite Jewry, caused fissures in the tradition and in their collective memory, even bringing about a social crisis in their very midst, it's still unreasonable to think that this unique tradition amongst the surviving priests would have been forgotten by them. The Jews of Yemen were known for their zealous adherence to traditions dating back centuries, by which they had always been keen to practise. It is without question that for the existence of such a tradition before the exile, there would have been some expression about it in their writings, even after the exile. Likewise, travellers and scholars that visited Yemen since the 18th century C.E. would have mentioned it in their own written accounts. The enlightened men of the first generation would have mentioned it in their writings. Those enlightened men of the first and second generation following the Exile of Mawza‘ made every effort to write detailed chronicles of historical events, mentioning also events that happened prior to their exile. Moreover, disputes that had risen in the community over the adoption of other customs were meticulously recorded by them. In their writings are mentioned the descendants of priests from the house of Yehoiariv who lived in their midst, as also are mentioned those priests from the house of Phinehas. The genealogical records belonging to the priests and to distinguished families were also known unto them, which, as stated, were burnt out of jealously and anger by a priest whose lineage was not known (that family of priests called by al-‘Araqi al-Ousta).[62]

Despite all that has been said above, the roster of the priestly-wards remained in the sub-conscience of one man. One chronicle that was written in the 20th century C.E. – two hundred and fifty years after Mawza‘ – mentions it (See succeeding pages). Aside from it, there is no other reference of the roster, whether in writing or in oral teaching. This should at least signal us to ask why. It's interesting to note that, even today, twenty-eight years after the discovery of the column with its inscription in Bayt al-Hādir, the knowledge of which find having reached also the Jews of Yemen living in Israel, the discovery did not awaken with them any past memories. Travellers, scholars and European visitors who have ever visited Yemen and met with Jews have all mentioned the priests. Although they make note of their lineage and the priests' arrogant behaviour, as also their attitude of superiority towards the people of Israel, they did not mention, nor allude to, the existence of a roster containing the names of the priestly-wards, or even that they had such a tradition in the past.

It is well to note, once again, that the inscription found in Yemen concerning the priestly-wards is the longest roster found to date of these wards (not being a literary source). Its uniqueness lies in the fact that it was discovered outside of the land of Israel.[63] Even though we might not have all the answers to the questions regarding its location, it appears that its origin was somehow connected to the Jews of Yemen, or more specifically, to its priests. It is safe to assume that they also kept a record of their lineage and evoked the memory of the twenty-four priestly-wards, out of a belief that their service would, at some future time, be restored to them when the Temple once again stood in its place. The hardships and uncertainties of the times, and perhaps even a precarious political situation, brought about the forsaking of this tradition and of its being forgotten.

A tradition passed down by Jews living in Tan‘im states that in their midst once lived priests. Prior to their escape from the land of Israel, they had taken from the Temple a pillar (or stone) in order that it might be kept until the Temple could be rebuilt, at which time, they would return it to Jerusalem. The column, or pillar, that was brought to Tan‘im was placed by the ancients on the right side of the entrance to the synagogue. Which synagogue? In the village of Tan‘im of today, or in that Tan‘im located on the mountain top? It is uncertain whether this is the same column found at Bayt al-Hādir.[64]

As stated above, the roster of the priestly-wards is mentioned in one chronicle. One personage knew of the roster's existence. That person is Rabbi Yihye Sabarī.[65] When he came up to the land of Israel, he wrote his life's history and about his travails, as one who served in the capacity of Mori (Rabbi) in the Yemen and as one whose profession caused him to wander from village to village throughout the country – including Aden – in search of his livelihood. This he did until he came up to the land of Israel. In the chronicle that he wrote while in Israel during the 1930's, he noted that in Bayt al-Hādir there are found "kohanei mišmarei" – priests of the wards. He not only mentioned the subject of the priestly-wards, but also knew of the roster's location as being Bayt al-Hādir. Yihye Sabarī did not add details about the roster, neither did he tell us the source for this information, yet, he knew that the roster is located in a mosque. Judging from what he wrote, it cannot be known whether he had actually visited the place and saw, for himself, the column. It is very important, however, to note that Yihye Sabarī knew of the existence of the stone inscription while he was yet in Yemen[66], many years before the renowned scholars, Müller and Grjaznevic, revealed it to us. Was he the only one who knew about it? Why wasn't the knowledge of its existence spread to the Jews of Tan‘im? Or, why didn't the leaders of San‘ā’'s Jewish community take up an interest in this stone inscription?

As a result of this epigraphic discovery found at Bayt al-Hādir, Prof. Orbach reasoned that proof lies herein that the Jews of Yemen abandoned their reliance upon the traditions of grammar bequeathed to them from Babylon and adopted, instead, the Tiberian tradition. He based his opinion upon the style of the spellings used when writing the name of the settlement belonging to the fourth ward. There, the spelling should have been עיתהלו (had they been following a Babylonian tradition), and not חיתלו (which follows a Palestinian tradition) according to Gruntfest.[67]

A philological investigation revealed that the stone inscription of Bayt al-Hādir was written no later than the 6th or 7th century C.E. Grjaznevic presumed that the inscription served as a calendar and was written in either the 3rd or 4th century C.E. The most trustworthy opinion avers, however, that the inscription was written somewhere between the 5th century and the 7th century C.E., but that no chemical analysis or any other means of accurately assessing the stone's age had been applied to the inscription, or to the column itself. The fact that this inscription mentions the places of settlement occupied by the priests after the destruction of the second Temple suggests that it was not compiled earlier than the 3rd century C.E. Seeing that there was a connexion between the priests of Tiberius and the priests of Himyar during that period, it can be assumed that the priests that arrived in Yemen after the Temple's destruction had kept the exiled priests of the 1st century C.E. apprised concerning those places of settlement occupied by the priests in the Galilee.

We do not have any clue as to whether the column had been brought to Yemen by way of Galilean priests during the time of the Jewish Himyarite State. (Could they have hoped to erect a temple outside of the land of Israel?[68]) It makes more sense to say that this column would have been sent to the land of Israel when the matter of rebuilding the ruins of the Temple came to a head by the help of the Persian ruler.

Since there is a similarity between the style of the piyut describing the twenty-four priestly-wards belonging to Rabbi Phinehas (which was discovered in the Cairo Geniza) and that roster belonging to Bayt al-Hādir, the theory was raised that they are from one and the same source, namely, Tiberius.[69] The argument being this: In the inscription is mentioned the eighth ward, "Yeshua Nišdaf-arbel." The recollection of these two names – the ward of Yeshua with the place of his settlement, Arbel – is a novelty. (The name "Nišdaf," or "Nišraf," alludes perhaps to some historical event connected with Yeshua, the son of Sadoq the priest from the first Temple period, or perhaps was the name of a family of priests.) While Kallir did, indeed, mention in his liturgical poems the place of settlement, 'Arbel,' he did not mention the name of the ward. The identification of the town Arbel with the place of residence of Yeshua's ward was only later and can be attributed to the paytan, Rabbi Phinehas Hacohen.

In consideration of which things, several questions can be asked:

A) When did the paytan, Rabbi Phinehas Hacohen, actually live? Rabbi Sa‘adia Gaon (882 – 942 C.E) mentions the paytan, Rabbi Phinehas, as one of the ancient poets, along with poets from the 6th and 7th centuries C.E.[70] Sa‘adia Gaon's definition of Rabbi Phinehas as being "an ancient poet" raises doubts whether he actually lived in the 8th century C.E. (only 100 years prior to Rabbi Sa‘adia Gaon) and gives us ample reason to believe that he may have lived much earlier.[71] If Rabbi Phinehas Hacohen lived at a time compatible with that of the inscription's engraving, that is to say, somewhere between the 5th and 7th centuries C.E., it were then possible that he knew the priests of Himyar, and may have even supplied them with the roster. Yet, if he lived after the time when the inscription was alleged to have been engraved, the question remains whether or not he knew about the stone's existence in Yemen? Did he make use of the stone when he compiled his anthologies? Perhaps he had even gone to Yemen? Or, could it be that he passed away there? There is a tradition amongst the Yemenite Jews that a certain Rabbi Phinehas, who was a priest and a righteous man, once, lived amongst them. Although it is not clear unto them when exactly he lived, some speculate that he may have actually lived many years prior to the Exile of Mawza‘. His monument was considered holy in their eyes, while they had it as a practice to visit his gravesite before the holidays, bringing with them their vows, and, especially, whenever there was any personal or public distress. (His monument is within close proximity to San‘ā’, near the village of ‘Atān. The Jews of San‘ā’ had it as their custom to go up to his grave during the religious feasts, as also on private occasions. Until just very recently, Jews from the vicinity of Raideh would also make pilgrimages to his gravesite whenever they would pay a visit to San‘ā’. Today, his monument is located within an army camp, and the natural spring which runs in its midst partially flows underground in subterranean vaults, and partially above ground, now channeled in a pipe.)[72] For a lack of solid proof, we cannot ascertain whether Rabbi Phinehas Hacohen, the author of the liturgical poems (piyūtim), was, indeed, the Rabbi Phinehas Hacohen who lived in Yemen. However, perhaps the Yemenite Jewish tradition in perpetuating an ancient custom by opening with the reading ‘Aser Ta‘aser (Thou shalt surely tithe, etc. – Deut. 14:22) on the Sabbath day that falls on the eighth day of Passover (Pesah) in the diaspora and on the feast of booths (Sukkoth) is linked to one of Rabbi Phinehas Hacohen's kerovot for the feast days, Qedushatha le-shabboth, ‘aser ta‘aser.[73]

B) It can also be conjectured that, as a priest, Rabbi Phinehas (the paytan) knew about the roster from those members of his own family, and certainly like the rest of the priests, made every effort to update the roster by adding new bits and pieces of information to it. Tiberius does not necessarily have to be what archaeologists term as the source of the roster and of the liturgical poems mentioning the priestly-wards.

C) Based on the premise that the stone inscription discovered in a mosque in Bayt al-Hādir was engraved somewhere between the 5th century and the 7th century C.E., long before Rabbi Phinehas (whether we say he lived in the 8th century C.E. or in the 7th century C.E., succeeding Eleazar Kallir, or whether we say Rabbi Phinehas Hacohen, the author of the piyūtim, either visited Yemen or lived there) it is safe to say that the inscription of the twenty-four priestly-wards of Bayt al-Hādir antedates the roster compiled by Rabbi Phinehas, the paytan. This makes it the oldest roster in existence that makes mention of Yeshua and his place of settlement in Arbel, as it is written: "Yeshua Nišdaf-arbel." This fact would also imply that it could have possibly been the inspirational source from which Rabbi Phinehas drew upon! Notwithstanding, among the discoveries found in the land of Israel, only Nazareth is mentioned as a sacerdotal dwelling place. On none of the other broken tablets can be found place names given for the wards, although they, no doubt, existed at one time, but have since been lost (see: Appendix B). This makes the stone inscription showing ten of the twenty-four wards discovered in Bayt al-Hādir – where, both, the wards and their settlements in the Galilee are mentioned – the most comprehensive inscription found to date which is not of piyūtim mentioning the settlements.

This tradition, to preserve the order of the wards, was perhaps found in every sacerdotal village in the Yemen. Therefore, we can expect to find more of such rosters in the future, showing up in different places. The wellsprings of history are tortuously crooked. Moreover, that which pertains to South Arabia and to its Jewish population, what is concealed is greater than what is revealed. Yet, perhaps, with the help of archaeological excavations we shall enrich our knowledge. The future yet holds within it the solution.


APPENDIX A – a copy of the inscription

Line 1 - [שערים עיתהלו] משמר הרביעי
[Se‘orim, ‘Aythoh-lo], the fourth ward.

Line 2 - [מלכיה בית] לחם משמר החמש[י]
[Malkiah, Beth]-Lehem, the fif[th] ward.

Line 3 - מימין יודפת משמר הששי
Miyamin, Yudfath (Jotapata), the sixth ward.

Line 4 - [הקו]ץ עילבו משמר השביעי
[Haqo]tz, ‘Ailebu, the seventh ward.

Line 5 - אביה עדו כפר עוזיאל משמר
Aviah ‘Iddo, Kefar ‘Uzziel, the (eighth) ward.

Line 6 - השמיני ישוע נשדפארבל
the eighth (ward). Yeshua, Nišdaf-arbel,

Line 7 - משמר התשיעי
the ninth ward.

Line 8 - שכניה עבורה כבול משמר העש[ירי]
Shechaniahu, ‘Avurah Cabul, the t[enth] ward.

Line 9 - אלישיב כהן קנה משמר אחד ע[שר]
Eliashiv, Cohen Cana, the elev[enth] ward.

Line 10- יקים פשחור צפת משמר שנים ע[שר]
Yakim, Pashchur Safath (Safed), the twelf[th] ward.

Line 11- [חו]פה בית מעון משמר שלשה
[Hu]ppah, Beth-Ma‘on, the (thirteenth) ward.

Line 12- [עש]ר ישבאב חוצפית שוחין
the thirteenth (ward). Yeshav’av, Hutzpith Shuhin,

Line 13- [מש]מר ארבע עשר
the fourteenth wa[rd].

NOTE: The first set of names, before the first comma, is the name of the ward. The second set of names, between the first and second commas, is the name of the settlement. Following the second comma is the order of their turn of duty. Letters written in brackets were missing or defaced in the original inscription.
Reconstruction of the roster according to Prof. M. Avi-Yonah*

משמרת ראשונה יהויריב מסרביי מרון
משמרת שניה ידעיה עמוק צפורים
משמרת שלישית חרים מפשטה
משמרת רביעית שערים עיתהלו
משמרת חמשית מלכיה בית לחם
משמרת ששית מימין יודפת
משמרת שביעית הקוץ עילבו
משמרת שמינית אביה כפר עוזיה
משמרת תשיעית ישוע ארבל
משמרת עשירית שכניה חבורת כבול
משמרת אחת עשרה אלישיב כהן קנה
משמרת שתים עשרה יקים פשחור צפת
משמרת שלש עשרה חופה בית מעון
משמרת ארבע עשרה ישבאב חוצפית שוחין
משמרת חמש עשרה מעריה בלגה יונית
משמרת שש עשרה אמר כפר נמרה
משמרת שבע עשרה חזיר ממליח
משמרת שמונה עשרה הפיצץ נצרת
משמרת תשע עשרה פתחיה אכלה ערב
משמרת עשרים יחזקאל מגדל נוניא
משמרת עשרים ואחת יכין כפר יוחנה
משמרת עשרים ושתים גמול בית חביה
משמרת עשרים ושלש דליה גנתון צלמין
משמרת עשרים וארבע מעזיה חמת אריה


* Avi-Yonah/1963/4, pg. 25.
Yellow = Fragment of stone found in Nazareth (Eshel/1995/6, pg. 160)
Green = Fragment of stone found in Ašqelon (Avi-Yonah/1963/4, pg. 26)
Pink = Fragment of stone found in Caesarea (Avi-Yonah/1963/4, pg. 25)
Blue = Fragment of stone found in Caesarea (Avi-Yonah/1963/4, pg. 24)
Grey = Fragment of stone found in Kisūfin (Ilan/1973/4, pg. 225)
Red = Fragment of stone found in Caesarea (Avi-Yonah/1963/4, pg. 24)

Reconstruction of the roster according to S. Medina*

1) יְהוֹיָרִיב, מסרביי-מרון, משמר הראשון.
2) יְדַעְיָה-עָמוֹק, צפורים, משמר השני.
3) חָרִים, מפשטה, משמר השלישי.
4) שְׂעוֹרִים, כפר עייתלו, משמר הרביעי.
5) מַלְכִּיָּה, בית לחם, משמר החמישי.
6) מִיָמִין, יודפת, משמר הששי.
7) הַקּוֹץ, עילבו, משמר השביעי.
8) אֲבִיָּה-עִוֹדּ, כפר עוזיאל, משמר השמיני.
9) יֵשׁוּעַ, נשרפארבאל, משמר התשיעי.
10) שְׁכַנְיָה, חבורת-כבול, משמר העשירי.
11) אֶלְיָשִׁיב, כהן קנה, משמר אחד עשר.
12) יָקִים פַּשְׁחוּר, צפת, משמר שנים עשר.
13) חוּפָּה, בית-מעון, משמר שלשה עשר.
14) יֶשֶׁבְאָב, חוצפית שוחין, משמר ארבעה עשר
15) בִּלְגָּה, כפר מעריה, משמר חמשה עשר.
16) אִמֵּר, כפר יוונית, משמר ששה עשר.
17) חֵזִיר, כפר ממלא, משמר שבעה עשר.
18) הַפִּצֵּץ, נצרת, משמר שמונה עשר.
19) פְּתַחְיָה, ערב, משמר תשעה עשר.
20) יְחֶזְקֵאל, מגדל-נוניא, משמר עשרים.
21) יָכִין, כפר יוחנה, משמר עשרים ואחד.
22) גָּמוּל, (לאיזה מקום גלה לא נודע), משמר עשרים ושנים.
23) דְּלָיָה-גִנְּתוֹי, צלמין, משמר עשרים ושלשה.
24) מַעַזֵיָה, טבריה, משמר עשרים וארבעה.

* Reconstruction of the roster according to Shalom Medina which was published in "Afikim," 92, Tel-Aviv, 1988/9, pp. 28-30; Medina, however, errs by suggesting that Pethahiah came to the Arabian Peninsula, based on their village name of ‘Arab. The ward of Pethahiah actually had come to settle in the town of ‘Arab, a town situate in south-western Galilee. It was established, approximately, in 68 C.E. Rabbi Yohanan ben Zakkai lived eighteen years in the village of ‘Arab, who was also contemporary with Rabbi Dosa b. Haninah. Concerning the town ‘Arab, see: Klein/1977/8, pg. 49; Fleischer/1968/9, pg. 184.
Yellow = The inscription that is legible on the column at Bayt al-Hādir.
Comparison of text from Bayt al-Hādir (Appendix A) with the text of Avi-Yonah (Appendix B)

As alluded above, the text written in the Yemeni inscription is similar to that written in the piyūtim of Rabbi Phinehas Hacohen of Kafra. The order in the arrangement of the wards and in the accompanying details given is different in the Yemeni inscription from that order given in Avi-Yonah's reconstruction. Both, Kahana and Zullai, diacritically anaylised the texts.[74]

The Reconstructed Text: The Yemeni Inscription:

1) The Ward 1) Name of the Ward
2) The Name, Epithet 2) Name of the Settlement
3) Its Number, Biographical details 3) The Epithet and/or
4) Name of Ward's Settlement biographical details
4) The Arranged Order

In addition to these, there are places where the reading differs, for example:

The Reconstructed Text: The Yemeni Inscription:

The fourth ward[75] The fourth ward
עיתהלו עיתהלו/חיתלו

The eighth ward[76] The eighth ward
אביה עדו כפר עוזיאל אביה כפר עוזיה

The ninth ward[77] The ninth ward
ישוע נשדפארבל ישוע ארבל

The tenth ward[78] The tenth ward
שכניה עבורה כבול שכניה חבורת כבול
(עפרה כבול)
The fourteenth ward[79] The fourteenth ward
ישבאב חוצפית שוחין ישבאב חצפית שיחין

(Compare also what is similar and dissimilar in the reconstructed texts of Avi-Yonah – Appendix B, and of Medina – Appendix C, concerning the wards 15, 16, 17, 19, 22 and 24.)

Aside from what was mentioned of the priestly-wards in liturgical poems (piyūtim) and in the forenamed synagogues, the names of the wards are mentioned in different sources:

Yehoiariv – In the Book of the Hasmonaeans; the Palestinian Talmud (Ta‘anith 20a).

Yachin or Yakim – In the book "Milhamoth Hashem," paragraph 155/vav.

Haqotz – In the Book of the Hasmonaeans; the Palestinian Talmud (Ta‘anith 68a).

Hazir – A Burial Cave belonging to the priests in the Kedron Valley.

Bilgah – In the book "Milhamoth, etc." ch. 6, paragraph 280; Mishnah (Sukkah 5:8);[80] Tosefta (Sukkah, end of last chapter).[81]

Yadaiah – In the roster of priestly-wards from Qumrān.

Yeshua – In the roster of priestly-wards from Qumrān; Seder Olam Zuta, s.v., ומלך אגריפס ("…Then Hezkiah passed away and was buried in the land of Israel, in the hill of Arbel which belongs to Yehoshua the son of Nišdaf the priest, on the east side of the town, and there stood up after him his son…")[82]

Eliashiv – Mesecheth Sofrim 21:9.

Se‘orim – In the roster of priestly-wards from Qumrān.

Yeshav’av – In inscriptions engraved upon ossuaries in Jerusalem; Tosefta (Sukkah, end of last chapter). See note 81.

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Klein, Shemuel : "Eretz hagalīl – miyamei ha‘aliyah mibavel ‘ad hatimat hatalmūd." Completed and edited after the death of the author by Y. Elitzur. Jerusalem, 1966/7.

ibid. (editor) : "Sefer hayišūv, 1." - Hayišūv limeqomotav miyamei horban bayt šeni ‘ad kibbuš eretz yisrael ‘al yedei he‘aravim. Jerusalem, 1977/8. (Facsimile edition of the first published edition in 1938/9).

Klein-Franke, A. : "Hamišlahat hameda‘it harišonah ledarom ‘arav kamaqor letoldot yehūdei teiman." Pe‘amim, 18. Jerusalem, 1987/8, pp. 80-101.

ibid. : "Hahistoriah šel yehūdei teiman me’et Mansūr mitawillah." Afikim, 91. 1987/8, pp. 32-35, 38.

ibid. : "Hamesorot ‘al megillot hayūkhasīn šel yehūdei teiman." Proceedings from the Ninth World Congress of Jewish Sciences/Second Unit, vol. II. Jerusalem, 1985/6, pp. 83-90.

Lieberman, S. : "Hazanūt Yannai." Sinai, 4. 1938/9, pp. 221-250.

Livor, Ya‘akov : "Toldot beit David." Jerusalem, 1968/9.

ibid. : "Peraqim betoldot hakehūnah vehaleviyyah." Jerusalem, 1968/9.

Luria, B.T. : "‘Arei hakohanim biyemei bayt šeni." Hebrew Union College Annual, 64. Jewish Institute of Religion. Cincinnati, 1973, pp. 1-19.

Medina, Shalom : "Meqorot lemišmarot hakehūnah." Afikim, 92. Tel-Aviv, 1988/9, pp. 28-30.

Morag, Shelomo : "Ha’aramit habavlit bimesoratam šel yehūdei teiman." Tarbitz, 30. 1960/1, pp. 120-129.

ibid. : "Mesoret halašon šel yehūdei teiman." Yehadūt Teiman – pirqei mehkar ve‘eyūn (editors: Y. Yishayahu/Y. Tobi). Jerusalem, 1975/6, pp. 357-366.

Naveh, Y. : "‘Al fasifas ve’even. Haketovot ha’aramiyot veha‘ivriyot mibatei hakenesset he‘atiqim." Tel-Aviv, 1977/8.

Orbach, A.A. : "Mišmarot u'ma‘amadot - be‘ikvot haketovet miteiman." Tarbitz, 42. 1972/3, pp. 304-325.

ibid. : "‘Od lemišmarot u'lema‘amadot." Tarbitz, 43. 1973/4, p. 224.

Qāfih, Yosef (editor) : "Qorot yisrael beteiman lerebbe hayim hibšūš." Sefunot, 2. 1957/8, pp. 246-286.

Qāfih, Yosef : "Ketavim." vol's. 1 and 2 (ed. Yosef Tobi), Jerusalem, 1988/9.

Qorah, Amram : "Sa‘arat Teiman." (ed. S. Gereidi), Jerusalem, 1953/4.

Ratzaby, Yehuda : "‘Ezra hasofer vehateimanim." Sinai, 9. 1944/5, pp. 105-111.

Reiner, Elhanan : "Bāyn yehošū‘a liyešū‘a: misīppūr miqra’ī lemītos meqomī." Tziyyon, 61. 1995/6, pp. 281-317.

Safrai, Ze’ev : "Matai ‘avrū hakohanim legalīl?" Tarbitz, 62. 1992/3, pp. 287-292.

Sapir, Ya‘akov : "Sefer masa’ teiman." (Preface and editorship: Avraham Ya‘ari) Tel-Aviv, 1950/1. (The original edition: Even Sapir, Part I, Lik, 1866; Part II, Magenza, 1874.)

Sasson, D. (editor) : "Megillat teiman lerebbe Yihye Sālih." - Hatzofeh lehokhmat yisrael, 7. Budapest, 1923. pp. 1-14.

Talmon, S. : "Mehkarīm bemegillot hagenūzot." Jerusalem, 1960/1.

Tobi, Yosef : "‘Eyunim bemegillat teiman." Jerusalem, 1986.

Trifon, Daliah : "Ha’im ‘avrū mišmarot hakohanim miyehūdah legalīl aharei mered bar-kokhva?" Tarbitz, 59. 1989/90, pp. 77-93.

Yadin, Yigal : "Megillat milhemet benei or bivnei hošekh." Jerusalem, 1955/6.

Yavin, Y. : "Qeta‘aei miqra miteiman šemesoratam bavlit." Yehudah-Levi Nahum: Hasifat genūzim miteiman (ed. S. Greidi). 1970/1, Holon, pp. 2-10.

Zadoc, Moshe : "Yehūdei Teiman." Tel-Aviv, 1967.

Zullai, M. : "Letoldot hapiyūt be’eretz yisrael." (Yedi‘ot hamakhon leheqer haširah ha‘ivrit birušalayim, 5) Berlin and Jerusalem, 1938/9. The chapter entitled "Mišmarot derebbe phinehas," pp. 137-148.

ibid. : "Eretz yisrael ve‘aliyat regalim befiyūtei rebbe phinehas." Jerusalem - mehkarei eretz yisrael, Jerusalem, 1952/3, pp. 51-81.

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[1] Not the true Paleo-Hebrew script, but rather, Assyrian script. This script has now come to be known as Hebrew.
[2] The priestly-wards are no more than a roster of the names of those principal families belonging to the priestly stock who trace their descent back to Aaron, the first high priest. It assigns the order of each ward's ministerial duty in the Temple, not to exceed one week in the course of six months. The stone inscription was discovered in September 1970 by Professor Walter Müller of Bamberg. During the years 1970-1971, he headed a German delegation that explored various archaeological sites in Yemen. Professor Müller passed on a photograph of the stone inscription to Dr. Reiner Degen, who, in turn, published his findings in, both, the German and Hebrew languages (see Bibliography). Yet, before his findings could become known to others, it was discovered again by yet another, a certain Professor, F. Grjaznevic of St. Petersburg, who happened to hear about the stone from a local colleague who worked with him in Yemen to establish the Archaeological Museum in San‘ā’. They had originally believed the stone to be engraved in some ancient Persian script. In an interview which he gave in St. Petersburg in October of 1996, Professor Grjaznevic acknowledged before me that when he travelled to Bayt al-Hādir, he was unaware about Müller's visit which preceded his own. Prof. Grjaznevic eventually passed his findings unto Prof. P. Gruntfest who, in turn, published an account of these findings in 1973, in the journal "Ancient Arabia" (see Bibliography). So, too, in 1994, Prof. Grjaznevic published an account of his archaeological work in Yemen during the years 1970-1971, and included in that account a description of his discovery at Bayt al-Hādir (see Journal "South Arabia," Part I, volume II, pp. 78-81).
[3] These surviving inscriptions with their insignia and characters engraved upon either limestone or marble were discovered in Ašqelon in anno mundi 5681 (1921 C.E.), in Kisūfin in anno mundi 5721 (1961 C.E.) and in Caesarea in anno mundi 5722 (1962 C.E.). In the case of the inscription found at Caesarea, partial place names appear on three fragments of a marble tablet (originally showing the traditional places of residence associated with the priestly-wards), but the fragments showing the names of the wards have been lost. On those inscriptions found at Ašqelon and Kisūfin, the place names are missing. Prof. Avi-Yonah, in his book "An Inscription from Caesarea Concerning the Twenty-four Priestly-Wards," pp. 26-ff., and while relying upon the above findings, succeeded in reconstructing their names with the place names associated with each ward, based upon evidence collected from biblical sources and, both, historical and literary records (see ibid., as well as the references in the section on Bibliography). Other fragments of rosters showing the priestly-wards have recently been discovered, this time from a synagogue in Galilee, as well as in Beth Shean and in Nazareth; A limestone fragment, apparently from Nazareth and now found in the collection of the Franciscan Church in Nazareth, as also a fragment listing the names of the priestly-wards which has not yet been published, but which they acknowledge exists (see Eshel/1974, pg.159, and note 7 on pg. 16). The fragment of an inscription discovered near Kibbutz Kisūfin, close to the Gaza Strip, treats on the priestly-ward of Pethahiah (see Ilan/5734, pg. 225). There are differing opinions as to the time of the wandering of the priests and to their eventual settlement in Galilee. Kahana/1978/9, pg. 14, pp. 27-28; Avi-Yonah, ibid., pg. 27; A. A. Orbach/1972/3, pg. 304, 530; Safrai/1989/90, pg. 292; Safrai/1980/1, pp. 271-ff., are all of the opinion that the priests moved together with others into the Galilee after the Bar-Cochba revolt. D. Trifon/1989/90, pg. 77, 78 and 82-ff., concludes, on the other hand, that since the inscriptions were discovered in structures dating no earlier than the third century C.E., it stands to reason that the roster did not exist prior to that time. This was the time, she reasons, that the priests migrated to Galilee, and only then was the roster presented to the public at large. Safrai disagrees with those conclusions reached by Trifon, arguing that the roster was compiled shortly after the Bar-Cochba revolt, seeing that it contains only those settlements in the Galilee, and does not include other priestly settlements established after the revolt in other places. Tiberius, it is noted, was not mentioned as a place inhabited by priests, seeing that in the 1st and 2nd centuries C.E. it had not yet been cleansed from the unmarked graves and corpses, and was therefore forbidden unto the priests to settle therein. See: Safrai (ibid.), the notes on pg. 292; see also Naveh/1977/8, pg. 91; S. Klein/1923, in the Boraitta on the priestly-wards, pp. 177-192.
[4] With most of these liturgical poems, the names of the priestly-wards appear in their regular order. It is only with the poem written by Joseph Ibn Aviathar, in his "Lament Over the Priestly-Wards," that the order of their names is changed (see Fleischer/1966/7, pg. 158-159).
[5] In certain liturgical poems (piyutim) and kerovot we find the word "ward" being used in the sense of "watching" or "guarding." In the "Mahzor Yannai," under the heading of "Mishmar Pethahiah," we find the following: "The watchers of the holy ward, by watching, the heart is made glad!" (see Kahle/1967, pg.22; Büchler/1895; pg. 69; cf. Levor/1968/9, pp. 33-ff, and pg. 36).
[6] During the first Temple period, the priesthood passed from Sadoq the priest unto his descendants, from father to son. This continued until Yehosadaq went into captivity with the exiles of Judah and the destruction of Jerusalem in 587 B.C.E. (I Chronicles 5:41). During the second Temple, the first high priest was Yeshua, the son of Yehosadaq, who received his priesthood from Cyrus. Fifteen of this man's posterity were privileged to serve in the priesthood after him. During the reign of the Hasmonaean kings, high priests were appointed from the family clan of Yehoiariv. The high priesthood, however, soon ceased to be passed down by way of inheritance. It was Herod who actually brought an end to this practice, and would no longer appoint priests from the Hasmonaean dynasty, excepting Aristobulus whom he had made king, seeing that he was Herod's grandchild (see Josephus, "Antiquities" Book XV, ch. II, vss. 1-4; ibid., ch.III, vss. 1-3).
[7] Sepphoris, a major metropolis at that time, is the only place in the Galilee reputed to have been a settlement made-up of priests, prior to the destruction of Jerusalem in 68 C.E. (Büchler, pg. 7; Miller/1984, pp. 123-124). Trifon/1989/90, pp. 84-86, claims that Judea proper was not the only place inhabited by priests. Jericho, too, was known to have a Jewish settlement consisting of several wards of priests, as did Lydda (Lod), Jamnia (Yavne), and the Emmaus situate near Jerusalem. According to her, the belief that only the Galilee gave rise to settlements inhabited by priests stems from some local patriotism, but is not based upon fact. In sharp contrast, Safrai/1980/1, pg. 262, diminishes altogether the importance of this find, and warns against placing any over-exaggerated historical value upon the revelation that priests once inhabited the Galilee, arguing that there is no geographical connexion or link between the ward, on the one hand, and their place of residence, on the other. As a rule, most of a ward's members did not reside in a single place, but rather, there were settlements comprised of priests from several wards, a fact not properly stressed. See also Luria/1974, pg. 17; Alon/1960/1, pp. 14-ff.; Miller/1984, pp. 123-124.
[8] Seeing that he did not come up out of exile with Ezra and Nehemiah, the high ranking position held by Yehoiariv's ward was diminished at the start of the second Temple period. The Babylonian branch of Yehoiariv's ward came up to the land of Israel with Zerubavel [Zerubabel], and is only mentioned in the seventeenth place when Ezra recounts those that came up (Nehemiah 12:6), whereas in the days of Yoiakim [Joiakim] the high priest, he is mentioned in the fifteenth place (Nehemiah 12:19). The Hasmonaeans, who were also made-up of priests belonging to the ward of Yehoiariv, brought back respectability to their ward, and eventually appointed a high priest from their own ranks. After the Temple had been defiled, many of the priests fled Jerusalem, as it is written: "Now at this time there was one whose name was Mattithiah, who dwelt in Modi‘oth [Modi‘in], the son of Yohanan, the son of Šimeon, the son of Hashmonai, and a citizen of Jerusalem" (see: Josephus, "Antiquities" Book XII, ch. VI, vs. 1). This man's ward had moved along with him. Before their eventual departure into places in the Galilee, there had existed a settlement of priests in Modi‘in for approximately 300 years, up until the Bar-Cochba revolt. Priests belonging to the family of Yehoiariv came to settle in Meron as well as in other cities of Galilee. (see Luria/1973, pg. 8; Livor/1968/9, pp. 35-ff; Klein/1966/7, pg. 222; Aloni/1978/9, pg. 223.)
[9] See: Tosefta Ta'anith 2:1
[10] See: Livor/1968/9, pp. 25-ff., pp. 47-ff; Neusner/1987, pp. 117-ff., the later of whom suggesting that the households mentioned were the principal families of each ward. See also Büchler/1895, pp. 40-47; Kahana/1978/9, pp. 14-ff.; Klein/1966/7, pg. 222.
[11] This amazing document was discovered in a cave at Qūmran, q.v. Yadin/1954/5, pp. 37-ff; Talmon/1989, pg. 150. The Hebrew calendar and the Jewish holidays are all based on the lunar months, the lunar month being decided only by eye-witnesses who came before the Court at Jerusalem. A tablet, or roster, showing their weekly divisions in accordance with the priestly-ward which served in the Temple was, therefore, necessary, and made it easier for the congregants to determine the exact time of a feast (holiday). Later, the division was made in accordance with the weekly readings from the Torah, or biblical lections. The division of twenty-six wards, according to that division practised by the sect in the Judaean wilderness, was not observed in the Temple at Jerusalem, seeing that this sect was not allowed access there. It had, rather, more futuristic purposes. The preservation of that division served also a practical function, and helped them to align their divisions with the rotation of the sun (the Solar year outnumbering the Lunar year by 11 days), and to make it easier for synagogues to determine the appointed times of the feasts. The division of the twenty-six wards, likewise, was based after the rotation of each ward, for after the twenty-fourth week the first ward once again appeared, afterwards, the second ward, and so forth. There is an example of the roster's use as a calendar for determining the feasts in the liturgies of Eleazar Kallir, one of the greatest poets of Israel. He incorporated into the twenty-four priestly-wards the year's horoscope, mentioning even the name of the month in which they served. Avi-Yonah/1963/4, pg. 27-28, claims that the tablet made mention of the weeks, while the horoscopes marked the months.
[12] See: Phinehas Kahati: Mishnah, the Order known as Mo‘ed, pub. In Jerusalem in 1991/2; see also Moshe Lieberman, Tosefta, Tractate Sukkah, pub. In New York in 1961/2; In the Siddur (Prayer Book) of Rabbi Sa'adia Gaon, there is a lamentation over the wards of the Levites, q.v. Avi-Yonah/1963/4, pg. 27; Avermazon, pp. 55-ff.
[13] Neusner/1986, pg. 15.
[14] The settlements of priests according to their wards are mentioned by Kallir in his piyutim (liturgical poems), as well as by Harūtha and Rebbe Phinehas, and by an anonymous paytan. The paytanim Kallir, Harūtha and Yannai were near contemporaries, apparently at the start of the 6th Century C.E., and before the conquest of the land of Israel by the Arabs. Rebbe Phinehas Hakohen lived and worked in Tiberius, apparently towards the end of the 8th Century C.E. See a lengthy discussion about this subject with Trifon/1989/90, pp. 79-ff. and in the succeeding pages of this article.
[15] These are the earliest references mentioning the priestly-wards from Meron and Tzippori [Sepphoris], places belonging to the wards of Yehoiariv and Yedaiah. The record of such things in the piyutim corresponds in time with the archaeological discoveries from the aforementioned synagogues. Fleischer speculates, "it is not inconceivable to say that the piyutim are based after some early knowledge which they had from that period." See: Büchler/1904, pp. 197-ff.; Zullai/1938/9, pg. 138; Neusner/1967, pg. 123; Fleischer/1966/7, pp. 53-ff, and pg. 55; ibid., 1968/9, pg. 151 and pg. 183; Klein/1909, pg. 11; Klein/1966/7, pp. 179-ff.; and see Trifon/1989/90, pp. 79-81, who brings down later sources showing the names of the wards and their places of residence.
[16] This fixation of time when the rosters were distributed is based after the findings of Zullai/1938/9, pp. 111-ff. Fleischer/1966/7, pg. 32, on the other hand, purports that it happened when the homogenous settlements of the priests in the Galilee were dismantled. Likewise, the liturgical poems (piyutim) were intended, from the start, to be for the priests and their protégés alone, but later, with passing generations, the synagogues made use of them for the public at large. (Kahana/1978/9, pp. 12-ff. and pp. 28-ff. See also Avi-Yonah/1963/4, pp. 27-28; Trifon/1989/90, pg. 78.)
[17] Avi-Yonah/1963/4, pg. 26; Zullai/1952/3, pp. 51-52; Kellar/1950/1, pp. 93-94; Klein/1923, pg. 24; Fleischer/1967/8, pg. 243; ibid., 1948/9, pg. 176 and pg. 183; Kahana/1978/9, pg. 14 and pg. 18; Trifon/1989/90 (see the enlightening discussion made on this subject on pp. 78-ff., pg. 82, and the rich bibliography brought down in the footnotes there); Safrai/1989/90, pp. 90-91.
[18] Kahana/1978/9, pg. 28; see also Eshel/1974, footnote 21, pg. 161.
[19] Aloni/1978/9, pp. 220 and 222. This, too, happens to be from the Cairo Geniza (now at Cambridge University Library, T.S. 8/94, K); Fleischer/1979/80, pg. 430. Fleischer/1967/8, pp. 151-158, disagrees with Aloni and argues that from the lamentation it is not clear that the deceased belonged to one of the wards. Much has been written about those piyutim discovered in the Cairo Geniza which mention the twenty-four priestly-wards. See, for example, Orbach/1972/3, pp. 309-ff; Fleischer/1968/9, pp. 176-ff., and, particularly, in their bibliography and footnotes.
[20] The priests kept their status even after the destruction, and expected to receive from the people the tithes and the ‘Omer (the first grain that ripens in each new year). See a lengthy discussion concerning this with Alon/1960/1, pp. 16-ff.; Orbach/1972/3, pg. 308; Fleischer/1979/80, pg. 430 and in the list in the section on Bibliography; Kahana/1978/9, pg. 15, looking also at the bibliography contained in the footnotes; Safrai/1989/90, pg. 292.
[21] Jews, likewise, lived in San‘ā’ on the mountain top of Jebal Naqum before being brought down from the mountain. See: Qorah/1953/4, pg. 4. Yet, even here, there are no extant records as to when this happened, or to what caused their departure from their houses perched aloft the mountain of Jebal Naqum. To this day, on Jebal Naqum, there are to be seen ancient ruins of a Jewish synagogue. As late as the last century, Jews would occasionally go up the mountain (the more notable of which was the grandfather of Rabbi Yosef Qāfih), although secretly, hoping to bring back books and artifacts. See also Tobi /1985/6, pg. 64. In the Eighth Book of Al-Iklīl, by Al-Hamdāni, is mentioned the mountain of Sabir (Jebal Sabir) in Ta‘izz, considered in ancient times as one of the holy mountains of Yemen. See: "The Antiquities of South Arabia" being a translation from the Arabic with linguistic, geographic and historical notes of the 'Eighth Book of al-Hamdāni's al-Iklīl,' by Nabih Amin Faris. Princeton University Press 1938. (Princeton Oriental Texts – vol. III) pg. 72.
[22] Josephus alludes, in his "Antiquities," Book XV, ch. IX , vs. 3, to the year 25 C.E., when the Roman commander Aelius Gallus arrived in South Arabia (known then by the name of Himyar) with some 10,000 troops, along with a brigade of some 500 Jews. Compare this also with Horovitz, pp. 190-ff., the bibliography written in that chapter. (cf. "Strabo's Geography," vol. VII, book 16, ch. 4, vss. 22-25, who first mentions the expedition led by Aelius Gallus). There is no evidence suggesting which places, in South Arabia, these Roman auxiliaries may have reached. Nevertheless, according to a Yemenite Jewish tradition, they took control over wide areas of the country, while there were local Jews who fought against them. Incidentally, only recently were the remnants of a Roman base camp also discovered in an area to the south of Ibb.
[23] The Jews of Yemen have no traditions stating that they are connected with the Jews of Hijaz, or North Arabia. If we were to view, without skepticism, the oral tradition passed down for many generations, which, in our case, amounts to nearly two-thousand years, it would seemingly be possible to find in this example a connexion between the Jews of Yemen and their Jewish brothers in Hijaz, or in the far north. Are the Jews of Tan‘im the descendants of priests that inhabited the northern parts of the Arabian Peninsula, and eventually found their way into Yemen while fleeing from the Romans? It is true that the story of the Jews of Tan‘im relates to their settlement upon a mountain top in that region. The tradition of the Jews of Yemen also alleges that the Romans reached as far as Tan‘im. I wish to thank Mr. Avraham Hadad of Kefar Ra’em for the information he provided about the region. In an interview made with him in anno mundi 5757 (1997 C.E.), I heard from Mr. Hadad the above story, and the reason behind their fighting the Romans. The story in itself, although very interesting, reminds us of a similar incident attributed to the Jews of North Arabia, whereby the 'king of the Romans' desired to take in marriage a daughter of the sons of Aaron (the priests). The priests invited the Romans to a dialogue, but by way of treachery, the priests fell upon the Roman delegation and slew them. Out of fear of retribution, the Jewish priests fled to Hijaz. Concerning this episode, see: Hirschberg/1945/6, pp. 95-ff; Gill/1977, pg. 7, and the bibliography attached to the footnotes there.
[24] In the fields that lay between these two villages, there are grape vineyards of different varieties, the most popular variety of which being the elongated, seedless grape, having a greenish-grey colour. These are considered best for making raisins and for the production of wine. The explorer, Carsten Niebuhr, who visited Yemen in 1763 C.E., as well as Ya‘akov Sapir who visited Yemen in 1856 C.E., spoke highly of these grapes. These lands were once the property of Jews, leased out to local peasants in return for a share in the yield. This had been the practice bequeathed unto them from their ancestors for hundreds of years until the demise of the community in this last century.
[25] Based upon the interview given to Avraham Hadad in the Hebrew lunar month of Elul, anno mundi 5757 (1997 C.E.). During my tour of the village Tan‘im, I came across a certain stone at the ruins which had not yet been documented by archaeologists, upon which stone was inscribed, in Sabaean letters, the name Tan‘imah. According to Professor Müller, this was the old name given for the village Tan‘im. Could this have been the name of the mountain top village?
[26] Müller/1973, pp. 153-155; Orbach/1972/3, pg. 309; Hirschberg/1974/5, pp. 154-155.
[27] The term "misgad" used for a place of worship, or place of prayer, also appears with the Nabataeans. With the Jews of Arabia, the word was perhaps so commonly used by them that it was, eventually, adopted by the Moslems, which brought about the decline of its use amongst the Jews. See more about this with Nebe/1991, pp. 237-ff.; and see: Hirschberg/1974/5, pg. 156.
[28] Garbinī/1970, pp. 153-ff.; Müller/1987, pg. 53; Nebe, pg. 237; Naveh/1977/8, pg. 141. Garbinī published the findings of another Hebrew inscription, discovered by the architect, Paolo Costa at the brink of a pool of standing water in 1971. See also Moscati/1972, pp. 519-ff.
[29] He is one of the founders of the Zaydi dynasty, concerning which see: Zambauer, pg. 221; Strothmann/1910, pg. 360. He was born in Medina in the year A.H. 220. He studied religious law under Islam (the šarī’ah and the hadith), and was an ardent practitioner of his faith and one considered to be very fanatic. Al-Hāq carried on a correspondence with the sovereign of Yemen at that time, Abū al-Tehayyah, who even invited him to his country. In the year A.H. 253, he arrived in Sa‘adah with fifty men who accompanied him on the journey, an important stop-over for pilgrims while en route from San‘ā’ to Mecca. It was there that he was given the honorable title of "Amin al-mu’āminin," calling him thereafter by the name, "Al-Hādī al-Hāq." He conquered Najran, occupied then by Christians and which had been, to that time, the residential place of the bishop. He went on from there to San‘ā’ in the south. He died in 911 C.E., or what corresponds to A.H. 298. See also Sezgin/1967, pp. 563-ff.
[30] Professor Grjaznevic tried digging up the floor, but was met with objection. I, also, tried to expose the floor by removing the rug, in hopes of uncovering the lower, broken line of the inscription, but at that very instant, unfortunately, the qādi (judge) had just entered the mosque and I was met with objection, who saw the act as profaning a holy and venerated place.
[31] Müller/1970, pp. 152-ff.
[32] Kahana/1978/9, pp. 20-ff.
[33] Goitein published many of these records. The Jews of Yemen preserved a long tradition of family and communal ties with the Jews of Babylon. Their community leaders were appointed as nagidim by the geonim of Babylon. They supported the academies in Babylon with financial donations, and it was there that they sent their questions, as well their responsa touching upon matters of religious law and exegetical writings. The Jews of Yemen, in particular, were drawn after Sa‘adia Gaon and his rulings on issues of law, being the head of the academy in Sura (928-942). Many of the ancient customs practised by the Jews of Yemen have their origins in Babylonian tradition. Proof of which has already been shown in many different writings, wherefore, we shall forego the discussion here. Likewise, Yemenite Jewry's contact with Egypt is well known, existing well before the appearance of Maimonides in Egypt, but, especially, from the days of the Gaon Masleah, the leader of his community who moved from the land of Israel into Egypt. On this matter, see: Goitein/1952/3, pp. 22-25, and in a collection of his papers, entitled: "The Yemenites" (edited by M. Ben-Sasson), Jerusalem, 1983; see also Kister/1978/9, pg. 243.
[34] Josephus mentions writing to the Jews of South Arabia, or in his words, "the remotest Arabians" (or South Arabians) as well as to Jews in Parthia, Babylonia and Adiabene (Kurdistan), and informing them all about the destruction of the second Temple in anno 68 C.E. (see: Introduction to "the Jewish War.")
[35] See, for example, Hirschberg/1946, pp. 25-ff.
[36] Horovitz/1929, pp. 179-ff.; Altheim-Stiehl/1968, pp. 307-ff.; Grohmann/1963, pp. 43-ff.; Hirschberg/1974/5, pg. 156, and see also the Bibliography given in his footnotes. Most likely, these were very respectable persons in Yemen who had asked to be buried in the land of Israel. Written above the entrance way to the burial chamber, in Greek uncials, are the words: "Belonging to the people of Himyar." So, too, on a lead ossuary are inscribed the words: "Qa’wul Himyar," meaning, "A ruling man of Himyar." The most remarkable thing about this burial site is that it is also the burial site of Rabbi Yehudah Hanasi, the compiler of our Mishnah in 189 C.E.
[37] Much has been written about this. See: Margoliouth, pg. 363; Torrey, pp. 12-ff.; Alon/1960/1, pg. 300; Gill/1997, pp. 3-ff. See also the Bibliography contained in Altheim-Stiehl (1973); Horovitz, pp. 172, 177, 190-ff.; concerning Šimeon of Taimā, see a reference about him with Benjamin Kosovsky; "Otzar ha-shemot le'talmud ha-Bavli," published in Jerusalem in 1982/3, vol. 5, pg. 1685.
[38] For a further discussion on this, see: Kister, pp. 231-235, pg. 242. One of the subtleties in language differences, or in grammar, was the manner in which the Jews of Yathrib would not distinguish between the double accented Hebrew letter "thau" (ת). When this letter is dotted (תּ), it becomes a hard-"tau," equivalent to the English letter "T," as in "Tom," or "turkey." However, when the reading calls for it to be written without a dot (ת), its sound becomes soft, like unto the English "th" sound, as in "thank-you," or in "thorn." The distinct characters of these letters and their dots were always known by the Jews of Yemen. The Sephardic Jews, as a rule, do not distinguish between these letters – both cases being a hard-T.
[39] Nebe, pg. 236.
[40] Known also as the Red Sea. See: Sirat Rasul Allah (the Life of Muhammad) by Ibn Hisham who writes that the Tubba‘ king of Yemen, Tibān As’ad Abū Karib, made an incursion with his army into what is present-day Saudi-Arabia, going as far as Yathrib (Medina) and Mecca.
[41] His name was Joseph according to Jewish tradition, but was also known in Arabian accounts by the name of Zur‘ah Dhū-Nuwās. Dhū-Nuwās is allegedly a nick-name meaning, "lord of the forelock." Yet, according to "the Book of the Himyarites" and Moslem tradition, as well as in Arabic poetry, there appears also the name Masrūq. See: Moberg, 1924, ch. 7, pg. LV; Guillaume, 1955, pg. 30, who says that the Jewish Himyarite king is not the son of King Ma‘di-karib who preceded him, but was nevertheless from the Sabaean royal family. Compare the same with Hirschberg/1946, pp. 25-ff., and also with the aforementioned/1967/8, pg. 143, who suggests that he may have risen to power with the assistance of local Jews, perhaps even with the help and influence of priests from Tiberius. There is an account which says that his mother was a Jewess, see: Hirschberg/1929, pg. 198; Caskel/1968-1969, pp. 15-ff; see also Gill/1997, pg. 19.
[42] Baron/1980, pg. 75, note 61; Hirschberg/1967/8, pp. 139-ff.; Kellar/1950/1, pg. 93; Lieberman/1938/9, pg. 245; see also the end of Seder Olam Zuta.
[43] Tzippori [Sepphoris] was the principal city of the Galilee until Tiberius was established in the year 17 C.E. by Herod Antipas. With its establishment, she eventually became the capital of the Galilee, but not until she could be purified from the defilement caused by unmarked graves. This task was carried out by Rabbi Šimeon bar Yochai during the latter half of the 2nd century C.E. In the city there lived priests from the ward of Me‘aziah. For this reason, Tiberius also bears the eponym of "Me‘aziah." See more about this subject with Alon/1960/1, pp. 89-ff. There are some who ascribe the city of Raqeth to that of Tiberius, while others to the ancient Hamath, concerning which things see: Klein/1966/7, pp. 95, 100 and 102.
[44] See: "The Martyrs of Najran" by Irfan Shahid, with an English translation of Šimeon's new letter. The letter was first published in Bibliotheca Orientalis Clementino-Vaticana, ed. Assemani J.S.
[45] Hirschberg/1967/8, pg. 143.
[46] Klima 1933, pp. 421, 428; Hirschberg/1967/8, pg. 145; Aloni, pg. 224 and note 13.
[47] The inscriptions which describe the ensuing battle were discovered between the years 1950-1951. The battle was described by a certain Šarah’il Yaqbul of the family Yazan, allegedly the commanding general of Dhū-Nuwās' army. The inscription was first published by Jack Ryckman/1956, pp. 13, 21. They carry the reference numbers R507 and R508; see also Hirschberg/1967/8, pg. 142; Grohmann/1963, pp. 30-31; cf. Moberg/1924 chapter 7, pg. LV.
[48] Concerning which see: Moberg/1924, pg. XXXV; ch. 7 pg. LV; Nödleke/1879, pg. 187; Horovitz/1929, pp. 198-ff; Altheim-Stiehl/1968, pp. 317-ff; Miller/1987, pg. 52; see: Hirschberg/ Tziyyon, 1945/6, pp. 25-ff; ibid./1967/8, pg. 140 that brings down a narrative of political events from a Jewish perspective: Mar Zutra, a descendant of King David's lineage and Head of the Academy in Babylonia, revolted against the Persian king, Kawād (Qubādh), in anno 493 C.E. and decreed over an independent Jewish State in Mahoza which lasted for seven years, until Mahoza was captured and he was killed and his body hung on the bridge of Mahoza in 500 or 501 C.E. For a number of years, the seat of Mar Zutra was left vacant. When Zutra, the son of Mar Zutra reached the age of 20, he was invited in the year 520 C.E. to serve as Head of the Academy in Tiberius and to lead the people as the head of the Sanhedrin. The appearance of the younger Mar Zutra in Tiberius as one of the descendants of the house of David caused great expectations of redemption and renewed hope of rebuilding God's Temple.
[49] Altheim-Stiehl/1968, pp. 385-ff.; Hirschberg/ 1945/6, pp. 23-ff.
[50] Concerning which things, see: Wellhausen/1889, pg. 15; Horovitz/1929, pp. 186-ff. and the Bibliography that he brings down in this chapter from Arabic sources; Watt/1956, pp. 194-ff. and pp. 218-ff.; Kowalski/1931, pp. 156-161; Hirschberg/Tziyyon, 1944/5, pg. 92 and ibid., 1974/5, pg. 152, "Those priests belonged to the priests of the wards"; Gill/1997, pg. 7 and the Bibliography in his footnotes.
[51] Concerning the genealogical records mentioned by Rabbi Yihye Sālih (Maharitz), see: Sasson/1923, pp. 13-ff.; Klein-Franke/1985/6, pp. 83-ff. Also Benjamin of Tudela mentions in his journeys, pg. 47 (in that edition published by Nathan Adler Hacohen, London 1906/7), saying that amongst their leaders are those from the seed of David possessing a genealogical record.
[52] Sapir/1950/1, pg. 169. It should be noted here that other genealogical records survived outside of San‘ā’, namely: that of the Sabari and Zendani families of Rehovot and Benei ‘Ayish who trace their lineage to Bela‘, the son of Benjamin, the son of Jacob who is called Israel.
[53] Avi-Yonah/1963/4, pg. 27; Qorah /1953/4, pg. 15; Sapir/1950/1, pg. 169.
[54] Thus is it explicitly stated in Rabbi Solomon Adani's introduction to his commentary on the Mishnah, known as "Melekheth Shelomo," as also stated in "Megillath Teman," attributed to Rabbi Yihye Sālih (Maharitz). See also Ratzaby/1944/5, pp. 105-111; Hirschberg/1946, pp. 53-57. I am not inclined to accept the opinion of Rabbi Yosef Qāfih/1989 who says that the tale concerning Ezra the scribe is unreliable, see: pg. 894. See also Tobi/1985/6, pp. 31-ff.
[55] Concerning which things, see the preface to the "Tiklal" Prayer Book, compiled by R. Yihye Sālih (Maharitz) who died in 1805 C.E. He also mentions this event in his "Megillath Teman." See: Sasson/1923, pg. 12; see also Rabbi Yosef Qāfih/1989, pp. 813 and 997; Qorah /1953/4, pg. 19. Likewise, see: Tobi/1986, pp. 62-ff.; Sapir/1950/1, experienced the same tradition during his visit in Yemen in 1859 C.E., who writes on page 191: "The sight of the night of Ninth of Av [fast day] is terrible in its appearance and most horrifying. After the silent Evening Prayer, they extinguished all candles (in the synagogue known as Bayt Mori Yihye Halevi Alsheikh). Darkness enveloped all of us…. The Chief of the synagogue, Mori Yihye al-Mansureh, an old man who had acquired wisdom, stood up and called out with weeping, 'Our brethren! This night is two-thousand and two-hundred and eighty [years] since the destruction of the first Temple, and one-thousand, seven hundred and ninety since the destruction of the second Temple, and we are not yet saved! Anyone in whose days the Temple has not been built, is as though it were destroyed in his days,' as well as other words of exhortation. All of the people burst forth into a great and terrible wail, and they began [the reading of] Lamentations and liturgical poems of a dirge-like nature, as is their custom; A voice of weeping and lamentation, of bitterness and sighing, with no relenting!"
[56] Sapir/1950/1, pg. 166.
[57] Sapir/1950/1, note 1 on pg. 161. This may actually be only the suggestion of Ya‘ari. See also the term "Magharah" in the Arabic lexicon, entitled "Islamologie." Published by Imprimerie Catholique Beyrouht, 1957-1963, (ed.) F.M. Pareja, pg. 253.
[58] Just as happened in the days of Ezra and Nehemiah, that any priest not being able to prove his line of descent was considered a common priest and, thus, forfeited his right to officiate in the Temple service.
[59] See: Goitein/1980/1, pg. 85.
[60] Sapir was a witness to strife and bitter contentions regarding this, between the exiles of San‘ā’ and the Jews of Qiryat al-Qābil, prompting him to write: "The [Jewish] people of San‘ā’ practise stringency with regard to themselves in marriage & in purity of lineage, and do not inter-marry with the [Jewish] dwellers of villages, as do also the Cohenim, and they say about certain of the villages that they are descendants of slaves, or [from] the proselytes that they brought along with them. There is a small town about an hour's walking distance from San‘ā’, its name is Bayt Farweh. They say that it is certain that once they were their slaves, but they had rebelled against them, and that they are loose in conduct even unto this day." (See: Sapir/1950/1, pg. 166.)
[61] Rabbi Yihye Sālih (Maharitz) actually puts the beginning of the Exile of Mawza‘ in the year of Alexander 1, 989 (1678 C.E.), but all other historical records of that time concur that the king's harsh decrees, first to demolish the synagogues in the land of Yemen, began at the start of the year of Alexander 1,990 (1678 – 1679 C.E.). The actual eviction of Jews from the city, however, began in earnest in the summer of that same year, 1679 C.E.
[62] Compare, for example, "The Chronicles" written by Sa‘adī, R. Yihye Sālih and Hayim Hibšūš, as well as see the Bibliography included herein.
[63] At Dora Eiropus there is found an inscription mentioning the priestly-wards, in which the ward of Yedaiah is named. An excellent source book on this discovery is: "The Synagogue," by Kraeling, New Haven, 1956, pg. 262. So, too, Trifon/ 1989/90 mentions it, pg. 85.
[64] This anecdote was given to me by Rabbi Avhar, of blessed memory, from Ašqelon. He once served as the Rabbi of Tan‘im until the mass immigration to the land of Israel. I visited the ruins of the synagogue in Tan‘im, a place that remained desolate from the time of the Jewish evacuation. Although the structure was hazardous and its roof was about to cave-in, I entered inside, together with a guide and several of the local town's residents. Aside from an old coffee kettle and several large drinking cups, I could not find a thing; Neither Prayer Books (Tikalil), nor scrolls of the Law. There were other synagogues in Tan‘im, but they are now used as local residences, into which I could not gain access.
[65] The sense here is to the Autobiography written by Rabbi Yihye Sabarī (ed. Yosef Tobi). See also the Bibliography included herein. Yihye Sabarī (born 1868 / died 1943 C.E.) was a celebrated Rabbi whose story of his hardships and journeys typify a whole generation at a time when uncertainty was rampant in Yemen. He was blessed with uncommon wisdom, and even held discussions with the Imam (King of Yemen), Yihye, on matters of faith and on metaphysics.
[66] Had Rabbi Yihye Sabarī not written his life's history and memoirs, this important piece of information would never have reached us. We can conclude from this that scientific knowledge that has not yet been spoken about or written about is not proof that it did not exist in the minds of others. See his book, "Bašvilei Teman – Mizichronoth Yihye Sabarī " (Through the Paths of Yemen - The Memoirs of Yihye Sabarī), Tel-Aviv, 1990, pg. 19 where he writes: "…these are the names of my companions, the sons of Hādir – priests of the wards, the sons of Qandil – teachers of the young men, the son of al-Malis – he that gathers together the flocks."
[67] Hirschberg/1974/5, pg. 155, disagrees with Orbach and says that it cannot be deduced from this any such conclusions: 1) the reason being that he has erred in his reading (the Yemenite writing being עיתה לו, like unto the Babylonian spelling); 2) the reason being that he relied solely upon oral and literary traditions which do not prove a connexion with, or disconnexion from, Babylon in the 5th and 6th centuries C.E.
Recently, documents were discovered dating back from the 10th to 12th centuries C.E. which strengthen the opinion of Orbach, proving that the Jews of Yemen were first connected to the Babylonian Jewish tradition. Then there was also a transitional period wherein fared both traditions of vowel punctuations – Babylonian and Tiberian. (In the archives of Yehuda Levi-Nahum, of blessed memory, in Holon, are found several examples, some of which have been discussed in his books). See: Yavin/1970/1, pp. 2-ff; Orbach/1972/3, pg. 307, and the Bibliography brought down in his notes.
[68] Like Onias who erected a temple in Egypt and served there as its high priest. See: Josephus, "Antiquities," Book XIII, ch. III , vss. 1-3; Babylonian Talmud (Menahoth 109b); see also Hayward/1966, pp. 3-ff.
[69] Degen/1974, pg. 166; Hirschberg/1974/5, pp. 152-153. I wish to thank A. Angel from the Philological Department at the Hebrew University National Library in Jerusalem who laboured incessantly to analyse the inscription and to explain to me the main differences in the development of Hebrew writing during that period. For example: In the Hebrew letter "aleph," if the diagonal shaft is longer than normal, this is a sign of it being from the 4th or 5th century C.E. Letters prior to that time are usually shown with the lines of the right arm being parallel to the diagonal shaft. The Hebrew letter known as the "final or extended Nun," if it becomes thicker at the top it is said to be from the 3rd century C.E. The Hebrew letter "‘ayin," if it were written while half-way lying down and without heads attached to its two prongs, it is said to have been written between the 3rd and 6th centuries C.E. The Hebrew letter "pe," just as it appears in the stone inscription in Yemen is the accepted way of making the letter until the 7th century C.E. in the land of Israel. The Hebrew letter "kaph," the non-tapering vertical base that connects to the roof (such as which is seen in the photograph of the stone inscription found in Yemen), its shape is a typical ancient example of that letter for the 6th century C.E. The Hebrew letter "he," its leg used to cling to the roof until the 4th century C.E., and once again it clung to the roof from the 9th century C.E. In the Middle-Ages it was again severed from the roof. The Hebrew letters "pe," "tzadi," and "tau" (such as which are seen in the photograph of the stone inscription found in Yemen) are all typical examples of ancient lettering dating back to the 6th century C.E. Compare these findings with Qorah /1953/4, pg. 92, who says that the style of their writing which had been carried to Yemen by the Babylonian exiles continued unchanged with them in Yemen, while the format for writing three letters – "aleph," "shin" and "qof" – are uniquely a Yemenite tradition.
[70] Fleischer/1967/8, pg. 13. Lieberman puts the time of Yannai as early as the 4th or 5th century C.E. Rabbi Sa‘adia Gaon mentions as ancient poets Yose ben Yose, Yannai, Eleazar, Yehoshua and Phinehas (Lieberman/1938/9, pp. 221, 234 and 245.
[71] See: Zullai/1938/9, pg. 141; Reiner/1995/6, pp. 296-ff. Kellar identifies Rabbi Phinehas 'the grammarian' (Hanaqdan), the Head of the Academy at Tiberius, with Rabbi Phinehas, the paytan. (Kellar/1950/1, pp. 94-95).
[72] Rabbi Phinehas lived in San‘ā’ at least thirty years prior to the Exile of Mawza’. He is also mentioned by Rabbi Yihye Sālih (Maharitz) in relation to the Shami and Baladi-rite Prayer Books, but it is difficult to ascertain whether he was referring to the same Rabbi Phinehas mentioned above, whose burial site is near San‘ā’. See: Tzadok/1966/7, pg. 76. Hibšūš/1987/8, pg. 167, remarks that he met the progeny of Rabbi Phinehas of San‘ā’, who were at the time refugees in the far northern reaches of Yemen. Rabbi Amram Qorah mentions the scribe Phinehas ben Gad Hacohen who recorded in the colophon of a Baladi-rite Prayer Book (Tiklal) the demolition of synagogues prior to the Exile of Mawza’. Rabbi Amram Qorah raised the supposition that perhaps he is Rabbi Phinehas, whose tomb lays south-west of San‘ā’. (See his book, "Sa‘arath Teiman," pg. 10).
[73] See: Fleischer/1967/8, pp. 134-135, who brings down what he calls "proof" from the Baladi-rite Prayer Book (Tiklal) "Shivath Tziyyon," vol. II, published by Rabbi Yosef Qāfih in 1951/2, pg. 156. This was that Rabbi Phinehas mentioned by Rabbi Yihye Sālih (Maharitz) and who lived some thirty years prior to the Exile of Mawza’. See: Tzadok/1967, pg. 76.
[74] Kahana/1978/9, pp. 20-ff.; Zullai/1938/9, pg. 137.
[75] According to Kahana/1978/9, pp. 20-24, this is a synonym for Se‘orim. The town of ‘Aythoh-lo is situate north-west of Kadesh (in Galilee), and northwards of Gush Halav (Gischala). However, according to him, the name here is identified with ‘Aylot, south of Sepphoris, and north-east of Nazareth. Compare this also with Medina: עייתהלו.
[76] In the sacerdotal village of Kefar ‘Uzziel settled priests of Aviah's ward, as well as the ward of ‘Iddo. ‘Iddo is mentioned among the wards that came up from the exile to the land of Israel with Zerubabel (Nehemiah 12:4). In piyūtim (anthologies) appears the name of ‘Uzziah and also ‘Uzziel. In the writings of Rabbi Phinehas Hacohen and in those of Kallir there is found an allusion to ‘Iddo, concerning which see: Kahana/1978/9, pg. 21; Klein/1938/9, pg. 163; Hirschberg/1974/5, pp. 151-158. So, too, in the eighth ward with Medina.
[77] In the liturgical poems of Rabbi Phinehas we find written: ישוע נשדף ארבל. See: Zullai/1938/9, pg. 141. Klein/1909 purports that the name should be read נשרף, see pg. 105. The name Yeshua (ישוע) was a popular name during the second Temple, while after the destruction of the Temple it is frequently mentioned. Concerning which see: Reiner/1996/7, pp. 281-ff. Medina writes: ישוע נשרפארבאל.
[78] In the writings of Rabbi Phinehas it is written חבורה. See: Fleischer/1960/1, pp. 40-42; Orbach/1972/3, pg. 308; Kahana/1978/9, pg. 21. The tenth ward with Medina is identical with that of Avi-Yonah.
[79] In the Talmud we find כפר שוחין, as well as in the Tosefta. In the writings of Klein/1977/8 appears חוצפית שוחים, see: pg. 163, note 11; and see: Kahana/1978/9, pg. 22. The fourteenth ward with Medina is identical with that written in the roster from Yemen.
[80] See: Phinehas Kahati's edition of the Mishnah, Seder Mo‘ed, Jerusalem, 1991/2.
[81] See: Moshe Lieberman: Tosefta, Tractate Sukkah, New-York, 1961/2.
[82] See: A. Neubauer (ed.): "Seder Hachomim, etc." (The Chronological Order of the Sages and History), second edition, Jerusalem, 1966/7, vol. I-II, pp. 166-167. The first edition of his book was published in 1887 at Oxford. (A. Neubauer (ed.): Mediaeval Jewish Chronicles and Chronological Notes; See also Trifon/1999/2000, pp. 80-89.