USHA, SYNOD OF, convention of sages reviving the Sanhedrin held at usha at the close of the period of persecution following the Bar Kokhba revolt, i.e., about the middle of the second century C.E. During the rule of antoninus pius (137–161), the restrictive decrees of Hadrian were abrogated, and in consequence a renewal of Jewish spiritual and communal life became possible. This renewal found its main expression in the convention of sages at Usha, described as follows: "When the persecution ended, our teachers convened at Usha, these being R. Judah, R. Nehemiah, R. Meir, R. Yose, R. Simeon b. Yoḥai, R. Eliezer son of R. Yose ha-Galili, and R. Eliezer b. Jacob. They sent the following message to the elders of Galilee: Let everyone who has learned come and teach and everyone who has not learned let him come and learn – they convened and learned and took all necessary steps" (Song R. 2:5, no. 3). Thus the synod inaugurated all the activities of the Sanhedrin: the teaching and study of Torah as well as legislative and judicial functions referred to by the phrase that there they took "all necessary steps." The scholars who convened at Usha included men like meir who had fled abroad, and others who had concealed themselves in the country during the persecutions, like Simeon b. Yoḥai. The designated nasi, Rabban simeon b. gamaliel , who was apparently still in hiding because of a pending death sentence against him, is not mentioned. The parallel tradition in the Babylonian Talmud (Ber. 63b) states that the convention took place in jabneh and not in Usha, but this does not seem to be correct, either in the light of historical circumstances and the conditions in Judea at that time, or from the context in the Babylonian Talmud itself, according to which R. Judah, who lived in Usha, was the host of the convention. Together with the Sanhedrin the office of nasi was also revived and Rabban Simeon b. Gamaliel was appointed to this post with R. nathan ha-bavli as av bet din and R. Meir as ḥakham. It is difficult to determine how the functions of leadership were divided between these three, but clearly the division indicates the growth of the importance of the Sanhedrin against that of the nasi in comparison with the situation existing in the period of rabban gamaliel of Jabneh. It is possible that the limitation of the power of Rabban Simeon   b. Gamaliel resulted from his not having participated at the initial convention of the scholars in Usha. In the course of time, Simeon b. Gamaliel strengthened the status of the nasi once more, penalizing Nathan and Meir for their unsuccessful attempt to unseat him. The tradition in tractate Rosh Ha-Shanah of the ten migrations of the Sanhedrin includes the following stages: "And from Jerusalem to Jabneh, and from Jabneh to Usha, and from Usha (back) to Jabneh, and from Jabneh (back) to Usha, and from Usha to Shefaram" (RH 31b). The problem of the repeated moves between Jabneh and Usha has been the object of considerable study: some scholars believe that the Sanhedrin came to Usha for the first time in the era preceding the Bar Kokhba revolt, partly basing their opinions on the tradition "who are meant by the travelers to Usha? R. Ishmael" (BB 28b); others consider that this source proves that following the convention of Usha in the middle of the second century, an attempt was made to renew the Sanhedrin at Jabneh, which came to grief because Judea lacked a sufficient basis of population, and the Sanhedrin returned to Usha; still others hold that the tradition itself is corrupt or that the wanderings of the Sanhedrin were artificially rounded out to the number ten, particularly as the addition "and from Usha to Jabneh, and from Jabneh to Usha" does not occur in the versions and manuscripts of the Babylonian Talmud (see Dik. Sof.), nor does this addition appear in the parallel tradition in Genesis Rabbah (97; Theodor-Albeck, p. 1220). Whatever the truth, however, it is clear that the Sanhedrin of Usha which is of historical significance is the convention of scholars that took place there after the end of the persecutions following the Bar Kokhba revolt. The tannaim of Usha occupied themselves to a great extent with halakhah, and the "Usha period" constitutes an important stage in the compilation and codification of the Mishnah. The scholars of Usha applied themselves particularly to the laws of ritual purity and it may be assumed that some of them adopted the principles of the Ḥasidim , which included eating ordinary food in a state of ritual purity. Despite this, Buechler's view that the concepts of am ha-areẓ and ḥaver – which were much discussed by the scholars of Usha – came into historical existence in the period of Usha and were confined solely to Galilee cannot be accepted. There exist several takkanot which are called "takkanot of Usha" in talmudic literature. A substantial number of them are connected with the laws of the home and family life, one being "that a man must maintain his young children" (TJ, Ket. 4:8, 28d). The urgent need for this takkanah becomes evident when it is viewed against the background of the great poverty that prevailed after the Bar Kokhba revolt. Another such takkanah states: "It was enacted at Usha that a man must support his son until he is 12 years old: from then onward "יורד עמו לחייו", which apparently means "helps him in his trade." Another historically important takkanah was "not to excommunicate an elder" (TJ, MK 3:1, 81d), which may be regarded as extending the rights of scholars, enlarging their independent status, and preventing the possibility of a repetition of such incidents as the excommunication of Eliezer b. Hyrcanus in the time of Rabban Gamaliel of Jabneh. Some scholars believe that a number of these takkanot are of a later date than the synod of Usha. Thus G. Alon thinks there was another meeting of scholars presided over by the nasi (apparently Gamaliel b. Judah ha-Nasi), which met only once toward the end of the rule of the Severi dynasty (c. 230 C.E.), and a section of "the takkanot of Usha" should be attributed to this synod. Mantel considers that some of them are local takkanot of the bet din of Usha headed by Judah b. Ḥanina, some of which became generally accepted in the course of time. -BIBLIOGRAPHY: Weiss, Dor, 2 (19044), 129ff.; A. Buechler, Studies in Jewish History (1956), 160–78: idem, Der galilaeische Amha'Arez des zweiten Jahrhunderis (1906); idem, in: Abhandlungen… H.P. Chajes (1933), 137–67 (Heb. pt.); S. Klein, Ereẓ haGalil (1946), index S.V.; M. Avi-Yonah, Bi-Ymei Roma u-Bizantiyyon (19522), index S.V.; Alon, Toledot, 2 (19612), 69ff.; H. Mantel, Studies in the History of the Sanhedrin (1961), passim. esp. 140–74; idem, in: Tarbiz, 34 (1964/65), 281–83. (A'hron Oppenheimer)

Encyclopedia Judaica. 1971.

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