Zugot (Hebrew: [zuˈɡot]; Hebrew: תְּקוּפַת) הַזּוּגוֹת), (təqûphath) hazZûghôth) refers to the period during the time of the Second Temple (515 BCE – 70 CE), in which the spiritual leadership of the Jewish people was in the hands of five successive generations of zugot ("pairs") of religious teachers.
Origin of the name
In Hebrew, the word "zugot" indicates a plural of two identical objects and refers to 5 pairs of scholars who ruled a Supreme Court Beit Din HaGadol. Afterwards the positions President Nasi and Chief Justice Av Beit Din remained, but they were not Zugot.
The title of av beit din existed before the period of the zugot. His purpose was to oversee the Sanhedrin, the court of religious law (also known as the "beth din"). The rank of nasi (president) was a new institution that was begun during this period.
List of zugot
There were five pairs of these teachers:
- Jose ben Joezer, and Jose ben Johanan
who flourished at the time of the Maccabean wars of independence
- Joshua ben Perachyah, and Nittai of Arbela
at the time of John Hyrcanus
- Judah ben Tabbai, and Simeon ben Shetach
at the time of Alexander Jannæus and Queen Salome Alexandra
- Sh'maya, and Abtalion
at the time of Hyrcanus II
- Hillel, and Shammai
at the time of King Herod the Great
Other uses of term Zugot
The term zugot refers to pairs generally. The Babylonian Talmud (Pesachim 109b–112a) contains an extensive discussion of dangers of zugot and of performing various activities in pairs. The discussants expressed belief in a demonology and in practices of sorcery from which protection was needed by avoiding certain activities. The demonology included a discussion of Ashmidai (Asmodai or Asmodeus), referred to as king of the shadim or demons.
Belief in demons among Jews, and reservations against pairs generally, diminished among Jews during the Middle Ages. Medieval commentators, who are followed today, asserted that the practice of avoiding doing things in pairs out of concern for being harmed by demons was not applicable to then-contemporary conditions. They gave various reasons. Meiri, for example, stated that belief in the harm of pairs was widespread among the masses of the time and the Sages sought to allay their fears and draw them away from their excesses. Tosafot held that we need not concern ourselves with zugot because evil spirits are no longer prevalent. Ben Yehoyada held that any harm from pairs has 'nowadays' become completely negated.
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Jewish Encyclopedia. 1901–1906.
- Talmud Bavli, The Schottenstein Edition, Tractate Pesachim, Vol. III. Mesorah Publications Ltd., 1998.