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The Zugot // (Hebrew: הַזּוּגוֹת haz-zûghôth, "the Pairs"), also called Zugoth // or Zugos // in the Ashkenazi pronunciation, refers both to the two-hundred-year period (c. 170 BCE – 30 CE, Hebrew: תְּקוּפַת הַזּוּגוֹת təqhûphath haz-zûghôth, "Era of the Pairs") during the time of the Second Temple in which the spiritual leadership of the Jews was in the hands of five successions of "pairs" of religious teachers, and to each of these pairs themselves.
Origin of the name
In Hebrew, the word zûghôth (זוּגוֹת) indicates pairs of two identical objects, plural of zûgh (זוּג), a pair. The word is related to Arabic zawj (زوج) as singular and zawjaat as plural, "spouse", and Aramaic zôghāʾ (זוֹגָא), "pair, spouse", from a root meaning "to join".
The zugoth were five pairs of scholars who ruled a supreme court (בֵּית דִּין הַגָּדוֹל bêth dîn ha-gādôl) of the Jews as nasi (נָשִׂיא, "prince", i.e. president) and av beit din (אָב בֵּית דִּין, "father of Beth Din", i.e. chief justice) respectively. After this period, the positions nasi and 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 "beit din". The rank of nasi ("prince") 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 Jochanan
who flourished at the time of the Maccabean wars of independence
- Joshua ben Perachiah and Nittai of Arbela,
at the time of John Hyrcanus
- Judah ben Tabbai and Simeon ben Shetach,
at the time of Alexander Jannaeus and Salome Alexandra
- Shmaya and Abtalion,
at the time of Hyrcanus II
- Hillel the Elder and Shammai,
at the time of King Herod the Great
Other uses of term zugot
The term zûghôth refers to pairs generally. The Babylonian Talmud (Pesachim 109b–112a) contains an extensive discussion of dangers of zûghôth 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 shedim "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. Menachem 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 zûghôth because evil spirits are no longer prevalent. The Ben Yehoyada of Yosef Hayyim held that any harm from pairs has 'nowadays' become completely negated.
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Singer, Isidore; et al., eds. (1901–1906). . The Jewish Encyclopedia. New York: Funk & Wagnalls.
- Talmud Bavli, The Schottenstein Edition, Tractate Pesachim, Vol. III. Mesorah Publications Ltd., 1998.