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"One who greets his teacher . . . causes the Shekhinah to depart" (bBer 27b) The topic that the ensuing revolves around is the etiquette of greetings, or more specifically differences in the etiquette of greetings between social un-equals as evidenced by the two Talmudim; the Talmud of the Land of Israel and the Talmud of Babylonia. Differences in the etiquette of greetings are the product or bi-product of many complex factors and their study belongs more properly to the fields of social psychology and anthropology. In a personal account of his sojourn in the Arabian Desert, H.R.P Dickenson tells us about the1 span of cultural differences he encountered: "In Kuwait and in other towns of Arabia a proper man will not rise to greet a superior. . . Englishmen coming from India to Arabia invariably misunderstand this custom, for the opposite custom rules in India, and the poor and lowly there must always rise and greet the big man first" (pg. 235) It may be astonishing to a Western reader to learn that a superior should not greet unequals and even more so that an un-equal should not greet a superior. Just as the Englishmen arriving in Arabia experienced cultural misunderstandings it would be natural to find that the very same misunderstandings commonly occurred during the exchanges and migrations between the Land of Israel and Babylonia. It is well established that the milieu and cultural settings of the two great Jewish learning centers, shaped in part by their respective Roman and Sassanian subjugators were often poles apart. As we will see, in the Land of Israel students were expected to greet their teachers, while in Jewish Babylonia, at least in some circles, a student was not allowed to greet his teacher or even to return a greeting which his teacher initiated. Our starting point in the discussion of the etiquette of greetings in both the Land of Israel and Babylonia is in the Talmud of the Land of Israel which conveniently records an exchange between Sages of the two Lands: Rabbi Yochanan was leaning on Rabbi Yaakov bar Idi and Rabbi Eliezer saw him and hid from him. [Rabbi Yochanan] said: These two things the Babylonian did to me. First, is that he did not extend me greeting ()לא שאל בשלומי. . . [Rabbi Yaakov bar Idi] said to him: so it is this their custom. The smaller 1 Dickenson, H.R.P, "The Arab of the Dessert; A glimpse into Badawin Life in Kuwait and Sa'udi Arabia" does not extend greeting to the greater2 for they fulfill: "Youths saw me and hid" (Job 29:8) (yBer. 2:1 13b) The elder Rabbi Yochanan considers it a personal wronging on the part of the Babylonian Rabbi Eliezer3 for not greeting him. Rabbi Yaakov bar Idi is able to placate Rabbi Yochanan by explaining that the student not only meant no disrespect in abstaining from greeting him but on the contrary, in doing so he abstained from showing him great disrespect.4 This narrative records clearly the diametrically opposed social practices of the two communities in encounters between social un-equals. In the Land of Israel proper etiquette of greeting dictated that the inferior greet the superior ("Engagement etiquette") while in Babylonia the inferior would not dare do so. Proper etiquette would seem to have been avoidance and silence ("Avoidance etiquette").5 Rabbi Eliezer does not simply abstain from greeting Rabbi Yochanan but avoids him entirely by hiding from him. In effect, the etiquette of greeting between un-equals was seemingly none. The anthropologist Firth observes: "Greeting is the recognition of an encounter with another person as socially acceptable"6 This observation about the nature of greeting 2 Some interpret the words Za'ira and Rabba as personal names rather than "smaller" and "greater" respectively. 3 This Rabbi Eliezer who is usually mentioned in the Talmud without epithet appears to be Rabbi Eliezer ben Pedath who ascended from Babylonia to Tiberias to become Rabbi Yochanan's disciple and eventually the head of his Academy (see Eisenberg, Ronald L., "Essential Figures in the Talmud", pg. 52). Rabbi Eliezer held stead-fast to the social practice which he brought with him. Indeed, the Babylonians (or a segment of them) championed their "distance" etiquette as the correct and scripturally ordained practice. 4 The mainstream practice of etiquette in the Land of Israel is well attested throughout rabbinic literature both in earlier and latter Palestinian Midrashim. See Margaliyot, 'Book of Differences', pg. 151 and note 7 below. Particularly interesting is the instance of Midrash Shemuel (ed. Buber, Parasha 19, pg. 30) on the verse: "And the elders of the city came to meet him trembling, and said: ‘Comest thou peaceably?" (I Sam. 16:4) which introduces its citation of the incident recorded in the Palestinian Talmud with the words "A student greets his master". This introductory phrase seems to express a need to settle the question of proper greeting etiquette between student and teacher. 5 It could be supposed that bowing would have been the proper Babylonian etiquette. However, as we see Rabbi Eliezer completely avoided Rabbi Yochanan. Furthermore, it seems that even in the Palestinian "engagement" practice giving greeting may have entailed some sort of bowing. See Lieberman, Tosefta Kifshuta, Hagigah, pg. 1292. 6 Firth, Raymond, "Verbal and bodily rituals of greeting and parting", pg.1 in The interpretation of ritual: Essays in honor of A.I. Richards by Jean Sybille La Fountain gives us a potentially critical insight into the social psychology of social "avoidance". Accordingly, it would appear that in Jewish Babylonia social interaction between unequals at least in the public arena was deemed inappropriate and not merely the exchange of greetings between student and teacher. An early medieval composition from the Land of Israel known as "Differences between the Easterners and Westerners" documents the continuation of this Babylonian (as well as the Palestinian) social practice into the early Middle-Ages 7 [As regards] The people of the west (Babylonians) a student does extend greeting ( )שואל בשלום רבוto his teacher. [As regards] The People of the Land of Israel a student says to his teacher "Peace be upon you my master" ( שלום ( )עליך רביhilluk 33, pg. 151). This admittedly late but first-hand testimony of living Palestinian and Babylonian tradition affirms the extent to which the respective etiquette of greeting was ingrained in the cultural fiber of the two Jewish centers. Babylonian Sources The Babylonian social practice of avoidance from all appearances is in fact evidenced in the primary Babylonian source of Jewish tradition, the Babylonian Talmud. 1) A teaching in the name of Rabbi Eliezer [ben Hyrkanos] states: "One who greets ( נותן שלוםhis teacher or returns his greeting . . . causes the Shekhinah to depart from the People of Israel" (bBerachoth 27b) Rabbi Eliezer deems it disastrous for an inferior to greet a superior. It is remarkable that this social infraction is given national and theological import so great as to cause the departure of the Shekhinah, God's Presence from upon the People of Israel. However, these consequences are better understood on the backdrop of the entirety of Rabbi Eliezer's teaching which also lists: One who prays behind his teacher, one who disputes his teacher's position as head of Yeshiva and one who says something The Book of Differences is extremely important source for the study of the Legal development of the Land of Israel. The Book belongs to a relatively new genre of Genizah discoveries attesting to the continued legal activity of the Land of Israel in the late Byzantine period long after the closing of the Talmud of the Land of Israel. The Book of Differences is unique in that it bears first hand-testimony to living Palestinian and Babylonian tradition as practiced by the respective communities in the post-Talmudic era. The Book was published in a few editions. References here are made to the edition of Mordechai Margaliyot. 7 in the name of his teacher that he did not say.8 The behaviors that Rabbi Eliezer describes are a formula for bringing about the collapse of the Torah Academy and (as we will see below) may be symptomatic of an actual historical reality. 9 Although this teaching of the 1st-2nd century Eliezer ben Hyrkanus is recorded in the Babylonian Talmud (and notably nowhere in the Talmud of the Land of Israel) and reflects what we have come to know here as Babylonian practice, it is in fact Palestinian in origin10. Furthermore, the Palestinian origination of this teaching seems to suggest that the "avoidance" of superiors was also practiced at least in some locales in the Land of Israel in an earlier period. The "engagement" etiquette characteristic of the Land of Israel which appears over time to have become mainstream seems also to stretch back to around this period and it is likely that at some point the two existed side by side. The Tosefta recounts: There was an incident in which Rabbi Yehoshua was walking in the street when he encountered Ben Zoma. [Ben Zoma] came near him but did not extend him greeting (( )ולא נתן לו שלוםTosefta Hagigah 2:6 pg. 381) This narrative of the Tosefta implies that the behavior of Ben Zoma of the 2nd century in not greeting his teacher Rabbi Joshua ben Haninah was exceptional and out-ofplace. Similarly, (see below) the 2nd century Rabbi Yossi (ben Halafta) is recorded to have returned the greeting of the Messiah. This same teaching of Rabbi Eliezer is also recorded in the treatise known as Masekheth Kalah but with a few notable differences: "Rabbi Eliezer said: anyone who gives greeting ( )נותן שלוםto his teacher is due death. Ben Azzai says: Anyone who gives greeting to his teacher or returns his teacher's greeting and disputes his position as the Head of Yeshiva is due death. One who says something in the name of a Sage that he did not hear from him causes the Shekhinah to depart from Israel" (pg. 56) The voice of the early 2nd century Ben Azzai is added to the quorum in the pronouncement against greeting superiors. The Shekhinah's departure is replaced with the more legalistic terminology "is due death" stressing the severity of the See Gilat, "Rabbi Eliezer", pg. 263 who collects additional teachings of Rabbi Eliezer concerning respect for teachers and the severe consequences for their lacking. 9 Rabbi Eliezer's teaching may point to an actual post-second Temple reality in which the authority of the Academy and Torah scholars was being undermined due to the mayhem caused by the Second Temple's destruction. See below 'Cultural Context'. 10 See Gilat, "Rabbi Eliezer", pg. 165 who is of the opinion that in early times the custom in Palestine, as in Babylonia, was that a pupil did not greet his teacher. 8 infraction committed by greeting a teacher even more than the parallel passage in the Babylonian Talmud. It articulates the consequences in terms sensible directly to the individual rather than to one's national conscience. Unfortunately, the lack of consensus on the dating and origin of this treatise makes it difficult to orient its testimony historically.11 2) Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi said: When Moses ascended to the Heavens he found God tying crowns to the letters.12 God said to him: Moses, is there no greeting in your city? [Moses] said before Him: Does a slave greet his master? [God] said to him: You should have helped Me (Rashi: to say that Your endeavor should be successful) immediately. [Moses] said to Him: "and the power of God shall grow as you spoke"(Num. 14:17)" (bShab 89a( When Moses ascends to the Heavens he finds God preparing for the giving of the Torah to the Jewish People but Moses does not greet Him and God reproaches him for this. In this theological Agaddah, God treats Moses as a colleague,13 perhaps an equal, but Moses the humblest of all men reduces himself to the level of slave. Moses' question: "Does a slave extend greeting first to his master?" preserves straightforwardly a cultural context in which the inferior was not permitted to greet a superior. Here too, as in Rabbi Eliezer's teaching the social practice which we have come to know as "Babylonian" turns out to be Palestinian in origin. Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi the transmitter of the Aggadah (which is likewise conspicuously absent from the Talmud of the Land of Israel) is a third century Palestinian Amora. However, the teaching that he conveys does not appear to reflect the social etiquette of his time or locale but that of an earlier period and/or locale in the Land of Israel. This is borne out by the fact that in an account that records his own conduct he is said to extend greeting to a superior : R. Joshua b. Levi met Elijah standing by the entrance of R. Simeon b. Yohai's tomb. He asked. . . R. Joshua b. Levi said, ‘I saw two, but heard the voice of a third.’ He then asked him, ‘When will the Messiah come?’ — ‘Go and ask him himself,’ . . . So he went to him and greeted him, saying, ‘peace 11 There is disagreement both about the antiquity of this treatise and its origin. See David Brodsky, A Bride Without a Blessing: A Study in the Redaction and Content of Massekhet Kallah and its Gemara. 12 See Midrash Aggadah, Numbers, Parashath Shelah chapter 14 Ed. Buber for a parallel passage which adds ["and Moses kept quiet"] suggesting that Moses did not ignore or was simply unaware of God's presence but purposely abstained from greeting God. 13 See for example, Wayiqra Rabba 1:9 (Margalit, pg. 23) which suggests that God spoke to Moses as an officer. See also ibid note 9 upon thee, Master and Teacher ()שלום עליך רבי ומורי.’ ‘Peace upon thee, O son of Levi, ( שלום עליך בר ’)ליואיhe replied. (bSanhed 98a) 14 In this account Rabbi Joshua ben Levi initiates a greeting even to someone as esteemed as the Massiah. Palestinian etiquette in Babylonian sources While the Babylonian Talmud, as we have seen above incorporates materials reflecting the social practice of avoidance it incorporates even more "Palestinian" material which evidences the "Engagement" etiquette characteristic of the Land of Israel.15 The Babylonian Sages, it may be surmised extracted only the operational elements of the "Palestinian" materials which they found usable in their social context while discarding the social aspects of the Mishnah that stood at odds with their own accepted social norms. 1)If one was reading the Torah and the time for Shema arrived. If he had the Shema in mind he is exempt from reading it. Between the Paragraphs one may greet another out of respect and respond; and in the middle one may greet another for fear and respond. This is the view of Rabbi Meir. Rabbi Judah etc. (Mishnah Berakhoth 2:1) This prominent Mishnah disputes under which circumstances one may interrupt the recitation of the Shema in order to greet or return the greeting of a superior. 16 The Babylonian Sages must have found the etiquette aspects of this Mishnah to be relevant only to the social reality of the Land of Israel.17 2)Mishnah: One who says behold I am a Nazir and his friend heard and said "and I [too]" and his friend said "and I [too]". They are all Nezirim" Talmud: Reish Lakish was sitting before Rabbi Judah: 14 Another Aggadah of Moses' ascent and God's crowing appears in bMenahoth 29b. Consideration must be given to the possibility, though difficult to prove that notwithstanding their Palestinian attribution neither Rabbi Eliezer's or Rabbi Joshua ben Levi's teachings reflect Palestinian practices. The Ascent/Crowning Aggadoth as well as Rabbi Eliezer's teaching appear only in the Babylonian Talmud and are conspicuously absent from the Talmud of the Land of Israel. Ascent Aggadoth do appear in a few instances in the Rabba and Tanhuma series although they do not significantly humanize God. 15 This question occupied the exegetes of the Babylonian Talmud in the Middle Ages some of which, in the spirit of their times attempted to reconcile the seemingly contradictory materials as addressing different cases as well as reinterpreting the materials in such a way as to harmonize them. (See below 'Rashi and Maimonides') 16 Gilat, "Rabbi Eliezer", pg. 165 opines that the Babylonian Jews tended to follow the custom of R. Eliezer. 17 In a number of instances some of the earlier Amoraim dispute the Mishnah even after its canonization. See for example, bShabbath 64b, bKethuboth 8a, bGittin 6a, BHulin 25b, yMaasorth 1:3 4a. See Meiri in his introduction to Masekheth Avoth. He asked saying: this is in the case of when they all attached to him tokh kede dibbur. How much is toch kede dibbur? The amount of time of asking well-being. How much is the time of asking wellbeing? The amount of a student asking the well-being of his teacher (bNazir 20b). The Babylonian Sages may have extracted the time parameters but discarded the social aspects. Even though a student may not have greeted his teacher in Babylonia the interval of time that constituted a continuum could still be derived. 4) Rabbi Yossi said: Once I was walking on my way and I entered one of the churvoth of Jerusalem to pray. Came Elijah may he be remembered for good and watched over the entrance until after I finished my prayer. After I finished my prayer he said to me: Shalom 'alecha Rabbi! I said to him: shalom 'alekha rabbi umori . . . at that moment I learned three things (bBerachoth 3a) This Palestinian material may have been cited simply for the purpose of extracting the three lessons that Rabbi Yossi learned from Elijah. 18 Rabbi Isaac Alfasi Rabbi Yitchak Alfasi (1013-1103) in his Halakhoth Rabbathi cites the entire passage of Rabbi Eliezer דאמר רבי יהושע בן לוי אסור לעבור כנגד המתפללין איני והא רבי אמי ורבי אסי חלפי רבי אמי ורבי אסי חוץ לארבע אמות הוא דחלפי ורבי ירמיה היכי עביד הכי והא אמר רב יהודה אמר רב לעולם אל יתפלל אדם לא כנגד רבו ולא אחורי רבו ותניא רבי אליעזר אומר המתפלל אחורי רבו והנותן שלום והמחזיר שלום לרבו גורם לשכינה שתסתלק מישראל שאני רבי ירמיה בר אבא דתלמיד חבר הוה אמר ר׳ יהושע בן לוי אסור לעבור כנגד המתפללין איני? והא רב אמי ורב אסי עברי רב אמי ורב אסי חוץ לארבע אמות הוא דעברי אמר רב יהודה אמר רב לעולם אל יתפלל תלמיד לא לפני רבו ולא אחורי אומר המתפלל כנגד רבו והמתפלל אחורי רבו והנותן19רבו ולא כנגד רבו תניא רבי אלעזר בן חסמא .שלום לרבו והחולק על ישיבתו של רבו והאומר דבר שלא שמע מפי רבו גורם לשכינה שתסתלק מישראל Rabbi Jonah Gerundi in his (or students') commentary on Halakhoth Rabbathi ad loc interprets Rabbi Alfasi to understand Rabbi Eliezer's teaching literally and historically. Rabbi Alfasi retains the Talmudic discussion surrounding the prohibition to pass before one who is praying [with the qualification that it applies only within four cubits of the one praying. By contrast, he suppresses the Talmud's qualification that the prohibition of praying behind one's teacher does not apply to a student18 How the Babylonians dealt with the social behavior of Elijah who extends a greeting to Rabbi Yossi who would appear to be an inferior is not entirely clear. It is possible that Elijah was perceived not as a complete superior but as a colleague. 19 The editions of Halakhoth Rabbathi (as well as citations from this work by medieval scholars) reads "Eliezer ben Hasma" a 2nd century Palestinian sage. colleague.] However, unlike the foregoing Talmudic discussion it appears that he is of the opinion that standing behind a person at a distance greater than four cubits does not qualify as standing behind someone for the purpose of the laws of prayer. These manipulations of the original Talmudic discourse appear to suggest that Rabbi Alfasi is consciously articulating a new stand-alone and fully qualified halakhah.202122 2. Rashi and Maimonides The migration of the Jewish People throughout the Diaspora brought about continual legal transplantation,23 at each station weakening the chain of interpretive tradition from the original Palestinian and Babylonian sources. Rabbi Eliezer's (and Ben Azzai's) teaching was no longer interpreted within the broader context of tradition, but within the confines of the textual evidence of the Babylonian Talmud. Under this new interpretive landscape, the preponderance of materials in the Babylonian Talmud voicing "Palestinian" greeting etiquette (as compared to the isolated teaching of Rabbi Eliezer voicing "Babylonian" etiquette) turned Rabbi Eliezer's teaching from the predominant accepted praxis of the 20 As we will see below (Rashi and Maimonides), other Sages re-interpreted Rabbi Eliezer's passage. The Tosafoth ad loc also consider a literal and historical reading of Rabbi Eliezer's passage. 21 Rabbi Alfasi (Yoma 53a) does incorporate into his Halakhoth Rabbathi the etiquette of departing from a teacher. 22 It could potentially be argued that despite the evident manipulations, Rabbi Alfasi does not qualify the meaning of the phrase "extend greeting" because his discussion focuses on praying behind people and the incidentally included mention of "extending greeting" is simply out of focus. In Berakhoth 13b the Babylonian Talmud cites the ruling of the Palestinian Amora Rabbi Abahu in the name of Rabbi Yochanan to be in accordance with Rabbi Yehudah. Rabbi Alfasi likewise cites this ruling of Rabbi Abahu in his Halakhoth Rabbathi ad loc. From all appearances, this would suggest contrary to Rabbi Jonah Gerundi that Rabbi Alfasi subscribed to the "proximity" social practice of greeting. See Levy, Leonard Robert, diss phd, R. YITZHAQ ALFASI’S OF PRINCIPLES OF ADJUDICATION IN HALAKHOT RABBATI, (JTS 2002) pg. 50 who shows that Rabbi Yitchak Alfasi rules in accordance with explicitly stated rulings in the Talmud. However, see ibid. note 7 and 8 where he discusses contradictory rulings in Halakhoth Rabbahi. See also Langerman, Tzvi, "The legal methodology of Hai Gaon", pg. 23 who is of the opinion that Rabbi Hai Gaon likewise considered explicitly mentioned rulings in the Talmud whether anonymous or in the name of an Amora to be the final ruling. Admittedly, Rabbi Yitzchak Alfasi's methodology of adjudication is not completely understood and at times elusive. 23 The general phenomenon of Legal Transplants has particular relevance to Jewish Law because of the constant migration of the Jewish People throughout history. Watson, Alan, Legal Transplants: An Approach to Comparative Law, pg. 29. We refer specifically to his second definition: "Secondly, when a people moves into a different territory where there is a comparable civilisation and takes its law with it". Babylonian Sages into an intriguing quandary. Medieval interpreters such as Rashi and Maimonides rendered (or re-interpreted) Rabbi Eliezer's teaching in confluence with the "Palestinian" etiquette despite the noticeable departure this rendition would impose on the wording of Rabbi Eliezer's teaching. Rashi glosses "one who greets his teacher" as follows: "like any other person: [he says] שלום עליךbut does not say to him "שלום עליך רבי. The infraction is not in greeting the teacher, but in greeting the teacher without such recognition. A similar interpretation, although with some subtle differences is given by Maimonides: "On should not extend or return greetings ( )יתן שלוםto his teacher in manner one extends greeting to friends"24 The infraction for Maimonides, unlike Rashi is not about the master's status as teacher but as a superior. 25 The inevitable consequences of this new interpretation is that it eliminated any historical record in the Babylonian Talmud of the "Babylonian" social practice which we have come to know from the Palestinian sources. Rabbenu Asher ben Yechial in his discussion of Rabbi Eliezer's passage summarizes the views on the proper etiquette of greeting: Rashi interprets: like to other people and that he does not say 'peace be upon you my teacher'. However, in the Talmud Yerushalmi it implies that a student does not give greeting to his teacher altogether. For we learn in the Talmud Yerushalmi that it was their practice [as] that [of] Ze'ira [who] did not ask the well-being of Rabba and that they fulfil "the lads saw me and hid". However, in our Gemara we say: "toch kede dibbur (Nedarim 71a)" (Commentary to Berachoth 4:5) The gist of this slightly terse passage appears to be that the Babylonian Talmud which operates on the principle of ‘tokh kede dibbur’ ascribes to the “Engagement” etiquette and that the social practice of avoidance which the Talmud of the Land of Israel attributes to the Babylonian Jews essentially is not mentioned. Cultural Context: The Land of Israel In the discussion above we gleaned a handful of specifics about the "Baylonian" (and earlier Palestinian) social practices between un-equals. Firstly, it was observed that it Mishneh Torah, Madda', Hilkhoth Talmud Torah 5:5 Rashi's and Maimonides' interpretation of Rabbi Eliezer's passage was widely adopted by the Rabbis in the Middle Ages down to the Shulkhan Arukh. Yoreh De'ah 242:15 : He may not extend greeting or return greeting to his teacher as to the rest of the people but bows before him etc". Ramah states that this is the practice but also cites the opinion of Rabbi Jonah interpreting Rabbi Yitzchak Alfasi. 24 25 was unacceptable for an inferior to greet a superior, be it a student greeting his teacher or a slave greeting his master. Secondly, it was discussed that inferiors were expected to avoid contact and social situations with their superiors. The Amora Rabbi Eliezer, abiding by Babylonian custom did more than just abstain from greeting his Palestinian teacher Rabbi Yochanan, but actually hid so that Rabbi Yochanan would not see him. Interaction between un-equals in the public arena or in public situations appears to have been deemed socially unacceptable. The subordinate was not deemed worthy of conversation or even of appearing in a social setting with the superior. The practice of abstaining from greeting or interacting with social un-equals which we have come to associate with Babylonian social practice points to a society in which a vast social distance was upheld between its various strata. Such rigid social structure does not appear to be compatible with the Roman social practice. Recall that Moses asked God in the Heavenly Ascent scene: "Does a slave greet his master?" In contrast, "In Rome Common practice known as Salutatio until the middle of the first century CE required that the household slaves greet their owners at the beginning of the day." (Slavery in the Roman World Sandra R. Joshel, pg. 186). Thirdly, it was mentioned above that the "Engagement" etiquette which became characteristic of the Land of Israel stretches back to the 2nd century. Rabbi Eliezer's admonition against pupils greeting their teachers appears to target this "Engagement" etiquette and could have been a reaction to contemporaneous social change. What historical and cultural reality presiding in the Land of Israel could have provided a suitable setting for the social practice of avoidance? Furthermore, what historical event could have triggered a change in the social practices in the Land of Israel? Yitzchak Gilat was of the opinion that Rabbi Eliezer who lived just a century after the destruction of the Second Temple (70CE) preserves Second Temple Halakhah and insisted on perpetuating it notwithstanding the social and economic changes that resulted from its destruction. The destruction of the Temple was catastrophic for the Jewish people. According to Josephus Flavius, hundreds of thousands of Jews perished in and thousands more were sold into slavery. The destruction of the Second Temple, a national and spiritual devastation of immeasurable proportions is a prospective target in the search for an event which would have caused changes in the social hierarchy. A passage recorded in the Mishnah from the very same Rabbi Eliezer relates: Rabbi Eliezer the Great said, "from the day of the destruction of the Temple the Sages began to become schoolteachers and the schoolteachers began to become sextons and the sextons became amme hares. And the amme hares became more and more worn down. (Mishnah Sota 9:15) Rabbi Eliezer describes the social conditions in the Land of Israel after the destruction of the Second Temple. The dwindling of the rabbinic institution and the decline of Torah scholarship that ensued was likely to have reduced the social distance between students and teachers. In this context Rabbi Eliezer's teaching admonishing of the national consequences of students greeting teachers may point to the circumstances after the destruction of the Temple. The Roman social structure, it has been noted was somewhat loose and allowed for social mobility.26 Roman social practices which allowed or required the inferior to greet the superior was compatible with the new social reality that emerged after the destruction of the Second Temple in which the gap between social strata appears to have been reduced. However, whether it was the conditions of post-destruction devastation or the influence of Roman society that played the predominant role in shaping the social etiquette of the Land of Israel is difficult to show. Cultural Context: Babylonia The Jewish community in Babylonia dates back to the 6th century when Nebuchadnezzar exiled Judah. After the rebuilding of the Temple in the time of Ezra some Jews remained in Babylonia. The Jewish community appears to have thrived in Babylonia because of the autonomy granted to them by the Parthians. In 226 Babylonia changed hands when the Sassanids conquered the Parthians. The questions raised about the social reality in the Land of Israel should also be asked regarding Babylonia. What social conditions in Babylonia could have been suitable to the perpetuation of the avoidance practice? The sources on the Sassanian daily life are scanty and do not shed much light directly on our inquiry. However, the rigid social structure of the Sassanids is well attested in the literature on this empire.27 In contrast to the relatively loose Roman social structure which allowed for greater social mobility and possibly a smaller distance See Peter Garnsey, Richard Salle, "The Roman Empire: Economy, Society and Culture", pg. 145 for further discussion 26 http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Sassanid_Empire http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/class-system-iii 27 and further between strata, the rigidness of the Sassanian social structure is likely to have created a significant social distance between un-equals. This social distance may have been a compatible environment for the practice of avoidance that we have come to know as Babylonian.