BAR 37:01, Jan/Feb 2011
Philistine Cult Stands
Yavneh yields over a hundred Philistine cult stands
Yavneh is best known as the place where rabbinic Judaism was born after the Romans destroyed Jerusalem and burned the Temple in 70 C.E. According to the Talmud, Rabbi Yohanan ben Zakkai was snuck out of besieged Jerusalem in a coffin and taken to the Roman general Vespasian. The rabbi so impressed the future emperor with his wisdom (according to one version, Yohanan predicted that Vespasian would become the next emperor) that Vespasian invited him to make any request, which, Vespasian said, would be granted. “Give me Yavneh and its sages,” said the rabbi.1
Apparently there was a rabbinical academy in Yavneh in the days of the Second Temple. After the Roman destruction, the Sanhedrin was reconstituted here. The new moon was proclaimed here. The calendar was intercalated here. The central prayer of the synagogue service (the amidah) was formulated here. Rabbinic law (halakhah) went forth from Yavneh.