Shmaya the Nasi
|Sh'maya, Shemaiah, Shmya, Shimaya, Shemaya|
|Meaning of Name:|
|Listen Hashem, Listen all|
|Nasi of Israel during Second Temple Era.|
Sh'maya served as the Nasi of the Jewish nation at the end of the Chashmonaim rulership, in middle of the first century BCE, 100 years before the destruction of the second temple. Shmaya belonged to the fourth pair of Zugos along with Avtalyon who served as Av Beis Din. Shmaya was a descendent of converts and according to some opinions a convert himself.
Student of the Sages
Shmaya studied under Shimon ben Shetach and Yehuda ben Tabai, the third pair of Zugos and leaders of their generation. When the wicked king Yani (Alexander Jannaeus) killed all the Torah Sages, Yehuda ben Tabai escaped to Alexandria, Egypt. It can be assumed that Shmaya went into exile along with his teacher to escape the massacre. They returned after the death of Yani under the reign of Queen Shelomtzion (Alexandra Salome).
Son of Converts
There are others that say Sh'maya himself was a convert and the law prohibiting a convert from serving as a Nasi, applies only when there are alternative candidates. In the case of Shemaiah, there was no one worthier for the position in the entire nation. This was especially true considering that many of the Sages had been killed by the Tzeduki kings that ruled Israel.
Descendent of Sancherev
According the the Kabbalah, Adramelech and Shartzer the two sons of Sancherev who converted to Judaism were reincarnated in Shemaya and Avtalyon. Adramelech and Shartzer were from the few survivors of Sancherev's army that was struck down in midst of their sleep as they lay siege on Jerusalem. Awed by what they had witnessed, they killed their own father after hearing that Sancherev was planning to sacrificing them to his god Nisroch in exchange for salvation. Adramelech and Shartzer then escaped to Ararat and converted to Judaism. Although their intent was good, Adramelech and Shartzer still had to rectify the deed of murdering their own father. This was rectified in their reincarnation of Shemaiah and Avtalyon.
Aristo the philosopher was from the same soul root as Shimaya and that is why he lived the first part of his life as a Greek and then converted to Judaism.
President of the SanhedrinHillel nearly froze to death trying to listen to a Torah discourse through the study hall skylight on a freezing winter night. This incident happened on Shabbos morning causing Shemaya and Avtalyon to desecrated the Shabbos to save the life of Hillel. When it became known Hillel risked his life since he was unable to afford the entrance fee, paid entry to the Beis Medrash was abolished making Torah study accessible to all.
Read full Zissil article on the Avtalyon
Meaning of the Name Shmaya
Shmaya is a combination of the words 'Shma', listen and 'Ka', Hashem. When put together it means 'Listen to me Hashem'. It can also be interpreted as a call 'listen all' or 'listen up' which would elude to his destiny of eventually serving as Nasi, and having the entire nation heed his words.
Respected by the People
The Freed Slave Woman Sotah
Students, Colleagues and Successors
Shmaya's main students were Hillel and Shami. Hillel was careful to use the exact wording of his teachers when he quoted them. Leadership of Shemaya and Avtalyon lasted for a short period of six years. After Shimaya and Avtalyon passed away, the Jewish leadership was given to the Beni Besera who eventually passed it on to Hillel and Menachem. Eventually Menachem was replaced by Shami. Hillel openly declared that his superiority in Torah knowledge over the Beni Besera was due to his nullification to Shmaya and Avtalyon.
Other Tannaim that lived during the time of Shmaya were; Akavya ben Mehallel, Admon, Channan, the Sons of Besera and Rebbe Yehuda ben Dursai.
In the Mechilta of Rebbe Yishmael, Shemaiah credits the splitting of the Yam Suf in merit of the faith that Avraham had in Hashem.
Based on the testimony of two weavers from the Dung Gate of Yerushalaim, in the name of Shimaya and Avtalyon, the well known Halacha disqualifying an unfinished mikva when three Lugin of containerized water are poured inside was established.
During the era of Shmaya and Avtalyon, Halachic controversy was basically nonexistent amongst the Jewish nation. An exception was the argument regarding the performance of Semicha on the Kurbanos during holidays, which had arisen three generations back. Shmaya's opinion on the matter was to do Semicha.
Kever Shemaya and Avtalyon
The Arizal used to pray at Kever Shemaya and Avtalyon with his students. Once he told his students that Shemaya and Avtalyon besieged them to pray for the life of Moshiach ben Yosef. Foolishly they did not realize that this was a reference to the Arizal himself and he passed away shortly afterwards.
Mikva of Shemaya and Avtalyon
Across from Moshav Safsufa, around 4 km north of Meron, exists a natural spring water Mikva that is attributed to Shemaya and Avtalyon. According to this tradition Shmaya used to immerse in the Mikva at some stage during his lifetime.