The Oral Torah and its Times

Important establishments and completions

the foundation, development and completion of major Rabbinical bodies and collections

Beginning of the כנסת גדולה

444 BCE

Around this time, Ezra Hasofer started the Knesset Gedolah, which had 120 judges and was the main Rabbinic lawmaking body at the time. It later became the Sanhedrin, which had 7 judges and was the equivalent of today's Congress and Supreme Court. In order to be inducted into the Sanhedrin, one had to pass a test and be given סמיכה, which was when an existing Rabbi placed his hands on the new Rabbi's head as a metaphoric transfer of power. Smaller courts that branched from the Knesset Gedolah and Sanhedrin had at least 3 judges and were located throughout Israel.

the Mishnah is compiled

90 CE - 220 CE

The Mishnah was created in Israel and compiled by Rabbi Akivah, Rabbi Meir and eventually completed by Rabbi Yehudah Hanasi. It is a collection of the discussions of the Tana'im (Sages of the time, also a term for those who memorized the oral Torah before it was written down) through 200 CE. It was created to clarify ambiguous portions of the Tanach and to help apply the laws to different times.

The Jerusalem Gemarah was completed

400 CE

*year is an approximation
The Gemarah is a collection of the discussions of the Amora'im (Sages of the time) that took place after about 200 CE. It clarifies and debates sections of the Mishnah. (See Mishnah)

The Babylonian Gemarah was completed

550 CE

*year is an approximation; historians believe that this gemarah was completed between the years 500 and 600 CE

See the Jerusalem Gemarah for a description of the Gemarah

Involvement of other nations

Other nations rising to power or controlling the Jews

Babylonians destroy first temple

586 BCE

The Babylonians destroyed the 1st Holy Temple in Jerusalem and exlied the Jews to Babylonia.

Persians let Jews return to Israel

516 BCE

After the Babylonians were conquered by the Persians, the Persians allowed Jews to return to Israel from exile.

Roman rise to power

200 BCE

Romans Destroy the Second Temple

70 CE

After the destruction of the Temple by the Romans, Yavneh became the new center of Judaism. The Sanhedrin and its Sages became the leaders of the Jewish community.

Important figures

key Sages or leaders in history

Ezra Hasofer

444 BCE

Ezra Hasofer was a scribe who acted as the religious leader for Jews returning from exile. He worked with Nechemya to help rebuild the Jewish community. He helped to institute individual synagogues, rebuild the Holy Temple, put the Torah in its final form and create the Knesset Gedolah.

Rabbi Yohanan Ben Zakai

30 CE - 90 CE

After the destruction of the Second temple, rabbi Yohanan helped to reestablish a Jewish community in Yavneh. He helped the Sanhedrin (which he was the leader of) take judicial and religious control over the Jews in Israel.


notable rebellions around and during Roman control of Jerusalem

Masada Revolt

74 CE

After the destruction of the Second Temple, a small group of Jews fled to Masada. Eventually, the Romans found and attacked them, leading the refugees to kill themselves. This was one of many revolts that took place soon after the destruction of the Temple and the Roman siege of Jerusalem (see Bar Cochba revolt).

Bar Cochba Revolt

132 CE - 135 CE

As the Romans began cracking down on Jewish observance and practice, people feared that the Oral Torah could not continue to be passed down. Rabbis were being tortured and killed, and Jews began to revolt. The Bar Cochba revolt was one of the most well-known uprisings. This revolt ultimately failed.