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Someone contacted me and asked me to explain who were the Morning Immersers (aka Morning Bathers) mentioned in Tosefta Yadayim 2:9, and what is their relationsship to early Christians.
In this particular Tosefta Zockermandel’s edition makes a mistake in his quote of the manuscript (he was rushing to copy it in the Berlin library) and should not be used. Zuckermandel’s text of this Tosefta does not match the Vienna manuscript and or the first printed edition. We are left with three variations of the text: Vienna manuscript, Venice First Printed Edition and the quote of this Tosefta from Rash MiShantz in his commentary on Mishna Yadaim 4:8. All other later printed editions are not reliable since they have not been edited from Tosefta manuscripts but rather from the Venice edition and other books like Talmud Bavli, so they often quote other Beraitot which are related in content but are different.
Now let’s look at this Tosefta. Here are the three quotes:
אומרין טובלי שחרין קובלנו עליכם פרושין שאתם מזכירין את השם בשחרית בלא טבילה אומ’ פרושין קובלנו עליכם טובלי שחרין שאתם מזכירין את השם מן הגוף שיש בו טומאה.
Morning Immersers say, “We accuse you, Pharisees (Perushim), that you mention [God’s] name in the morning without [first] immersing [in the Mikveh upon waking up.]” Pharisees say, “We accuse you, Morning Immersers, that you [ever] mention [God’s] name using (literally: from) the body which has Tumah (ritual impurity) in it (i.e inside it).”
Venice First Printed Edition:
או’ טיבלני שחרית קובלני עליכם פרושין שאתם מזכירי’ את השם מן הגוף שיש בו טומאה.
Morning Immersers say, “We accuse you, Pharisees, that you [ever] mention [God’s] name using (literally: from) the body which has Tumah (ritual impurity) in it (i.e inside it).”
Rash Mishnantz (Commentary on Mishna Yadayim 4:8):
אומרים טובלי שחרית קובלנו עליכם פרושים שאתם מזכירים את השם בשחרית בלא טבילה. אומרים פרושים קובלנו עליכם טובלי שחרית שאתם מזכירים את השם מן הגוף שיש בו טומאה.
Morning Immersers say, “We accuse you, Pharisees, that you mention [God’s] name in the morning without [first] immersing [in the Mikveh upon waking up.]” Pharisees say, “We accuse you, Morning Immersers, that you [ever] mention [God’s] name using (literally: from) the body which has Tumah (ritual impurity) in it (i.e inside it).”
From a quick glance all versions make sense as far as something that these two groups might have said to each other, however after you look into it the Vienna manuscript (and Rash Mishantz) have the correct reading, and not just because they match each other. Let me explain how.
Who were these Morning Immersers? They were a Jewish (non-Christian) sect called by Justin Martyr (see Dialogue with Trypho 80) Baptist Pharisees and by Epiphanius (Panarion 1:11:1:1, 1-11:2:5) Hemerobaptists. Josephus (Life of Josephus 12) also mentions his Essene teacher, Bannus, who dipped in the Mikveh many times a day and night and could have been a Hemerobaptist. Eusebius (Ecclesiastical History 4:22) mentions Hemerobaptists as a non-Christian sect. An early Christian work, Clementina (from the 2nd century CE), (Homilies 2:23) mentions that John the Baptist and his disciples were Hemerobaptists. The Talmud Bavli (Berachot 22a) mentions that Hemerobaptists still existed during the time of Rabbi Yehoshua Ben Levi who lived in the 3rd century CE since he mentioned them and the Talmud implies that they were a Jewish sect, as Rash Mishantz (ibid.) understands. That means that all of the Christian sources about them are contemporary and not just historical.
Now what’s the halachic problem that this argument between Hemerobaptists and Pharisees is about? This depends on whose point of view this argument is explained from. We only have an official record of the explanation from the Talmud Bavli, which is the point of view of the Pharisees. However, the Essenes and the Morning Bathers themselves would have explained it totally differently.
The Gemara’s (based on Berachot 22a) explanation is as follows. A man at night may have become a Baal Keri (had a seminal emission). That means that according to the Halacha of the Pharisees he did not require to immerse in the Mikveh in order to be able to pronounce God’s name, but rather he only needed to have 9 Kavs of water dumped on him from a bucket. This was the law during Temple times as attested in Talmud Bavli (Berachot 22a), since it’s originally quoted in the name of Nachum Ish Gamzu who lived before the Temple’s destruction. However the Hemerobaptists required that a man who had a seminal emission had to immerse in the Mikveh. So the Hemerobaptists accused the Pharisees that they mentioned God’s name in the morning while being ritually impure due to seminal emissions. However the Pharisees replied back to Hemerobaptists with an insulting facetious comment. They said that how can Hemerobaptists ever say God’s name since their bodies are ritually impure inside, meaning in their souls, because they do not follow Rabbinic instructions. The Pharisees did not mean it to be a serious reply. They simply wanted to insult the Hemerobaptists and make fun of them. Now that we understand it that way, then as you can see the version of the Venice Printed Edition does not make any sense. It quotes that the Hemerobaptists insult the Pharisees with a facetious comment, and that does not make any sense, since the Hemerobaptists took their Mikveh immersions very seriously and would not insult anyone about it. Also it does not make sense that the Tosefta would mention the quote of one group without the reply of the other.
It is interesting that by the 4th century CE many Rabbinic Jews started following the rule of Hemerobaptists and started immersing in the Mikveh in the morning if they had a seminal emission, as quoted by Talmud Bavli (Berachot 22a) in the name of Rabbi Chanina. The anonymous voice (Stama) of the editors of the Talmud itself has forgotten about the existence of Hemerobaptists and only knows the current practice of when it was compiled, which had regular Rabbinic Jews immersing in the Mikveh for seminal emissions, and therefore it praises it as a great stringency. But eventually that practice died out as well and has not existed until the Hassidic movement in the 18th century. It seems that it only was practiced in the Land of Israel and once the Jewish centers of learning moved to Babylonia in the 5th century CE that practice died out. As time went on the same practice changed its reasons and appeal to different groups. So during Temple times Pharisees were against these morning immersions. But by the 4th century they were for them. There are Orthodox Jewish sects today who still have the practice of daily immersion, such as Lubavitch Hassidim. Their men immerse in the Mikveh every morning, even on Shabbat. As far as I know they are the only ones who do this as a group. From my discussions with them they don’t do it because of Baal Keri, but rather because of a general purification for no apparent halachic reason.
However, this whole practice from the point of view of the Essenes and the Morning Bathers themselves had a totally different meaning. Essenes and similar groups were always paranoid that they may not have noticed how they became impure, so just in case they kept on immersing. Also they had additional more esoteric reasons for their immersions. They believed that immersion in the Mikveh purified sin and therefore was required all the time, not as a halachic rule, but rather as spiritual purification from spiritual problems. For various sources from the Dead Sea Scrolls that attest to this belief and their comparison to the views of the Pharisees in the Talmudic literature see Hannah Harrington, The Purity Texts, Bloomsbury T&T Clark, 2007.
The Purity Texts
Someone asked me to translate and explain the following Tosefta. The text of this Tosefta is only extant in the Erfurt manuscript. The Vienna manuscript is missing it. The printed editions have slightly different text. I have posted here the text from the Erfurt manuscript as is.
Tractate Sanhedrin, Chapter 8
Adam (i.e. the first man) was created last [in the sequence of creation].2 And why was he created last? In order that the sectarians3 would not say, "He (i.e. Adam) was partners with Him (i.e. God) in his creation", [but rather God created everything by Himself without any help.] [But there is] another explanation. Why was he (i.e. Adam) created last? In order that he should not get too proud of himself,4 [because others] will say to him, “[Even] the mosquito was created before you in [the sequence of] creation.” [But there is] another explanation. In order that he (i.e. Adam) should perform a commandment (Mitzva) right away [after being created].5 [But there is] another explanation. In order that he (i.e. Adam) should eat a meal right away.6 I will give you a parable to what this [idea] is similar to. [It is similar] to a king who built a [new] palace and dedicated it [by making a celebration], and declared [as a part of that celebration] a meal, and afterwards he invited guests. And so it says, "Wisdom has built her house, hewn her seven pillars. She butchered [her meat], mixed her wine, [and] even set her table. She has sent out her maidens to call out on the city’s hills and high places. ‘Which fool will move here?’, she says to him, [who is] impulsive." (Mishlei 9:1-4) "Wisdom has built her house …" refers to The King of Kings, Blessed be He, who created His world in seven [days] with wisdom. "… hewn her seven pillars" refers to the seven days of creation. "She butchered [her meat], mixed her wine …" refers to the seas, rivers, deserts, and other needs of the world. "She has sent out her maidens to call out on the city's hills and high places. 'Which fool will move here?', she says to him, [who is] impulsive." That is a reference to Adam and Chava (i.e. the first man and woman).7
מסכת סנהדרין פרק ח
אדם נברא באחרונה. ולמה נברא באחרונה? שלא יהו המינין אומרין שותף היה עמו במעשהו. דבר אחר: למה נברא באחרונה? שלא תזוח דעתו עליו, אומרין לו יתוש קדמך במעשה בראשית. דבר אחר: כדי שיכנס למצוה מיד. דבר אחר: כדי שיכנס לסעודה מיד. מושלו משל למה הדבר דומה, למלך שבנה פלטירין וחינכה והתקין סעודה ואחר כך זימן האורחים. וכן הוא אומר (משלי ט:א-ד): חָכְמוֹת בָּנְתָה בֵיתָהּ, חָצְבָה עַמּוּדֶיהָ שִׁבְעָה. טָבְחָה טִבְחָהּ מָסְכָה יֵינָהּ, אַף, עָרְכָה שֻׁלְחָנָהּ. שָׁלְחָה נַעֲרֹתֶיהָ תִקְרָא, עַל גַּפֵּי, מְרֹמֵי קָרֶת. מִי פֶתִי יָסֻר הֵנָּה, חֲסַר לֵב אָמְרָה לּוֹ. חָכְמוֹת בָּנְתָה בֵיתָהּ זה מלך מלכי המלכים ברוך הוא שברא עולמו בשבעה בחכמה. חָצְבָה עַמּוּדֶיהָ שִׁבְעָה אילו שבעת ימי בראשית. טָבְחָה טִבְחָהּ מָסְכָה יֵינָהּ אילו ימים ונהרות ומדברות ושאר צורכי העולם. ואחר כך שָׁלְחָה נַעֲרֹתֶיהָ תִקְרָא, עַל גַּפֵּי, מְרֹמֵי קָרֶת. מִי פֶתִי יָסֻר הֵנָּה, חֲסַר לֵב, זה אדם וחוה.
This Tosefta continues the discussion Adam's creation, from the previous Tosefta.
See Bereishit 1:1 – 2:3 for the sequence of creation.
The Hebrew word Min (literally: type) usually refers to some kind of sect of Jews who have deviated from normative Rabbinic Judaism and created a sort of their own religion. As a generalization the Rabbis have viewed Tzedukim (Sadducees), early Jewish Christians (Notzrim or Nazarenes as they called them), and Essenes as sectarian Jews and applied the word Min to them as a general term. However in this particular case it would be a major oversimplification and would not do them justice to apply this term generically, because it is obvious that the Tosefta is referring to a very particular practice of a particular sect, whose belief was a clear sign of membership. I am more than convinced that here the Tosefta is referring to Christians who believed in the Trinity and subscribed to the idea that Jesus being divine and the second in the Trinity, pre-existed creation of the world and assisted God in creating the world. To the best of my knowledge the earliest explicit written source that we have for this belief is Irenaeus (estimated 115/142 – 202 CE), one of the Church Fathers, who wrote (The Demonstration of the Apostolic Preaching, 30), "Hither were the prophets sent by God through the Holy Spirit; and they instructed the people and turned them to the God of their fathers, the Almighty; and they became heralds of the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ the Son of God, declaring that from the posterity of David His flesh should blossom forth; that after the flesh He might be the son of David, who was the son of Abraham by a long succession; but according to the spirit Son of God, pre-existing with the Father, begotten before all the creation of the world, and at the end of the times appearing to all the world as man, the Word of God gathering up in Himself all things that are in heaven and that are on earth." Thus by the time of the Tosefta (circa 250 CE) this Christian belief was for sure widely known. It should be noted that at that time not all Christians subscribed to the idea of Jesus pre-existing his birth, and many sects such as the Arians, Ebionites and some others were against that belief. It was not until the First Council of Nicaea in 325 CE that this belief became more or less main stream in Christianity.
Meaning proud and arrogant.
It is not clear which commandment the Tosefta is referring to. It seems that the Tosefta is referring to the Mitzva of Shabbat, since Adam was created on the sixth day right before Shabbat and the first thing he would have to do was to keep Shabbat. This goes along the Rabbis' belief that Adam kept all of the commandments of the Torah together with the Patriarchs.
- The Rabbis always assumed that their protagonists in the Torah kept all the commandments in the exact same way as the were kept by the Rabbis themselves. So if Adam kept Shabbat he obviously ate three meals on it as the Rabbis prescribed (see Talmud Bavli, Shabbat 117b), one on Friday night, and two on Shabbat day. So the meal that Adam would eat right after his creation would be the Friday night, Shabbat meal.
This verse is interpreted as Chava, being the maiden, calling Adam, being the fool, to eat the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge, and him being implulsive, coming and eating it without thinking of the consequences.
I was learning Mishna (Chulin 2:9) with my son and we came across the following passage which also appears in the Tosefta (Chulin 2:6):
אין שוחטין לא לתוך ימים ולא לתוך נהרות ולא לתוך מים עכורין אבל שוחט או לתוך אגן של מים ובספינה על גבי כלים ואם אין לו מקום מקום בספינה שוחט לתוך הים ואם אין רוצה לטנף את ביתו שוחט לתוך כלי או לתוך גומא ובשוק לא יעשה כן מפני שעושה את חוקי מינין אם עשה כן צריך בדיקה. הבשר שנמצא ביד גוי מותר בהנאה ביד המין אסור בהנאה.
We do not slaughter [animals for food, so that their blood spills directly] into seas, and not into rivers, and not into standing water. But he [can] slaughter [such that the blood spills directly] either into a water hole, or [if he is] on a ship [then] on top of vessels. But if he does not have [enough] room on the ship [he can] slaughter [so that the blood spills directly] into the sea. And if he does not want to make his house dirty [he can] slaughter [so that the blood spills directly] into [an empty] vessel or into a hole [made in the floor of the house]. But in the market place he should not do this, because [this is considered to be] doing an act of sectarians (Minim). [But] if he [already] did this [then] he needs to be checked [out by the Bet Din if he is really a sectarian and therefore should be kicked out from the Jewish community or not]. Meat that is found in the hand of a Non-Jew is permitted to be benefited from, but [meat that is found] in the hand of a sectarian (Min) is forbidden to be benefited from.
The reason why animals cannot be slaughtered so that their blood spills in all of these things is because onlookers might say that the person is not slaughtering this animal for food, but is rather sacrificing it to the god of that object. For example, it was a common practice among Greeks and Romans to slaughter animals directly over the water of the sea while traveling on a boat in order to appease the god Poseidon (god of the sea) so that he would not bring a storm and wreck the ship. What caught my attention was the last statement of the Mishna and the Tosefta which says that in the market place a person cannot slaughter an animal into a vessel or a hole in the ground, because that would be acting like the law of the sectarians (Minim), and therefore onlookers might suspect him to be one of these Minim. From the following statement in the Tosefta it is obvious that Minim are not regular Non-Jewish idol worshipers, because it says that it is permitted to receive benefit from a piece of meat found in the hand of a Non-Jew, but not permitted if it is found in the hand of a Min. So who are these Minim and what did they actually do in public places that would cause the Rabbis to prevent the Jews from doing it so that they would not be suspected to be Minim and if they were seen to do so then they had to be investigated by the Bet Din as a suspect Min?
The Hebrew word Min (literally: type) usually refers to some kind of sect of Jews who have deviated from normative Rabbinic Judaism and created a sort of their own religion. As a generalization the Rabbis have viewed Tzedukim (Sadducees), early Jewish Christians (Notzrim or Nazarenes as they called them), and Essenes as sectarian Jews and applied the word Min to them as a general term. However in this particular case it would be a major oversimplification and would not do them justice to apply this term generically, because it is obvious that the Mishna and the Tosefta are referring to a very particular practice of a particular sect, which made was a clear sign of membership that made the Rabbis very nervous. Here Min cannot refer to a regular Jew who decided to worship idols as some commentators have suggested, because an idol worshipping Jew would simply be called a Yisrael Mumar (A Jewish Transgressor) and they would not need to make a whole investigation in court to find out who he really is, because such a Jew did not pose any danger to the community. He was simply violating a Torah law and had to be punished for his actions, but nothing more than that.
I was not able to figure out which specific sect the Mishna and the Tosefta refer to. Anyone who can shed light on this issue please post in comments or write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.