Tosefta Demai 3:4

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 Tax collectors 

Date: 
3d CE
Place: 
Syria Palaestina
Language: 
Hebrew
Category: 
Jewish
Literary genre: 
Legal text
Title of work: 
Tosefta
Reference: 

Demai 3:4

Commentary: 

This tosefta assumes both that tax and customs collectors are sinners and that they are Jewish. In rabbinic literature–and especially tannaitic texts such as the Mishnah and the Tosefta–the word “collector” (gab’ay or gabayy) refers to a collector of Roman taxes. In contrast, when discussing collectors for Jewish communal institutions that support the poor, the terms are: “charity collectors” (gaba’ay tzedakah) or “communal fund collectors” (gaba’ay qupah). Examples of such usage of these terms can be found in Tosefta Demai 3:16-17. According to this text, a fellow (ḥaver) who became a tax collector was originally expelled from the association (ḥavurah). The ḥavurah referred to here is for the observance of laws concerning tithes and ritual purity. The requirements of a ḥaver–discussed in Mishnah Demai 2:3 and Tosefta Demai 2:2-3, 10-15–are related to certain restrictions regarding ritual purity and relationships with people who do not observe them. The Mishnah and the Tosefta describe at least two levels of observing the laws of tithing and ritual purity. A person is either “trustworthy” (ne’eman) or a fellow (ḥaver). The assumption of Tosefta Demai3:4 is that being a fellow (ḥaver) in such an association (ḥavurah) and being a tax collector are mutually exclusive, and that a tax collector cannot be trusted in the observance of tithing laws or ritual purity. In the Jerusalem Talmud Demai 2:3, 23a, one finds a parallel to this text:

בראשונה היו אומ'. חבר שנעשה גביי דוחין אותו מחבורתו. חזרו לומ'. כל זמן שהוא גביי דוחין אותו מחבורתו. יצא מגבייתו הרי הוא כחבר.

Translation: Originally they used to say: “A fellow (ḥaver) who became a tax collector (gabayy) – they should expel him from his association (ḥavurah).” Then they said: “As long as he is a tax collector (gabayy), they [should] expel him from his association (ḥavurah). [When] he leaves [his position as] a tax collector, he is [again viewed] as a fellow (ḥaver).”

In both texts, halakhah (Jewish, or rabbinic law) is described as to have evolved over time. The difference between the two stages of development may be that, according to the first, a ḥaver who became a tax collector would never be able to return to his former association (ḥavurah). Another possibility is that, if he stopped being a tax collector and wanted to return to his association (ḥavurah), he would have to go through the process of being accepted again (on this process, see Aharon Oppenheimer, “haverim,” p. 333). The later opinion that was eventually accepted seems to be different in the Jerusalem Talmud and the Tosefta:

Tosefta

Jerusalem Talmud

   חזרו לומר כל זמן שהוא גביי אין נאמן פרש מגבייתו הרי זה נאמן

חזרו לומ'. כל זמן שהוא גביי דוחין אותו מחבורתו. יצא מגבייתו הרי הוא כחבר.

Then they said: “As long as he is a tax collector (gabayy) he is not trustworthy(ne’eman) [in matters of tithing and ritual purity, but when] he withdraws from being a tax collector he [shall again] be trustworthy (ne’eman).”

Then they said: “As long as he is a tax collector (gabayy), they [should] expel him from his association (ḥavurah). [When] he leaves [his position as] a tax collector, he is [again viewed] as a fellow (ḥaver).”

 

 According to the Jerusalem Talmud, as soon as a person resigns from his job as tax collector, he may rejoin the association (ḥavurah) as a full member (ḥaver), while the Tosefta rules that he can immediately return to the status of “trustworthy” (ne’eman), which signals a lower level of observance.

In both the Tosefta and the Jerusalem Talmud, the second stage of the law towards tax collectors represents a less negative since, as soon as one resigns from this job, he may rejoin his havurah, although the Tosefta places him at a lower status. We see, therefore, differences between the two stages within each text, and also between the two compositions, as the Jerusalem Talmud, a later composition, is less negative towards tax collectors who have repented. 

Keywords in the original language: 

Thematic keywords in English: 

Bibliographical references: 
Oppenheimer, Aharon , “haverim” , in Encyclopedia of the Dead Sea Scrolls (ed. Lawrence H. Schiffman, James C. VanderKam; Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000), 333–336
Realized by: 

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Tosefta Demai 3:4
Author(s) of this publication: Yael Wilfand
Publishing date: Wed, 08/24/2016 - 10:49
URL: http://www.judaism-and-rome.org/tosefta-demai-34
Visited: Thu, 07/18/2019 - 02:30

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