Menahem the Essene

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Menahem the Essene

There is Menahem the Essene or Menachem the Essene who sometimes identified with the Menahem ben Hezekiah mentioned in the Talmud (tractate Sanhedrin 98b) and called "the comforter that should relieve", and is to be distinguished from Menahem ben Ammiel, the Messiah of the Sefer Zerubbabel. He should not be identified with Menahem ben Judah who was one of several Jewish Messiah claimants around the time of the Jewish War and is mentioned by Josephus. Menahem ben Judah was the leader of a faction called the Sicarii who carried out assassinations of Romans and collaborators and is also identified with Menahem ben Hezekiah.

Menahem the Essene was a Jewish Tanna sage living during the era of the Zugot (pairs) and was the "Pair" mate of Hillel the Elder.

The last Av Beit Din of the Sanhedrin in about 20 BC was said to be Menahem the Essene. Menahem the Essene (or Manheahn, Manahen) and many others walked out from the Sanhedrin The Chagigah documents that the Sanhedrin was illegitimatized when a majority "stalked out" to follow " the King's service, and there went forth [out] with him eighty pairs of disciples" with a royal covering.

The Babylonian Talmud cites a dispute among the sages over what Menahem "went forth [out]" to do. The third century Rabbi Abaye argues that "He went forth [out] into evil courses [culture]", while Rava (Abba ben Joseph bar Ḥama (c. 280 – 352 CE)) argues "He went forth [out] to the King's [God's] service". The Talmud then quotes a baraita supporting Rava's opinion: "Thus it is also taught: Menahem went forth [out] to the King's [God's] service, and there went forth [out] with him eighty pairs of disciples dressed in silk [regally]".[1]

What he may have done was follow after John the Baptist and Christ, the king. who prophesied that the Messiah would come during Herod's reign as king when there was little likelihood of him ever becoming king.

The Jerusalem Talmud cites an additional opinion, that Menahem agreed to be appointed to a ministration position in order to revoke Governmental predestinations {"All is foreseen"} against Torah studying.

The "Menahem" recorded in the Mishnah is thought to be the same as the one recounted in Josephus' Antiquities of the Jews in which a story is told about a 'Menahem' of the Essenes' sect. According to Josephus, when Menahem saw young Herod the Great going to school he clapped him on the back and addressed him as king, announcing to him that he would reign successfully, despite Herod not being in the line of the royal dynasty. When Herod became king, he asked Menahem how long his reign would be. Initially, Menahem didn't reply, and Herod urged him "Would my reign last ten years?". Menahem replied that Herod would reign at least 30 years, but did not specify the exact number. Herod was pleased with Menahem's answer and dismissed him with a clasp of the hand and thenceforth bestowed special honors upon the Essenes.


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Footnotes

  1. "17 MENAHEM WENT FORTH AND SHAMMAI ENTERED etc. Whither did he go forth? Abaye said: He went forth into evil courses.18 Raba said: He went forth to the King's service. Thus it is also taught: Menahem went forth to the King's service, and there went forth with him eighty pairs of disciples dressed in silk." Baraita, The Babylonian Talmud, Hagigah or Chagigah, 16b. "MISHNAH. JOSE B. JO'EZER39 SAYS THAT [ON A FESTIVAL-DAY] THE LAYING ON OF HANDS [ON THE HEAD OF A SACRIFICE]40 MAY NOT BE PERFORMED;41 JOSEPH B. JOHANAN SAYS THAT IT MAY BE PERFORMED.42 JOSHUA B. PERAHIA SAYS THAT IT MAY NOT RE PERFORMED; NITTAI THE ARBELITE43 SAYS THAT IT MAY BE PERFORMED. JUDAH B. TARBAI SAYS THAT IT MAY NOT BE PERFORMED; SIMEON A. SHETAH SAYS THAT IT MAY BE PERFORMED. SHEMAIAH SAYS THAT IT MAY BE PERFORMED; ABTALION SAYS THAT IT MAY NOT BE PERFORMED.44 HILLEL AND MENAHEM DID NOT DIFFER. MENAHEM WENT FORTH,45 SHAMMAI ENTERED.46 SHAMMAI SAYS THAT IT MAY NOT BE PERFORMED; HILLEL SAYS THAT IT MAY BE PERFORMED." Talmud - Mas. Chagigah 16a.