Story of the Two Brothers
I had no intentions of making this a monthly column, however, several responses to last month's column warrant further exploration. A rabbi in Israel wrote to me via e-mail with further discussions about the story of the two brothers and then suggested that I tell you the whole bibliographic detective story.
Before I begin I have a story -- As rabbis you are always confronted with the study and application of Talmud, but how many of you apply the same analysis to synagogue rules and regulations that you apply to the laws of Shabbat? On a recent Shabbat, while in another city, I went to my grandmother's shul. To encourage families to attend Shabbat services, they provide baby sitting. In the room assigned to baby sitting is a sign: Do not park your tricycles in front of the freezer.
Using Talmudical curiousity-- 1) How many tricycles are available? ; 2) How many tricycle riders can read? Actual answers: 1,0.
One of our faculty members came into the Library with a question about the source of a story about two brothers. He said that the story is so old that it must be from the rabbis. He thought that he remembered it from the Talmud, but couldn't quite remember the source. He wanted my help to find the source.
Let me retell the story--
King Solomon wanted to find a place build the Temple. A heavenly voice directed him to Mount Zion to a field that was owned by two brothers. One of the brothers was a bachelor and the other was blessed with children. It was harvest time. Under the cover of night the father kept adding to his brother's pile because he reasoned because he thought the bachelor had no children to support him in his old age. The bachelor added to the father's pile because his thought that with so many children his brother needed more grain. The brothers met in the middle of the field and embraced. This field, a manifestation of brotherly love, King Solomon reasoned this was best site for the Temple.
The story sounds like it is very old. Since the events happened in Biblical times hundreds of years before the Talmud, one would reason that the story should be found in the Talmud.
We used a computer search of the Talmud and Midrash. We tried terms such as two brothers and Beit Mikdash but found nothing. We wanted to verify the story to be sure that we weren't imagining the story. We tried Bialik's Sefer HaAgadah and Bin Gorion's Mimekor Yisrael and found nothing.
We looked in the index of The legends of the Jews by Louis Ginzberg. The story is found on page 154 of volume 4. We checked Ginzberg's sources. Ginzberg quotes I. Costa in Mikweh Israel, no. 59 which says that Berthold Auerbach refers to this legend in his Village Stories. The HTC Library does not own either of the books referenced by Ginzberg. Ginzberg further speculates that the author may have been drawing upon an oral tradition from the Jews of Russia or Germany. The legend seems to be a midrashic exposition of Psalm 133:1. Ginzberg is not sure of the source.
At this point in the search I put a query on the list H-Judaic, which is an internet discussion group for Jewish studies. An answer came back to check Zev Vilnay's Legends of Jerusalem. The Library owns this book. On page 77 Vilnay says Israel Kosta (Mikwah Israel, 1851) [Ginzberg and Vilnay refer us to the same author, but they site his name differently.] in the middle of the 19th century relates a story of the two brothers. Vilnay says the legend first appears in the description of travels by A. de Lamertine, Voyage en Orient, I, 1875.
Both Vilnay and Ginzberg are unsure of the exact origin of the legend. The story definitely not from Biblical or Rabbinic times. It may be a variant on a Russian or French non-Jewish legend.
Compare this to the evidence in Tanach. In II Chronicles 3:1 it says that Solomon built the Temple on Mount Moriah, which was revealed to David. Moriah is connected to Akedat Yitzhak. Midrash Tehilim connects Adam and Noah to Mount Moriah. The site had kedushah [holiness] long before the time of King Solomon. This conflicts with the legend of two brothers.
The answer to the bibliographic quest is the legend is not rabbinic and even goes against Biblical and rabbinic evidence. This is not the final word on the source of the legend; that requires a bit more research. From this quest we learn that we should be careful about what we call Talmudic or rabbinic.
Other interesting library quests
A rabbi working on the new section of the Chicago eruv needed to know about the expansion rate of steel. He needed to calculate how much the cable would expand during the summer heat in order to make sure there would not be too much slack in the summer. He found the answer in the Handbook of Chemistry and Physics.
A reader wanted to know the earliest and latest start for Shabbat in Albany, NY. I have a program that calculates the times for Shabbat, but Albany was not listed. The program did provide for adding new cities, if we provided the exact latitude and longitude. An encyclopedia quickly gave us the answer.
Keep those comments coming ----
Daniel D. Stuhlman is president of Stuhlman Management Consultants, a firm helping organizations turn data and information into knowledge. We are looking for new clients and opportunities. Visit the web site Stuhlman.biz to learn more about knowledge management and what our firm can do for you. Previous issues of Librarian's Lobby can be found at: http://home.earthlink.net/~DDStuhlman/liblob.htm.