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There’s several stories (that I know of) which deal with Rabban Gamliel acting in a less-than-ideal way in regard to his contemporaries:

  • Rosh HaShanah 25a-b, where Rabban Gamliel insisted that R’ Yehoshua violate Yom Kippur according to his own calculations and defer to that of the court
  • Bechoros 36a, where Rabban Gamliel publicly humiliated R’ Yehoshua in response to his contradictory ruling regarding R’ Tzadok’s firstborn animal
  • Berachos 27b-28a, where Rabban Gamliel publicly humiliated R’ Yehoshua in response to his contradictory ruling regarding Maariv being obligatory or not, and which also deals with the aftermath of this and the above two incidents, in which Rabban Gamliel was temporarily deposed from his office
  • Bava Metzi’a 59b, where Rabban Gamliel has his brother-in-law R’ Eliezer excommunicated for arguing against the majority; ultimately R’ Eliezer’s tefillos inadvertently led to Rabban Gamliel’s early death

Is there any indication as to the chronological order of these stories? (Obviously Rabban Gamliel’s death in Bava Metzi’a happened last, but it’s possible that the excommunication happened before any of the other incidents cited here.)

As I’ve said previously, it seems to me that the first three incidents cited took place before the other two, as Berachos only records those two incidents as prompting Rabban Gamliel’s being deposed, leaving out the latter incident. Given that both deal with R’ Yehoshua, and the conclusion of the story in Bechoros is repeated in the story in Berachos, it’s possible that all three of these happened simultaneously.

Perhaps Berachos only cites Rosh HaShanah and Bechoros (and itself) as those were the immediate triggers, but there had been a history of perceived abuse of the position by Rabban Gamliel before then?

(Feel free to edit in other stories that I missed, but I think these are all of them.)

  • In Horayos the nasi is Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel, not Rabban Gamliel. – Meir Mar 6 at 4:24
  • @Meir Good catch – DonielF Mar 6 at 4:26
  • The third incident with R' Yehoshua involved R Shimon bar Yochai (as a younger man) asking if Maariv is reshus or obligatory. R' Gamliel held its obligatory and R' Yehoshua held reshus. R' Gamliel also publicly insulted R Yehoshua for disagreeing with him on that question as well. – David Kenner Mar 7 at 12:54
  • Not sure how much of "less than ideal", but another R'Gamliel/ R'Yehoshua story is the one with the boat/comet (Horayot 10a), where R'Gamliel is not aware he's got poor Rabbis under him – Nic Mar 7 at 17:05
  • @Nic Perhaps. I didn’t want to include that as he’s not actively antagonizing other Rabbis. Perhaps it’s indicative of a character flaw, however; notably it’s R’ Yehoshua who alerts him to their situation. – DonielF Mar 7 at 17:29
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Partial answer:

  1. בראש השנה אשתקד צעריה בבכורות במעשה דרבי צדוק צעריה. (emphasis mine). To me this means that a bunch of time had passed (a year?) between the first incident mentioned (Yom-Kippur) and the current one (Maariv).

  2. Not quite sure where to place R' Tzadok's story. Given the order mentioned, I think it likely it took place between #1 and #3, though given the similarities in the story (e.g. "אלמלא אני חי והוא מת"), it's quite possible #2 and #3 took place at the same time.

  3. The story in Berachot (Maariv) results in R' Eliezer Ben Azaria becoming a Nasi, yet in the famous story in the Hagaddah, he's at a seder together with R' Eliezer, implying that the latter had not yet been excommunicated. As such #4 would come in last.

    • Reasonable evidence that the seder story comes after R' Eliezer became Nasi because of the "כבן שבעים שנה" quote and also because he has the place of honor (he's listed in the middle of the list of rabbis -- he was sitting in the middle of the table with the two other prominent rabbis on each side of him).

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