I have heard people say that the Knesses Hagdolah was established in the beginning of Bais Sheni. Is that correct?

As quoted from chabad.org "Anshei Knesses Hagdolah ... among its more prominent members were Mordecai, Daniel ..."

But Daniel was in Bavel, and according to (Targum Sheni on Ester) he was killed by Haman, and Bais Sheni was only built in the time of Darius II who came after Haman.

Is there a way to reconcile these statements: that Daniel was a member of the Knesses Hagdolah, that it was established in the period of Bais Sheni after the Purim story, and that Daniel was killed by Haman?


2 Answers 2


The Rambam states that Daniel was a member of the Great Assembly in his intro to the MT:

בית דינו של עזרא, הם הנקראין אנשי כנסת הגדולה. והם חגיי זכריה ומלאכי, ודנייאל חנניה מישאל ועזריה, ונחמיה בן חכליה, ומורדכיי, וזרובבל; והרבה חכמים עימהם, תשלום מאה ועשרים זקנים. האחרון מהם הוא שמעון הצדיק, והוא היה מכלל המאה ועשרים, וקיבל תורה שבעל פה מכולן; והוא היה כוהן גדול, אחר עזרא

Ezra's court are referred to the Great Assembly. They included Haggai, Zekharyah, Malakhi, Daniel, Hananyah, Mishael, Azaryah, Nehemyah ben Hakliyah, Mordekhai, Zerubavel and many other sages - 120 elders in all. The last surviving member of this group was Simon the Just. He was included among the 120 elders and received the Oral Law from all of them. He served as the High Priest after Ezra.

The Abravanel challenged this (in the intro to Nahalath Avoth):

אמנם בעניין אנשי כנסת הגדולה, יקשה גם כן שמנה הרב בכללם דניאל, חנניה, מישאל ועזריה. כי הנה אנשי כנסת הגדולה כולם היו בירושלים בזמן בית שני, וידוע שלא עלו שמה דניאל וחבריו, ואולי היו כבר מתים באותו הפרק... ולכן ייראה שכבר היו בעולמם, וגם למאן דאמר שחנניה, מישאל ועזריה אחרי שיצאו מכבשן האש עלו לארץ ישראל ולמדו תורה לפני יהושע הכהן הגדול, ושעליהם אמרו: "שמע נא יהושע הכהן הגדול אתה ורעיך היושבים לפניך כי אנשי מופת המה", לא היו הם מאנשי כנסת הגדולה, כל שכן דניאל שלא עלה שמה

Concerning the men of the Great Assembly, it is difficult to understand how the Rambam included among their ranks, Daniel, Hananyah, Mishael, and Azaryah. For the men of the Great Assembly were entirely in Jerusalem during the Second Temple era. And it is known that Daniel and his cohorts did not ascend to there, they may even have been deceased by that time… and if so it would appear that they were already in their world [the World to Come] by that time. And further, even according to the one whol holds that after Hananyah, Mishael, and Azaryah emerged from the furnace they ascended to the Land of Israel and studied Torah before Joshuah the High Priest, and upon whom it is said “Hear now, O Joshua the High Priest, you and your fellows that sit before you; for they are men that are a wondrous sign” [implying that] they were not of the men of the Great Assembly, and all the more so Daniel who did not ascend to there.

Accordingly it would seem that the view that Daniel was a member of the Great Assembly is not unanimous. Perhaps in defense of those that asserted that he was a member it may be suggested that due to exigent circumstances (הוראת שעה) members outside of the Land of Israel were also permitted, or that Daniel arrived in the Land of Israel later in life (this latter suggestion would obviously not accord with the midrash identifying Daniel with Hathakh).

  • Rambam says that also in his intro to his commentary on the mishna
    – Double AA
    Feb 3, 2022 at 17:42
  • Does this reconcile the idea that Daniel was dead at the time of the founding of the great assembly with the idea that he was part of the great assembly? That was the OP's question.
    – magicker72
    Feb 3, 2022 at 17:43
  • @DoubleAA yes there is content overlap between the two... do you know of any earlier sources that make the assertion? Feb 3, 2022 at 18:03
  • 1
    @magicker72 I believe that my answer is helpful to the contributor. If you believe it is unhelpful, feel free to downvote and/or post your own answer. Feb 3, 2022 at 19:16

I have no source for this, but it might be possible to reconcile all statements by simply expanding the definition of "The Second Temple period" to include also Shivat Tzion in the time of Cyrus. An argument in favor of this would be that even though the Temple was not yet built, an altar was erected on the Temple Mount and sacrifices were burned upon it (Ezra 3:1-6). Therefore, Daniel might have been part of Knesset Hagedolah during the early years of the Persian Empire, before being killed by Haman. In fact, Rabbi Maimon suggested that Anshei Knesset Hagedolah were first assembled because of Shivat Tzion, because they were originally tasked with creating and maintaining contact between the returners and the Jewish communities that remained in the Diaspora (see here for more info and other views on the role of the Knesset).

Note: If you produce a source that specifically says that Anshei Knesset Hagedolah were established only after the Purim story and in the time of the Second Temple, then my answer is irrelevant.

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