In a short article called "New Identifications", C. R. Conder wrote:

"Beror-Hail (Midrash Koheleth vii, 7), the place to which Rabbi Johanan retired when the younger Gamaliel took charge of the school at Jamnia. It appears to have been in the Philistine plain,, and is perhaps represented by the modern village Bureir south-east of Ascalon."

I have looked through both Kohelet Rabbah and Zuta 7:7 a number of times, including in the new Kipperwasser edition and have been unable to find any mention of Bror Chayil1. Does anyone have any idea what he's referring to?

1 Although Rabban Yochanan ben Zakkai might have been mentioned there originally, according to Kipperwasser, though via scribal error, his name was probably dropped at some point.

  • Rabbi Yochanan and his location in Brur Chayil is mentioned in other places
    – Dov
    Commented May 25, 2022 at 16:58
  • @Dov yes, that's true. I have a full list. However, I came across a few archeological reports that reference Conder's claim. If there's another Chazalic source out there that refers to Bror Chayil, I'd like to see it.
    – Harel13
    Commented May 25, 2022 at 17:20

1 Answer 1


This version of Midrash Qoheleth 7:7 has:

חמישה תלמידים היו לו לרבי יוחנן בן זכאי. כל זמן שהיה קיים, היו יושבין לפניו, כשנפטר הלכו ליבנה, והלך ר' אלעזר בן ערך אצל אשתו לאמאוס, מקום מים יפים ונוה יפה

R. Yehosef Schwartz in Tavuoth Ha-Ares vol. 2, p. 139 has two juxtaposed entries, ברור חיל immediately followed by אמאוס:

enter image description here

In the entry for אמאוס he states that אמויס [sic] is not ברור חיל for ברור חיל is to the south of it.

It seems that some researchers had previously identified/conflated the two.

Indeed Menahem Mendel Wohlman in Hokre Ares (pp. 24-25) in his entry on ברור חיל explicitly makes this identification:

enter image description here

He argues that ברור חיל was a cryptic way of referring עמאוס during a period of intense Roman persecution.

According to such an identification, wherein אמאוס = ברור חיל, when the above-mentioned Midrash Qoheleth 7:7 mentions אמאוס it also thereby intends ברור חיל. This was presumably Conder's intent (i.e. that he subscribed to a theory wherein the two are one and the same) when he wrote "Beror-Hail (Midrash Koheleth vii, 7)" etc.

  • +1 for the interesting source, but I don't understand your conclusion that Emmaus was conflated with Bror Chayil if Conder identified BC with Bureir which isn't near Emmaus (it's actually not too far from Yavneh)? Unless the Emmaus Rabbi Schwartz is talking about isn't Emmaus-Nicopolis?
    – Harel13
    Commented May 25, 2022 at 18:47
  • @Harel13 Good questions. I'm not sure how to reconcile it all (perhaps it is a question on his position). In lieu of identifying another version of Midrash Qoheleth 7:7 that explicitly mentions ברור חיל, I think this may be warts and all the simplest explanation. Commented May 25, 2022 at 23:49
  • @Harel13 I've updated my answer with an additional source. Commented May 26, 2022 at 15:03
  • +1 but it's a little odd that Conder would choose this source reference that doesn't even use the name he is referencing with so many other explicit references available.
    – Double AA
    Commented May 26, 2022 at 15:32
  • @DoubleAA I agree, that it is odd. Perhaps Conder intended to edit the entry further before submitting it but never got around to it. Perhaps he intended to include one citation but accidentally copied over another related citation. It could have been a sloppy error, I really don't know. But in lieu of finding another version of the Midrash Qoheleth 7:7 that explicitly mentions ברור חיל (which I am very doubtful exists) I believe that this is the simplest solution. I'm certainly open to other suggestions. Commented May 26, 2022 at 15:47

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