For many years I have been bothered by the following.

There was a large Jewish population living in Babylonia during the time that the events of Chanukah played out. Yet, I have never seen any mention of the Jews living in Bavel coming to the assistance of the Jews in EY during their struggle with the Syrian-Greeks. Why is this? Surely at least some of the news of what was transpiring in EY must have reached the Jews in Bavel. Why didn't they either come to help or at least send assistance?

Perhaps I am simply ignorant of history, and there are sources that tell of such assistance. If so, then please enlighten me.

  • Yitzchok Levine, Welcome to mi.yodeya, and thanks for your fascinating question! We'd love to have you as a fully-registered member, which you can accomplish by clicking "register," above.
    – Isaac Moses
    Dec 2, 2010 at 22:05
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    Maybe they did come to help? There wouldn't necessarily be a record of that.
    – Dave
    Dec 3, 2010 at 14:57
  • I haven't read Sefer haMaccabim in full, but if there's any place it would be mentioned, it'd be there.
    – Shmuel
    Dec 8, 2011 at 22:02
  • Also keep in mind that most Jews didn't return from Babylonia to EY in the time of Ezra and Nechemiah, either, and that was when they were encouraged by the king to return.
    – Shmuel
    Dec 8, 2011 at 22:05

1 Answer 1


For that matter, there was also a pretty important community in Alexandria, and we don't hear anything from them either.

I think it may simply be because these three communities were in different kingdoms/empires: Babylonia was ruled during this period by the Parthians, Eretz Yisrael by the Seleucids, and Alexandria by the Ptolemies. And all of them were mutually hostile. So it may simply not have been possible to transport people, materials, or money across the borders, at least not in any quantities that would make a real difference.

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    See Pesachim 3b; Rabbi Yehuda ben Beseira is unable to make it from Netzivin (now Nusaybin, Turkey) to Jerusalem. I think some of the commentaries there suggested geopolitical barriers.
    – Shalom
    Dec 3, 2010 at 19:27
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    @Shalom (first comment): do you know what commentaries say that? Tosafos there suggests that either RYBB didn't own land (which would exempt him from being oleh leregel) or wasn't able to walk the distance on foot. But after all, we do have Josephus telling how large groups of Jews would go from Bavel to E.Y. accompanying the half-shekel donations, so some times were probably better than others in this regard.
    – Alex
    Dec 3, 2010 at 20:06
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    And, second comment: maybe indeed they might at first have thought of it as a local political struggle that they didn't want to be involved in. But surely, if that were the case, the desecration of the Beis Hamikdash should have galvanized them?
    – Alex
    Dec 3, 2010 at 20:07
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    They are explicit sugyos in Bava Metziyah that discuss real historical situations regarding difficult border issues. There most definitely were geopolitical issues that complicated travel in that region. There have been, on and off (more of the time on) ever since the times of Avraham Avinu.
    – Yahu
    Dec 3, 2010 at 22:22
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    Pesachim 8b (and R' Akiva Eiger there points out that it's also in the Yerushalmi, Peah 3:7). Though it is true that Rambam doesn't cite it as halachah. There has also been a huge amount of ink spilled in trying to understand that Tosafos anyway (specifically, where they get their equation between aliyah leregel and the korban Pesach).
    – Alex
    Dec 6, 2010 at 4:16

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