As I understand the tradition of the Prushim - Pharisees (basically us all), our lineage held steady since Moses to the Tannayim and further and all the prominent figures in Judaism were of our sect (Moses, Jehoshuah, King David, the Maccabim etc.)

The name, however, clearly suggests that Prushim, the minority, had separated from the mainstream, the majority. The WIKI doesn't explain why this name was chosen, by whom and who were the majority.

I would like to consolidate our approach to the tradition with the name Prushim.

  • I disagree with your first paragraph. As far as Moshe thru First Temple times were concerned, there were no "sects". Either you followed HaShem(even though some kings did it "without a perfect heart" or not at all), or you were polytheistic, or just plain worshipped other gods other than HaShem.The Perushim were not a separate "sect" until mid Second Temple times, according to Josephus, and(don't whip me too hard), despite the lineage given in Pirke Avot.The Essenes, which broke away probably due to the Hasmonean priests replacing the legit line, referred to them as "seekers of smooth things".
    – Gary
    Mar 1, 2019 at 14:43
  • The reason they rose to prominence, after a couple of centuries of competition, was that they were the only decently organized group left after the Temple's destruction. The Essenes and SIcarii(and probably most of the other "20+" sects) were wiped out, and the Saduccees lost power completely once the Temple was gone(but priests still had some traditional honors due them).
    – Gary
    Mar 1, 2019 at 15:01
  • @Gary You're the guy to talk to! 1. My first para is what the Prushum claim/hold - OUR tradition endures steady from Moses and on, and Zdukim are ones who deviated. So in my view, we can call all the 40 generations Rambam lists as "Prushim".
    – Al Berko
    Mar 2, 2019 at 17:29
  • Thanks, Al. I'm no expert, though--I just try to keep up with scholarly and archaeological research that interests me. Some stuff just makes more sense than other stuff. When in the midst of assuming a leadership role after a period of chaos/disaster, presenting a relatively believable pedigree for your group sure beats "my Grandpa was told by his Grandpa etc etc".
    – Gary
    Mar 2, 2019 at 19:12

1 Answer 1


Bartenura to Mishnah Yadayim 4:6 explains the name as follows:

פרושים. לחכמי ישראל היו קורין פרושים, לפי שאוכלין חוליהן בטהרה ופרושים ממגע עם הארץ, דתנן בגדי עם הארץ מדרס לפרושים:

To the Sages of Israel [the Tzedukim] would call Perushim [lit. “those who separate”], for they would eat their non-sacred food in purity and separate from touching Amei Ha’aretz. As we taught in the Mishnah (Chagigah 2:7): “The clothing of Amei Ha’aretz [contaminates by] treading for Perushim.”


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