|Sh'maya (Hebrew: שמעיה, or Shemaiah,
Samaias or Sameas) was a rabbinic sage in the early
pre-Mishnaic era who lived at the same time as
Avtalyon. They are known as one of the zuggot
("couples"): Sh'maya and Avtalyon. Both Sh'maya and
Avtalyon were converts to Judaism.
He was a leader of the Pharisees in the first century
BC; president of the Sanhedrin before and during the
reign of Herod the Great. He and his colleague
Abtalion are termed in Pesahim, 66a the gedole ha-dor
(the great men of the age), and darshanim (exegetes) (ibidem,
70a). Grätz has shown (Geschichte iii. 171) that
neither Shemaiah nor Abtalion was of Gentile descent,
although both were Alexandrians. Of the political life
of Shemaiah only one incident is reported. When Herod
on his own responsibility had put to death the leader
of the national party in Galilee, Hyrcanus II
permitted the Sanhedrin to cite him before the
tribunal. Herod appeared, but in royal purple robes,
whereupon the members of the Sanhedrin lost courage.
Only Shemaiah was brave enough to say: "He who is
summoned here on a capital charge appears like one who
would order us to execution straightway if we should
pronounce him guilty. Yet I can blame him less than
you and the king, since ye permit such a travesty of
justice. Know then that he before whom ye now tremble
will some day deliver you to the executioner." This
tradition is found twice, in Josephus, Antiquities of
the Jews xiv. 9, sect. 4, and Sanhedrin, 19, where the
name is altered (compare Grätz, Geschichte iii. 711).
Shemaiah said: "Love work. Hate authority. Don't get
friendly with the government." (Avoth 1:10).
Of the private life of Shemaiah almost nothing is
known, except that he was a pupil of Judah ben Tabbai.
According to Avoth i. 10, his favorite maxim was,
"Love handicraft, shun power, and make for thyself no
friends of worldly might." This apothegm, like those
of his colleague Abtalion, is significant of the
misery of the entire period.