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Bible Encyclopedias

The 1901 Jewish Encyclopedia


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A term which in Biblical times denoted a teacher or instructor in general (e.g., in Psalms 119:99 and Proverbs 5:13), but which in the Talmudic period was applied especially to a teacher of children, and was almost invariably followed by the word "tinoḳot" (children; B. B. 21a). The Aramean equivalent was "makre dardeke" (ib.). The melammed was appointed by the community, and there were special regulations determining how many children he might teach, as well as rules governing the choice of applicants for the office and the dismissal of a melammed (ib.). These regulations were extended and augmented in the post-Talmudic period.

Besides the teachers appointed by the community there were others who were privately engaged by the parents of children; hence it became necessary to define accurately the mutual rights and duties of the melammed and of the parents. While giving instruction the melammed was not allowed to do any other work (Shulḥan 'Aruk, Ḥoshen Mishpaṭ, 333, 5). If he was ill, and therefore unable to teach for a time, as much was deducted from his wages as the lessons for that time would have cost (ib.); but if, on the other hand, the pupil was ill and could not take his lessons, the melammed received full payment (ib. 335, 1). The melammed was not allowed to punish his pupils too severely; and he had to teach both in the daytime and during part of the night (Shulḥan 'Aruk, Yoreh De'ah, 245, 10-11). He might not leave his pupils alone, nor neglect his duties; and he was required to be pious and to understand his vocation (ib. 245, 17). Only a married man might be a melammed (ib. 245, 20-21). In addition to these regulations many others concerning the melammed are given in Yoreh De'ah (c. and 246), as well as in Ḥoshen Mishpaṭ. (c.), but some of them are not observed at present.

Regulations for Private Tutors.

A distinction is now made between the village melammed, who is engaged as a private tutor by a Jew living in a village, and who teaches the child in the house of its parents, and the melammed in a town, who teaches in his own home, which serves at the same time as a schoolroom (see ḤEDER). A distinction is likewise drawn between the "melammed dardeki" and the "melammed gemara." The former teaches children. of both sexes to read and write Hebrew, and also a chapter or two of each weekly lesson from the Pentateuch, and he generally has one or more assistants (in German "behelfer"). The gemara melammed, on the other hand, teaches Bible and Talmud to the boys, and, when they are older, the Shulḥan 'Aruk as well. Searching questions are seldom asked concerning the melammed's pedagogical fitness; and it frequently happens, moreover, that parents, for charity's sake, send their children for instruction to persons who are unfit for any other vocation, but who possess more or less knowledge of the Talmud. As the profession of a melammed is not an enviable one, it is mostly practised by people who can not find any other employment. In Russia and Poland, therefore, the word "melammed" is, in slang, synonymous with "good-for-nothing" or "dolt." Among the Karaites, however, the term denotes, like "rab" among the Rabbinites, "teacher" and "master," and is regarded as a title of honor. Consequently there are among the Karaites many learned men who are called by the title "ha-melammed ha-gadol" (the great master), or merely "ha-melammed" (the master; comp. Pinsker, "Liḳḳute Ḳadmoniyyot," Index; Gottlober, "Biḳḳoret le-Toledot ha-Ḳara'im," pp. 195, 207, Wilna, 1865).

  • Lampronti, Paḥad Yiẓḥaḳ, s., in addition to the authorities cited in the article.
J. Z. L.

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Bibliography Information
Singer, Isidore, Ph.D, Projector and Managing Editor. Entry for 'Melammed'. 1901 The Jewish Encyclopedia. 1901.

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