"Lydda was a village, not yielding to a city in greatness."
Concerning its situation, and distance from Jerusalem, the Misna hath these words: "The vineyard of four years" (that is, the fruit of a vineyard now of four years' growth; for, for the first three years, they were trees, as it were, not circumcised) "was brought to Jerusalem, in the space of a day's journey on every side. Now these were the bounds of it; Elath on the south; Acrabatta on the north; Lydda on the west; and Jordan on the east." The Gloss; "The wise men appointed, that the second tenth of the fruits, growing within the space of a day's journey from Jerusalem, should be carried thither to be eaten, and should not be redeemed. That the streets of Jerusalem might be crowned with fruits."
When you consider this distance, you may well wonder what that means, which is almost become a proverb, "The women of Lydda knead their dough, go up to the Temple, pray, and come back, before it be leavened." Not that the distance of the places is made less; but that hence may be shewn, that no disadvantage accrued to these women, who paid their vows and performed their religion.
I very much wonder, that the authors of the maps have held Lod and Lydda for two towns; Lod not far from Jordan and Jericho; Lydda not far from the Mediterranean sea. A Jew, or one versed in Jewish affairs, will laugh at these things; when Lod and Lydda have no difference at all between them,--unless that that is Hebrew,--this, Greek.
When the Sanhedrim sat in Jabneh, there flourished eminent schools in Lydda. Yea, Lydda had her schools and her learned men, when the university was gone away into Galilee, and Jabneh lamented her loss of scholars.
There R. Akibah bore the headship of the school, removed, as I said before, from his government by Rabban Gamaliel, "because he detained at Lydda more than forty pair of men travelling" (towards Jabneh) "to give their testimony to the Sanhedrim concerning the new moon; and suffered them not to go forwards."
Gamaliel being dead, or rather removed,--when R. Akibah was head in Jabneh, R. Tarphon was rector of the school of Lydda, whom you have sometimes disputing with R. Akibah, but at last yielding to him with this commendation; "He that separates himself from you, is as if he separated himself from his own life."
We read of five elders teaching and erring before Tarphon at Lydda. We read also of a fast enjoined at Lydda for the obtaining of rain, and Tarphon the moderator of the solemnity. The stories of this place are infinite; we will gather a few.
Helena the queen celebrated the feast of tabernacles at Lydda.
R. Eliezar and R. Joshua were sometime present in the same place at the feast of dedication: but being not enough satisfied concerning the fast at that time enjoined, one went to the bath,--the other, to the barber's shop.
Here it was, that Ben Satdah was surprised and taken, and brought before the Sanhedrim, and stoned...
Since it was not lawful to intercalate the year any where but in Judea, "a great many went to Lydda out of the school of the Rabbi" (Judah Haccodesh, viz. out of Galilee. And a little after: "R. Jeremiah asked before R. Zeira, Is not Lydda a part of Judea? Yes, saith he. Wherefore, then, do they not transact the intercalation of the year there?--Because they are obstinate, and unskillful in the law."
"Lydda is a part of Judea." Let some maps mark this, which have placed a certain Lod, which never was any where, not far from Jericho, as was said before; because Lod, in the land of Benjamin, is brought in, Nehemiah 11:35: but they set Lydda far beyond the bounds of Judea in the land of Ephraim.
"Koshab Bar Ulla sometime got away to Lydda to Rabbi Josua Ben Levi, dwelling there, when he fled from the Romans. The Romans pursued him, and besieged the city. Unless you deliver him to us, say they, we will destroy the city. R. Josua Ben Levi persuaded him, and he was delivered to the Romans."
I might produce numberless things celebrating the name of Lydda; such as, "The chamber of Beth-Arum in Lydda." "The chamber of Beth-lebaza in Lydda." "The chamber of Beth-Nethaza in Lydda."--We suppose these were schools.
I might mention very many names of Rabbins residing at Lydda, besides those whom I have remembered before: such are, R. Chama Bar Chanina, and R. Hoshaia with him. R. Illai, and R. Eliezer; and others, who are vulgarly called the Southern, in the sense we produced before. Concerning R. Josua Ben Levi, by name, the author of Juchasin hath these words, "His habitation, or college, was in the south of the land of Israel." He means Lydda.
R. Eliezer, dying at Caesarea, desired to be buried at Lydda, whom R. Akibah bewailed as well with blood as tears. "For when he met his hearse betwixt Caesarea and Lydda, he beat himself in that manner, that blood flowed down upon the earth. Lamenting, thus he spoke,--O my father, my father, the chariot and horsemen of Israel. I have much money, but I want a moneyer, to change it." The Gloss is this, "I have very many questions; but now there is no man, to whom I may propound them."
There is a place between Jamnia and Lydda, which was called Bekiin; of which there is this mention: "R. Jochanan Ben Brucha, and R. Eliezer the blind, travelling from Jabneh to Lydda, met R. Josua in Bekiin," &c.
From Jamnia to Joppe (according to Benjamin, in his Itinerary [p. 51]) are three leagues, or parsae: "Now Lydda was nigh to Joppa," Acts 9:38.