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President of the Sanhedrin during the 1st century B.C.E. For nine prosperous years, during the reign of his sister, Queen Salome Alexandra, Simeon was the leader of the Pharisees, the majority party of Judea. The Pharisees interpreted the Law according to traditions handed down over the generations. They were opposed by the aristocratic Sadducees, who insisted on a literal interpretation of the biblical law. As president of the Sanhedrin, Simeon rid this legislative and judicial council of its Sadducee members. The reforms he introduced gained him the title of “restorer of the Law.” Simeon was also known for his personal integrity. One story that has come down relates that Simeon once received a donkey as a gift from his students. As he mounted the donkey, he found a valuable jewel hung around his neck. His students were exultant: Now their master would be able to retire from active life and devote himself to his studies. Simeon, however, ordered them to return the treasure to the Arab from whom they had bought the animal. The Arab, he said, had sold them a donkey, and not a jewel. The students protested, but Simeon insisted, and the jewel was returned.

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