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Crawling Around with Ben Dorsai




Shabbat 20a

In the context of a mishnah about putting cooked food on the fire before Shabbat, the Gemara defines cooked as a מאכל בן דורסאי, something that ben Dorsai would eat. Rashi explains that ben Dorsai was a thief and was in the habit of eating his food only one third cooked, presumably so that he could make a quick getaway. Who was this mysterious ben Dorsai?
In the low hills near Bet Guvrin is a beautiful site called Hirbet Midras. It was a Jewish town in Second Templetimes, through the Bar Kokhba revolt. Not much is left of the houses of the town but there a lot underground. Midras has prime examples of what we call Bar Kokhba caves, hideouts where the Jewish rebels and their supporters would hole up in preparation for a Roman attack:
 Today the caves are used for lighter pursuits than fighting Romans:
 Midras’ name comes from the Arabic name Hirbet Drusia. Various associations have been made with this place. Zeev Vilnai suggests that it is the source of a type of dove mentioned in the Mishnah, Drusian doves. Another suggestion is that Herod renamed the town (we don’t know its original name) in memory of his friend Augustus Caesar’s adopted son Drusius who was killed at a young age. And Zeev Ehrlich says that perhaps our friend ben Dorsai came from Drusia. Was the town a brave holdout of Bar Kokhba fighters or a den of thieves? Perhaps both. 
Shulie Mishkin

Shulie Mishkin

Shulie Mishkin made Aliyah from New York with a Master's degree in Jewish History from Columbia University. After completing the Ministry of Tourism guide course in 1997, she began guiding professionally and has since taught and guided all ages, from toddlers to retirees. Her tours provide a complete picture of the land of Israel and Jewish heritage, with a strong reliance on sources ranging from the Bible to 19th century travelers' reports. Alongside her regular guide work, she teaches "tour and text" courses in the Jerusalem institutions of Pardes and Matan as wel as the Women's Bet Midrash in Efrat and provides tours for special needs students in the “Darkaynu” program. Shulie lives in Alon Shvut with her husband Jonathan and their five kids. Shulie Mishkin is now doing virtual tours online. Check out the options at https://www.shuliemishkintours.com/virtual-tours
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