Crawling Around with Ben Dorsai
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
times, 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: Second Temple
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.