MATA MEḤASYA, town situated in S. Babylonia, on the Euphrates River near *Sura where the river divides into two. In geonic responsa Sura is often identified with Mata Meḥasya; thus Sherira Gaon in his famous letter at the end of the tenth century (ed. by B.M. Lewin (1921), p. 79, Spanish version) wrote that "after Rav came to Babylon in 219 he left Nehardea moving to a place where there was no Torah, viz., Sura, which is Mata Meḥasya" (the French version reads: "Sura which is called Mata Meḥasya"). The same identification is found in the work of Benjamin of Tudela in the 12th century. However, it would seem that the two places are not identical. They were two separate settlements near each other; and elsewhere in his letter (p. 84) Sherira Gaon explicitly distinguishes between the two places, stating that the school of Huna, the pupil and successor of Rav in the academy of Sura, was situated "near Mata Meḥasya." The Talmud also clearly distinguishes between the two places (Beẓah 29a). Mata Meḥasya is not mentioned in the Talmud before the time of *Ashi, who headed the Sura academy in the years 367–427. He extended the academy and transferred it to Mata Meḥasya (pp. 90–92). Of its inhabitants Ashi said: "The people of Mata Meḥasya are 'stouthearted' (cf. Isa. 46:12), for they see the glory of the Torah twice a year [in the *kallah months of Adar and Elul], and never has one of them been converted" (Ber. 17b). R. Mesharsheya praised the scholars of Mata Meḥasya, saying: "Rather sit on the rubbish heap of Mata Meḥasya than in the palaces of Pumbedita" (Hor. 12a).
B. Eshel, Jewish Settlements in Babylonia during Talmudic Times (1979), 149–50.
Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.