NEHARDEA, town in Babylon, situated on the Euphrates at its junction with the Malka River, which was an important Jewish center and seat of a famous academy. Nehardea was surrounded by walls and by the Euphrates River, preventing its penetration by enemies (Jos., Ant., 18:311). The Jewish settlement of Nehardea was an early one. The first settlers were, according to tradition, those exiled in the time of Jehoiachin, king of Judah in the sixth century B.C.E. These exiles erected there a synagogue which they built with stones and earth brought from the site of the Temple. The synagogue was called Shaf ve-Yativ, i.e., "[the Divine Presence has] removed [from the Temple] and settled [in this place]" (Iggeret Rav Sherira Ga'on, ed. by B.M. Lewin (1921), 72 and appendices). The existence of its Jewish settlement in the century before the destruction of the Temple is attested by the fact that the Jews of Babylon concentrated in it the half-shekel offering and their donations and offerings for the Temple and dispatched them from there to Jerusalem (Jos., ibid.). Josephus also relates the exploits of *Anilaus and Asinaus who were natives of Nehardea. At the beginning of the second century C.E., Akiva visited Nehardea and there intercalated the year, thus testifying to the importance of the local Jewish settlements (Yev. 15:7). Nehardea was also the seat of the exilarch and his bet din. The town attained the zenith of its influence in the first half of the third century in the days of *Samuel, who headed its academy, and its influence was widespread (Ket. 54a). Of the scholars active there at the beginning of the amoraic period, Karna, Shila, and Abba b. Abba (Samuel's father) were noteworthy. The academy of Nehardea was destroyed in 259 by Papa b. Neẓer and its scholars moved to *Pumbedita. When
[Yitzhak Dov Gilat]
The Arab Period
There is no extant information on a Jewish settlement in Nehardea during the Arab period. Even after the town was rebuilt, the academy did not return there. Its memory was preserved in Pumbedita, however, by the fact that a group of sages who sat in one of the first three rows of the academy was referred to as "the row of Nehardea." In his responsum to R. Moses b. Meshullam of Mainz, *Elijah b. Solomon ha-Kohen refers to the academy of Sura by the name of Nehardea. In connection with a question on the custom of saying the prayer of Ve-Hassi'enu on Rosh Ha-Shanah and the Day of Atonement, the gaon replied: "Heaven forbid that there be a difference over this matter, because it is our custom in the two metivta (academies) in Ereẓ Israel and Nehardea, that Ve-Hassi'enu is said on Rosh Ha-Shanah and the Day of Atonement." B.M. Lewin has pointed out that the reference was to Sura, where this custom prevailed, in contrast to Pumbedita, where it did not. On the other hand, for Sherira, Nehardea was synonymous with the academy of Pumbedita because it was the continuation of Nehardea. In connection with the customs of prayer he writes: "the custom is according to the established battei midrash of Nehardea and Sura" (B.M. Lewin (ed.), Ginzei Kedem, 1 (1922), 5–6). Benjamin of Tudela, who visited *Iraq during the 1170s, also identifies Pumbedita with Nehardea.
[Eliezer Bashan (Sternberg)]
M.D. Judelevicz, Ḥayyei ha-Yehudim bi-Zeman ha-Talmud, Sefer Nehardea (1905); Funk, in: Festschrift… D. Hoffmann (1914), 97–104; J. Obermeyer, Die Landschaft Babylonien… (1929), 353 (index), S.V.; Neusner, Babylonia, indices. THE ARAB PERIOD: B.M. Lewin (ed.), Iggeret R. Sherira Ga'on (1921), 72–73, 100–1; Abramson, Merkazim, 44, 156; Assaf, Ge'onim, 45, 51; R.S. Weinberg, in: Sinai, 65 (1969), 71; Benjamin of Tudela, Massa'ot… ed. by M.N. Adler (1907, 1960), 46; Levin, Oẓar, 1 (1928), 34, 125; 3 (1931), 28; A. Epstein, in: MGWJ, 47 (1903), 344; Mann, Texts, 1 (1931), 89–90, 103–4; J. Mann, in: JQR, 11 (1920/21), 437.
Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.