MAR BAR RAVINA (מר בריה דרבינא), a fourth-century Babylonian amora, famous for his saintly character. In his youth, he was carefully tended by his mother, who provided him with clean garments every day, so that he could study in comfort (Er. 65a). Although well-to-do, he lived austerely, fasting by day except on Pentecost, Purim, and the eve of the Day of Atonement (Pes. 68b). At his wedding, a note of seriousness was struck by Rav Hamnuna Zuta who, when asked to sing for the guests, chanted to them, "Alas for us that we are to die" (Ber. 31a). An even sadder note was injected at his son's wedding when Mar, seeing that the company was in a merry mood, deliberately broke a precious cup to dampen their spirit (Ber. 30b–31a). This is probably the origin of the custom of breaking a cup at a Jewish wedding ceremony. He held that even gentiles who observed the seven Noachide laws did not thereby earn any heavenly reward (Av. Zar. 2b–3a). He also had an extremely low opinion of Balaam – the arch-prophet of the gentile world – whom he charged with bestiality (Sanh. 105a) and singled out as the only major sinner against whom biblical passages could be expounded so as to discredit him (Sanh. 106b). Mar bar Ravina had a reputation as a pious, God-fearing man (Ber. 39b; Shab. 61a), who regarded the profanation of God's name as the most heinous sin (Kid. 40a). He was also credited with miraculous escapes from grave perils (Ber. 54a). Characteristic of his piety was his prayer which is still recited at the conclusion of the Eighteen Benedictions: "O my God, keep my tongue from evil and my lips from speaking guile. And to them that curse me may my soul be silent; yea, let my soul be as the dust to all. Open my heart in thy law, and let my soul pursue thy commandments …" (Ber. 17a).
Hyman, Toledot, 900f.; Ḥ. Albeck, Mavo la-Talmudim (1969), 368.
Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.