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Rabbah ben Avuha

RABBAH BEN AVUHA, Babylonian amora of the second half of the third century C.E. Rabbah's first teacher was Rav, in whose name he transmitted many sayings (Shab. 129b; Er. 85a). After the latter's death, he continued his studies at Samuel's academy at Nehardea. When Nehardea was destroyed in 259 by the Palmyrenes, he moved to Mahoza, where he was appointed a judge (Yev. 115b) and head of the academy (Shab. 59b). According to Sherira Gaon he was of the family of the exilarch, and Sherira himself claimed to be a descendant of his (Iggeret R. Sherira Ga'on, ed. by B.M. Lewin (1921), 82). The Talmud (Ber. 21a; BM 91b) records halakhic decisions in his name. He, however, stated that his knowledge extended only to four orders of the Mishnah (according to Rashi, Mo'ed, Nashim, Nezikin, and Kodashim; not Zera'im and Tohorot; but according to tosafot, the reference is to those four orders in the Tosefta; BM 114b). A legendary account is given of the manner in which Rabbah was miraculously relieved of his poverty. He was privileged to meet the prophet Elijah, and to discuss halakhah with him. Elijah gave him some leaves from paradise which, although discarded by Rabbah (in order not to consume his portion in the world to come), left such a pleasant fragrance on his robe, that he sold it for 12,000 denarii (BM 114a–b).

He had a son named R. Kamma (Er. 3a); however his main pupil and (probably) his son-in-law was R. Naḥman (b. Jacob), who transmits many of his sayings (Yev. 80b). Among his teachings were that the commandment to love one's neighbor as oneself (Lev. 19:18) applies even in the execution of a criminal, and is fulfilled by granting him as easy a death as possible (Ket. 37b).


Hyman, Toledot, 1070–71.

Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2007 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.