RESH KALLAH (Heb. רֵישׁ כַּלָּה), title that was awarded to the leading sages in Babylonian academies during the talmudic and geonic periods. R. Nathan b. Isaac *ha-Bavli (Neubauer Chronicles, 2 (1895), 87–88), in his description of the seating order of the ḥakhamim observed in the Babylonian academies, also discusses the status of the resh kallah. In Babylonian academies the 70 outstanding ḥakhamim were seated in the first seven rows, ten to a row, in order of their importance; the first and most important row was occupied by seven reshei kallah, each of whom was in charge of one row of ḥakhamim. The specific duty of the reshei kallah was to preach publicly in the academy. The Babylonian Talmud mentions by name only two ḥakhamim who were reshei kallah: R. Naḥman b. *Isaac (BB 22a) and R. *Abbahu (Ḥul. 49a). In talmudic times the reshei kallah were accustomed to preach only during the *kallah months, whereas in the geonic period the reshei kallah were accustomed to give sermons also on the rest of the Sabbaths. In the geonic period the resh kallah also bore the title of *alluf. In this period the title was awarded also to ḥakhamim who excelled in their studies in the academy, as well as ḥakhamim who resided in places other than Babylonia, such as Kairouan and Spain (e.g., Ḥisdai ibn *Shaprut). In the prayer Yekum Purkan, composed in the geonic period, the reshei kallah are mentioned before the exilarchs, the academy heads, and the dayyanim, although the latter were superior to the reshei kallah in rank; the reason for the reshei kallah's precedence here is not known.
S.A. Poznański, in: Ha-Kedem, 2 (1908), 91–113 (Heb. pt.); J.Z. Lauterbach, in: Hebrew Union College Jubilee Volume (1925), 218ff.; A. Hildesheimer, in: Festschrift… Jakob Freimann (1937), 65–67 (Heb. pt.); S. Krauss, in: Tarbiz, 20 (1950), 131ff.; She'iltot de-Rav Aḥai Ga'on ed. by S.K. Mirsky, 1 (1959), 9–10 (introd.).
Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.