ABBAYE (278–338 C.E.), Babylonian amora of the fourth generation; chief of scholars of pumbedita . Abbaye was of priestly descent and was reputed to be a descendant of eli , the high priest. His father, whose name apparently was Keilil (Zev. 118b), died before, and his mother, at his birth (Kid. 31b). He was raised by his uncle, rabbah b. nahmani , and by a foster mother whom he frequently quoted, calling her "mother." His true name is not known. According to R. Sherira Gaon, he was called "Nahmani" after his paternal grandfather, and Abbaye, then, was a nickname. While he was still a child, his uncle recognized Abbaye's intellectual capacity, and endeavored to educate him appropriately (Ber. 33b). He continued his studies under R. Joseph who apparently succeeded Rabbah as the head of Pumbedita's circle of scholars. There is a legend that Abbaye later helped R. Joseph recall what he had forgotten as the result of illness. Abbaye debated legal points with the leading talmudic scholars of the day, such as Judah and ḤISDA (Ta'an. 11b–12a). In his youth he was poor and watered his fields at night to enable him to study by day (Git. 60b), but later he employed tenant farmers (Ket. 60b) and traded in wine (Ber. 56a). Upon Joseph's death (333 C.E.), Abbaye succeeded him as head in Pumbedita and held this position for the rest of his life. Until relatively recently, most modern scholars presumed that his most prominent colleague was rava , and that their agreements ("Both Abbaye and Rava say …") and disagreements constituted a major element of the Talmud. Today the predominant view is that direct dialogues between Abbaye and Rava are extremely rare. Nearly all of their presumed dialogues, previously thought to form the backbone of the Babylonian Talmud, are, in fact, discussions between Abbaye and his teacher, Rabbah. This misapprehension resulted from the widespread confusion between the names Rava and Rabbah in the manuscripts and printed editions of the Talmud. Indeed, face-to-face contact between fourth generation Babylonian masters has now been shown to be generally infrequent, leading to the conclusion that they may have studied in disciple circles rather than academies. It seems that the editors of the Talmud in a later period gathered issues of law on which Abbaye and Rava's independently adduced positions contradicted. These contradictions were then hashed out by the anonymous editorial voice of the Talmud. However, actual historically authentic dispute dialogue between Abbaye and Rava is almost nonexistent. In the Talmud's discussions of their contradictory opinions, generally Rava's view was accepted as law; only in six instances did Abbaye's view prevail (BM 22b; etc.). The Talmudic term, "Discussions of Abbaye and Rava" became a general term appellation for the entire system of talmudic dialectics. Abbaye's method of halakhic study combined erudition with keen, logical analysis. Yet, in contrast to his colleague – Rava – he was said to have preferred to rely on transmitted knowledge rather than on independent reasoning (Er. 3a). Discovering similar principles underlying the opinions of various sages, Abbaye would formulate terse general rules and find support for his opinion and that of others in baraitot. He also classified difficult passages in earlier sources and included in his studies laws no longer in force (Zev. 44b). He had a large stock of popular sayings, which he prepared with "People say …." Some of his own remarks became popular maxims; among them, "Go outside and see what the people say …," i.e., follow popular tradition. Through his foster-mother he became familiar with remedies and justified their use by the rule that whatever is done for healing is not considered "ways of the Amorites" (i.e., pagan superstition; Shab. 67a). In the field of aggadah, Joseph's influence on Abbaye can be seen, but the former sometimes deferred to his pupil's exposition of a different verse. Abbaye was also responsible for reversing Joseph's negative attitude to the book of Ben Sira (Sanh. 100b). He took over aggadot and interpretations brought by Dimi from Ereẓ Israel to Babylon (Sanh. 44b). He was the first to discriminate explicitly between the plain contextual meaning of Scripture and its interpretation use for Midrash (Ḥul. 133a). Especially noteworthy is his quotation (from a baraita) of an exposition of the verse (Deut. 6:5): "And thou shalt love the Lord, thy God," meaning that "the Name of Heaven should be loved on account of you." One should study Scripture, learn halakhot, be apprenticed to a sage, and deal honorably with one's fellowmen. Then people will say "How pleasant are the ways of this person who has studied Torah, how proper his conduct" (Yoma 86a). In the discussion between the tannaim as to whether man should   devote his time to the study of Torah to the exclusion of everything else (according to the view of Simeon b. Yoḥai) or whether one should study as well as live a productive life (the opinion of lshmael), Abbaye concurred with the latter (Ber. 35b). Whenever one of his disciples had completed a tractate he would arrange a feast for scholars, thus showing his appreciation and concern for his students (Shab. 188b–119a). He often stressed the importance of "A soft answer turning away wrath," and of promoting goodwill among men "so that one may be beloved above and well-liked below …" (Ber. 17a). His second wife, Ḥoma, who was the great-granddaughter of R. Judah, was famous for her beauty (Ket. 65a). -BIBLIOGRAPHY: Weiss, Dor, 3 (19044), 174ff.; Hyman, Toledot, s. v.; Bacher, Bab Amor, 107–13. R. Kalmin, in: HUCA, 61 (1990), 125–58; D. Weiss-Halivni, Midrash, Mishnah, and Gemara: The Jewish Predilection for Justified Law (1985), 70–78; A. Weiss, Hithavvut ha-Talmud bi-Shlemuto (1943), 14–56. (Ephraim Elimelech Urbach)

Encyclopedia Judaica. 1971.

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