The Scholastic Culture of the Babylonian Talmud 9781463244668

The Scholastic Culture of the Babylonian Talmud studies how and in what cultural context the Talmud began to take shape

213 16 4MB

English Pages 263 [264] Year 2022

Report DMCA / Copyright


Polecaj historie

The Scholastic Culture of the Babylonian Talmud

Citation preview

The Scholastic Culture of the Babylonian Talmud

Judaism in Context

31 Series Editors Rivka Ulmer Phillip Ackerman-Lieberman Elisheva Carlebach Jonathan Jacobs Naomi Koltun-Fromm David Nelson Lieve Teugels

Judaism in Context provides a platform for scholarly research focusing on the relations between Jews, Judaism, and Jewish culture and other peoples, religions, and cultures among whom Jews have lived and flourished, from ancient times through the 21st century. The series includes monographs as well as edited collections.

The Scholastic Culture of the Babylonian Talmud

Noah Benjamin Bickart

gp 2022

Gorgias Press LLC, 954 River Road, Piscataway, NJ, 08854, USA 2022 Copyright © by Gorgias Press LLC

All rights reserved under International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, scanning or otherwise without the prior written permission of Gorgias Press LLC. ‫ܙ‬



ISBN 978-1-4632-0657-4

ISSN 1935-6978

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data A Cataloging-in-Publication Record is available at the Library of Congress. Printed in the United States of America

‫‪For my son Meir Zeev Bickart‬‬

‫בני די לעולם אני ואתה‬ ‫)בבלי שבת לג ע"ב(‬

TABLE OF CONTENTS Acknowledgements .................................................................. ix Introduction.............................................................................. 1 The Siyyuma and the Anonymous Voice of the Talmud .... 11 Structure ......................................................................... 20 Chapter One. Exiled to the Academy ....................................... 25 Chapter Two. The Origins of Redaction................................... 53 Megilla 14b ..................................................................... 54 Pessachim 88a ................................................................. 62 Avodah Zara 16b ............................................................. 65

Chapter Three. The Terminology of the Siyyuma ......................... 77 The Study of Talmudic Terminology................................ 79 The Semitic Root s.y.m. ................................................... 88 Term #1: Tistayem...................................................... 91 Term #2: Lo Mesayymei ............................................ 144 Term #3: Lo Sayymuha Qamei .................................. 149 Conclusions ................................................................... 152

Chapter Four. Late Uses of the Root s.y.m. in the Talmud and benei siyyuma in Geonic Literature ................................. 155 bBava Kama 117a-b ...................................................... 156 bBava Batra 22a ............................................................ 158 b.Sanhedrin 14a ............................................................ 170 benei siyyuma and the siyyuma in the Literature of the Geonim ................................................... 172 Halachot Gedolot #43 ................................................... 180 Chapter Five. Linguistic Parallels = Cultural Parallels ......... 183 Moses as Scholastic Model in Both Traditions ................ 192 The School of Nisibis ..................................................... 198 vii

viii THE SCHOLASTIC CULTURE OF THE BABYLONIAN TALMUD Letter of Simeon of Beth Arsham Concerning Barsawma ..199 The Cause of the Establishment of the Session of the Schools .................................................................. 200 Examples of the Root ‫ܣ‬.‫ܝ‬.‫ ܡ‬in The Cause ........................ 206 Conclusion .................................................................... 210

Conclusion ............................................................................ 213 Select Bibliography ............................................................... 223 Indices .................................................................................. 243 Index of Biblical and Rabbinic Citations ........................ 243 General Index ................................................................ 247

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS In preparing this monograph and the dissertation on which it is based, I have had the great fortune of dwelling in a number of fabulous academic libraries: The Jewish Theological Seminary of America in New York, the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Hebrew Union College in Jerusalem, the Schocken Library in Jerusalem, Yale University in New Haven, CT, and John Carroll University in University Heights, OH. As this project is one that has occupied much of my life for the past sixteen years, any attempt to thank all those who have assisted me and absolve them all for the errors which remain would likely be overly long, incomplete, and overly generous; they should have corrected me! I am profoundly blessed to count myself among the many disciples of Israel Francus, the Judge Abraham Lieberman Distinguished Service Professor of Talmudic Exegesis of The Jewish Theological Seminary. Dr. Francis taught me to delight in the study of the Babylonian Talmud, its commentaries, and associated codes. Many years after first entering his classroom, I am still very much his student; I hear his voice every time I open a volume of the Talmud. I am especially grateful to my doktorvater, Professor Richard Kalmin, Theodore R. Racoosin Professor of Talmud and Rabbinics at The Jewish Theological Seminary, who, noting my interest in Talmudic terminology, first suggested that I look at the term tistayem for a seminar paper in the fall of 2006. Without his wisdom and kindness, that initial project would never have blossomed into the dissertation on which this monograph is ix



based. I aspire to emulate his keen insight, attention to detail, and deep concern for his students. I had the great fortune to serve as the Jacob and Hilda Blaustein Postdoctoral Fellow at the Yale Department of Judaic Studies, between 2016–2018. My time at Yale enabled me to try out my theories on some of the greatest minds in the related fields of Jewish Studies and Late Antique Religion. In particular, I wish to thank Professors Christene Hayes, Steven Fraade, Eliyahu Stern, and especially Maria Doerfler, at whose workshop on the concept of Exile in Late Antiquity the ideas in Chaper 1 of this book first took shape. As I write these words, I have recently been appointed as The Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Chair in Jewish Studies at John Carroll University outside of Cleveland, OH. I wish to thank my colleagues Ed Hahnenberg, Sheila McGinn, Paul Nietupski, Zeki Saritoprak, Jim Bretzke, Kristen Tobey, and Paul Murphy for their friendship and kindness and for welcoming me into what might be the least dysfunctional department in all of America Academia. Finally, without the love and support of three generations of my family—my Parents, Toni and David Bickart, my sister Sarah, and my Children Meir Zeev and Rina Hana—this work would never have seen completion. And, aharon aharon haviv, to my wife, Nadia Ai Kahn, thank you for taking me on as a project and making me whole.

INTRODUCTION Theodoros and Yehudah had been friends since childhood when this story takes place, on a bright sunny day in the year 340 CE. The two had grown up together, spending their long summer days fishing in the muddy, slow-moving water of the Tigris. Their hometown was called, depending on language and dialect, Mahoza, Kokhe,1 or We-Ardaxshir,2 in which a variety of Aramaicspeaking religious groups—Jews, Mandaeans, and Christians— mingled in peace. Babylonia, they joked, was, by its very nature, a place of mixture.3 Just across the river, however, was the Persian winter capital, Ctesiphon. Theodoros and Yehudah had been venturing there since adolescence, crossing one of the two majestic bridges to wander in the fancy shops in which the

1 See Marica Cassis, “Kokhe, Cradle of the Church of the East: An Archaeological and Comparative Study,” Journal of the Canadian Society for Syriac Studies 2 (2009): 70–86. 2 For the archeology of this site during this period, see St John Simpson, “The Land Behind Ctesiphon: The Archaeology of Babylonia During the Period of the Babylonian Talmud” in The Archaeology and Material Culture of the Babylonian Talmud, IJS Studies in Judaica, Vol. 16, ed. Markham J. Gelle (Leiden: Brill, 2015), 6–38. 3 This is a pregnant pun, one which can be found in a variety of late antique Babylonian cultures. The Bavli, at b.Sanhedrin 24a, famously articulates that the very name of the place means “mixture.” Yet the same metaphor is found as the title of Richard Payne’s monograph, A State of Mixture (Oakland: University of California Press, 2015), which details how Syriac-speaking Christians in the Sasanian world developed a hybrid political identity in conjunction with the Zoroastrian aristocracy.




Persian-speaking aristocrats bought silk, glass, and spices.4 The two boys could speak enough Persian to make do if they had to, but they found this Zoroastrian administrative center to be strange. While they knew well that it was the King of Kings of the Iranians and non-Iranians who ruled the empire in which they lived,5 their identities were hybrid Babylonian ones in which the mixing and matching of cultures was normal. Their grandfathers had arrived in Persian Babylonia at around the same time—as captives, more or less, forcibly relocated from Roman Palestine to the very heart of the Persian empire by the King of Kings, Shapur I.6 But by the time the boys had come into the world, Babylonia was the only home either had ever known. Their families and communities each knew how to evade the priests who would occasionally bother them about lighting fires at home,7 or bathing in water and not Gōmūtra, or cow urine, as was the Persian custom,8 but for the most part, their own religious customs were respected.

The Talmud, in at least two places, speaks about these bridges; see B. Eruvin 57b, B. Moed Katan 25b. See also Yakov Elman, “Middle Persian Culture and Babylonian Sages,” in The Cambridge Companion to the Talmud and Rabbinic Literature (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997), 197n48. 5 Shapur introduced this title, šāhān šāh ī ērān ud anērān, which then appeared in subsequent coinage. See Muhammet Yücel, “A Unique Drachm Coin of Shapur I,” Iranian Studies 50, no. 3 (2017): 331–44. 6 Richard Kalmin has been a primary proponent of seeing far-reaching consequences for both Jewish and Christian communities as a result. He writes that “Jewish and Christian developments in the region during the fourth century, continuing until the advent of Islam in the seventh century, may be closely related, and that processes accelerated by Shapur’s dramatic conquests of the third century may have had pronounced literary and practical consequences in Babylonia and surrounding territories.” Richard Kalmin, Jewish Babylonia Between Persia and Roman Palestine (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006), 5. 7 See b. Gittin16b. 8 See b. Yevamot 63b. 4



The boys grew up to be saffron farmers,9 following their fathers’ professions, which enabled a good enough life.10 And they worked alongside one another not infrequently, taking breaks to sit in the shade to share the stories they had heard all their lives. That Theodoros was Christian and Yehudah Jewish was unremarkable. Sometimes they even swapped funny stories about their own religious leaders with their funny Palestinian accents,11 and paused to ponder why it was that the God in whom they both believed could possibly have commanded Abraham to sacrifice his beloved son. It was only on the Sabbath that they did not work side by side.12 As they grew older, they decided to go into business together. It was only the small sticking point of how to divide the money made on the Sabbath that lead to potential conflict. After pondering it alone for a while, Yehudah invited his friend to come with him to ask the advice of the most famous Rabbi in Mahoza, Rav Abba the son of Josef bar Hama.13

In addition to being a well-known spice exported from Babylonia to China, Rome, and India, saffron was also used in a variety of “magical” recipes shared by this culture of mixing. See Yaakov Elman, “Saffron, Spices, and Sorceresses: Magic Bowls and the Bavli,” in Daughters of Hecate: Women and Magic in the Ancient World, eds. Kimberly B. Stratton and Dayna Kalleres (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014), 365–85. 10 Berthold Laufer, Sino-Iranica: Chinese Contributions to the History of Civilization in Ancient Iran, with Special Reference to the History of Cultivated Plants and Products (Chicago: Field Museum Anthropological Series v. 15, 1919), 309–22. 11 For a brief description of Jewish Palestinian and Babylonian Aramaic and their relationship to other contemporary dialects of Aramaic, see Klaus Beyer, The Aramaic Language: Its Distribution and Subdivisions, trans. John F. Healey (Vandenhoek & Ruprecht, Gottingen, 1986), 43–53. 12 I am consciously avoiding the question of when and how, if at all, Syriac-speaking Christians observed the Sabbath. Aphrahat (Dem. 22.25) makes it quite clear that Jews take pride in observing the Sabbath, signaling that his own community was not to do so. He gives no indication of being aware of the Western notion that Christians observed a new Sabbath on Sundays. See Ilya Lizorkin, Aphrahat’s Demonstrations: A Conversation with the Jews of Mesopotamia (PhD diss., Stellenbosch University), 179. 13 Known throughout the Talmud as Rava. On the orthographic confusion of this sage with that of his teacher, Raba, see Shamma Friedman, “The 9



I begin this book with this story for a number of reasons. First, because this book argues that Jews and Christians in Sasanian Persia during what scholars of Jewish History tend to call “the Talmudic Period” lived in close proximity to one another, speaking (essentially) the same language, venerating (much of) the same scripture, and each competing in the marketplace of religious ideas in the relatively tolerant Persian Zoroastrian milieu, it makes sense to begin with a picture of benign and banal everyday interaction between the non-elite, who were the vast majority of the population. Second, because the degree of mixing between cultures is a source of creative tension in both communities, each of whom understood themselves in relation to external “others,” we should place the systematic definition of boundaries between communities at the forefront of the discourse. But most importantly, I begin with this story to highlight how stories like these become woven into the fabric of the Talmud by means of a specific scholastic practice in the academies from which the Talmud emerged—the siyyuma. Something much like this story appears in the Babylonian Talmud, at bAZ 22a:14 Two saffron growers, a gentile who took charge of the field on Shabbat, and the Jew who took charge on Sunday, came before Rava. He permitted them.

‫הנהו מוריקי דגוי נקיט בשבתא‬ ‫וישראל חד חד בשבא אתאן לקמיה‬ ‫דרבא שרא להו רבא‬

Writing of the Names ‫ רבא‬and ‫ רבה‬in the Babylonian Talmud” [in Hebrew], Sinai 101 (1991–1992): 140–64. 14 The text is taken from MS JTS Rab. 15, a Spanish manuscript written in 1290. See Tractate ‘Abodah Zarah, eds. Alexander Marx and Shraga Abramson (New York: JTS, 1957). In general, unless explicitly noted otherwise, I have chosen to present and translate each sugya discussed in this dissertation as it appears in the “Vilna” shas. Other important readings (orthographic, editorial, or otherwise) from early prints, medieval manuscripts, from the commentaries of the earlier and later medieval scholars, and from manuscript fragments from the Cairo Geniza are presented in detailed footnotes, when germane to the discussion. However, in certain instances, like bAZ and all of tractate nezikin, where a single witness is all but universally accepted as the finest, I have chosen to break with this method and provide the “best” text.



Ravina objected to Rava [based on the following early rabbinic source]:

‫איתיביה רבינא לרבא‬

[Should] a Jew and gentile lease a field in partnership, the Jew shall not say to the gentile: Take your share on the Sabbath, and I on a week-day. If they stipulate [such a scheme] before [taking possession] it is permitted. But if they calculate the profit it is forbidden! [Rava] was shamed.

‫ישראל וגוי שקבלו שדה בשותפות‬ ‫לא יאמר ישראל לגוי טול אתה חלקך‬ ‫בשבת ואני בחול ואם התנו מתחלה‬ .‫מותר ואם באו לחשבון אסור איכסיף‬

Eventually it was revealed that [in the case above] the arrangement had been stipulated before they took possession.

'‫לסוף איגלאי מילתא דהתנו מעיקר‬ ‫הוה‬

R. Gabiha of Be-Kathil said: That was a case of orlah-fruit, which the gentile was to eat during the forbidden years and the Jew during permitted years. They came before Rava who permitted it.

‫רב גביהא מבי כתיל אמ' הנהו‬ ‫שת]י[לי דערלה הוו וגוי )הוה( אכיל‬ ‫שני דערלה וישראל הוה אכיל שני‬ ‫דהיתרא אתא לקמיה דרבא שרא להו‬

But didn’t Ravina cite a statement in objection to Rava’s ruling!? [No.] That was in order to support it. But [how could that be?] He was shamed! That never happened.

‫והא אותיבה רבינא לרבא‬ ‫סיועי סייעיה‬ ‫והא אכסיף‬ ‫לא היו דברים מעולם‬

The following case is brought before the sage Rava, who lived at the turn of the fourth century: Two saffron growers, a Jew and a gentile, wish to form a partnership that enables the Jew not to violate the prohibition of (even) benefiting from labor performed for him on the Sabbath.15 Explaining that the gentile will work the field alone on Saturdays in exchange for the Jew working 15

See Tosafot ad loc. s.v. ‫לא‬.



alone on Sundays, Rava permits the arrangement. However, his student Ravina16 cites a baraita, a Palestinian rabbinic text from around the turn of the third century, which explicitly forbids such an arrangement, unless it is stipulated at the beginning of their partnership. Rava is thus shamed for having given what amounts to an incorrect ruling.17 The anonymous voice of the Talmud relates, however, that somewhat later it was discovered that the scheme had in fact been hatched before they took possession. In retrospect, it would seem, Rava gave the correct ruling after all. No shame was warranted. So far so good. However, a competing version of the events in question is then addressed. R. Geviah, another sage with knowledge of this story, maintained that the legal issue the pair wished to avoid had nothing to do with benefiting from labor on the Sabbath. Instead, the concern related to the prohibition found at Leviticus 19:23 against consuming (or benefiting from) fruit produced in a tree’s first three years of growth, orlah. If indeed this question was one concerning orlah, Rava had nothing for which to be ashamed, for Ravina’s baraita spoke only about Shabbat and said nothing about orlah. The Talmud’s anonymous voice challenges this version as well, arguing that if R. Gaviha’s premise is correct, the core story is now thoroughly unintelligible; why would Ravina have quoted an ancient rabbinic ruling about Shabbat if the case at hand concerned orlah? The Talmud, characteristically, answers its own objection, asserting that Ravina’s quotation should be seen as analogical support for his teacher’s position and not, as was first assumed, an objection. How so? It supports Rava’s initial decision to permit such an interreligious partnership, for this tradition demonstrates that it is only with regard to Shabbat that such partnerships are problematic. The Talmud then asks the obvious question: If Ravina had supported Rava’s legal decision instead of challenging On the identity of this student, see Avinoam Cohen, Ravina and Contemporary Sages: Chronology of Late Babylonian Amoraim [in Hebrew], (Ramat Gan: Bar Ilan, 2001), 69n26. 17 On the importance of shame in Babylonian rabbinic culture, see Jeffrey L. Rubenstein, “The Bavli’s Ethic of Shame,” Conservative Judaism 53, no. 3 (Spring 2001): 27–39. 16



him, why, then, was he so ashamed? The answer: he wasn’t. The Talmud is now claiming, in a brazen example of late-antique gaslighting, that this part of the story simply never happened at all.18 To those who have never encountered the Talmud before, and indeed to many of those who have, this resolution likely seems bizarre.19 A responsum (a letter about Jewish law) penned by R. Natronai Ben Hilai, Gaon of the academy of Sura early in the second half of the ninth century,20 demonstrates that early medieval readers were confused by this passage as well. They know that the Talmud is hard to read, but it does have to make some sense. How, they ask, should the law be deduced from these two contradictory sets of information? Which understanding of the passage is the correct one? Most importantly, they want to know, what is the law concerning these kinds of partnerships? After all, while the gentile “others” in this later period were North African Muslims and not Persian Christians, Jews were always deeply ensconced within broader economies. The Gaon explains that the reason for the confusion stems from the fact that this passage, uncharacteristically, reflects the process of its own redaction. Rav Natronai ascribes everything I Compare Hanoch Albeck, Introduction to the Talmuds [in Hebrew], (Jerusalem: Dvir, 1987), 474–5. 19 These “forced” explanations are fodder for modern Talmud critics. Perhaps the most outspoken of these is David Weiss Halivni, who writes, “Dialectical argumentation in the Tannaitic and Amoraic periods was not transmitted in an official form through the chain of tradition, but was absorbed by those who heard and transmitted it in an unsystematic and random way, which later caused it to be overlooked and forgotten. In some cases, additional traditions accrued to earlier argumentation that did not fit well. Because the argumentation was passed from teacher to teacher without supervision it picked up some components that did not belong. The Stam, however, subsequently treated these components as an integral part of the argumentation and attempted to explain them which resulted in forced interpretations.” Halivni, “Aspects of the Formation of the Talmud,” in Creation and Composition: The Contribution of the Bavli Redactors (Stammaim) to the Aggada, ed. Jeffrey L. Rubenstein ̈ (Tubingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2005), 340n2. 20 Robert Brody, “Amram b. Sheshna—Gaon of Sura?” Tarbiz 56 (1987): 327–45. 18



have described as emanating from the “anonymous layer of the Talmud” to questions asked and answered in a scholastic setting he calls “the siyyuma”:21 Since there are two versions [of this tradition,] the halakhah is in accordance with the second version of Rav Geviah... When the scholars studied this tradition when they were sitting in the siyyuma [they objected]: But Ravina objected to Rava on the basis of a Tannaitic tradition! The scholars answered: It never happened. And the sugya concluded.

,‫כיון דאיכא תרי לישאני‬ ‫הילכתא כי הדין לישנא‬ ‫ דקא אמרינן רב‬,‫בתרא‬ ‫ וקא האוו בה רבנן‬...‫גביאה‬ :‫בשמעתא כד יתבין בסיומא‬ ‫תא שמע לזו דאותביה‬ ‫ ופריקו‬...‫ראבינא לראבא‬ ‫ לא היו דברים מעולם‬:‫רבנן‬ ‫וסליקא שמעתא‬

Relying on the principle that when the Talmud does not explicitly decide between two opinions or versions of a tradition, the law follows the chronologically later one,22 Rav Natronai answers the question by asserting that only the second version of the story, the one introduced by R. Geviah, has any legal weight. He then explains that the end of the confusing passage amounts to a transcript of the discussion that took place during the Talmudic period, in a setting called the siyyuma. A group of scholars, in that setting, fixed the text of the tradition such that what might have been construed as a challenge should actually be understood as support. Further, they decided to dispense with the detail of Rava’s shame altogether by claiming, by fiat, that this fact was simply untrue. As with all Geonic descriptions of the Talmudic period, we must be careful not to retroject an early medieval interpretation onto the Talmudic period, at least unquestioningly. However, we see from this responsum that Natronai, at the very least, saw the siyyuma of the Talmudic period as the place in which the literary This responsum is found in Lewin’s Ginzei Qedem Vol. 4 (1940), 28 and in Robert Brody, Responsa of Rav Natronai b. Hilai Gaon, (Richmond, VA: Ofek Institute, 1994), No. 62. 22 This principle, known as “‫הלכתא כבתראי‬,” literally, “the law follows the last,” is found throughout Geonic literature. See for example Harkavy, Teshuvot Hageonim, No. 78, and Sheiltot Parsha Metzora, No. 69. 21



form of Talmudic passages were created and first became a kind of oral text. According to Natronai’s reading of this passage, the activity of those who sat in the siyyuma had a major influence on the text of the Talmud and the way it would be studied for centuries. In the siyyuma, the focus seems not to have been the search for abstract truth or even the uncovering of the most original form of any given tradition. Instead, the siyyuma was the place in which the various units of rabbinic tradition, sayings uttered by Palestinian and later Babylonian sages from the dawn of the rabbinic period in the first century CE through their own day, were arranged into an easily memorizable literary form.23 This arrangement may well have been designed simply to allow a member of the academy to easily know all that needed to be known about any particular topic. However, the literary organization had far-reaching consequences, for when the literary summary required it, disparate traditions were harmonized or reinterpreted so as to allow the combination of various ideas into a single literary whole. That new literary creation is simultaneously old and new—old because it contains well-preserved sayings of earlier generations, but new because of the changes that occurred when these sayings were collated and given a new form. This is a book about the siyyuma, the scholastic setting in which the Talmud first took shape. Yet our two saffron growers should never be far from our minds. For just as common Jews and Christians and others mixed and mingled in the tolerant setting of late-antique Sasanian Mesopotamia, a central claim of this book is that the scholastic practices of male elite Jews and Christians also display elements of mixing and mingling. We should not be surprised that a document in Aramaic like the Babylonian Talmud, despite the specificity of its own set of The question of how to define “literature” and “literary” is a difficult one with many answers. Here, I understand the production of (oral) texts in the siyyuma as literary, because it seems, at its core, to be about proving a collection of independent sayings with a particular structure. For an in-depth discussion, see David Kraemer, Reading the Rabbis: The Talmud as Literature (New York: Oxford University Press, 1996) 3–19. 23



technical terminology, would display parallels to this terminology in other dialects of Aramaic, like Syriac. However, we see a more direct connection between the terminologies of parallel academic/scholastic settings. It is, of course, theoretically possible that there was some kind of direct influence—that, for instance, the arrival and founding of a Christian school in Sassanian Mesopotamia became a model for Babylonian rabbis of a more permanent kind of setting for the study of Oral Torah. There is certainly no hard evidence for such a simple form of influence, of course, and there will likely never be. Furthermore, one always has to heed Samuel Sandmel’s famous caution against “parallelomania,” which he defines as “that extravagance among scholars which first overdoes the supposed similarity in passages and then proceeds to describe source and derivation as if implying literary connection flowing in an inevitable or predetermined direction.”24 As such, he continues, when any two Judaisms (and for Sandmel, “Christianity” is a “Judaism”) are compared, “[t]hese varieties of Judaism, then, are bound to harbor true parallels which are of no consequence. The connections between two or more of these Judaisms is not determined by inconsequential parallels.”25 The comparison in question, however, points to a certain shared universe of discourse surrounding the production and especially of the promulgation of religious ideas in the scholastic Samuel Sandmel, “Parallelomania,” Journal of Biblical Literature, 81, no. 1 (1962): 1. Sandmel is concerned primarily with the tendency towards the unnecessary charting of parallels between rabbinic literature and NT. In this vein, see also Philip S. Alexander, “Rabbinic Judaism in the New Testament,” ZNW 74 (1983): 237–246, and Geza Vermes, “Methodology in the Study of Jewish Literature in the Graeco-Roman Period,” JJS 36, no. 2 (1985): 145. Shai Secunda has attempted to answer charges of parallelomania lobbed at those who look for legal parallels to the Bavli in Pahlavi literature in “Reading the Bavli in Iran,” JQR 100, no. 2 (2010): 318. Finally, Eyal Regev and David Nakman consider the possibility of parallelomania when comparing the various legal systems of the Pharisees, the Sadducees, and Qumran and their treatment in “Josephus and the Halakhah of the Pharisees, the Sadducees and Qumran” [in Hebrew], Zion 67 (2002): 406. 25 Sandmel, “Parallelomania,” 4. 24



centers of the respective minority religious communities of the Sasanian empire. As such, the primary lesson of the comparison between the Jewish and Christian cultures of learning is the degree to which the kind of promulgation evident in both and indicated by the same kinds of technical terminology is closely tied to the institutions in which each text was produced, and the concomitant scholastic audience.26 To return to the text with which we began, the impetus for this long meditation on comparative scholasticism was occasioned by a text concerning Jewish/Gentile partnership. It must be emphasized that the rabbis who created the core texts of rabbinic Judaism did not imagine a purely Jewish world. From the very beginning of the rabbinic project, the rabbis saw themselves as one group among many, and spent a great deal of energy detailing how interactions with other communities ought to take place. At first, these others were Roman pagans. Later, they were Christians and Zoroastrians. Today, scholars of rabbinics and patristics are finding that the more they interact with one another, the more their own scholarship is enriched by that interaction. And communities of faith who encounter one another in dialogue are bound to learn as much about their own traditions as from that of the other. But this is nothing new. It is merely a renewal of some of the kind of interaction that was bound to have happened during the end of the Talmudic period itself.


The Babylonian Talmud, the vast compendium of legal and nonlegal traditional material produced in late antique Sasanian Babylonia, is an anonymous product of a very particular environment. The process by which discussions that took place in the disciple-circleships of late antique Palestine and Babylonia were eventually ordered and arranged into something like the

On the question of the audience of the Bavli, see Kalmin, “The Formation and Character of the Babylonian Talmud,” 857–60.




oral text of the Talmud as we know it is far from clear.27 Yet we know from reading it that the academy—called yeshiva in Hebrew and metivta in Aramaic—, the scholastic center of Jewish learning in which the elite male Jews spend their lives, was crucial to the worldview of those who created the Talmud, and thus to the very nature of the document itself. Unfortunately, the only source for reconstructing what life was like in these academies—who studied there, when, and how—is the Talmud itself. Despite this, there are a number of early medieval works—The Epistle of Rav Sherira Gaon, Seder Tanaim VeAmoraim, and the travel log of Nathan son of Isaac the Babylonian—that give detailed descriptions of the academies, at least as they existed in post-Talmudic times. Owing to the inherently conservative nature of these institutions, these descriptions may well capture what life had been like in the academies of Jewish Babylonia in the preceding centuries as well; it is hard to know. The pious historiography that emerges from the descriptions in these early medieval texts was accepted as fact by medieval and early modern commentators on the Talmud. Many modern scholars of the history of the rabbinic period thus assert that the academies of Babylonia existed for a millennium— from the dawn of the Amoraic age around the turn of the third century until the eleventh century CE. This view was first challenged by David Goodblatt in a pioneering study of the term yeshiva and its Aramaic equivalent, metivta.28 Goodblatt demonstrates that the meanings of these terms changed significantly over time. Whereas earlier texts use the term to mean something like “study session,” or even something we would call a “semester,” only by the time of the Geonim does the term come to mean “academy.”29 As such, he Neil Danzig, “From Oral Talmud to Written Talmud: On the Methods of Transmission of the Babylonian Talmud and its Study in the Middle Ages” [in Hebrew], Bar-Ilan Annual 30–31 (2006): 49–112. 28 David Goodblatt, Rabbinic Instruction in Sasanian Babylonia (Leiden: Brill, 1975). 29 Like every other period in human history, the “Geonic period” is hard to date, but the second half of the sixth century seems to be where Sherira delineates the shift between a very short period of the Savoraim and that 27



argues that there were no large, centralized institutions of learning during the lifetimes of the Amoraim themselves. Jeffrey Rubenstein has argued that those Talmudic passages in which the term metivta does indicate a larger academic setting are curiously, in fact, all products of late Babylonian editors and not Amoraim, indicating that the shift in meaning probably occurred rather late in the Talmudic period itself.30 Robert Brody argues that the Geonim themselves only emerged as communal leaders in Abbasid Iraq as a result of a long, slow process through which the academies grew in size and, therefore, in prestige.31 Baruch Bokser32 and Jack N. Lightstone33 have each posited a causal connection between the formal academization of the Babylonian rabbinate and the redaction of the Babylonian Talmud.34 The premise is as follows: The very nature of the Talmud, replete with seemingly endless inquiry into the nature of every aspect of the human condition and a predilection against reaching simple conclusions, can tell us a great deal about the of the Geonim. See B. M., ed., Iggeret Rav Sherira Gaon (Haifa: 1921), 97– 11. See also Robert Brody, The Geonim of Babylonia and the Shaping of Medieval Jewish Culture (New Haven: Yale, 1998), 7–10. 30 Jeffrey L. Rubenstein, “The Rise of the Babylonian Rabbinic Academy,” 55–68. This argument is not affected by Rubenstein’s dubious claim that lengthly aggadic passages were composed by the same author/editors who were responsible for the “give and take” which so defines the Bavli’s style. See Isaiah Gafni, “‘Yeshiva’ and ‘Metivta’” [in Hebrew], Zion 43 (1978), 12–37. Gafni continues the debate in his review of Rubenstein’s three most recent books: “Rethinking Talmudic History: The Challenge of Literary and Redaction Criticism,” Jewish History 25 (2011): 355–75. 31 Robert Brody, The Geonim of Babylonia and the Shaping of Medieval Jewish Culture (New Haven: Yale, 2013), 340. 32 Baruch Bokser, “Talmudic Studies,” in The State of Jewish Studies, eds. Shaye J.D. Cohen and Edward L. Greenstein (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1990), 88–9, 91–5. 33 Jack N. Lightstone, “The Institutionalization of the Rabbinic Academy in late Sassanid Babylonia and the Redaction of the Babylonian Talmud,” Studies in Religion/Sciences Religieuses 22, no. 167 (1993): 173–4. See also Jack N. Lightstone, The Rhetoric of the Babylonian Talmud, Its Social Meaning and Context, Studies in Christianity and Judaism Series (Waterloo, ON: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 1994). 34 For Bokser, redaction also means “writing.” See Bokser, “Talmudic Studies,” 88–9.



people who redacted the document, and that the “text” of the Talmud reflects the academic setting in which it was produced.35 This question, of course, when phrased differently, occupies a singular place in Talmudic scholarship. When did editors begin to assemble Amoraic material into the literary structures we call sugyot?36 David Weiss Halivni argues that there were no sugyot as such in Amoraic times, that Amoraim transmitted only “apodictic” rulings, but did not weave them together into the complex literary units that define the Bavli. This activity, conversely, was carried out only after Amoraic times, by


Lightstone writes:

But the Talmud’s editors by their use of structural formularies to juxtapose these otherwise discrete materials tend to undermine the definitive nature of the argument contained in any one dialectical unit. Sometimes these larger structures conclude with a constituent element wherein is contained an argument declared to be conclusive... In other instances, in a larger structure the final decontextualized source item is left as the implicit winner of the contrived debate. But more often it would overreach the bounds of the evidence to maintain that the final element of a sugya remains the victor. More to the point, finding the answer seems precisely not the principal point of most structures; this is so whether or not an obviously probative pericope terminates a longer construct linked by structural formularies. If this were not their intention, interests would have been better served by presenting only the conclusive argument or source. By not so doing, the redactors imply that the process of inquiry is of greater importance than reaching any conclusive end, even where such an end is at hand. Inquiry, then, is an open-ended process of the highest intrinsic value in and of itself, quite apart from any probative stance which may thereby be attained.

Ibid., 182.

See a comprehensive bibliography in Richard Kalmin, Sages, Stories, Authors, and Editors, xivn2. It should be noted that I am interested here in the weaving together of anonymous and Amoraic material into the familiar “give and take” of the Talmudic sugya, and not of the mere association of non-Mishnaic Tannaitic material (“baraitot”) or Amoraic statements with particular portions of the Mishnah. See David Rosenthal, “Early Editing,” 155–204. See also Judith Hauptman, “The Three Basic Components of the Sugya: The Tannaitic Passages, the Amoraic Statements and the Anonymous Commentary,” in Melechet Maḥshevet: Kovetz Ma’amarim B’Nosei Aricha v’hitpatchut shel sifrut ha-Talmudit, eds. Aaron Amit and Aharon Shemesh (Ramat Gan: Bar Ilan, 2011), 39–54. 36



anonymous author/editors he terms “Stammaim.”37 Shamma Friedman is much more cautious in this regard, and while he too frequently assumes that the redactors of sugyot lived long after the named sages quoted within them,38 he is also willing, at times, to attribute anonymous statements and the organization of sugyot to (usually late) Amoraim.39 Robert Brody is perhaps the most outspoken proponent of what might be seen as a traditionalist school, arguing that the anonymous layer of the Talmud may be contemporaneous with the named sages who appear in each sugya, and that the structure and form of sugyot are basically Amoraic in nature. In truth, however, Brody’s stance is not as far from Halivni and Friedman as it might seem. He agrees with the emerging consensus that the bulk of anonymous material is late, positing only that some simple anonymous material is early, and that more in-depth anonymous material began to be created in the late third and early fourth centuries, and only increased in complexity from there.40 Most recently, Yoel Kretzmer-Raziel has analyzed the first folios of tractate Beitza in both the Bavli and Yerushalmi in support of Brody’s claims,41 and suggests that a more precise description of the anonymous layer of the Bavli is that of an evolutionary creation, one which was transmitted together with David Halivni, “Aspects of the Formation of the Talmud,” in Creation and Composition: The Contribution of the Bavli Redactors (Stammaim) to the ̈ Aggada, ed. Jeffrey L. Rubenstein (Tubingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2005), 348–9. 38 See for example, Friedman, Talmud Arukh Vol. 2, “Text,” 22, and Vol. 1, “Explanations,” 178–9. 39 Friedman, “Gitin Chapter 9” [in Hebrew], in Five Sugyot from the Babylonian Talmud, (Jerusalem: The Society for the Interpretation of the Talmud, 2002), 121–4. See also Yisrael Francus, “Explanations and Clarifications Regarding the Sugya of ‘Once in His Lifetime and Once After His Death’” [in Hebrew], Sinai 89 (1980) 248n1–2. 40 Robert Brody, “The Anonymous Voice of the Talmud,” 213–32. See also Brody, “On the Connection Between Maimonides and the Anonymous Voice” [in Hebrew], Bar Ilan Annual 30–31 (2005), 37–47. Brody’s forthcoming monograph on Bavli Ketubot promises to provide significant proof for his claims. 41 Yoel Kretzmer-Raziel, “The Opening Sugyot of Tractate Betzah in the Bavli and the Yerushalmi and the Status of the Stam” [in Hebrew], Sidra 31 (2017): 59–110. 37



Tannaitic and Amoraic material, and developed simultaneously alongside it. Yaakov Sussman’s position, conversely, is somewhat harder to pin down. On the one hand, he acknowledges that one can separate an authentically Amoraic “kernel” from later, presumably anonymous commentary.42 On the other hand, he argues that each succeeding generation, including later editor/redactors, so manipulated their sources that one cannot, in practice, actually delineate the various layers with certainty.43 Daniel Boyarin cautions against assuming that the redaction of the Talmud was performed on a text awaiting such action, writing, “We have to stop, I think, speaking of the redaction of the Talmud, as if there were a Talmud already to be redacted (or even several to be combined, selected from, and redacted) and talk instead about the production of the Talmud in this period.”44 For Boyarin, these editor/redactors are (following Halivni45 and to some extent, Friedman) the same Stammaim who lived after the time of the named Amoraim. They were responsible for three major shifts in Jewish thinking: the production of the Talmud, the founding of the yeshivot (on the Syriac Christian model), and, most importantly for Boyarin, the mythopoeia of the Yavneh legend of harmonious yet pluralistic dispute,46 and the retrojection of it onto the Tannaitic period.47 In this vein, Moulie Vidas, while recognizing the immense literary creativity and importance of the anonymous editor/redactors, asserts that their activity was not limited to arranging “traditional” material, but, as he writes: Yaakov Sussman, “Again,” 109n204. Ibid., 110. 44 Daniel Boyarin, “Hellenism in Jewish Babylonia,” 342. 45 Boyarin, of course, breaks with Halivni’s explanation for the anonymity of the Stammaitic voice. See ibid., 361n27. 46 On this topic, see ibid., Border Lines: The Partition of Judaeo-Christianity (Philadelphia: University of Philadelphia Press, 2004), 151–201. Compare Shaye J. D. Cohen, “The Significance of Yavneh: Pharisees, Rabbis and the End of Sectarianism,” HUCA 55 (1984): 27–53. 47 For an opposing view, see Steven Fraade, “Rabbinic Polysemy and Pluralism Revisited: Between Praxis and Thematization,” AJS Review, 31, no. 1 (2007), 1–40. 42 43



The Talmud’s creators employ a variety of compositional techniques to create a distance between themselves and the traditions they quote, highlight the contrast between themselves and these traditions, and present these traditions as the product of personal motives of past authorities. While they remain authoritative and binding, these traditions’ claim to enduring validity is significantly undermined; they are fossilized and contained in the past, estranged from the Talmud’s audience.48

As such, Vidas attempts to argue that while the Talmud appears to be a “thickly layered” document that accurately preserves earlier material,49 in reality, it is more accurately seen as the product of late scholars who not only composed the lengthy Aramaic give-and-take, but also, as Vidas continues: fixed Hebrew “quotations” and “artifacts” subordinated to a live, all-knowing Aramaic narrating layer, [and] it enabled the scholars who presented sugyot in the academy to create a space for their own self-expression and to justify their necessity.50

For Vidas, further, this move is also part of a broader polemic against a competing faction from within the academy—the Tannaim themselves—who (only) repeated memorized traditions, but for whom innovation and creativity were anathema.51 In a sense, Vidas is attempting to reawaken the basic claim of Jacob Neusner, who argued that later editors so heavily reworked their sources that contemporary readers, in his view, ought to see the Bavli as the creation of its final redactors.52 While the scholars whose ideas are delineated above differ on a major aspect of the provenance of the Talmud, they fundamentally agree that the anonymous layer took shape—in something like the form in which we now have it—in the Moulie Vidas, Tradition and the Formation of the Talmud (Princeton University Press, 2014), 2. 49 Kalmin, “The Babylonian Talmud,” 843–7. 50 Vidas, Tradition and the Formation of the Talmud, 15. 51 Ibid., 18. 52 Jacob Neusner, Making the Classics in Judaism: The Three Stages of Literacy Formation (Atlanta: Brown, 1989) 1–13, 19–44. 48



academy. Thus, the focus of this book is on the precise scholastic activity that took place in those academies. I will focus my attention especially onto the particular academic activity known as the siyyuma, for it is this session that I believe had a significant effect on the literary quality of the Talmud as it took shape. I will therefore investigate the meaning and usage, and trace the development of a particular set of terms that are linguistically related to the siyyuma. The purpose of the study is not only to establish the meanings of these terms within the corpus of the Talmud and related literature, though this is an important first stage of the project, but also to make a specific argument about how and in what cultural context the Talmud began to take shape in the emerging scholastic centers of rabbinic learning in late Sasanian Babylonia. With “scholastic” or “scholasticism,” I follow the definition of John W. Baldwin, who defines the term as comprising a system of thinking, teaching, and producing literary material in large academic settings of late antiquity.53 While the term “scholasticism” itself derives from the study of a western European phenomenon from the High Middle Ages, common features, including rationality, a focus on tradition, and awareness of problems of language, can be seen in multiple communities of learning throughout the world over the course of human history.54 Late antiquity provides a number of examples of the phenomenon, including Neoplatonists, East-Syrian Schools, and, of course, rabbinic academies.55

53 John W. Baldwin, The Scholastic Culture of the Middle Ages, 1000–1300 (Lexington, MA: Heath, 1971), 6. 54 See José Ignacio Cabezón, Scholasticism: Cross-Cultural and Comparative Perspectives (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1998), 1–17. 55 Adam Becker, basing himself on Cabezón’s claim, discusses scholasticism as a common heuristic model for comparative work in a number of places. See Adam H. Becker, “The Comparative Study of ‘Scholasticism’ in Late Antique Mesopotamia: Rabbis and East Syrians,” AJS Review 34, no. 1 (2010): 91–113; and especially, Adam H. Becker, Fear of God and the Beginning of Wisdom: The School of Nisibis and the Development of Christian Scholastic Culture in Late Antique Mesopotamia (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2006), 12–7.



The siyyuma and its analogs within the Talmudic corpus are interesting primarily because they are intimately connected to the process of the redaction of the Babylonian Talmud and the culture of those redactors. By pointing out how this process works, we will learn something about the people who chose this way of ordering and presenting the material that they inherited and shaped. The usage of terms related to the siyyuma, especially when placed into conversation with Syriac Christian analogs (about which more will be said below) shows a markedly scholastic setting for these highly stylized literary units, demonstrating that this type of literary production occurred in settings in which a shift was occurring. No longer willing to simply transmit the traditions they received, they sought to construct elaborate literary units that became something to be memorized and transmitted. This model of learning became an important part of the scholastic culture that placed the study of the Talmud at the center of its academic life for a millennium. The project of comparing the terminology of literary corpora that emanated from Jewish and Christian institutions provides a frame of reference for asking and answering broad questions about what it may have meant to promulgate religious ideas in literature within the Sasanian context in particularly scholastic centers. The Christian scholastic centers of learning and the yeshivot of Jewish Babylonia are more distinct from one another than the broader communities of Jews and Christians were. As elite locations, they were perhaps freer from the mixing in institutions like the synagogue that usually precludes a clean model of the “parting of the ways.” That the two kinds of scholastic centers use such similar terminology for the promulgation of their ideas, despite contrast between the “pervasive orality” in rabbinic Judaism56 and near complete literacy of the Christianity of the period, may allow us to infer certain commonalities in the structure of their academic lives.

Yaakov Elman, “Orality and the Babylonian Talmud,” Oral Tradition 14, no. 1 (1999): 53. 56




The structure of this book is as follows: In Chapter 1, we will enter the world of the rabbinic academy through two famous “retold” stories about exile,57 and show how the authors of these stories sought to portray the activity that took place therein. Chapters 2 and 3 focus on Talmudic terminology, each treating a term or set of terms that figuratively bookend those passages which contain the classic tistayem form. Chapter 2 is a thorough treatment of the three places in the Bavli that contain the phrase “Mini uminach tistayem shemata(ta),” (“between the memorized material the two of us possess, we shall establish the correct transmission history and content of the statement in question”). In these cases, shemata(ta), like its Hebrew analogue shemua', means “officially transmitted rabbinic statements.”58 I will argue that these texts accurately represent the state of learning in the disciple circles of the early Amoraic period.59 When material became corrupted over the course of oral transmission in various geographically distant disciple circles, other contemporary authorities from other disciple circles were consulted in an attempt to preserve the accuracy of transmission. These stories represent the “prehistory” of the siyyuma, as it were; this is the source from which the term likely derives. Later editors, who shared or inherited many predilections with and from their predecessors, took this drive to fix broken traditions and, as a result, elevated it into a literary form. They then used it as the literary model for the sugyot they created in order to preserve and present a wide array of preexisting traditions (meimrot, braitot, stories, etc.).

See Shamma Friedman, “A Good Story Deserves Retelling—The Unfolding of the Akiva Legend,” JSIJ 3 (2004), 55–93. Reprinted in Creation & Composition: The Contribution of the Bavli Redactors (Stammaim) to the Aggada, ed. Jeffrey Rubenstein (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2005), 71–100. 58 Kenneth Jeremy Wieder, “Mishnah Eduyot: A Literary History of a Unique Tractate” (PhD diss., New York University, 2005), 234. 59 See David Goodblatt, Rabbinic Instruction in Sasanian Babylonia (Leiden: Brill, 1975). 57



Chapter 3 presents a set of Talmudic terms (siyyuma,60 mǝsayyem, etc.) found in Talmudic stories,61 which scholars have already concluded date from the end of the Talmudic period. These stories, which should certainly not be seen as biographical in the historical sense,62 reflect the cultural situation of their authors. The stories also reflect Jewish scholastic cultural practices in the late Sasanian period in which the disciple circle model had already been replaced with a larger kind of gathering in which rabbinical material was produced. In such an institution, the siyyuma was a scholastic session of a particular type in which material that had already been presented once was relearned and memorized in a particular fashion that is not always fully clear from those sources themselves.

This scholastic institution is unrelated to the ritual of the siyyum, which is still celebrated by contemporary Jews on the completion of a Talmudic tractate. On the development of this latter phenomenon, see M. B. Lerner, “Towards a History of the Hadran” in Torah Lishma: Essays in Jewish Studies in Honor of Professor Shamma Friedman [in Hebrew], eds. David Golinkin, Moshe Benowitz, et al. (Jerusalem: JTS, 2007): 162–204. 61 Here I rely on Richard Kalmin’s definition: By the term “stories,” I refer to reports of events or actions, and also to actions or statements found within a narrative framework which begins with a description of the physical setting in which the action took place or the statement was made. This description can be fairly elaborate, but more typically is extremely simple, consisting, for example, of the information that Rabbi X was sitting down when he made his statement. The beginning of a story is clearly demarcated, with the description of setting or reported action marking the story off from its surrounding context. The conclusion of the story, however, is often difficult to discern. It is often unclear whether a statement placed at the conclusion of a story is part of the story or is commentary on the story. The chronological and geographical factors helpful above in distinguishing dialogue from commentary are not so helpful here, since the story might conclude with commentary by a rabbi from a different time or a different place, providing perspective on the events or opinions narrated in the body of the tale. Richard Kalmin, “Talmudic Portrayals of Relationships Between Rabbis: Amoraic or Pseudepigraphic?” AJS Review, 17, no. 2 (1992): 167–8. 62 Richard Kalmin, Migrating Tales: The Talmud’s Narratives and Their Historical Context. (Oakland: University of California Press, 2014), 12. 60



Yet, as the scholars who have analyzed these passages show,63 this scholastic session is very closely related to the session of the same type that is well-known from Geonic sources.64 And whereas contemporary scholarship has shown that the Geonic model of study has been incorrectly retrojected onto the Amoraic period,65 the similarity of both the terminology used and the scholastic activities described in these stories implies a measure of continuity between the late Sasanid context and the academies we know about from documents of the Abbasid period. In these latter academies, we know about a group of people whose position is closely related, grammatically, to tistayem. These people were called benei siyyumei, or rabbanan d’siyyuma. In the estimation of a number of scholars of Geonica, these benei siyyumei were the ones responsible for the continuous memorization of, if not final creation of, the redacted literary units we call sugyot. I will argue that the fact that the name of the group that was ultimately responsible for the memorization of the fixed literary form of the Talmud is so closely related to tistayem is not accidental. Rather, the name signifies a close relationship

See for example Daniel Sperber, “On the Unfortunate Adventures of Rav Kahana: A Passage of Saboraic Polemic from Sasanian Persia,” in IranoJudaica, ed. Shmuel Shaked (Jerusalem: Ben-Zvi Institute for the Study of Jewish Communities in the East, 1982), 83–100; Isaiah Gafni, “The Babylonian Yeshiva as Reflected in Bava Qamma 117a” [in Hebrew], Tarbiz 49 (1980):292–391; A. Schremer, “‘He Posed Him a Difficulty and Placed Him’—A Study in the Evolution of the Text of TB Bav’a Kama 117a” [in Hebrew], Tarbiz 56 (1997): 403–15; Shamma Friedman, “The Talmudic Narrative About Rav Kahana and R. Yohanan (Bava Kamma l l7a–b) and Its Two Textual Families” [in Hebrew], Bar Ilan Volume in Memory of Prof. Meyer Simcha Feldblum, ed. Z.A. Steinfeld, et al. (Ramat Gan: Bar Ilan University Press, 2006): 409–90, and Shamma Friedman, “The Further Adventures of Rav Kahana: Between Babylonia and Palestine,” in The Talmud Yerushalmi and Graeco-Roman Culture III, ed. Peter Schafer (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2002): 227–47. 64 See Otsar Ha-Geonim, Vol. 1: Berakhot, ed. B. Lewin (Haifa: 1928), 128n11; David Rosenthal, “Rabbanan D’Siyumma and Benei Siyumei” [in Hebrew], Tarbiz 49a–b, (1979): 52–61; and Danzig, “From Oral Talmud to Written Talmud.” 65 See above, note 19. 63



between the tistayem sugyot and the broader creation of highly literary forms in the Talmud. Chapter 4 comprises a treatment of those places in the Bavli in which the root s.y.m (.‫מ‬.‫י‬.‫ )ס‬is employed by the anonymous voice of the Talmud. Whereas medieval commentaries, modern scholars, and dictionaries have tended to explain these words as being related to a verb meaning “to finish” or “to conclude,” I will attempt to show how the anonymous voice of the Talmud’s use of these terms reflects the siyyuma, and should thus be understood as referring explicitly to it. Finally, Chapter 5 will treat parallels between the scholastic practices described or hinted at in rabbinic material and Syriac Christian literature composed in roughly the same time, place, and language.66 In that dialect of Aramaic,67 the root ‫ܡ‬.‫ܝ‬.‫( ܣ‬s.y.m) can indicate a formal act of “publishing” an official doctrine or philosophy in largely the same way Talmudic texts utilize the root .‫ם‬.‫י‬.‫ס‬. (s.y.m). This is especially true in one of the most important texts for the study of the history of the school of Nisibis,68 The Cause of the Establishment of the Session of the Schools, attributed to Barhadbeshabba of Halwan, who lived in the late sixth to early seventh centuries. Examples of the usage of ‫ܡ‬.‫ܝ‬. ‫ܣ‬ (s.y.m) in this work are analyzed to provide a framework for asking and answering broader questions about the promulgation of religious literature(s), oral and written alike, in the various

Sebastian Brock, An Introduction to Syriac Studies (Piscataway, NJ: Gorgias Press, 2006), 20–1. 67 Klaus Beyer, The Aramaic Language: Its Distribution and Subdivisions (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck und Ruprecht, 1986), 43–5. 68 Nisibis (Νίσιβις), or Netzivin (‫ )נציבין‬as it is called in rabbinic Hebrew, is mentioned twice in the Tosefta (Yevamot 12:11 and Kettubot 5:1) and numerous times in the Bavli. See for example b.Sanhedrin 32b, where Nisibis seems to have been the seat of the first-century Tanna, Judah ben Bathyra. Nisibis and Edessa in northern Mesopotamia were not the only centers of Christian learning and activity, however. See David Bundy, “Early Asian and East African Christianities,” in Cambridge History of Christianity, Vol. 2, Constantine to c. 600, eds. Augustine Casiday and Frederick W. Norris (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008), 131–6. 66



scholastic centers of minority communities in Sasanian Babylonia at the close of the Talmudic period.69 I conclude this project by applying the lessons of this genealogy of rabbinic scholasticism to the broader questions of the redaction of the Talmud itself, positing that the siyyuma of the end of the Talmudic period described in Chapter 3 was likely the institution in which sugyot, the basic building blocks of the Talmud, were initially composed. Yet because that institution itself has a history, and likely developed out of earlier scholastic practices and concerns, we should reject contemporary scholarly claims that the scholastic culture of late editors was somehow radically new.70 The sugyot that reference the siyyuma are therefore indispensable for understanding how the Talmud was created over many centuries in Sasanian Babylonia.

Kalmin, Migrating Tales, 8–9. See, for example, Jeffrey L. Rubenstein, The Culture of the Babylonian Talmud (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2003), 16–38.

69 70

CHAPTER ONE. EXILED TO THE ACADEMY This book is a book about the rabbinic academies, the scholastic culture of which is closely related to the form the Talmud would eventually take. Thus, it makes sense to begin with the academy and how it functioned in the ideology of rabbinic culture. Aware of standing at a temporal and geographical remove from both biblical Judea and the Roman Palestinian birthplace of rabbinism, those who composed long narrative sections of the Babylonian Talmud towards the end of the Sasanian period1 frequently displayed noticeable anxiety about the inferiority their location implies. While many Babylonian rabbis responded to this anxiety by articulating their superiority over their Palestinian peers, their sense of exile remains, at times channeled into the ideology of the large scholastic centers that defined their religious lives. This appears to have been an impetus for one of the most famous stories in the Bavli—one that has been the source of several modern critical studies.2

Jeffrey Rubenstein, Talmudic Stories: Narrative Art, Composition, and Culture (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins, 1999), 15–22; Richard Kalmin, Sages, Stories, Authors and Editors in Rabbinic Babylonia, Brown Judaic Studies 300 (Atlanta: Scholar’s Press, 1994), 143–67. Whereas Rubenstein wishes to see all lengthy Bavli stories as the product of the latest redactional layer, Kalmin sees more variety. For the purposes of the argumentation here, there is little difference in their assessment. 2 See for example Isaiah Gafni, Jews of Babylonia in the Talmudic Era: A Social and Cultural History [in Hebrew] (Jerusalem: The Zalman Shazar Center, 1990), 194–7; Daniel Sperber, “On the Unfortunate Adventures 1




Bavli B”K 117a (Vilna 1882)3

‫ההוא גברא דהוה בעי‬ ,‫אחוויי אתיבנא דחבריה‬ ‫ לא‬:‫ א"ל‬,‫אתא לקמיה דרב‬ :‫ א"ל‬,‫תחוי ולא תחוי‬ .‫מחוינא ומחוינא‬

A certain man wanted to report another man’s straw [to the Persian authorities]. He came before Rav, who said to him: Don’t reveal it! Don’t reveal it! He said: I will reveal it and I will reveal it!

,‫יתיב רב כהנא קמיה דרב‬ ‫ קרי‬.‫שמטיה לקועיה מיניה‬ ‫ ֻﬠְלּ֥פוּ‬A‫ ָבַּ֜נִי‬:‫רב עילויה‬ ‫ָשְׁכ֛בוּ ְבּ ֥ר ֹאשׁ ָכּל־חוּ֖צוֹת‬ ‫ מה תוא זה‬,‫ְכּ֣תוֹא ִמְכָ֑מר‬ ‫כיון שנפל במכמר אין‬ ‫ אף ממון של‬,‫מרחמין עליו‬ ‫ישראל כיון שנפל ביד‬ ‫עובדי כוכבים אין מרחמין‬ .‫עליו‬

R. Kahana [happened to be] sitting before Rav. He tore out the man’s windpipe. Rav applied [Isaiah 51:20 to the situation]: Your children have fainted, they lie at the heads of all the streets as a wild bull in a net; just as when a “wild bull” falls into a “net” no one has mercy upon it, so with the property of an Israelite: as soon as it falls into the hands of gentiles, no mercy is given to it.

of Rav Kahana,” in Irano Judaica, vol. 1, ed. Shaul Shaked (Jerusalem: Ben-Zvi, 1982), 83–100; Isaiah Gafni, “The Babylonian Yeshiva as Reflected in Bava Qamma 117a,” [in Hebrew] Tarbiz 49 (1980): 292– 391; “‘He Posed Him a Difficulty and Placed Him’—A “Study in the Evolution of the Text of TB Bav’a Kama 117a” [in Hebrew], Tarbiz 56 (1997): 403–15; Shamma Friedman, “The Talmudic Narrative about Rav Kahana and R. Yohanan (Bava Kamma l l7a–b) and Its Two Textual Families,” [in Hebrew] in Bar Ilan Volume in Memory of Prof. Meyer Simcha Feldblum, ed. Z.A. Steinfeld, et al. (Ramat Gan: Bar Ilan University Press, 2006): 409–90; and idem, “The Further Adventures of Rav Kahana: Between Babylonia and Palestine,” in The Talmud Yerushalmi and GraecoRoman Culture III, ed. Peter Schafer (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2002): 227–47. Finally, Yonatan Feintuch has treated the story in “Tales of the Sages and the Surrounding Sugyot in Bavli Neziqin” [in Hebrew] (diss., b.-Ilan University, 2008), 140–169. I wish to thank Dr. Feintuch for sending me an electronic copy of his completed dissertation. Finally, see Daniel Boyarin, Socrates and the Fat Rabbis (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2009), 187–191. 3 I have refrained from adding detailed lower critical notes here, due to the complete analysis in the appendix of Friedman's “The Talmudic Narrative,” which includes a detailed (albeit line over line) synopsis of the entire passage. See below for discussion of the two major textual branches.


‫ עד‬,‫ כהנא‬:‫א"ל רב‬ ‫האידנא הוו פרסאי דלא‬ ,‫קפדי אשפיכות דמים‬ ‫והשתא איכא יוונאי דקפדו‬ ‫אשפיכות דמים ואמרי‬ ‫ קום סק‬,‫מרדין מרדין‬ ‫ וקביל‬,‫לארעא דישראל‬ ‫עלך דלא תקשי לרבי‬ .‫יוחנן שבע שנין‬


Rav said to him: Kahana, until now the “Persians” who did not take much notice of bloodshed were [in charge]. Now the “Greeks” who are particular regarding bloodshed are here, and they will certainly say: Murder, murder! Go up to the Land of Israel, but take it upon yourself that you will not point out any difficulty to R. Yohanan for seven years.

The storyteller purports to describe an event of the mid-third century, about sages who lived through the transition from Parthian to Sasanian rule. This much is clear from the Rav’s statement that “Persians” had been replaced by the “Greeks.”4 Whoever is telling this story imagines that the third century, which witnessed the Sasanians come to power, would have spelled a great number of changes for the Jews who lived through it. Rav Kahana, in order to protect a particular Jew’s tax avoidance scheme, ends up murdering another Jew who threatens to reveal this scheme to the government authorities. All of this takes place in the “court” of Rav Rav, takes pity on his favorite student, applies a prophecy of Isaiah to him, and recommends exile. Kahana is told to flee to and take refuge in the “academy” of Rabbi Yohanan in the Land of Israel.5 The middle act depicts Rav Kahana arriving there, where he finds Resh Lakish sitting and summarizing or editing the day’s lesson for the rabbis of the academy6 before joining the academic hierarchy himself: The order of the nations who ruled Babylonia is likely the error of a late scribe. MS Hamburg 165 has the order reversed, with the “Persians” having taken control from the “Greeks.” 5 This is the first hint that the story is written long after and far away from R. Yoḥanan’s time and place. See discussion below. 6 This is clearly the correct translation for ‫( מתיבתא‬Metivta), as E.S. Rosenthal explains based on a Geniza fragment of Hagiga 14a–b. There, he defines ‫( מתיבתא‬Metivta) as, “ ‫יחידה ספרותית של תלמוד מדודה וקבועה כפי ששיערו‬ ‫וסיימו אותה בישיבה‬,” a “literary unit of Talmud, ordered and fixed as it had been taught and promulgated in the yeshivah.” Rosenthal chooses his words carefully, assuming that Talmudic literary forms were created 4



Bavli B”K 117a He went and found Resh Lakish sitting and promulgating the lesson of the day for the rabbis. [Kahana] said to them: Where is Resh Lakish? They said to him: Why? He noted for them a number of difficulties and solutions. [The students] reported this to Resh Lakish. Resh Lakish went and said to R. Yoḥanan: A lion has come up from Babylonia. Let the Master prepare tomorrow’s lecture carefully! The next day, they sat [Kahana] in the first row before R. Yoḥanan, who quoted one tradition without [Kahana] challenging, and another tradition without [Kahana] challenging.

‫בבלי ב"ק קיז ע"א‬ ‫אזיל אשכחיה לריש לקיש‬ ‫דיתיב וקא מסיים‬ ,‫מתיבתא דיומא לרבנן‬ ‫ ריש לקיש‬:‫אמר להו‬ ?‫היכא‬ ?‫ אמאי‬:‫אמרו ליה‬ ‫אמר להו האי קושיא והאי‬ ‫ והאי פירוקא והאי‬,‫קושיא‬ .‫פירוקא‬ .‫אמרו ליה לריש לקיש‬ ‫אזל ריש לקיש א"ל לרבי‬ ,‫ ארי עלה מבבל‬:‫יוחנן‬ ‫לעיין מר במתיבתא‬ .‫דלמחר‬ ‫למחר אותבוה בדרא קמא‬ ‫ אמר‬,‫קמיה דר' יוחנן‬ ,‫שמעתתא ולא אקשי‬ ‫שמעתתא ולא אקשי‬

They placed [Kahana] progressively farther back through the seven rows until he sat in the last row.

‫אנחתיה אחורי שבע דרי‬ .‫עד דאותביה בדרא בתרא‬

R. Yoḥanan said to R. Shimon b. Lakish: The lion of whom you spoke has become a fox! [Kahana] said: May it be [G-d’s] will that these seven rows be in the place of Rav’s seven years!

‫א"ל רבי יוחנן לר"ש בן‬ ‫ ארי שאמרת נעשה‬:‫לקיש‬ ‫ יהא רעוא‬:‫שועל!אמר‬ ‫דהני שבע דרי להוו חילוף‬ .‫שבע שנין דאמר לי רב‬

(‫ )מדודה‬in one setting, (‫ )ששיערו‬and fixed (‫ )קבעוה‬into literary form in another (‫)וסיימו‬. See E.S. Rosenthal, “For a Talmudic Lexicon: Word Explanations and Textual Analysis” [in Hebrew], Tarbiz 40 (1970): 196. A similar claim was made by Avigdor Aptowitzer in his explanation of the title of Sefer Metivot. See Avigdor Aptowitzer, Sefer Hefetz and Sefer Metivot [in Hebrew], Tarbiz 4 (1932): 140n41. See also David Goodblatt, Rabbinic Instruction, 76–92; Isaiah Gafni, “Yeshivah and Metivta,” 12–37; and Jeffrey L. Rubenstein, “The Rise of the Babylonian Rabbinic Academy,” 55n68.

CHAPTER ONE. EXILED TO THE ACADEMY He stood up and said to [R. Yoḥanan]: Let the Master start from the beginning! He quoted a tradition and [Kahana] raised a difficulty. They placed him in the first row. He quoted a tradition and [Kahana] raised a difficulty. R. Yoḥanan was sitting on seven cushions. He quoted a tradition and [Kahana] raised a difficulty, [one cushion was pulled out from under him] until all the cushions were pulled out from under him and he sat on the ground.


‫ נהדר‬:‫ א"ל‬,‫קם אכרעיה‬ ‫ אמר‬,‫מר ברישא‬ ‫ אוקמיה‬,‫שמעתתא ואקשי‬ ‫ אמר‬,‫בדרא קמא‬ ‫ ר' יוחנן‬.‫שמעתתא ואקשי‬ ,‫הוה יתיב אשבע בסתרקי‬ ‫שלפי ליה חדא בסתרקא‬ ‫ אמר שמעתתא‬,‫מתותיה‬ ‫ עד דשלפי‬,‫ואקשי ליה‬ ‫ליה כולהו בסתרקי‬ ‫מתותיה עד דיתיב על‬ .‫ארעא‬

Rav Kahana comes upon R. Shimon b. Lakish sitting and promulgating [mǝssyyem] the lesson of the day [metivta] for the rabbis. Isaiah Gafni argues that the word mǝssyyem is “taken from the reality of the Babylonian yeshivah, and means the review and explanation of [previously] learned material.”7 Friedman takes this a step further, writing: The technical use of SYM in the sense of “summarize,” “edit” is clearer in this passage than in any other in the Bavli, and its use with a unit of text as direct object of the verb, further clarifying the literary function of this operation, is quite unique in the Bavli. The ‫ רבנן‬for whom Resh Laqish performed this function are disciples, equivalent to the ‫רבנן דסיומא‬, well known from geonic sources. Resh Laqish summarized the lesson taught by R. Yoḥanan, and gave it a literary form.8

According to Friedman, Kahana has happened upon the siyyuma, in which earlier material was not only memorized, studied, and analyzed, but now arranged into literary units like those that would eventually become the Babylonian Talmud. Kahana immediately understands the content being promulgated here. This, of course, is the purpose of the siyyuma; a sage can be presented with not only the individual traditions that treat a particular subject, but the entirety of the tradition by means of an easily memorizable literary unit. Within the world of this story,

7 8

Gafni, Jews of Babylonia, 195. Translation is my own. Friedman, “Further Adventures,” 268.



the siyyuma is a crucial element; the core plot of the story concerns how Kahana’s superior (Babylonian) academic acumen allows him to challenge Palestinian sages. He first does this in the siyyuma, where the literary reformulation of R. Yohanan’s lesson is what allows Rav Kahana to challenge the way in which the traditions have been arranged. The scholarly consensus is that while the locus of this story is Palestine in the time of the early Amoraim depicted in it, it contains reliable historical information about neither Palestine nor the Amoraic period. Instead, it reflects the late Sasanian Babylonian context of the post-Amoraic period in which it was likely composed.9 Daniel Sperber, for example, focusing especially on the “cushions” (‫ )בסתרקי‬on which R. Yoḥanan sits, argues that the story’s composition “probably dates from the (early?) post-talmudic period, perhaps from the sixth or seventh century, when the motif of the pile of mats is most current in Sasanian art.”10 Herman, comparing elements of the academic battle between Rav Kahana and R. Yoḥanan to an ArmenianIranian parallel, suggests a similarly late date of composition,11 and supports this dating with an ingenious reading of Rav’s statement in the first part of the story regarding the regime change from the “Greeks” to the “Persians” as a reference to the Muslim capture of Babylonia in 637.12 That it “reflects” the academy does not indicate, however, that this picture of the academy presented here is in any way accurate in the historical sense. As Boyarin has noted, the story is absurd: It would be a mistake to read it as a realistic representation of the life of a Babylonian yeshiva of the sixth century, either. It must be read, I think, as a fictional rendering of the life even

Sperber, “Unfortunate Adventures,” 88–9; Friedman, “Further Adventures,” 269; Gafni, “The Babylonian yeshivah,” 294–6; ibid., Jews of Babylonia, 195. 10 Sperber, “Adventures,” 99. 11 Herman, 72. 12 Ibid., 75. If correct, this may be the only place in the Talmud that is aware of the Muslim conquest. 9



of that latter institution. As such, I think, it is a highly satirical and critical representation of that life.13

Nonetheless, a large part of what makes the parody so devastating is the degree to which the original audience would have recognized their academy—including, perhaps especially, the siyyuma. Gafni notes a remarkable variant reading of this sugya common to both MS Hamburg 165, the Spanish manuscript written in 1184 C.E. in Gerona, which is considered to be the finest witness of Nezikin,14 and a fragment from the Cairo Geniza, labeled Leningrad-Antonin 861.15 In this slightly shorter version, many of the particularly Babylonian motifs are lacking. This is abundantly clear in the passage in which Rav Kahana meets Resh Lakish: 16

‫נוסח גה‬ ‫כי אזא אשכחיה לר' שמעון בן לקיש‬ ‫]ולא הוה‬ ‫תא ניהדר‬.‫ידע דר'[ שמעון בן לקיש הוה‬ ‫מאי מתיבתא דתנו האידנא ]פתח‬ .'‫וק[א אמ‬ .‫אמ ליה לא הוה בר לקישא‬ .‫אמ ליה איבריה‬ ‫אמ ליה ]ולא אקשי הכי וה[כי‬ '‫אזא ר' שמעון בן לקיש אמ' ליה לר‬ ‫יוחנן ניעיין‬ ‫מר ]במתיבתא דלמחר[ דארי עלה‬ .‫מבבל‬

‫נוסח הדפוס ורוב כ"י‬ ‫אזיל אשכחיה לריש לקיש דיתיב וקא‬ ‫מסיים‬ ,‫מתיבתא דיומא לרבנן‬ ?‫ ריש לקיש היכא‬:‫אמר להו‬ ?‫ אמאי‬:‫אמרו ליה‬ ‫ והאי‬,‫ האי קושיא והאי קושיא‬:‫אמר להו‬ .‫פירוקא והאי פירוקא‬ .‫אמרו ליה לריש לקיש‬ ‫ ארי‬:‫אזל ריש לקיש א"ל לרבי יוחנן‬ .‫ לעיין מר במתיבתא דלמחר‬,‫עלה מבבל‬

Boyarin, Socrates and the Fat Rabbis, 189. Shamma Friedman, “The Stemma for Textual Witnesses of TB Bava Metzia” [in Hebrew], Researches in Talmudic Honour of the Eightieth Birthday of Saul Lieberman, (Jerusalem: JTS, 1983) 93–147. Friedman, Talmud Arukh, Commentary Volume, 64. 15 This fragment was published in Abraham Katsh, Ginzei Talmud Babli (Jerusalem: Reuben Mass, 1979), 201. 16 Here, in precisely the same fashion as Feintuch (141–2), I have adopted Friedman’s method of presenting the text of Leningrad-Antonin 861, filling in the lacunae with MS Hamburg 165. See Friedman, “The Talmudic Narrative,” 415–6. 13 14



‫למחר תני ר' יוחנן ולא אמ רב כהנא‬ .‫]ולא מידי‬ ‫אמ ליה[ ר' יוחנן ארי שאמרת נעשה‬ !‫שועל‬ [‫אמ רב כהנא כוליה ]האי ודאי לא קבילי‬ ‫עלאי‬ .‫אמ ליה ניהדר מר לימא מראשה‬ .‫הדר פתח מראשה‬ .‫]אקשיה אוקמי[ ליה‬

'‫למחר אותבוה בדרא קמא קמיה דר‬ ,‫ אמר שמעתתא ולא אקשי‬,‫יוחנן‬ ‫ אנחתיה אחורי‬,‫שמעתתא ולא אקשי‬ .‫שבע דרי עד דאותביה בדרא בתרא‬ ‫ ארי‬:‫א"ל רבי יוחנן לר"ש בן לקיש‬ !‫שאמרת נעשה שועל‬ ‫ יהא רעוא דהני שבע דרי להוו‬:‫אמר‬ ‫ קם‬.‫חילוף שבע שנין דאמר לי רב‬ ,‫ נהדר מר ברישא‬:‫ א"ל‬,‫אכרעיה‬ ‫ אוקמיה בדרא‬,‫אמר שמעתתא ואקשי‬ ‫ ר' יוחנן‬.‫ אמר שמעתתא ואקשי‬,‫קמא‬ ‫ שלפי ליה‬,‫הוה יתיב אשבע בסתרקי‬ ‫ אמר שמעתתא‬,‫חדא בסתרקא מתותיה‬ ‫ עד דשלפי ליה כולהו‬,‫ואקשי ליה‬ .‫בסתרקי מתותיה עד דיתיב על ארעא‬

When he went, he found R. Shimon b. Lakish [but did not know that] it was Shimon b. Lakish.

He went and found Resh Lakish sitting and promulgating the lesson of the day for the Rabbis.

[He said] Come let us go back to the lesson that was taught today. He began and said...

[Kahana] said to them: Where is Resh Lakish? They said to him: Why?

He said to him: Is this not the son of Lakish? He said to him: [Indeed] his limbs! He said to him: Could one not raise the following difficulties? R. Shimon b. Lakish went and said to R. Yohanan: Let the master prepare the lesson [well] for tomorrow, for a lion has come up from Babylonia! The next day, R. Yohanan taught a teaching, but R. Kahana said nothing. He said [to R. Shimon

He noted this problem and that problem, and this solution and that solution. They said this to Resh Lakish. Resh Lakish went and said to R. Yoḥanan: A lion has come up from Babylon. Let the Master prepare tomorrow’s lecture carefully! The next day, they sat [Kahana] in the first row before R. Yoḥanan, who quoted one

CHAPTER ONE. EXILED TO THE ACADEMY b. Lakish]: The lion of whom you spoke has become a fox!

R. Kahana said: I cannot take all of this upon me!


tradition without [Kahana] raising a difficulty, and another tradition without [Kahana] raising a difficulty. They placed [Kahana] progressively further back through the seven rows until he sat in the last row. R. Yoḥanan said to R. Shimon b. Lakish: The lion of whom you spoke has become a fox!

He said: Let the master return and begin from the beginning!

[Kahana] said: May it be [G-d’s] will that these seven rows be in the place of Rav’s seven years!

He began from the beginning, and [R. Kahana] presented difficulties and limitations to him.

He stood up and said to [R. Yoḥanan]: Let the Master start from the beginning! He quoted a tradition and [Kahana] raised a difficulty. They placed him in the first row. He quoted a tradition and [Kahana] raised a difficulty. (R. Yoḥanan was sitting on seven cushions.) He quoted a tradition and [Kahana] raised a difficulty, [one cushion was pulled out from under him] until all the cushions were pulled out from under him and he sat on the ground.

The Geniza/Hamburg tradition lacks all the academic terminology (mǝssyyem, the rows, etc.) that mark this text as a product of the early post-Amoraic period in Babylonia, and not of Amoraic Palestine in R. Yoḥanan’s time. Indeed, Gafni argues that MS Hamburg and Leningrad-Antonin 861 reflect an earlier Palestinian version of this story, which was then adapted and



enlarged by later Babylonian editors, who added details of the academy in their own time and place.17 Schremer, inter alia, agrees with this understanding of the development of the story.18 Shamma Friedman, who himself pioneered the approach of comparing shorter and longer versions of similar stories as a way of uncovering literary dependencies,19 reads the development of the Rav Kahana material in precisely the opposite direction,20 seeing the Hamburg/Geniza version of the story to be the later reworking of, instead of the source for, the more well-known version. Friedman bases his conclusions on both philological and stylistic grounds, largely accepting the claims of Sperber and Herman that Babylonian/Persian motifs in the standard version point to a post-Amoraic, Babylonian sitz im leben. However, he prefers to see the shorter version as a reworking and shortening of the longer narrative, and brings additional support from other shorter reworkings found in the Geonic works Halachot Pesukot and Halachot Gedolot,21 as well as in the seventeenth-century Yemenite Midrash collection Hemdat Yamim.22

Gafni, Story, 299. Schremer, 413–4. Schremer, whose article is devoted to the explanation of the phrase “‫אקשי ליה ואוקמיה‬,” which appears only in the MS Hamburg/Geniza version of the tale, argues that the parallel phrase in the standard version of the story, “‫אקשי ואותביה בדרא קמא‬,” is a reaction on the part of later editors to the earlier phrase, which they misunderstood. This argument is implicit support for Gafni’s reading that the ‫ גה‬version is the original one. 19 “Uncovering Literary Dependencies in the Talmudic Corpus,” S. J. D. Cohen (ed.), The Synoptic Problem in Rabbinic Literature (Providence: Brown, 2000), 35–57. See “A Good Story Deserves Retelling—The Unfolding of the Akiva Legend,” Jewish Studies Internet Journal 3 (2004) 55–93. Reprinted in: Creation & Composition: The Contribution of the Bavli Redactors (Stammaim) to the AggAdda, ed. Jeffrey Rubenstein (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2005), 71–100. 20 Shamma Friedman, “The Talmudic Narrative About Rav Kahana,” 409–490. 21 Friedman, “The Talmudic Narrative,” 458ff. 22 Ibid., 439ff. See Yosef Tuvi, “On the Identification of the Author of the Yemenite Midrash Hemdat Yamim” [in Hebrew], Tagim 3–4 (1971): 63–72. 17 18



Both Feintuch and Robert Brody devote considerable energy to refuting Friedman’s claims in favor of Gafni’s approach,23 and though Friedman’s arguments are, as always, methodically researched and presented,24 I happen to find the claim that the Hamburg/Geniza text is more original to be more persuasive. Yet for the purposes of the present study, deciding between the different versions of the story’s development changes absolutely nothing about the general picture of the meaning of the scholastic terminology and setting of the story as it appears in printed texts and most of the manuscripts. For while Friedman argues that the Hamburg/Geniza version is Geonic, he ultimately agrees with Gafni that the standard version, which contains all the academic terminology, dates from the post-Amoraic period. Whether the alternate version is seen as very early or very late only emphasizes the fact that the story, as it appears in the vast majority of the witnesses, is the most relevant to the present discussion. Despite disagreeing about the provenance of the Geniza/Hamburg version, all agree on a late dating for this passage. If the version as we have it in the printed editions of bBK is itself a reworking of an earlier Babylonian tale, that earlier version does not appear to have come from nowhere. Instead, as Shamma Friedman has argued,25 these authors were likely aware of something like the following story, found in the Palestinian Talmud:

Feintuch, 146–9. See also Robert Brody, “Shamma Friedman’s Treatment of the Story of Rav Kahana,” Jewish Studies Internet Journal 15 (2019): 1– 4. 24 Compare to Shamma Friedman, “A Good Story Deserves Retelling— The Unfolding of the Akiva Legend,” in Creation & Composition: The Contribution of the Bavli Redactors (Stammaim) to the AggAdda, ed. Jeffrey Rubenstein (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2005), 71–100. 25 Friedman, “The Further Adventures of Rav Kahana—Between Babylonia and Palestine,” in The Talmud Yerushalmi and Graeco-Roman Culture, ed. P. Schäfer 3, (Tübingen: Siebeck, 2002), 247–271. 23



(‫ח )ה ט"ג‬:‫ירושלמי ברכות ב‬ [‫]כי"ל‬ ‫ כד‬.‫כהנא הוה עולם סגין‬ ‫סליק להכא חמתיה חד בר‬ ‫ אמ' ליה מה קלא‬.‫פחין‬ ‫ אמר ליה גזר דיניה‬.‫בשמיא‬ ‫ וכן‬.‫דההוא גברא מיחתם‬ .‫ )אמ' מה( ]ומית‬.‫הוות ליה‬ [‫פגע ביה‬

Yerushalmi Berachot 2:8 (5c)26 Kahana was very tall.27 When he came here (i.e., to Palestine) a certain fool28 said to him: What voice do you hear up there in heaven? He said: Your judgement being sealed! Thus it happened that he met his fate.

‫ אמ' ליה מה‬.‫חמתיה חד חרן‬ ‫ אמר ליה גזר‬.‫קלא בשמיא‬ .‫דיניה דההוא גברא מיחתם‬ .‫וכן הוות ליה‬

Another fool asked him: What voice do you hear up there in heaven? He said: Your judgement being sealed! Thus it happened.

‫ ואנא‬.‫אמ' מה סליקית מזכי‬ ‫ מה סליקית למיקטלה‬.‫איחטי‬ ‫ ניזול וניחות‬.'‫דיש‬-‫בני ארעא‬ .‫לי מן הן דסליקית‬

He said [to himself]: I came up to merit.29 But [all] I [do is] sin! Did I come to kill the people of the land of Israel? Let me then go down from these [people] to whom I have come up. He went to Rabbi Yohanan and asked him: A man whose mother dislikes him but whose step-mother honors him, with whom should he live? [Rabbi

.‫ אמ' ליה‬.‫אתא לגבי ר' יוחנן‬ ‫בר נש דאימיה מבסרא ליה‬ ‫ואיתתיה דאבוהי מוקרא ליה‬ ‫ ייזיל‬.‫ אמ' ליה‬.‫להן ייזיל ליה‬

Text follows MS Leiden Or. 4720 as transcribed in Y. Sussman, Talmud Yerushalmi [in Hebrew], (Jerusalem: Academy of the Hebrew Language, 2001), 23. 27 Shlomo Naeh, “From the Bible to the Sages and Back Again, Lexical Studies in Hebrew and Aramaic,” in Collections and Introductions in Language II: Chapters in the Hebrew of Its Period in Honor of Shoshana Bahet [in Hebrew], ed. Moshe Bar Asher (Jerusalem: Magnes, 1996), 148–9. Compare JPA, 399; and Jastrow, 1052. The dictionaries understand this to mean “very strong.” Conversely, Lieberman understands this to mean that he was “very young.” See Shaul Lieberman, “‘That is How It Was and That is How It Shall Be’—The Jews of Eretz Israel and World Jewry During Mishnah and Talmud Times” [in Hebrew], Cathedra 18 (1980), 8. 28 See Aaron Amit, “The Epithets Bar Pachin, Bar Pachat and and Their Development in Talmudic Sources” [in Hebrew], Tarbiz 72, no. 4 (2003): 489–504. 29 Perhaps this “merit” is the study of Torah; see the commentary of Moshe ben Shimon Margalit (~1710–1780), “Pnei Moshe,” ad loc. 26



‫ נחת ליה‬.‫להן דמוקרין ליה‬ ‫כהנא מן הן דסלק‬

Yohanan] said: Let him go to those who honor him. Kahana left those to whom he had gone up.

.‫אתון אמרין ליה לר' יוחנן‬ .'‫ אמ‬.‫הא נחית כהנא לבבל‬ ‫מה הוה מיזל ליה דלא מיסב‬ ‫ ההיא‬.‫ אמרין ליה‬.‫רשותא‬ ‫מילתא דאמ' לך היא הוה‬ .‫נטילת רשות דידיה‬

They went and told Rabbi Yohanan: Kahana has descended to Babylonia! He said: What? He left without getting permission? They said to him: The matter about which he asked you was his asking for permission.

Some of the parallels are absolutely clear. Rav Kahana, a Babylonian sage with a penchant for killing people, moves from one center of rabbinic learning to the other as a direct result of his violent outbursts. Though medieval commentators tend to read these stories as separate events in the “biography” of Rav Kahana,30 both the move from one location to the other and the murders seem to have been the impetus for the later Babylonian version. All and all, it is much more likely that the story was reworked by Babylonian editors. What they added is quite telling. In the Yerushalmi version, Rav Kahana engages in deep soul searching, deciding on his own to leave the land of Israel as a result of his behavior, and essentially tricks his teacher, Rabbi Yohanan, into granting him the necessary permission. Yet in the Bavli, his teacher, Rav, is the one who criticizes his impetuous behavior, and even makes him promise to hold his tongue when he arrives at his destination.31 Even more telling, the place to which Rav Kahana must exile himself is R. Yohanan’s academy, which, as we noted above, is a very close facsimile of a Babylonian academy. One of the main thrusts of the story is that the Babylonian sage who shows up in Palestine and is seated in the last row is able, through his uniquely Babylonian acumen, to argue his way to the front of the room and eventually best even Rabbi Yohanan himself. Rav Kahana accomplishes this by asking probing, unanswerable questions about the memorized oral traditions R. See Rashi to bBK 117a, s.v. ‫ ;ואי לא הואיל וחליף שעתא‬Friedman, Further Adventures, 253. 31 Friedman, Further Adventures, 256. 30



Yohanan cites. It is this activity that is most prized in the Babylonian academies, and that eventually becomes the basic literary framework for the Babylonian Talmud itself. This acumen allows him to be promoted to the front of the class, where R. Yohanan is quite literally cut down to size. And here, the story turns towards the bizarre. Act III is as follows:

‫רבי יוחנן גברא סבא הוה‬ ,‫ומסרחי גביניה‬ ‫ דלו לי עיני‬:‫אמר להו‬ ‫ דלו ליה‬,‫ואחזייה‬ ‫ חזא‬,‫במכחלתא דכספא‬ ‫ סבר‬,‫דפרטיה שפוותיה‬ ‫ חלש‬,‫אחוך קמחייך ביה‬ .‫דעתיה ונח נפשיה‬

R. Yohanan was an old man—his eyelashes were overhanging. He said to [his students]: Lift my eyelids for me so I can see him. They lifted his eyelids with silver pincers. He saw that R. Kahana had a cleft lip and thought that he was laughing at him. [R. R. Yohanan] was offended and [R. Kahana] died.

‫למחר אמר להו רבי יוחנן‬ ‫ חזיתו לבבלאה‬:‫לרבנן‬ :‫היכי עביד? אמרו ליה‬ .‫דרכיה הכי‬

The next day R. Yohanan said to the rabbis: Did you see how that Babylonian acted? They said to him: That was his natural state.

‫ חזא‬,‫על לגבי מערתא‬ ‫דהוה )ע"ב( הדרא ליה‬ ,‫ עכנא‬,‫ עכנא‬:‫ א"ל‬,‫עכנא‬ ‫פתח פומיך ויכנס הרב‬ .‫ ולא פתח‬,‫אצל תלמיד‬ ‫ ולא‬,‫יכנס חבר אצל חבר‬ ‫ יכנס תלמיד אצל‬.‫פתח‬ ,‫ פתח ליה‬,‫הרב‬

He entered the [burial] cave. He saw a snake coiled round [R. Kahana’s grave]. He said: Snake, snake, open your mouth and let the Master go in to the disciple, but it did not open. [He said]: Let the colleague go in to the peer, but it did not open. [He said:] Let the disciple enter to his Master. It opened.

.‫בעא רחמי ואוקמיה‬

He then prayed for mercy and resurrected him. He said to him: Had I known that that was your natural state I would not have been offended. He said: If you are able to pray for mercy that I will not die again I will go, but if not I will not go, for later on you might change your mind.

‫ אי הוה ידענא‬:‫א"ל‬ ‫דדרכיה דמר הכי לא‬ ‫ השתא ליתי‬,‫חלשא דעתי‬ ‫ אי מצית‬:‫ א"ל‬,‫מר בהדן‬ ‫למיבעי רחמי דתו לא‬ - ‫ ואי לא‬,‫שכיבנא אזילנא‬ ‫ הואיל וחליף‬,‫לא אזילנא‬ .‫שעתא חליף‬


‫ שייליה‬,‫ אוקמיה‬,‫תייריה‬ ‫כל ספיקא דהוה ליה‬ .‫ופשטינהו ניהליה‬ :‫היינו דאמר ר' יוחנן‬ .‫ דילהון היא‬,‫דילכון אמרי‬


[R. Yohanan] awakened and raised him and would ask him any matter on which he had a doubt, and R. Kahana would solve them. This is implied in the statement made by R. Johanan: What is yours is theirs.

Here the Babylonian authors engage in a fantastic, if macabre, display of wish fulfillment. Their own scholar, having been fasttracked to a status approaching that of R. Yohanan himself, is now attacked by that great sage. As Sperber notes,32 the authors may well be incorporating the Persian story of Wahriz, as told by Tabari, who could only shoot his arrows when his drooping eyelids were lifted. They also employ a well-known motif from elsewhere in the Babylonian Talmud,33 in which a sage’s shame at having been offended can cause the untimely death of the offender.34 Here, however, the tables are turned. R. Yohanan must go and ask forgiveness from Rav Kahana, who is revealed in this trip to the underworld to have been the superior sage. The Babylonian, now resurrected, becomes R. Yohanan’s go-to expert, and the great Palestinian sage must acknowledge that his own learning is inferior to and benefits from the Babylonian Torah. Though much attention has been paid to this story, both regarding the history of its development and to the degree to which it employs Persian themes throughout, a crucial point has been overlooked. This is the simple fact that the author/editors design the academy, which stands at the core of the story to be a place of exile and refuge. Of all the places to which R. Kahana could have run, he runs to an academy that the audience of this story would have immediately recognized as the spitting image of their own. The core plot point of this story, at least in its reworked form, is that the man in exile flees to the academy in which he demonstrates the superiority of exile.

Sperber, Unfortunate Adventures, 88–92. For example, see bBM 84a, bBM 59b, and bKettubot 62b. 34 Compare Herman, Story of Rav Kahana, 59n32. 32 33



This core element is strikingly similar in another oft-studied tale, namely that of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai in the cave.35 As we shall see presently, this story shares a number of details—in structure, in plot, and in the history of its development—with the story about Rav Kahana. Again we encounter a story in three acts,36 the first of which is as follows:

‫ ע"ב‬- ‫בבלי שבת לג ע"א‬ (‫)כי"א‬ ‫ואמאי קארו ליה ראש‬ ‫המדברים בכל מקום‬ ‫דיתיב ר' יהודה בר' אלעאי‬ ‫ור' יוסי ור' שמעון ויתיב‬ ‫יהודה בן גרים גבייהו‬ ‫פתח ר' יהודה ואמ' כמה‬ ‫נאים מעשיה של אומה זו‬ ‫תקנו שווקים תקנו גשרים‬ '‫תקנו מרחצאו‬ ‫ר' יוסי שתק‬ ‫ענה ר' שמעון ואמ' כל מה‬ ‫שתקנו לא תקנו אלא לצורך‬ ‫עצמן שווקים להושיב בהן‬

Bavli Shabbat 33b- 34a (MS Oxford) Why is he [R. Judah son of R. Ila’i] referred to as “first speaker” every time he is mentioned? [Once] R. Judah, R. Jose, and R. Shimon were sitting [in study]. Judah the son of converts was sitting with them. R. Judah began and said: How wonderful are the works of this people [i.e., Rome]! They have made streets, they have built bridges, they have erected baths. R. Jose was silent. R. Shimon b. Yohai answered and said: Everything that they made they made for themselves; they built marketplaces to put sex workers in them;

As with the story of R. Kahana above, this pericope has been analyzed by a number of modern studies. See, for example, Jeffrey Rubenstein, Talmudic Stories: Narrative Art, Composition, and Culture (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins, 1999), 105–38; Ofra Meir, “The Story of R. Shimon B. Yochai in the Cave” [in Hebrew], Alei Siah 26 (1989): 145–60; Michal Bar-Asher Siegal, Early Christian Monastic Literature and the Babylonian Talmud (New York: Cambridge: 2013), 133–69; Lee Levine, “R. Simeon b. Yoḥai and the Purification of Tiberias: History and Tradition,” HUCA 49 (1978): 143–85; Israel Ban-Shalom, “R. Yehudah b. Ilay and his Attitude Toward Rome” [in Hebrew], Zion 49 (1984): 9–24. 36 For the predilection for the number 3, as well as 7 and 10, see Yitzhak Avishor, “Darkei HaHazara BMisparei Hashlamot (3, 7, 10) bMikra uv’sifrut Hashemit Hakeduma,” Beer Sheva 1 (1972): 1–55. See also Shamma Friedman, Talmudic Studies (Jerusalem: JTS, 2010), 33–4. 35

CHAPTER ONE. EXILED TO THE ACADEMY ‫זונות מרחצאות לעדן בהן‬ ‫עצמן גשרי' ליטול מהם מכס‬ ‫הלך יהודה בן גריס וסיפר‬ ‫דברים ונשמעו למלכות אמרו‬ ‫יהודה שעילה יתעלה יוסי‬ ‫ששתק יגלה לציפורי שמעון‬ ‫שגינה יהרג‬

‫אזל איהו ובריה וטשו בי‬ ‫מדרשא כל יומא הוה מייתיא‬ ‫להו דביתהו ריפתא וכרכי‬ ‫כדתקיף גזרתא אמ' ליה‬ ‫לבריה ידענא דנשים דעתן‬ ‫קלה עליהן דילמא מצערי לן‬ ‫ומיגליא לן‬

baths to rejuvenate bridges to levy tolls.

41 themselves;

Judah son of converts went and spoke [about] their words, which reached the government. They said: Judah, who exalted [us], shall be exalted, Jose, who was silent, shall be exiled to Sepphoris; Shimon, who criticized, let him be executed. He and his son went and hid themselves in the study house; every day his wife brought him bread and a jug. When the decree became more severe he said to his son: I know that women are of unstable temperament; perhaps they will torture her and she will reveal us.

This section is universally seen, based on analysis of both form and content, as a later Babylonian addition to an earlier Palestinian tale,37 and should be best seen as providing some of the back story for why R. Shimon (with his son) ends up in the cave in the first place. The frame is a decidedly political one. As Charlotte Elisheva Fonrobert writes: This opening frame of the narrative establishes an overt political context for the story of Rabbi Shimeon’s retreat into the cave. The three sages who are squarely associated with and recognizable representatives of the sages as collective and self-designed leaders of Israel, the community at large, represent three possible responses to the imperial power of “Rome:” recognition and approval of the benefits thereof, silence, and overt criticism.38 Moshe David Herr, “Roman Rule in Tannaitic Literature: Its Image and Conception” [in Hebrew], (PhD Diss., Jerusalem: Hebrew University, 1970),104–647. See also Siegal, Early Christian Monastic Literature, 138–40. 38 Charlotte Elisheva Fonrobert, “Plato in Rabbi Shimeon bar Yohai’s Cave (B. Shabbat 33B–34A): The Talmudic Inversion of Plato’s Politics of Philosophy,” AJS Review 31, no. 2 (2007), 283. 37



R. Shimon, of course, represents the final option: active opposition to Roman rule. And it is important to note how the original audience in Sasanian Babylonia might have heard such a narrative. On the one hand, they too must have shared antipathy toward Romans who were the sworn enemies of the empire in which they lived, the enemy who destroyed the Temple, and now the stand-in for the Christian other. On the other hand, those who first received this story were also living in an imperial context— Rome is, after all, never explicitly named in the story. Once again, empires tend to slip into one another, and the rabbis demonstrate their ambivalence toward them here. In his attempt to escape imperial wrath, R. Shimon (and his son, about whom more must be said below) behaves much as R. Kahana does, and escapes to a place of study. Here, however, it is not a full-blown academy to which they flee. Indeed, we are privy to no details whatsoever about their location, other than that it is a “study house.”39 However, this location is not secure enough, and, fearing that his wife, who is sneaking him sustenance, will be tortured, he and the son flee to a cave. It is at this point that the earlier Palestinian version becomes crucial to understanding its later reworking:40

‫בי מדרשא‬. See David Goodblatt, Rabbinic Instruction in Sasanian Babylonia (Leiden: Brill, 1975), 108–53. 40 In truth, versions of this story appear in a number of Palestinian collections, including the Jerusalem (Palestinian) Talmud (early fifth century), Genesis Rabbah (fifth-sixth century), Pesiqta Derav Kahana (sixth-seventh century), and Ecclesiastes Rabbah (ninth-tenth century). I am convinced by Bar-Asher Siegal’s contention that the version found in the Yerushalmi is the most original. She writes, “I prefer to view the Yerushalmi as the main Palestinian source because of its brevity and the text critical rule of lectio difficilior potior, as applied to the difference in the number of the main characters between the PT version and the other Palestinian versions. While one can supply an easy answer to the question of why the other Palestinian versions would change their original single-character version to a dual-character version, because of the later, powerful influence of the BT version, it is much harder to explain the reverse. In addition, close examination of the other Palestinian versions shows that they all made further changes to accommodate the additional character. These changes are different in 39

CHAPTER ONE. EXILED TO THE ACADEMY ‫א‬:‫ירושלמי )כי"ל( שביעית ט‬ (‫)לח ט"ד‬ ‫ ר' שמעון בן יוחי‬.‫וכן הוות ליה‬ ‫עשר‬-‫עבד טמיר במערתא תלת‬ ‫שנין במערת חרובין דתרומה עד‬ .‫שהעלה גופו חלודה‬ ‫ לי נה‬.'‫עשר שנין אמ‬-‫לסוף תלת‬ .‫]נפק[ חמי מה קלא עלמא‬ ‫נפק ויתב ליה על פומא‬ ‫ חמא חד צייד צייד‬.‫דמערתא‬ .‫ציפרין פרס מצודתיה‬ .‫ דימוס‬.‫שמע ברת קלא אמרה‬ .‫ואישתיזבת‬ ‫ ציפור מבלעדי שמיא לא‬.‫אמר‬ .‫ כל שכן בר נשא‬.‫יבדא‬ .'‫כד חמא דשדכן מילייא אמ‬ ‫ניחות ניחמי בהדין דימוסין‬ .‫דטבריא‬


Yerushalmi Sheviit 9:1 (38d) (MS Leiden) Likewise, Rabbi Shimon ben Yochai was hidden in a cave for thirteen years in a cave of Terumah carobs, until his body had sores. After thirteen years he said: Let’s go out to see what’s up in the world. He went out and sat at the mouth of the cave and saw a trapper catching birds. He spread out his net. [R. Shimon] heard a heavenly voice saying, [Case] dismissed! [The bird] escaped. He said: If even a bird only perishes according to the will of heaven, how much more so a man! When he saw that things had quieted down, he said: Let us go down and warm up in these baths of Tiberias.

The author of this tale, as it appears in the Yerushalmi, gives no indication as to why the sage has sequestered himself in the cave, apparently alone.41 But his activity appears to have been focused on theology as opposed to scholastic practice. Indeed, his thirteenyear sequestration seems to prepare him for a particularly fundamentalist, theological understanding of the world. Something in his meditative training now allows him to hear the heavenly pronouncement that accompanies all earthly actions. God, like the rabbis, apparently makes use of Latin legal terminology. The bird escapes from the trapper’s net, not because of any failure on the part of the human, nor because of any agility on the part of the bird. Rather, it is divine provenance alone that decides which birds will be caught and which will escape capture. Armed with this

each version, which contributes to the variety in the Palestinian versions.” Bar-Asher Siegal, Early Monastic Christian Literature, 141. 41 All the other Palestinian versions do include R. Shimon’s son here, which is a good indication that they are derived from this one, and not the other way around.



theological insight and the concomitant confidence such a theology engenders, R. Shimon reenters the world. Much is changed in the Bavli’s adaptation:

‫אזלו ואיטשו במערתא‬ ‫איתרחיש ליהו ניסא ואיברי להו‬ ‫חירובא ועינא דמיא‬ ‫הוו יתבי עד צוורי]י[הו בחלא‬ ‫כולי יומא וגרסי לעידן צלויי‬ ‫לבשי ומכסו ומצלו‬ ‫והדר שלחי מאניהו כי היכי דלא‬ 42 ‫ליבלו‬ ‫שנין‬



‫איתיבו‬ ‫במערתא‬ ‫אתא אליהו וקאי אפיתחא‬ ‫דמערתא אמ' מאן אודעיה לבר‬ ‫יוחאי דמית קיסר ובטלה‬ ‫גזירתא‬

‫נפקו חאזו אינשי דקא כרבי‬ ‫וזרעי‬ ‫אמ' מניחין חיי עולם ועוסקין‬ ‫חיי שעה‬ ‫כל מקום שנתנו עיניהם נשרף‬ ‫יצתה בת קול ואמרה להן‬ ‫להחריב עולמי יצאתם חזרו‬ ‫למערתכם‬ ‫הדור ואזול ואיתיבו תריסר‬ ‫ירחי שתא במערתא‬ ‫אמרי משפט רשעים בגיהינם‬ ‫שנים עשר חדש‬


They went and hid in a cave. A miracle occurred for them and a carob tree and a water-well were created for them. They would sit up to their necks in sand and study the whole day. When it was time for prayers, they dressed and covered themselves, prayed, and then took off their garments again, so that they should not wear out. They lived for twelve years in the cave. Elijah came and stood at the entrance to the cave and exclaimed: Who will inform the son of Yochai that the emperor is dead and that the decree is annulled? They emerged and saw a man ploughing and sowing. He said: They forsake life eternal and engage in life temporal! Whatever they cast their eyes upon was immediately incinerated. A heavenly voice came forth and cried out: Have you emerged to destroy My world? Return to your cave! They returned and stayed there twelve months. [They] applied [to themselves the following]: The punishment of the wicked in Hell is (only) twelve months. A heavenly voice came out and said to them: Leave your cave!

This line is absent in MS Vatican 127.



‫יצתה בת קול ואמרה להם צאו‬ ‫ממערתכם נפקו כל היכא דהוה‬ ‫מחי ר' אלעזר הוה מסי‬

They came out. Wherever R. Eleazar wounded, R. Shimon healed.

‫ר' שמעון אמ' לו בני דיו לעולם‬ ‫אני ואתה‬

R. Shimon said to him: My son! You and I are enough for the world!

‫חאזו לההוא סבא דהוה נקיט‬ ‫בידיה תרי מדאני דאסא‬ ‫אמרו ליה הני למה לך אמ' להו‬ ‫לכבוד שבת‬

They saw an old man holding two bundles of myrtle. They said: What are these for? He said: For the honor of the Sabbath.

'‫אמרו ליה ותסגי לך בחד אמ‬ ‫להו חד כנגד זכור וחד כנגד‬ ‫שמור‬ ‫אמרה ליה לבריה חזית כמה‬ ‫חביבה מצוה עלייהו דישראל‬

They said: But one should be enough? One is for Remember and one is for Observe.43 He said to his son: See how precious are the commandments of Israel.

In addition to the opening act, composed in order to explain why R. Shimon fled to the cave in the first place, there are a number of significant differences between these versions. Notably, of course, R. Shimon is now accompanied by his son.44 The confusing detail in the Yerushalmi, that he lived in a “cave of Terumah carobs,” is now explained as a miraculous source of sustenance for the two scholars. But the most important detail added here is how the two spend their twelve years in the cave. Unlike in the Yerushalmi version, in which the exercise is one of monk-like theological introspection, here, the pair sit up to their necks in the sand of the cave and “recite” (‫ )גרס‬all day long, as if they were members of late Babylonian academies whose role it was to constantly review the oral text of the Talmudic dialectic so as to teach the memorization of the Talmud to the students of siyyuma. This is precisely the same kind of activity we encountered in the Rav Kahana story above.

This is the classic rabbinic harmonization of the two versions of the Ten Commandments regarding the Sabbath, Exodus 20:8, and Deuteronomy 5:12; see bBerachot 20b. 44 Also present in a number of the Palestinian versions. 43



Their sequestration in the cave seems to have had two major consequences. The first is laser vision. This seems to be something of a trope in rabbinic stories, in which the sage, owing to his prowess in Torah, is granted superpowers. This indicates a significantly different theology at play.45 In the Yerushalmi, R. Shimon is forced, after his thirteen years, to recognize God’s provenance as total. But in the Bavli, the thirteen-year sojourn is interrupted for a brief theological lesson. The pair emerge from the cave endowed with superpowers, and, confronted by the lack of the kind of purity of focus they experienced in their “academy,” they cannot help but destroy what they see. Exile to the academy creates power. Ordered back into the cave for the final year, R. Shimon learns to be God’s partner in maintaining the created order. But the time in the cave has a second consequence as well, as can be seen from the continuation of the story:

‫שמע ר' פינחס בן יאיר חתניה‬ ‫נפק לאפיה עייליה לבי בני‬ ‫ואסחיה הוה קא חכיך ליה‬ ‫לבשריה חזא דהוו אית ליה פילי‬ ‫בגביה הוה קא בכי וקא נתרן‬ ‫דמעי וקא מצווחן ליה משום‬ ‫דחריכן בגו פילי‬ ‫אמ' אוי לי שראיתיך בכך אמ' לו‬ ‫אשריך שראיתני בכך‬ ‫שאילמלא לא ראיתני בכך לא‬ ‫מצאתי בי כך‬ ‫דמעיקרא כי הוה מקשי ר' שמעון‬ '‫יוחאי קושיא הוה מפריק לה ר‬ ‫פינחס בן יאיר בתריסר פירוקי‬ ‫ולבסוף כי הוה מקשי ר' פינחס בן‬ '‫יאיר קושיא הוה מפריק לה ר‬

R. Pinchas b. Ya’ir, his son-in-law, heard and went out to meet him. He took him into the baths and massaged his flesh. Seeing the clefts in his body, he wept and the tears streamed from his eyes and burned him. He said: Woe to me that I see you like this! He said: Happy are you that you see me like this! For if you did not see me in such a state you would not find me like this! For initially, when R. Shimon b. Yochai raised a difficulty, R. Pinhas b. Ya’ir would give him twelve answers, but now, when R. Pinchas b. Ya’ir raised a difficulty, R.

Other scholars have noted a theological difference between the Amoraim themselves and the late anonymous layer. See, for example, Yaakov Elman, “Righteousness as Its Own Reward: An Inquiry into the Theologies of the Stam,” Proceedings of the American Academy for Jewish Research 57 (1990), 35–67.


CHAPTER ONE. EXILED TO THE ACADEMY ‫שמעון בן יוחאי בעשרים וארבעה‬ ‫פירוקי‬


Shimon b. Yochai would give him twenty-four answers.

R. Shimon’s stay in the cave, spent in a near constant scholastic state, has enabled him to surpass his son-in-law’s formerly superior scholastic agility. Again, if we read this story as one composed by late Babylonian authors, we see—much as we saw in the R. Kahana story above—the most important skill honed in the Babylonian academy retrojected onto the mythic past. The mode of study is a Socratic one, in which the junior scholars sit in the rows before the senior sage and attempt to challenge the legal rubric of a senior scholar on the basis of memorized Tannaitic and Amoraic traditions. R. Shimon’s intensive study in the cave now enables him to cite memorized rabbinic traditions in response to challenges from a colleague. The cave was a siyyuma. This, however, is not the main lesson teased out of this tale by the most recent in-depth study on this story. Michal Bar-Asher Siegal, who devotes a whole chapter of a recent book to this story,46 summarizes her findings as follows: In sum, the set of BT additions to the Rashi cave story discussed here, specifically: the sage sustained in a cave by a miraculous carob tree and spring water; the lack of bathing during the stay in the cave; the resort to the cave first as a place of refuge but then as a place of value in itself; the appearance of Elijah and his behavior when announcing his news; the criticism of working people using the term “eternal life”; the use of the cave to dissuade the critic from his mistaken view (the second entrance); the function of the cave as a place of punishment or prison; the stay in the cave bestowing miraculous powers on its resident; and even the choice to withdraw from his wife; all of these details are

Michal Bar-Asher Siegal, Early Christian Monastic Literature and the Babylonian Talmud (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2013), 133– 169. This chapter is a reworked translation of an article that originally appeared in Hebrew, “A Rabbinic Monk: The Background to the Traditions Concerning R. Simeon Β. Yohai in the Cave” Zion 76, no. 3 (2011): 297–304.



THE SCHOLASTIC CULTURE OF THE BABYLONIAN TALMUD evidence of an attempt to transform the cave tradition of Rashbi into a monastic-type story.47

Bar-Asher Siegal’s premise is that the unique ideology espoused by the monastic “Desert Fathers” in Egypt, which has made its way east to Syriac-speaking Christians, also influenced the rabbis of the Talmud. So, when we find passages in the Bavli that ask questions about how one might dedicate one’s life to God and the study of divine wisdom and therefore with matters of proper conduct, self-control, repentance, and humility, we would do well to look to passages from these same Patristic sources to help situate the context of this knowledge. In other words, when the rabbis retell a Palestinian tale and add details that are so tantalizingly close to parallels in the monastic corpus, we cannot help but surmise, as Bar-Asher Siegal does, that the rabbis were consciously drawing on such materials. But such a claim, while easy to assert, is very hard to prove. It is not enough to say that “The similarities between the monastic and rabbinic sources indicate the familiarity of the rabbinic authors with Christian holy men traditions, a familiarity likely based on Syriac translations of the major works of the early Egyptian desert fathers that had been brought to the Persian Empire.”48 But without any direct evidence that the rabbis were familiar with such texts directly, why should such a connection be posited?49 While Bar-Asher Siegel’s analysis of the individual elements of the story is incredibly convincing, her assertion that the rabbis had direct access to monastic texts in unattested Syriac translations is decidedly problematic. Adam Becker lobbed a related critique at Daniel Boyarin’s 2009 book, Socrates and the Fat Rabbis.50 In that work Boyarin posited, not unlike Bar-Asher Siegal here, that unattested Syriac translations of Greek texts hold the key to understanding the ways

Ibid., 167. Ibid. 49 A similar critique is levied by Josh Kulp in his review essay, “Reading the Bavli with Monks and Zoroastrians,” Prooftexts 33, no. 3 (2013), 386. 50 Boyarin, Socrates and the Fat Rabbis. 47 48



in which ideas from the Roman west became woven into the fabric of the Babylonian Talmud. For example, Boyarin writes: Another significant factor in the increased “Hellenizing” of the Babylonian Rabbis may very well be the increased movement of Syriac Christian sages after 489 AC after the bishop of Edessa was given permission to close down the theologically suspect “School of the Persians” in that city. Isaiah Gafni has argued that the founding of this East Syrian (formerly known as “Nestorian”) school of Nisibis had a big impact on the formation of the rabbinic schools in that area. This perspective has the potential to lead to revolutionary new ways of conceiving the history of Babylonian rabbinic Judaism, insofar as one of the outstanding features of these Syriacspeaking and writing Christian scholars and teachers was their concern with Greek (and especially Neoplatonic) philosophy.51

For Boyarin, when the rabbis appear to imitate Greek satire as found in Plato, it isn’t only that the rabbis share “Hellenism,” but that they actually might have read the Dialogues in Syriac! Yet Adam Becker, relying on the actual evidence of the transmission of texts, demurs, arguing that “There is no evidence that any work of Plato had been translated into Syriac by the seventh century, nor does Syriac literature from the Sasanian Empire demonstrate any awareness of the Platonic corpus.”52 If one wishes to posit that the rabbis actually read Aramaic translations, one must show some evidence of it. With regard to the Apophthegmata Patrum, Becker writes, “The reception into Syriac of the originally Egyptian Sayings of the Desert Fathers is stunningly complicated; such works must be approached with caution if they are to be quoted in comparative works on rabbinic literature.”53

Ibid., 138–39. Adam H. Becker, “Positing a ‘Cultural Relationship’ between Plato and the Babylonian Talmud,” The Jewish Quarterly Review 10, no. 2 (2011), 260. 53 Adam H. Becker, “Polishing the Mirror: Some Thoughts on Syriac Sources and Early Judaism,” in Envisioning Judaism: Studies in Honor of Peter Schäfer Vol. 2, eds. Ra’anan S. Boustan, Klaus Herrmann, Reimund 51 52



Boyarin and especially Becker make a point of acknowledging that it isn’t just the language of the Christians in whose proximity the rabbis worked, but also their context. And it is this context which I believe helps explain how the ideology of the Egyptian monastic texts might have found its way into the Talmud. Becker writes: [I]n my own work on the Syriac Christian reception of Greek philosophical texts in late antique Mesopotamia I learned that sixth-century Syriac-speaking Christians in the Sasanian Empire received only specific Greek texts, apparently translated in the West, and these texts fulfilled specific intellectual needs. There was not a massive flood of Greek philosophical literature but a trickle of texts guided by the interests of translators in the West and the intellectual needs of the East Syrian scholastic culture.54

For Becker, it is the scholastic culture of the east Syrian schools that holds the keys to understanding the materials produced therein. He notes that the school of Nisibis “shares many aspects with contemporary monastic institutions.”55 Use of shared scholastic terminology between one of the most important texts for the study of the history of the school of Nisibis, The Cause of the Establishment of the Session of the Schools,56 and the Babylonian Talmud points to a shared universe of discourse surrounding the production and promulgation of religious ideas in the scholastic centers of these two minority religious communities in the late Sasanian empire. In the school of Nisibis, Antiochene Christian theology was combined with a healthy dose of Greek philosophy and other sources of knowledge. But more importantly, these textual traditions were harnessed to a regime of intense self-

Leicht, Annette Yoshiko Reed, and Giuseppe Veltri, with the collaboration of Alex Ramos (Tübingen, Mohr Siebeck, 2013), 901. 54 Ibid., 258. 55 Adam Becker, Fear of God and the Beginning of Wisdom: The School of Nisibis and the Development of Christian Scholastic Culture in Late Antique Mesopotamia (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2006), 78. 56 Addaï Scher (ed.), Mar Barhadsabba `Arbaya, Cause de la fondation des écoles, PO 18 (t. 4, fasc. 4), (Paris, 1908).



regulation, prayer, and study, which mimicked the mode of the early Syriac ascetic tradition.57 So in contradistinction to claims of direct influence on the Bavli and its story writers from Syriac translations of Greek monastic traditions from Egypt, I propose that we shift our gaze from individuals and books to the institutions, for such a focus on Syriac schools and rabbinic academies allows us to see a more subtle form of cultural translation. The remarkable feature that connects the two stories analyzed above is the degree to which each presents the academy as a compelling place of exile and refuge. Each sage, in the Babylonian version of the tale (though not in its Palestinian precursor), flees all but certain death to a fantastical facsimile of the Babylonian academy. There, that sage accomplishes two goals: He saves his physical body from the gentile empire that seeks his death, and he also trains his mind to overcome a specific rabbinic intellectual interlocutor as well. Thus, to ignore the scholastic setting of these stories about exile is to miss the most important details found in them. The authors of these stories about exile and banishment chose for their protagonists to be exiled to the academy, and thus they can teach us a great deal about what those institutions of learning meant for those who studied in and told stories about them. Many scholars have noticed the ways in which Babylonian rabbis differed from Palestinian rabbis in the Talmudic period. As Richard Kalmin writes: Talmudic sources depict Babylonian rabbis interacting with non-rabbis primarily in formal contexts. According to these sources, interaction between Babylonian rabbis and nonrabbis was governed by strict rules of behavior and elaborate hierarchical conventions, with rabbis tending to interact with non-rabbis as judges in the presence of litigants, lecturers in the presence of an audience, or teachers in the presence of students in formal academic settings. Palestinian rabbis, in contrast, interacted with non-rabbis in more informal contexts, greeting each other in chance encounters on the street or conversing at parties in each other’s homes. Richard E. Payne, A State of Mixture (Oakland: University of California Press, 2015), 96. 57


THE SCHOLASTIC CULTURE OF THE BABYLONIAN TALMUD According to sources preserved in both Talmuds, the social and physical boundaries separating Palestinian rabbis from the rest of Jewish society are substantially less imposing than those separating Babylonian rabbis from non-rabbis.58

Babylonian rabbis, unlike their Palestinian peers, sequestered themselves from the rest of the (Jewish) population. They retreated into scholastic centers of learning, where they busied themselves with the eternal, perfect world of the Torah. By the end of the rabbinic period, these institutions were massive centers of learning in which the Talmud as we know it came to be. This text became the main object of Jewish study until the emancipation and enlightenment. These scholars saw their institutions as places of exile—and exile which, like the Babylonian exile itself, was apart from and superior to the rest of the created universe.

Richard Kalmin, “The Formation and Character of the Babylonian Talmud,” in The Cambridge History of Judaism IV: The Late Roman– Rabbinic Period, ed. S. T. Katz (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006), 849–50.


CHAPTER TWO. THE ORIGINS OF REDACTION Much of this book focuses on the siyyuma, the scholastic setting in which traditional material was ordered and arranged into larger literary units towards the end of the Talmudic period. The redactional layer of the Talmud is replete with terminology which points directly to the siyyuma. But this scholastic activity does not appear ex nihilo; it has a history. It is the pre-history of the siyyuma to which we now turn in this chapter. Fear that oral material could be lost or improperly transmitted is surely as old as the transmission of rabbinic teaching itself. Attempts to recover “missing” information or the urtext of orally transmitted materials are to be found throughout the rabbinic corpus. So, for example, whereas the term “tistayem” and ensuing discussion is presented by the anonymous voice of the Talmud, reflecting something like the activity of the siyyuma, there are named Amoraim who lived long before such an institution likely existed and who are presented as using the same word, albeit in a somewhat different formulation. The phrase “tistayem shǝmata” occurs three times in the Babylonian Talmud,1 at Megilla 14b, Pessachim 88a, and Avodah Zara 16b. In each instance, the phrase appears in the context of I will argue below that the instance in b. Pessachim is likely dependent on Megilla, and thus it is not a separate case. I realize that three locations represents a very small number, especially if one of them is indeed derived from another. See below for the analysis of the term ‫שמעתא‬ (shǝmata), which sheds additional light on the way material was studied in the Amoraic period.





the successful recovery of a lost, damaged, or otherwise incomplete rabbinic teaching. In order to aid the reader’s understanding of the sections of these passages that contain the phrase “tistayem shǝmata,” I will attempt to explain the entirety of each passage. In two of these places, the phrase appears as coming from the mouth of R. Naḥman, a Babylonian sage who lived at the turn of the 4th century,2 as an introduction to a resolution of a challenge proposed by his contemporary, R. Eina Sabba.


The latter half of the first chapter of tractate Megilla amounts to an almost line-by-line Midrashic analysis of the biblical book of Esther.3 At 14a, the analysis of Esther 3:10 leads to a mention of the 48 Prophets of (biblical) Israel. The Talmud then treats each prophet in turn. With regard to Ḥuldah,4 the Talmud cites a dispute between R. Naḥman (or Rav,5 in some witnesses) and R. Eina Saba regarding her ancestry:

‫בבלי מגילה יד ע"ב‬ :‫אמר רב נחמן אמר רב‬ ‫חולדה מבני בניו של‬ 6 ‫ כתיב הכא‬.‫יהושע היתה‬

bMegilla 14b Rav Naḥman said in the name of Rav: Ḥuldah was among the descendants of Joshua. Here [i.e 2 Kings 22:14] it is

See Hyman, pp. 928–939. Eliezer Segal, The Babylonian Esther Midrash: A Critical Commentary Vols. 1–3 (Atlanta: Brown Judaic Studies, 1994). 4 See Rachel Elior, “Prophetesses in the Bible and Rabbinic Tradition: A Different Look” [in Hebrew], Yahadut Hofshit 25 (2002): 18–20. 5 See synopsis and the discussion below regarding the question of who the actual disputant is. 6 2 Kings 22:14: And Hilkiah the priest, and Ahikam, and ‫ ִחְלִק ָ֣יּהוּ ַ֠הֹכֵּהן ַוֲאִחיָ֨קם‬A‫ַו ֵ֣יֶּל‬ Achbor, and Shaphan, and Asaiah, went to ‫ְוַﬠְכֹ֜בּור ְוָשָׁ֣פן ַוֲﬠָשָׂ֗יה ֶאל־‬ Ḥuldahh the prophetess, the wife of Shallum ‫ֻחְלָ֨דּה ַהְנִּביָ֜אה ֵ֣אֶשׁת׀ ַשֻׁ֣לּם‬ ‫ֶבּן־ִתְּקָ֗וה ֶבּן־ַח ְרַח֙ס ֹשֵׁ֣מר‬ the son of Tikvah, the son of Ḥarḥas, keeper ‫ַהְבָּגִ֔דים ְו ִ֛היא ֹיֶ֥שֶׁבת‬ of the wardrobe; she lived in Jerusalem in the ‫ִבּירוָּשִַׁ֖לם ַבִּמְּשׁ ֶ֑נה ַֽו  ְיַדְבּ ֖רוּ‬ second quarter; and they talked with her. ‫ֵא ֶ ֽליָה׃‬ 2 3



‫ֶבּן־ַח ְרַח֙ס וכתיב‬ .‫ְבִּתְמַנת־ֶ֖ח ֶרס‬

written: son of Harhas. There, [in Judges 2:9] it is written: In Timnath-Ḥeres.

‫איתיביה רב עינא סבא לרב‬ ‫ שמונה נביאים והם‬:‫נחמן‬ ,‫כהנים יצאו מרחב הזונה‬ ,‫ ושריה‬,‫ ברוך‬,‫ נריה‬:‫ואלו הן‬ ,‫ חלקיה‬,‫ ירמיה‬,‫מחסיה‬ .‫ ושלום‬,‫חנמאל‬

R. ‘Ena Saba [cited the following baraita as an] objection to R. Naḥman: Eight prophet-priests were descended from Raḥab the sex-worker: Neriah, Baruch, and Serayah, Maḥseyah, Jeremiah, Ḥilkiah, Ḥanamel and Shallum.

‫ אף חולדה‬:‫רבי יהודה אומר‬ ‫הנביאה מבני בניה של רחב‬ .‫הזונה היתה‬ ‫ וכתיב‬8‫כתיב הכא ֶבּן־ִתְּקָ֗וה‬ !9‫התם ֶאת־ִתְּקַ֡ות חוּ֩ט ַהָשּׁ ִ֨ני‬

R. Judah says: Ḥuldah the prophetess was also one of the descendants of Raḥab the sex worker. [We know this] because here [2 Kings 22:14] it is written “the son of Tikvah” and there [Joshua 2:18] it is written “the line [tikvat] of scarlet thread”!

!‫ עינא סבא‬:‫אמר ליה‬ !10‫ פתיא אוכמא‬:‫ואמרי לה‬

He said to him: Ena Saba! Others say [He said]: You black bucket!, Between mine


‫ה תם‬

Judges 2:9: And they buried him in the border of his inheritance in Timnath-Ḥeres, in the Mount of Ephraim, on the north side of the hill Gaash. 7

2 Kings 22:14: And Hilkiah the priest, and Ahikam, and Achbor, and Shaphan, and Asaiah, went to Ḥuldah the prophetess, the wife of Shallum the son of Tikvah, the son of Harhas, keeper of the wardrobe; she lived in Jerusalem in the second quarter; and they talked with her.

‫ַו ִיְּקְבּ ֤רוּ ֹאוֹת ֙ו ִבְּג֣בוּל ַנֲחָלֹ֔תו‬ ‫ְבִּתְמַנת־ֶ֖חֶרס ְבַּ֣הר ֶאְפ ָ֑ר ִים‬ ‫ִמְצֹּ֖פון ְלַהר־ ָֽגַּﬠשׁ׃‬


Joshua 2:18: Behold, when we come to the land, you shall bind this line of scarlet thread in the window from which you let us down; and you shall bring your father, and your mother, and your brothers, and all your father’s household, home to you.

‫ ִחְלִק ָ֣יּהוּ ַ֠הֹכֵּהן ַוֲאִחיָ֨קם‬A‫ַו ֵ֣יֶּל‬ ‫ְוַﬠְכֹ֜בּור ְוָשָׁ֣פן ַוֲﬠָשָׂ֗יה ֶאל־ֻחְלָ֨דּה‬ ‫ַהְנִּביָ֜אה ֵ֣אֶשׁת׀ ַשֻׁ֣לּם ֶבּן־ִתְּקָ֗וה‬ ‫ֶבּן־ַח ְרַח֙ס ֹשֵׁ֣מר ַהְבָּגִ֔דים ְו ִ֛היא‬ ‫ֹיֶ֥שֶׁבת ִבּירוָּשִַׁ֖לם ַבִּמְּשׁ ֶ֑נה‬ ‫ַֽו  ְיַדְבּ ֖רוּ ֵא ֶ ֽליָה׃‬



See note 27 below.

‫ִה ֵ֛נּה ֲא ַ֥נְחנוּ ָב ִ֖אים ָבָּ֑אֶרץ ֶאת־‬ ‫ִתְּקַ֡ות חוּ֩ט ַהָשִּׁ֨ני ַהֶ֜זּה ִתְּקְשׁ ִ֗רי‬ ‫ו ֙ן ֲאֶ֣שׁר ֹהוַרְדֵ֣תּנוּ ֹ֔בו ְוֶאת־‬i‫ַ ֽבַּח‬ ‫ ְוֵא֙ת‬A‫ ְוֶאת־ַאַ֗ח ִי‬A‫ ְוֶאת־ִאֵ֜מּ‬A‫ָאִ֨בי‬ A‫ ַתַּאְס ִ֥פי ֵאַ֖ל ִי‬A‫ָכּל־ֵ֣בּית ָאִ֔בי‬ ‫ַה ָ ֽבּ ְיָתה׃‬





‫מיני‬ ;‫שמעתא‬

.‫דאיגיירא ונסבה יהושע‬

and yours, the tradition may be formulated! [The answer is that both must be correct:] She converted [to Judaism] and Joshua married her.

Each disputant possesses a tradition about the ancestry of Ḥuldah, encoded in the particular form of a gezera shava Midrash, in which a common word in two biblical passages links the two passages and enables information from one location to influence the reading of the other.11 The first of these is articulated by Rav Naḥman in the name of his teacher Rav,12 the famous disciple of Rabbi Judah the prince (and teacher of Rav Kahana) who brought the Mishnah and its study from the Land of Israel to Babylonia in the third century C.E.13 Given this fact, the Midrash, which unfortunately appears nowhere else in rabbinic literature,14 should be associated with Rav. This Midrash, as Rashi notes,15 is forced, for “the son of Harhas” in the “near” verse refers to Ḥuldah’s husband Shallum

On the Gezeira Shava form, see Michael Chernick, Hermeneutical Studies: Gezerah Shavah [in Hebrew], (Lod: Haberman Institute, 1994). 12 While the printed texts lack the attribution to Rav, all the manuscripts contain it: 11

‫ אמר רב נחמן חולדה מבני בניו של יהושע היתה‬Vilna ‫ א' רב נחמן חולדה מבני בניו של יהושע היתה‬Pesaro (1516) ‫ אמ' רב נחמן אמ' רב חולדה מבני בניו של יהושע הייתה‬Munich 95 ‫ אמ' רב נחמן אמ' רב חלדה ]הנביאה[ מבני בניו של יהושע היתה‬Munich 140 ‫ אמ' רב נחמן אמ' רב חולדה הנביאה מבני בניו של יהושע בן נון היתה‬Goettingen 3 ‫ אמ' רב נחמן אמ' רב חולדה מבני בניו של יהושע היתה‬BL Harl. 5508 ‫ א' רב נחמן א' רב חולדה מבני בניו של יהוש' בת‬Vatican 134 ‫ אמ' רב נחמן אמ' רב חולדה הנביאה מבני בניו של יהושע הוה‬Oxford ‫ אמ' רב נחמן אמ' רב חולדה מבני בניו שליהושע בן נון היתה‬Columbia X 893 ‫ אמ' רב נחמן אמר רב חולדה מבני בני' שליהושוע היתה‬Paris, AIU III.A.46

See Jacob Neusner, A History of the Jews in Babylonia (Leiden: Brill, 1970), 149. This is not to say that there was some “Tannaitic” activity in Babylonia. See Barak S. Cohen, “In Quest of Babylonian Tannaitic Traditions II: The Case of Avuah de-Shmuel,” JJS 66, no. 1 (2015): 59–78. 14 Compare bBB 122b. 15 S.v. ‫בן חרחס‬ 13



and not to the prophetess herself. The name “Harhas,” which appears nowhere else in the Bible, is here defined Midrashically as it is etymologically, in connection with the root ḥ.r.s, meaning “clay” or “ceramic.”16 The Talmud then presents a contrasting opinion, as another sage cites a well-attested baraita, which shows a very different lineage for Ḥuldah. There is some confusion as to who is speaking to whom, as six of the eight extant witnesses add some version of “and [others] say [the tradition],”17 which indicates that the Talmud has multiple versions of the “text” of the interchange. Strangely, in all but one witness, Eina Sabba’s name (or something like it) is repeated. MS Vatican 134, however, reads “R. Ukva.” Lest one be tempted to think this is the original, no one of that name appears elsewhere in rabbinic literature. However, in the manuscript found in the British National Library, the second name is “Yayva Saba,” who does appear elsewhere in

16 BDB, 354, 584. From the printed texts, it is clear that the verse cited is Judges 2:9, which indeed has the text as ‫ְבִּתְמַנת־ֶ֖חֶרס‬. The manuscripts, on the other hand, make a point of acknowledging the sister verse in Joshua 24:30. This is a direct parallel to the treatment of these verses in bBB 122b. MS Munich 140 includes an explanation for the reversal of ‫ חרס‬and ‫סרח‬. See synopsis. 17 A full synopsis:

‫ א ותיביה רב עינא סבא לרב נחמן ואמרי לה רב ע?נא סבא לרב נחמן‬Columbia ‫ אותיביה רב עינא סבא לרב נחמן ואמרי לה רב עניא לרב נחמן‬Paris (Geniza) ‫ איתיביה רב עינא סבא לרב נחמן‬Oxford ‫ איתיבי' רב עוקבא סבא לרב נחמן וא מרי לה רב עינא סבא לרב‬Vatican 134 ‫ איתיביה רב עינא סבא לרב נחמן ואמרי לה רב ייבא סבא לרב‬BL ‫ איתיביה רב עינא סבא לרב נחמן ואמרי לה רב עניא סבא לרב‬Goettingen ‫ איתיביה רב עינא סבא לרב נחמן ואמרי ליה רב עינא לרב נחמן‬Munich 140 ‫ איתיביה רב עינא סבא לרב נחמן‬Munich 95 ‫ איתיביה רב עינא סבא לרב נחמן‬Pesaro ‫ איתיביה רב עינא סבא לרב נחמן‬Vilna

With regard to the meaning of the term ‫ אמרי‬and its variants in the Bavli, see Abraham Weiss, The Babylonian Talmud as a Literary Unit [in Hebrew], (New York: Alexander Kohut Memorial Foundation, 1943), 235–6.



the Bavli and is associated with Rav’s students.18 In addition, it is possible that the confusion stems from a lack of knowledge about the author of the first opinion. In MS Vatican 134, one version depicts Rav Eina Saba speaking to Rav Naḥman, and the other understands this interchange to have been between Rav Eina Saba and Rav himself. However, every other witness that has the “and [others] say [the tradition]” section—including MS Goettingen, (a thirteenth-century Spanish Manuscript), MS Columbia, (a sixteenth-century Yeminite manuscript) and Geniza fragment Paris AIU III.A.46, which are all thought to preserve the best readings of the tractate19—read “R. Nahman” twice. What that textual tradition reveals, however, is a discrepancy in the name of R. Nahman’s interlocutor. They first record R. Eina Saba and later R. Anya Saba (“Poor old man”).20 The precise placement of the smallest letter of the Hebrew alphabet makes a big difference in meaning. In this reading, the uncertainty revolves around whether or not the person in question here is Rav Eina Saba21 or an unidentified poor old man who also has the honorific title “Rav.” Irrespective of his identity, Rav/Rav Nahman is trying to insult him. The alternate Midrash, unlike the one cited by Rav, appears almost verbatim in the collections associated with the respective schools of Yishmael and Akivah to Numbers:22 Sifrei and Sifrei

18 See bPesaḥim 103b. At bBK 49b he asks ‫ רב נחמן‬a question. (See Hyman 532–3.). Perhaps this is the original, which explains the ‫אמר ליה עינא סבא‬ ‫ ואמרי לה פתיא אוכמא‬later on. 19 Eliezer Segal, “The Textual History of MS Columbia to Tractate Megilla,” Tarbiz 53 (1983): 41–70. 20 MS Columbia X 893 T 141 is actually not quite clear here:

See Hyman, 936. David Z. Hoffman, Zur Einleitung in die halachischen Midraschim, (Berlin: 1886). 21 22



Zuta.23 This baraita features yet another forced gezera shava,24 here focused on the name of Ḥuldah’s father in-law, whose name is linked to the scarlet thread left in Raḥab’s window in Joshua 2:18 by means of the presence of the word tikva. Whereas the first Tana includes only eight prophets, Rabbi Yehudah (or “those who say” in Sifrei Zuta) adds Ḥulda’s name and the gezera shava, which demonstrates that she too is descended from Raḥab. This presents a conundrum: How can Ḥulda be descended from both Joshua and Raḥab? Rav Naḥman of course had the option of rejecting this opinion in favor of the opinion of the first Tana. Yet he prefers to deflect Rav Eina Saba’s challenge, not through defense but through harmonization, proffering that Ḥulda is a descendant of both Joshua and Raḥab, who, we must assume, converted to Judaism somewhere along the way.25 23

‫בבלי מגילה יד ע"ב‬ ‫איתיביה רב עינא סבא לרב‬ :‫נחמן‬

‫ספרי במדבר פיסקא עח‬ ('‫)הורוביץ‬

‫שמונה כהנים ושמונה נביאים שמונה נביאים והם כהנים‬ :‫ ואלו הן‬,‫יצאו מרחב הזונה‬ ‫עמדו מרחב הזונה ואלו הם‬ ,‫ מחסיה‬,‫ ושריה‬,‫ ברוך‬,‫ירמיהו חלקיהו ושריה ומחסיה נריה‬ ,‫ חנמאל‬,‫ חלקיה‬,‫ירמיה‬ ‫וברוך ונריה וחנמאל ושלום‬ .‫ושלום‬ :‫רבי יהודה אומר‬

‫רבי יהודה אומר‬

‫ספרי זוטא פיסקא י‬ ('‫)הורוביץ‬ ‫ר' שמעון אומר לפי שהיום הזה‬ ‫רודה ברקיע כך יהא זרעך קיים‬ ‫לפני לעולם שעמדו ממנו‬ ‫שמונה נביאים וכולהם כהנים‬ ‫ואלו הן ירמיה וחלקיהו שרייה‬ ‫מחסייה ברוך בן נריה חנמאל‬ ‫שלום‬ ‫ויש אומרין אף יחזקאל ובוזי‬

‫ואף חולדה הנביאה מבני בניה אף חולדה הנביאה היתה מבני אף חולדה הנביאה מבני בניה‬ .‫של רחב הזונה היתה‬ ‫בניה של רחב הזונה‬ ‫היתה‬ ‫כתיב הכא‬ ‫כתיב הכא‬ ‫שנאמ' וילך חלקיהו הכהן‬ ‫ואחיקם ועכבור ושפן ועשיה‬ ‫אל חלדה הנביאה אשת שלם בן תקוה‬ ‫אשת שלום בן תקוה‬ ‫וכתיב התם את תקות חוט‬ ‫וכתיב התם את תקות חוט השני בן תקוה‬ !‫ואומר הנה אנחנו באים בארץ השני‬ ‫תקשרי בחלון‬ ‫את תקות חוט השני הזה‬ ‫תקשרי‬ See Rashi s.v. ‫בן חרחס‬. With regard to the problem of marrying a Canaanite woman, see Lewin, Otzar Hageonim to Megilla, 17–19. This Geonic responsum,

24 25



All the witnesses preserve two versions of Rav Naḥman’s retort.26 The first is either the simple ejaculation of the colleague’s name or a pun on that name. In the European manuscript tradition, the reading is, “He said to him, ‘Eina Saba!’” The Spanish/Yemenite/Geniza tradition records this, as above, as Anya Saba, that is, “poor old man.” The solution to the textual uncertainty here is actually quite simple, requiring only minor emendation. The identity of Rav Naḥman’s interlocutor is indeed Rav Eina Saba. Rav Naḥman insults him by making a clever pun on his name, calling him Anya Saba, “poor old man.” He is “poor” because he lacks Rav Naḥman’s own Midrash on the lineage of Ḥulda, and is thus less able than Rav Naḥman to arrive at the “truth” of the matter. Perhaps the pun works better as an oral one than a written one. When this text reached written form, movement of the smallest letter one space towards the end of the word seemed to cause great trouble for the scribes who wrote and copied this passage, leading to the confusion at both the beginning of the story and at Rav Naḥman’s rejoinder. The second retort is much more consistent across the witnesses. In every version Rav Naḥman calls Rav Eina Saba (or the old man), “black bucket,”27 undoubtedly an insult,28 in much

essentially a missing piece of the Halachot Pesukot, was published in its entirely by Y. N. Epstein in “Two Geonic Fragments,” J.Q.R New Series 4, no. 3 (1914): 419–42. These solutions to the problem are treated by Tosafot ad loc. s.v. ‫דאיגייריה‬. 26 Rashi seems not to have had the second retort. 27 Michael Sokoloff, A Dictionary of Jewish Babylonian Aramaic of the Talmudic and Geonic Periods (Ramat Gan: Bar Ilan, 2002), 88 (s.v. ‫)אוכם‬, 947 (s.v. ‫)פתי‬. 28 George, Bishop of the Arab Tribes, uses the Syriac cognate '%&%$ (Patya) to mean “simple-minded nonsense” or, perhaps, “extensive stupidity.” See V. Ryssel, “Die Astronomischen Briefe Georgs des Araberbischofs,” in Zeitschrift für Assyriologie und verwandte Gebiete 8 (1893), 27l. 4. See also Teshuvot Hageonim (Harkavy), 23. See also Kohut, Aruch Completum, 464. This is in contrast to the “traditional” Jewish commentary literature. Rashi (to AZ 16b) assumes that it refers to the stained clothing of a Talmud scholar too immersed in his studies to wash his clothing. The only time this phrase appears in a context other than the ‫ תסתיים שמעתא‬one is Berakhot 50a: ‫רפרם בר פפא איקלע לבי כנישתא דאבי גיבר‬,



the same way “poor old man” is. While the arguments for29 and against30 rabbinic “racism” towards sub-Saharan Africans of dark complexion have been offered in recent years, there can be no dispute that “blackness” is often used insultingly in rabbinic texts. As David Goldenberg writes: [A] number of rabbinic texts disapprovingly describe a man’s complexion that is too dark... Another expression encountered a few times in the Babylonian Talmud and apparently used in mild derision to describe someone short and dark is “black bucket” (patya ukhma). This expression is used by one Rabbi (amora) to deride another Rabbi. Elsewhere, the amora Samuel is described in insulting terms: “fat, black, and toothy.” It is clear that in rabbinic circles, whether in the Land of Israel or in Babylonia, a dark complexion was not preferred. Just as in

‫ברכו את ה‬: ‫אוושו כולי עלמא‬. ‫'ואשתיק ולא אמר המבורך‬, ‫ברכו את ה‬: ‫'קם קרא בספרא ואמר‬ ‫הא נהוג עלמא כרבי ישמעאל‬: ‫בהדי פלוגתא למה לך !ועוד‬, ‫פתיא אוכמא‬: ‫המבורך !אמר רבא‬. Rav Natronai Gaon (responsum ‫ שעז‬Brody): ‫ כי דאמרינן במומין אילו )בכורות מה ע"ב( שחור אל ישא שחורה מפני‬,‫ טפיח‬:‫פתיא אוכמא‬ ,‫ ויש לו שם אחיר }לפתיא‬.‫ שהיה קצר ושחור‬,‫ ומאי קרי לה פתיא אוכמא‬,‫שיוצא מיהן טפיח‬ .‫ דתנן אבן שבקרויה‬,‫{ קרויה‬,‫ומאי ניהו‬ Aruch (s.v. ‫ )פתיא‬claims that this means “dark and ugly.” Yet ‫ א"מהרש‬claims that this is a compliment, citing Nedarim 50b (also appears at Ta’anit 7a): ‫אמרה ליה ברתיה דקיסר לרבי יהושע בן חנניה‬: ‫חכמה מפוארה בכלי מכוער‬ 29 See, for example, Abraham Melamed, The Image of the Black in Jewish Culture: A History of the Other (London: Routledge, 2003). Though not strictly about rabbinic literature, Jonathan Schorsch reads racism in a number of rabbinic sources in Jews and Blacks in the Early Modern World (New York: Cambridge, 2004). For a treatment of racism in early Christianity, see Gay L. Byron, Symbolic Blackness and Ethnic Difference in Early Christian Literature (New York: Routledge, 2002). For general approaches to racism in antiquity, see Frank Snowden, Blacks in Antiquity: Ethiopians in the Greco-Roman Experience (Cambridge, MA: Harvard, 1970) and Lloyd Thompson, Romans and Blacks (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1989). 30 David M. Goldenberg, “Racism, Color Symbolism, and Color Prejudice,” in The Origins of Racism in the West, eds. Miriam Eliav-Feldon, Benjamin Isaac, and Joseph Ziegler (Cambridge UK, 2009), 88–108; and idem, “The Curse of Ham: A Case of Rabbinic Racism?” in Struggles in the Promised Land, eds. Jack Salzman and Cornel West (New York/Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997), 21–51. “Blackness” can also be a sign of hunger; see bKettubot 10b.


THE SCHOLASTIC CULTURE OF THE BABYLONIAN TALMUD Greece and Rome, so too in Jewish Palestine the flip side of the somatic norm image was a dislike for a noticeably darker or lighter complexion.31

But if blackness is a general insult, calling Rav Eina Saba a black bucket is a jab appropriate to this situation: like a bucket, he might be seen as (at least partially) empty, unaware of Rav Nahman’s Midrash which describes Huldah’s descent from Joshua. At this point, Rav Naḥman adds the crucial line, “Mini uminach tistayem shǝmata,” which translates literally as “Between mine and yours, the tradition may be formulated.” Rav Naḥman is about to harmonize the two Midrashim described above, arguing that Ḥulda is a descendant of both Joshua and Raḥab and not merely one or the other. The occasion of apparent contradiction has allowed a fuller understanding of the matter.32 And thus we see quite clearly what tistayem means in Rav Naḥman’s time; from now on, whenever Ḥulda’s lineage is discussed and these two Midrashim are recited and analyzed, they must be recited and analyzed together and in light of one another in a single unified tradition.33


A very close parallel to this sugya appears at Pessachim 88a. Obviously, the precise legal discussion here is a different one, but the descriptions of the interchange and the language used are strikingly similar:

‫בבלי פסחים פח ע"א‬ ‫רמי ליה רב עינא סבא‬ :‫לרב נחמן‬

bPessachim 88a R. Eina Saba juxtaposed two Tannaitic positions for R. Naḥman:

David M. Goldenberg, The Curse of Ham: Race and Slavery in Early Judaism, Christianity, and Islam (Princeton, NJ: Princeton, 2005), 97. 32 For the parallel phenomenon of the resolution of apparent contradictions as a driving force in the codification of the Yerushalmi, see Catherine Hezser, “The Codification of Legal Knowledge in Late Antiquity: The Talmud Yerushalmi and Roman Law Codes” in Schaefer, The Talmud Yerushalmi and Graeco-Roman Culture. Vol. 1. (Tuebingen: Mohr-Siebeck, 1998), 615–29. 33 Unless, of course, whoever analyzes them disagrees with Rav Naḥman. 31

CHAPTER TWO. THE ORIGINS OF REDACTION ‫תנן עבד של שני שותפין לא‬ ‫יאכל משל שניהן‬ ‫ רצה מזה אוכל רצה‬:‫והתניא‬ !‫מזה אוכל‬ ,‫ עינא סבא‬:‫אמר ליה‬ ,‫ פתיא אוכמא‬:‫ואמרי לה‬ ‫מיני ומינך תסתיים‬ .‫שמעתתא‬ ,‫מתניתין בדקפדי אהדדי‬ .‫ברייתא דלא קפדי אהדדי‬


A slave belonging to two partners may eat of neither; But it was taught: If he wishes, he can eat of this one’s [and] if he wishes, he can eat of that one’s! He said to him: Eina Saba, others say: You black bucket! Between mine and yours, the tradition may be formulated. The Mishnah refers to a case in which they are particular with regard to each other; whereas the Baraitha refers to a case in which they are not particular with each other.

These two sugyot are clearly related linguistically, sharing not only the same main characters and general structure,34 but also the “Black Bucket” insult/compliment, which, in each case, is only prefaced by the phrase “and some say,” as if to state that the story in its final form is unclear whether or not this phrase belongs. In this case, R. Eina Saba presents an apparent contradiction between two Tannaitic sources regarding a jointly held enslaved person’s ability to eat some of the Paschal lamb of both his masters on Passover. Whereas the Mishnah35 asserts that such a slave may eat from the Paschal lamb of neither master,36 a

Rav Eina Saba appears only in these two sugyot. See Hyman, 981, who connects him to ‫ רב עינא‬one of the ‫ סבי דפומבדיתא‬at bSanhedrin 17b. This link is furthered by the appearance of ‫ רב עינא סבה‬in the Geniza fragment of bRH 27a, a sugya in which all the other witnesses depict ‫רב עינא‬: 34

‫ מתיב רב עיינא שווה יובל לראש השנה לתקיעה ולברכות‬BL Harl. 5508 ‫ מיתיב רב עינא שוה היובל לרא ש השנה לתרועה ולברכות‬Munich 140 ‫ מתיב רב הונא שי וה יובל לרא ש השנה לתקיעה ולברכ] ו[ת‬Munich 95 ‫ מתיב רב עינא שיוה היובל לרא ש השנה לתקיעה ולברכות‬JTS Rab. 1608 ‫ מתיב רב עיונא שווה היובל לראש השנה לתקיעה ולברכות‬Oxford ‫ מתיב רב עינא שוה יובל לרא ש השנה לתקיעה ולברכות‬Pesaro ‫ מתיב רב עינא שוה יובל לראש השנה לתקיעה ולברכות‬Vilna ‫< היובל לראש השנה לתקיעה ולברכות‬..>‫ מותיב רב עינא סבא ש‬T-S F2 (2) 62

Pessachim 8:1. The somewhat ambiguous language of “‫ ”לא יאכל משל שניהן‬seems to mean neither, rather than both. See Rashi to bPessachim 87a s.v. ‫לא יאכל משל‬ ‫שניהן‬. 35 36



baraita states precisely the opposite, insisting that the enslaved person may eat from either lamb.37 R. Naḥman resolves the contradiction by assigning each position to a different case: When the two masters are “particular with regard to each other,” that is, neither wishes to benefit monetarily from the other, the Mishnah’s opinion is accepted and the enslaved person may eat from neither Paschal offering. However, if the two owners are more relaxed with regard to benefiting from one another, the opinion of the baraita applies, and the enslaved may eat from either Passover.38 The insult here is identical to that which we saw above in Megilla. Thus, the texts should be read in the same way: R. Naḥman first makes a pun on his interlocutor’s name, calling Eina Saba “poor old man,” with an alternate report of calling him a “black bucket.” Yet here he is “poor” or “empty” not because of his lack of a tradition, but rather because of his lack of skill at harmonization, making this a substantively different kind of insult. Is one of these texts dependent on the other, or does each represent a unique tradition? My inclination is that these two stories do not reflect two distinct traditions that happen to contain the same strange locutions. Rather, given the similarity in the dramatis personæ, the language between these two cases, and the fact that the dialogue fits the context significantly better in one of the sections, it is more likely than not that the material was transferred from one location to the other.39 The material was taken from Megillah to Pessachim, and not the other way around because the insults fit much less well in Pessachim than in Megilla. The phrase as used by Rav Naḥman seems quite clear— he welcomes challenges, for they provide an opportunity to resolve contradictions and allow the tradition to be elucidated. Rashi’s translation of the phrase at Megilla 14b is quite apt— “That is to say, on the basis of mine and yours, the truth of the This opinion is the same one reflected by tPessachim 7:5; see Lieberman Tosefta Kifshuta, 603. With slight emendation, the opinion of ‫יוסה‬. ‫ ר‬in yPessachim 8:1 (35d) reflects the same opinion. 38 Following Rashi s.v. ‫בדקפדי אהדדי‬. 39 See Israel Francus, “Establishing the Original Location of Doubled Sugyot” [in Hebrew], Tarbiz 38, no. 4 (1970): 338–353. 37



matter shall be made clear; both, in fact, are correct.” But this explanation works only if R. Naḥman is chastising his opponent for not knowing a piece of information.40 In Pessachim, R. Eina Saba knows full well what the tradition has to say about the case, and simply lacks Rav Naḥman’s harmonization skills. A later editor, struck by the similarity in structure and cast in these two units and perhaps also by the general paucity of information about Rav Eina Saba, chose to transfer the extended dialogue from one location to the other. In doing so, however, he betrayed an insensitivity to the subtlety of meaning behind the phrase mini uminach tistayem shǝmata when he applied it to a situation in which no shǝmata was being formulated.


The final location that contains the phrase is AZ 16b, in which we see that the usage is much closer to that of Megilla, for though the named Amoraim are different, and the usage also seems slightly different at first,41 it quickly becomes clear that the phrase again hints at the promulgation of a precise formulation of a memorized tradition:

‫בבלי ע"ז טז ע"ב‬ (JTS Rab 15 ‫)כ"י‬ ‫אמ' ר' זירא כי הוינן בי רב‬ ‫יהודה אמ' גמ]ו[ר מנאי האי‬ ‫מילתא דמגברא רבא שמיע‬ ‫לי ולא ידענא אי מרב אי‬ 42

Bavli Avodah Zara 16b R. Zera said: When we were in R. Yehudah’s disciple circle, he said to us: Learn the matter from me, which I have from a great man though I don’t know whether it was Rav or from

Indeed, this is the way the phrase is used in the final instance, at AZ 16b. See below. 41 Rashi, for example, explains the phrase quite differently: ‫רש"י מגילה יד ע"ב‬ ‫רש"י ע"ז טז ע"ב‬ ‫ תיאמר שמועה בשם אומרה אמר ליה עינא סבא מיני ומינך תסתיים‬- ‫תסתיים שמעתא‬ ‫ על ידי ועל ידך תתפרש‬,‫ כלומר‬- ‫דהכי הוה דרב חמא בר גוריא קיבלה מרב ורבה שמעתא‬ .‫ הא והא הואי‬,‫אמיתו של דבר‬ .‫קיבלה מרב חמא‬ 40

I break with my normal convention of providing the text from the Romm (e.g., Vilna) edition, for the simple reason of the quality, antiquity, and provenance (e.g., Spanish) of MS JTS Rab 15. See the 42



‫ חיה גסה הרי היא‬:‫משמואל‬ ‫כבהמה דקה לפרכוס‬

Samuel: Big cattle are like small cattle with regard to “struggling.”

‫כי אתאי לאקרוקניא‬ ‫אשכחתיה לרב חייא בר אשי‬ ‫דיתיב וקאמ' ]אמ' רב חמא‬ ‫ משמא דשמואל‬43 [‫בר גוריא‬ '‫חיה גסה הרי היא כבהמ‬ '‫דקה לפרכוס אמ]י[נא שמ‬ '‫מי' ]דשמואל איתמ‬

When I came to Korkunia44 I found R. Hiyya b. Ashi sitting and saying in the name of Samuel: Big cattle are like small cattle with regard to “struggling.” I said: That means then that this has been stated in the name of Samuel.

'‫ לסורא אשכחת‬45 ‫כי אתאי‬ '‫לרבה בר ירמיה דיתיב וקאמ‬ ‫אמ' רב חמא בר גוריא‬ ‫משממא דרב חיה גסה הרי‬ ‫היא כבהמה דקה לפירכוס‬ ‫אמינא[ איתמר משמיה דרב‬ ‫ואיתמר משמיה דשמואל‬

‫כי סליק להתם אשכחתיה‬ '‫לרב אסי דיתיב וקאמ' אמ‬ ‫רב חמא בר גוריא אמ' רב‬ ‫חיה גסה הרי היא כבהמה‬ ‫דקה לפרכוס‬ ‫אמרי ליה לא סבר לה מר‬ ‫מרא דשמעתא רבה בר‬ ‫ירמיה אמ' רב הוא‬

But when I came to Sura I found Rabbah b. Yirmiah who was sitting and saying in the name of Rav: Big cattle are like small cattle with regard to “struggling.” So I said: That means that this has been stated in the name of Rav as well as in the name of Samuel! When I went up [to Palestine], I found R. Assi sitting and saying: R. Hama b. Guriya said in the name of Rav: Big cattle are like small cattle with regard to “struggling.” I said to him: Do you not hold, then, that the one who reported this teaching in the name of Rav is Rabbah b. Jeremiah?

introduction to the photo edition by Shraga Abramson and Aleksander Marks, Tractate ‘Avodah Zarah of the Babylonian Talmud, MS. [in Hebrew], (New York: Jewish Theological Seminary of America, 1957). See also Shamma Yehudah Friedman, “Avodah Zara, Cod. JTS: A Manuscript Copied in Two Stages,” [in Hebrew], Leshonenu 56 (1992): 371–74. 43 This marginal note must be an error, for with it, the sugyah makes no sense. 44 This is Kainah, Kohut, Aruch Completum, 215. 45 I have filled in the lacunae here based on MS Paris 1337.

CHAPTER TWO. THE ORIGINS OF REDACTION ‫אמ' לי חמיתיה ]פתיא‬ ‫ מיני ומינך‬46 [‫אוכמא‬ ‫תסתיים שמעתא‬ '‫איתמר נמי אמ' ר' זירא אמ‬ ‫רבה בר ירמיה )אמ' רב אסי‬ ‫]ורב[( אמ' רב חמא בר‬ ‫גוריא אמ' רב חיה גסה הרי‬ .‫]היא[ כבהמה דקה לפרכוס‬


He said to me: (I saw him)47 [You black bucket!], between mine and yours, the tradition may be formulated! It has indeed been stated: R. Zera said in the name of R. Assi, in the name of Rabbah b. Jeremiah, in the name of R. Hama b. Guriya, in the name of Rab: Big cattle are like small cattle with regard to “struggling.”

Rabbi Zeira reports that while his teacher, Rav Yehudah—himself a student of the two great teachers of the previous generation, Rav and Shǝmuel48—knew that the law regarding “struggling”49 applies to large and small animals alike, he did not remember from which of his teachers he heard the tradition. When he visited what may have been Cappadocia50 or possibly Circesium,51 presumably on his way from Pumbedita to Palestine, he found Rav Ḥiyya Bar Ashi reporting this rule in the name of Shǝmuel. Yet when he went to Sura, he found that the same tradition was attributed to Raba Bar Yirmiyah in the name of Rav! In the land of Israel, however, he heard the tradition as reported in the name of Rav, not in the name of Raba Bar Yirmiyah, but rather in the The phrase is lacking in the body of the text in both this witness and in MS Paris 1337, another Spanish manuscript, yet both witnesses preserve the phrase in parenthetical notes. However, the Pesaro print of 1511 has it. 47 Both MS Paris 1337 and JTS Rab 15 read, “‫חמיתיה‬,” (“I saw him”), here, both of which are replaced with the more familiar “‫“( ”תיא אוכמא‬black bucket” here). The scribes who delete this word do so for good reasons since, as it is written, the section makes no sense. 48 This is Rav Yehudah bar Yehezkel. See Hyman, 543. 49 An animal with a dangerous condition must show signs of struggling after slaughter to ensure that death was caused by butchering and not by that pre-existing condition. See bḤullin 37a. 50 Professor Seth Schwartz read this as the most likely location (private conversation, March 2, 2014). 51 Circesium, the modern city of Buseira, is now in the region of Deir ezZor in Syria, sitting where the Khabur River meets the Euphrates. See Raymond Janin, sv. Circesium, in Dictionnaire d’Histoire et de Géographie Ecclésiastiques, vol. XII, (Paris, 1953), 836–837. 46



name of Ḥama Bar Guriya. Rabbi Zeira asks Rav Asi if he has not heard this tradition of Rav in the name of Raba Bar Yirmiyah instead. The latter responds, “mini uminach tistayem shǝmata” here, signaling that the proper chain of tradition is better established now that Rav Asi has the information brought by R. Zeira.52 Here, the use of the phrase is much closer to the way it is used in Megilla than it is in Pessachim. Shǝmata (“tradition”) does not yet mean “sugyah,” in the sense of a redacted literary unit, but should be taken literally as the Aramaic equivalent of shǝmuah,53 a “heard thing” that is a “tradition.” A particularly good proof for this is found at bEruvin 22a:

‫אמר רבי יצחק בר יוסף‬ ‫ ארץ‬:‫אמר רבי יוחנן‬ ‫ישראל אין חייבין עליה‬ ‫ יתיב‬.‫משום רשות הרבים‬ ‫רב דימי וקאמר לה להא‬ .‫שמעתא‬

R. Yitzhak b. Yoseph stated in the name of R. Johanan: In the Land of Israel no guilt is incurred on account of [moving objects in] a public domain. R. Dimi was sitting and recited this tradition.

The shǝmata that R. Dimi recites is nothing more than the simple statement of R. Johanan as transmitted by R. Yitzhak b. Yoseph. The search for missing information carried out by the rabbis of the mid-fourth century in Babylonia becomes the topic of a literary unit, which later generations called a sugya or shǝmata. In the time of the Amoraim, however, shǝmata simply means a concise, easily memorizable legal statement. This statement was taught to a Tanna, an individual who, though not a sage himself, specialized in the memorization and transmission of these oral traditions.54

Rashi (s.v. ‫ )תסתיים שמעתא‬asserts that the correct chain is thus Rav> Rav Ḥama Bar Gurya> Raba Bar Yirmiyah. Rab"d (s.v. ‫)מיני ומינך תסתיים שמעתתא‬ gives the same explanation, but couches it in terms of a mere possibility, as if Rav Asi remains unsure. 53 DJBA: 1161, Jastrow: 1600. 54 Yaakov Sussman, “Manuscripts and the Textual Transmission of the Mishnah,” Proceedings of the Seventh World Congress of Jewish Studies: Studies in the Talmud, Halacha and Midrash (Jerusalem: 1981), 238–9n92. Epstein, Introduction to the Text of the Mishnah, 673–688. 52



Both Rabbi Zeira and Rav Asi are primarily interested in the correct chain of tradition. The text concludes with a clause (introduced by the term itmar nami) that distills the various memorized units collected by R. Zeira in several locations to which he traveled into short, easily memorizable forms. This demonstrates a particularly fine proof of David Weiss Halivni’s theory of two parallel modes of transmission:55 one by official memorizers who transmitted the short formulaic halachic opinions of the Amoraim, and the other a less formal amassing of stories, sayings, and other content. The itmar nami clause represents the former—a statement formed, or published, as it were, based on the longer narrative unit brought in the name of R. Zeira. The itmar nami clause is the shǝmata—the distilled, authentic recovered record of a halachic opinion about which there was once a multiplicity of conflicting formulations. This is indeed Halivni’s understanding of the famous text at Eruvin 32b, in which Rav Naḥman, having quoted a halachic point in the name of Shǝmuel, is asked by his colleagues, “Have you fixed [the tradition] in the gemara?” He responds in the affirmative, and the Talmud continues with an itmar nami section comprised of an “apodictic,” to borrow Halivni’s term, statement of Rav Naḥman in the name of Shǝmuel.56 Rav Sherira Gaon, who understood the “gemara” of Eruvin 32b as referring explicitly to a kind of redacted and memorized Talmud,57 likely had AZ 16b in mind when replying to an

See (most recently) his introduction to Mekorot u’Mesorot to Sanhedrin (Jerusalem: Magnes, 2012), 7. 56 See Mekorot U’Mesorot to Eruvin (Jerusalem: JTS, 1982), 91–5. Compare Hanoch Albeck, Introduction to the Talmuds [in Hebrew], (Jerusalem: Devir, 1969), 576–7; Avraham Weiss, The Talmud in its Development, (Feldheim: New York, 1954), 66–9; and Julius Kaplan, The Redaction of the Talmud, 196. See also David Kraemer, “On the Reliability of Attributions in the Babylonian Talmud,” HUCA 60 (1988): 188–9, and Avraham Weiss, The Talmud in its Development, 402–7. 57 Letter of Rav Sherira Gaon, Lewin edition, 63. 55



anonymous question about the meaning of the phrase itmar in the Talmud. He writes58: Question: What is the purpose of the Talmud’s use of the word itmar? Why does the Talmud state [for example]: It was stated that Rava said... and does not state Rava said...? [Answer:] The fact that we recite It was stated has no bearing on the halacha itself, and [is a result of the fact] that in the academy, at the siyyuma they would recite this part of the talmud without this tradition, and afterwards when it became known that a certain Amora said this they recited it with the introduction It was stated and was fixed in the Talmud but it is not from a specific person (that this report was transmitted).

‫ושא' כל היכא דאמרינן‬ .‫איתמר משום מאן הוא‬ '‫ומפני מה אמרינן איתמר אמ‬ .‫רבא ולא אמרינן אמ' רבא‬ ‫דבר זה שגורסין אנו איתמר‬ ‫אין תולין בו דבר בגופה‬ ‫שלהל' ובי מדרשא הוא‬ ‫בסיומא שהיו מתנים את‬ ‫המקום הזה ולא היו מתנים‬ ‫ ואחר‬.‫בו את אותה השמועה‬ ‫כך באה אליהן ונודעה להן‬ ‫וכיון‬ ‫אומריה‬ ‫מפי‬ ‫שניתבררה אצלן תניוה‬ ‫בלשון איתמר ונקבעה‬ ‫בתלמוד כך ולא משום אדם‬ ‫ידוע היא‬

If indeed Rav Shǝrira has this section from Avodah Zara in mind, he seems to understand the phrase “mini uminach tistayem shǝmata” as relating to the academic institution of the siyyuma. In that setting, he thinks the itmar nami section was composed and anonymously introduced into the text of the Talmud. This responsum led both David Rosenthal59 and Paul Mandel60 to posit a direct connection between the later institution of the siyyuma and the phrase tistayem shemata here in AZ 16b. To be fair, the work of these two scholars is essentially based on the Geonic material and both seek to root their claims about the Geonim in the text of the Talmud. In the next chapter, I will trace the development of the phrase and indeed posit such a link between Geonic uses of the root ‫ס‬.‫י‬.‫מ‬. (s.y.m.) and the tistayem Abraham Eliyahu Harkavy, Responsen der Geonim (Berlin: 1887) #473, and Yoel Miller, Respona of Eastern and Western Geonim [in Hebrew] (Berlin: 1885), 35 #143. 59 David Rosenthal, “Rabannan D’siuma,” 59. 60 Unpublished paper presented to the JTS faculty in the spring semester in 1997. Dr. Mandel was kind enough to share his thoughts and handout from this session with me. 58



formula. There is no hint whatsoever in the actual text of the Talmud in Megilla, Pessachim, or AZ in which the phrase “tistayem shemata” appears of any kinds of large academic setting, let alone a siyyuma in which large sections of Talmud are memorized, let alone composed. Instead, these three instances of tistayem shemata provide the beginning of the story of the siyyuma’s development. These are presented as authentically Amoraic utterances61—that is, these statements appear to have been spoken by one Amora to another, as opposed to material that emanates from the anonymous voice of the Talmud. They also all occur in sections that depict a meeting between individual scholars. In AZ 16b, Rav Yehudah finds R. Hiyya b. Ashi, Rabbah b. Yirmiah and R. Assi each apparently studying alone. There is no indication that these meetings took place in any kind of a large academic setting; there are no other characters in these stories, and there are no linguistic hints of a large academic gathering. Rather, they reflect an activity of paramount importance for rabbis of that period: establishing the correct chain of tradition and resolving apparent difficulties. They are not (yet) composing sugyot—rather, they are memorizing individual traditions. This accords well with the picture of rabbinic study that comes out of David Goodblatt’s pioneering work,62 more recently Obviously, it is unlikely that these are the ipsima verba of the Amoraim themselves, yet these words—whoever uttered them—likely reflect the time of the Amoraim as opposed to that of the later editors. See Kraemer, On the Reliability of Attributions, 186. There, he writes, “The patterns that have been discerned characterize, as we said, only one generation from another, but not individuals. This suggests that conventions of formulation and preservation were shared by the sages of each generation (or by the redactors of the traditions of that generation who, nevertheless, redacted those traditions not long after they had originally been formulated), mostly eliminating uniqueness in expression as it might relate to individual personalities. This being so, traditions attributed to the sages of a given generation may be presumed to accurately reflect a view held in that generation, but not necessarily by that individual.” 62 David Goodblatt, Rabbinic Instruction. See also, “New Developments in the Study of the Babylonian Yeshivot,” Zion 46 (1981): 14–38. For an up61



defended yet again against the approach of Yeshayahu Gafni63 by Jeffrey Rubenstein.64 Whereas Gafni argues that words like yeshiva and metivta take on the meaning of “academy” within the Amoraic period itself, Goodblatt shows convincingly that these terms continue to paint a picture of study in disciple circles and not in larger institutions, which came into being only later, at the period of the Talmud’s redaction. Rubenstein argues convincingly that those passages in the Talmud that do use these terms to speak of larger academic setting are all from the anonymous voice of the Talmud and thus may be later65 than the Amoraim themselves—an argument that even Gafni now largely accepts.66

to-date summary of Goodblatt’s position, see his “The History of the Babylonian Academies,” in The Cambridge History of Judaism, vol. 4, ed. Steven T. Katz (Cambridge, England, 2006), 821–839. 63 Yeshayahu Gafni, Babylonian Jewry and its Institutions in the Period of the Talmud [in Hebrew], (Jerusalem, 1975), and “Yeshivah and Metivta” [in Hebrew], Zion 43 (1978): 12–37. See also “Notes on the Article of D. Goodblatt” [in Hebrew], Zion 46 (1981): 52–6. Gafni continues the debate in his review of Rubenstein’s three most recent books: “Rethinking Talmudic History: The Challenge of Literary and Redaction Criticism,” Jewish History 25 (2011): 355–375. 64 Jeffrey L. Rubenstein, “The Rise of the Babylonian Rabbinic Academy: A Reexamination of the Talmudic Evidence,” JSIJ 1 (2002). 65 Rubenstein, of course, dubiously assumes that because they are anonymous, they must be late—an assumption with which many disagree. For instance, Yaakov Elman writes, “The current book is a pioneering attempt to analyze this material as a cultural artifact. The attempt is beset with methodological pitfalls, the greatest of them being the fact that the redactional contribution can only partially be disentangled from the whole, and individual scholars will differ on this matter in accord with their notions of just how heavy‐handed these redactors were and, indeed, whether there was a uniform redactional style in this regard and in many others, including some or all of the following: the language of the redactional interventions (Aramaic or Aramaic/Hebrew), the question of oral composition and redaction and its effect on the redactional product, the question of whether the final redactors had earlier, partial compilations before them, and so on” (Elman, review of Rubenstein’s The Culture of the Babylonian Talmud, Journal of Religion 86, no. 4 [2006]). 66 Gafni, “Rethinking Talmudic History,” 359.



Both Mandel and Rosenthal, who read the tistayem shemata material in light of larger academic activities, have been led astray by an older model of rabbinic historiography which essentially trusts the picture that the Geonim, especially the famous Letter of Rav Sherira Gaon, paints of the Amoraic period. But this is not to say that there is no connection whatsoever between the tistayem shemata material and the great academies of Abbasid Babylonia. To the contrary, as we will see, the kind of activity described in the three tistayem shemata units above does indeed prefigure a crucial part of what went on in later scholastic settings. But that is not what appears to be going on in these admittedly few pericopes themselves. A plain-sense reading of Avodah Zara 16b shows the academic activity within the disciple circle model. R. Zeira is present in three distinct disciple circles: his “own” Pumbeditan center in which R. Yehudah was the master; that of Rabbah b. Yirmiah in Sura; and finally, the Palestinian circle of R. Assi.67 In each location, each of which is largely cut off from the others, each rabbinic disciple circle studied the full corpus of Oral Torah. At times it became clear, either through internal disagreement about the correct wording or derivation of a tradition, or as a result of a similar dispute occasioned by a visitor from another disciple circle,68 that somehow, something had become lost in transmission and was in need of repair. The multiplicity of versions of a rabbinic saying, when united, sometimes enabled the tradition to be clarified and reformulated. This is how the term “tistayem” seems to be used during the Amoraic period. What does the phrase actually mean in these instances? The root s.y.m., as such, does not appear in the Hebrew Bible,69 although the biblical root š.y.m. meaning something like “set,” “ordain,” or “establish,” is surely the etymological source for the With regard to the structure of disciple circles in Roman Palestine, see Catherine Hezser, The Social Structure of the Rabbinic Movement in Roman Palestine, (Tubingen: Mohr Siebeck, 1997), 43–51. 68 Catherine Hezser, “Social Fragmentation, Plurality of Opinion, and Nonobservance of Halakhah: Rabbis and Community in Late Roman Palestine,” JSQ 1, no. 3 (1994), 241. 69 See BDB 962–4. 67



word in the rabbinic canon.70 Michael Sokoloff lists two separate meanings for this root;71 the first accords with the normal modern usage of the word,72 namely, “to conclude” or “to finish” while the second is “to specify” or “to clarify.” Sokoloff identifies the itpael form, e.g., tistayem, under the second meaning, “to be clarified.” Shamma Friedman connects this second meaning with the root s.m.n., meaning “to mark” or “to report.”73 Based on this connection, coupled with the plain-sense readings of the sources in which tistayem shemata appears, I propose that the phrase is best translated as “the tradition may be formulated….” In these instances it is not so much that the tradition is “clarified,” though that is of course the case. The point is that after the clarification, a simpler or more correct version of a tradition can be taught to those who memorize traditions and pass them on, and that version can also be published for posterity. A particularly clear example of the root in the imperative form being used in this context can be found at bEruvin 51b: b.Eruvin 51b R. Hiyya b. Ashi taught Hiyya b. Rab in the presence of Rab: Both rich and poor (alike)... Rav said to him: formulate this with [the baraita] as well: The halachah is in agreement with R. Yehudah.

‫בבלי עירובין נא ע"ב‬ ‫מתני ליה רב חייא בר אשי‬ ‫ אחד‬:‫לחייא בר רב קמיה דרב‬ ‫ אמר ליה‬.‫עני ואחד עשיר‬ ‫ הלכה כרבי‬:‫ סיים בה נמי‬:‫רב‬ .‫יהודה‬

Here Rav wishes that when this dispute between R. Meir and R. Yehudah is recited, it is made known that the law follows R.

On the gradual development of the pronunciation of the phoneme represented by ‫ שׂ‬in the Masoretic text from a voiceless lateral fricative to a sibilant and its subsequent confusion with the ‫ס‬, see Gary A. Rendsburg, “Ancient Hebrew Phonology,” 73. The medieval acrostic piyyut “‫אל אדון‬,” for example, contains a word beginning with the letter ‫ש‬ in the place where one would expect ‫ס‬: ‫ עוִֹשׂים ְבֵּאיָמה ְרצוֹן קוֵֹניֶהם‬/ ‫ ְשֵׂמִחים ְבֵּצאָתם ָשִׂשׂים ְבּבוָֹאם‬/ ‫ָנֶאה ִזיָום ְבָּכל ָהעוָֹלם‬ 71 Sokoloff, DJBA, 801–2. 72 Reuben Alcalay, The Complete Hebrew-English Dictionary (Givatayim: Masada, 1990), 1759. See also Eliezer Ben Yehuda, Dictionary, 4022. 73 Shamma Yehuda Friedman, Talmud Aruch, Commentary Volume, 60n25. 70



Yehudah,74 so he orders (‫ַסֵיּם‬, or sayyem) that the baraita be formulated, or even “published” with his own halachic addition. Strikingly, this command is rendered in MS Munich 95 as, “cause it to be taught!”, which captures the same sense.75 This reformulation of traditions thus represents only the beginning of a process that culminates in the formal academic procedure of the siyyuma. Without retrojecting later concepts and activities onto these earlier sugyot, we see the search for the perfection and formulation of oral rabbinic traditions as it was carried out in the small disciple circles of Amoraic Babylonia. When scholars from different locations shared their own formulations with one another, at times it became clear that they possessed different versions or disparate pieces of those traditions. This discourse enabled their colleagues to clarify their own understandings. Armed with this new information, they then reformulated these traditions and “published” them orally, teaching them to those who repeated traditions in various disciple circles. Subsequent generations continued this kind of searching in their own, larger institutions. By the very nature of a different academic setting, these searches took on new forms, especially once composing longer literary units became part of the process. Yet, when they did so, they consciously used the same word to refer to what it was they were doing.

See Kaplan, The Redaction of the Babylonian Talmud, 205. There, Kaplan understands the term to mean “to mark” or “to define.” 75 A full synopsis of the passage: 74

‫מתני ליה רב חייא בר אשי לחייא בר רב קמיה דרב אחד עני ואחד עשיר אמר ליה רב סיים בה‬ Vilna ‫נמי הלכה כרבי יהודה‬ ‫ מתני ליה חייא בר אשי לחייא בר רב קמיה דרב אחד עני ואחד עשיר אמר ליה רב סיים בה נמי‬Venice ‫הלכה כרבי יהודה‬ ‫ מתני ליה רב חייא בר אשי לחייא בר רב קמיה דרב אחד עני ואחד עשיר אמ' ליה סיים בה נמי‬Vat. 109 ‫הלכה כר' יהודה‬ ‫ מתני ל]י[ה רב חייא בר אשי לחייא בר רב קמי דרב אחד עני ואחד עשיר א' ליה סיים בה נמי‬Oxford ‫הלכה כר' יהודה‬ ‫ מתני לה חייא בר אשי לחייא בר רב קמיה דרב א"ל אחד עני ואחד עשיר א"ל אתניי‬Mun. 95

CHAPTER THREE. THE TERMINOLOGY OF THE SIYYUMA A basic challenge for Talmudists is that almost nothing is known about the editing and consolidation of the final text of the Talmud, which likely occurred sometime between the last centuries of Sasanian power and the first centuries of the Abbasid Caliphate.1 This lack of information stems, in large measure, from our incomplete knowledge of the Babylonian scholars between the last named Amoraim (whose dating, of course, is itself imprecise) and the earliest of the Geonim in the middle of the eighth century.2 Yaakov Sussman sees the relatively stable textual tradition reflected in all modern witnesses of the text to be a product of these later Geonim themselves,3 who made a concerted effort to support some textual readings and expunge those others 1 Yaakov Sussman, “Again to the Jerusalem Talmud” [in Hebrew], in Talmudic Studies I, eds. David Rosenthal and Yaakov Sussman (Jerusalem: Magnes, 1990), 102. 2 Ibid., 103n192‫א‬. Compare Jacob Nahum Epstein, Introduction to the Text of the Mishnah [in Hebrew], 369. Introduction to the Literature of the Amoraim [in Hebrew] (Jerusalem: Magnes, 1962), 12. 3 As crucial as the study of textual variations between the various MSS of the Bavli may be, it should be obvious to anyone that there is significantly less variation as compared to a “text” like Bereshit Rabba, not to mention the texts of the Hechalot literature. See, for example, Peter Schaefer, “Tradition and Redaction in Hechalot Literature,” JFSJ 14, no. 2 (1983). On the other hand, there are examples of multiple redactions of certain sections. For example, see Adiel Schremer, “Between Text Transmission and Text Redaction: Fragments of a Different Recension of TB Moʿed-Qatan from the Genizah,” Tarbiz 61 (1992): 375–99.




that remained extant in their own time.4 Furthermore, the great chronological distance between this oral “text” and our oldest written textual witnesses to it (in medieval manuscripts of the Talmud, Geonica, and medieval commentary tradition) makes reconstructing the text of the Talmud before the end of this period very difficult.5 Coupled with the almost complete lack of information about or even approximate dates for the scholars who lived between the time of the Amoraim and the Geonim, frequently called savoraim,6 Sussman is skeptical that anything about this period may be said whatsoever. All of this is in direct opposition to the historiographical trend of assigning a single and fixed date for the “final” redaction or editing of the two Talmuds.7 However, the study of Talmudic terminology, though it does not provide firm dates for the redaction of the two Talmuds nor fully answers the broader questions about what the “Talmud” of the late Amoraim might have looked like,8 can shed light on this mysterious period without resorting to simple retrojection from

See Uziel Fuchs, The Geonic Talmud: The Attitude of the Babylonian Geonim to the Text of the Babylonian Talmud [in Hebrew] (Jerusalem: Magnes, 2017), 9. An example of this process at work is documented by Shamma Friedman in “A Talmud Fragment of the Geonic Type” [in Hebrew], Tarbiz 51 (1981): 37–48. The story found at b.BB 22a, analyzed below, should be seen as another example of the way in which Talmudic material continued to change. 5 Fuchs, ibid. Sussman, ibid., 103n194. See also Chaim Milikowsky, “Textual Criticism as a Prerequisite for the Study of Rabbinic Thought: On God Not Giving Recompense for Fulfilling Commandments and on the Immutability of the Created World,” in Tiferet Le-Yisrael: A Jubilee Volume in Honor of Israel Francus, eds. Joel Roth, Menahem Schmelzer, and Yaacov Francus, (New York: The Jewish Theological Seminary, 2010) pp. 131–51. 6 Ibid. The term “Savoraim” is first attested in two responsa of Rav Natronai Gaon, Yeraḥmiʾel Brodi, Teshuvot Rav Natronai bar Hilai Gaʾon: (Jerusalem: Mekhon Ofeḳ, 1994), “Orah Hayyim” #85, and “Even HaEzer” #204. See also Iggeret Rav Sherira Gaon, Lewin edition, “Spanish” recension, 71–2. 7 Sussman, ibid., 103n194. 8 See Jay Rovner, “Pseudepigraphic Invention and Diachronic Stratification in the Stammaitic Component of the Bavli: The Case of Sukka 28,” HUCA 68 (1997): 11–62. 4



Geonic sources. Careful consideration of the ways in which Talmudic terminology changed over the course of the Rabbinic period helps us situate certain texts and textual patterns in their proper context, and enables us to see the ways in which rabbinic thought was in flux during this crucial time. As we shall see below, a number of modern scholars have attempted to analyze in full a single Talmudic term. Yet none of these terms has been explicitly redactional in nature, the way that those terms related to the siyyuma are. The present chapter aims to delve into the institution of the siyyuma to explore the process through which the Talmud came into being by turning to the technical terminology of the Talmud. Here, I am consciously following the project of Avraham Weiss, who writes, “The technical terminology is not simply one small unclear detail, which after having been clarified, can at most benefit only our own understanding of it, but it may sometimes illuminate the whole question of the emergence of this literary work in its full flowering.”9


From the theoretical moment that the Babylonian Talmud ceased to be a corpus in creation,10 and became instead a “text” to be Avraham Weiss, Le-ḳorot hithaṿut ha-Bavli: Gufa ṿe-ʼamar mar (Warsaw: 1929), 3. 10 Even if we accept Sussman’s words of caution cited above, we must agree that the Talmud was never fully “closed” as a corpus until it was printed in full, in the beginning of the sixteenth century. Before then, the variations in the textual witnesses alone have led some other scholars to question the very notion that individual works of rabbinic literature can be conceived of as independent entities with specific identities. See Peter Schäfer, “Research into Rabbinic Literature: An Attempt to Define the Status Quaestionis.” JJS 37 (1986), 139–152. Furthermore, the groupings of these manuscripts into different “families” and the kinds of differences between them have led some to suggest that multiple versions of the Bavli existed while the Talmud was yet an oral “text.” See E. S. Rosenthal, History of the Text, 1–36, though Friedman disagrees; see Shamma Friedman, The Development of Variant Readings in the Babylonian Talmud [in Hebrew], Sidra 7 (1990): 67–102. Even the very presence of the Savoraim, mentioned by Sherira Gaon as having composed the introductory passages 9



explained,11 the unique technical terminology therein has been an important lens through which to view the work. While Babylonian Geonim did not write full lexicographies,12 they certainly replied to questions asked about the meanings of specific technical terms,13 addressed the meanings of technical terminology in their explanations of passages of the Talmud,14

in b.Kiddushin in his Iggeret, (ed. Lewin), 71, indicates that while there may have been a fairly stable base “text,” its content—not only its form— continued to grow and change into the period of the Geonim and beyond. See also Nahum Brfill, “Die Entstehungsgeschichte der babylonischen Talmuds als Schriftwerk,” Jahrbacherfar jaidische Geschichte und Literatur 2 (1876): 4, and Julius Kaplan, The Redaction of the Babylonian Talmud (New York: Bloch, 1933), 1–2. 11 See the preceding note. While two modes of textual transmission were operative throughout the Geonic period (oral and textual), it is clear from their oeuvre that the Geonim of Babylonia related to the Bavli largely as a fixed corpus. See Neil Danzig, “From Oral to Written Talmud” [in Hebrew], 49–112 and David Rosenthal, Mishnah ‘Avodah Zarah: Mahadurah Biqortit u-Mavo (Jerusalem, 1980), 96–106. 12 Neil Danzig, private conversation, 10/27/11. 13 One particularly fine example can be found concerning the phrase ‫מגדף‬ ‫פלוני 'ר בה‬, in Avraham Eliyahu Harkavi, Geonic Responsa [in Hebrew], (Berlin: Itskavetsky, 1887), Responsum no. 25, p. 10: ‫ואשר כתבתם מגרף בה ר' אבהו אינו כן אלא מגדיף בה בדל ופירוש עיקר לשון גדיפה גדף בלשון‬ ‫ישמעאלי כמלח הגודף את המים וכמי שגודף בפתו מה שיש בקערה ומזה עיקר פרשו רבותי לשון‬ ‫ ואמרו ר' אלעזר בן עזריה אומ' כאדם האומר לחברו נדפתה את הקערה ולא שיירת בה‬.‫מגדף‬ :‫ אף כן כשמתמיה אדם על דבר ומראה בידו התמהה אומרין מגדיף‬.‫כלום‬ 14 For example, the commentary to the Mishnaic Order of Purities traditionally ascribed by Ashkenazi medieval authorities to Hai Gaon, but which Y. N. Epstein ascribed to R. Shimon Kayara (i.e., the author of Halachot Gedolot). See Y. N. Epstein, Tashlum Perush Hageonim L’Tohorot, Tarbiz 16, no. 2–3 (1945): 71–134; The Judeo-Arabic Commentary on the Mishnah by Rav Natan Av HaYeshiva, the title page of which resides in the JTS collection from the Cairo Geniza; the “Commentary” (actually collected and arranged from the responsa) of Rav Hai Gaon to the tractates Berakhot and Shabbat; the commentary begun by Rav Sherira and finished by Rav Hai to Bava Batra, see Shraga Abrahamson, Mi Pi Ba’alei Leshonot [in Hebrew] (Jerusalem: Mosad Harav Kook, 1987), 290–1; the as-yet-unpublished-in-full commentary of Rav Hai to Hagigah; Rav Sherira’s Judeo-Arabic commentary to the seventh chapter of Bavli Gitin, see Epstein, Ginzei Qedem 5 1933–4; and, finally, Rav



and even dedicated parts of broader compositions to the elucidation of difficult Aramaic words.15 This specialized vocabulary, including technical terms, would likely have been unfamiliar even for those Jews in the smaller cities who continued to speak Jewish Babylonian Aramaic well into the Abbasid period, and its concomitant shift to Arabic as the lingua franca of the Caliphate and its territories.16 Yet none of these works seems to have distinguished programmatically between what we might call the technical terminology and other difficult parts of speech or incomprehensible phrases or words in the Talmud. Throughout the numerous commentaries of the early medieval commentators, and especially among the tosafists,17 we see a similar focus on technical terms inasmuch as they are crucial to providing coherent readings of Talmudic pericopae. However, in some places, we begin to see a focus on the specific meanings of technical terms as a separate category. Samuel ben Meir (known by the acronym Rashbam), famously distinguishes between the terms tiyuvta and qashiya, both of which indicate that the Talmud’s anonymous voice rejects the legal position of a named sage. Acknowledging the fact that the former is used when a Tannaitic source forms the basis for the rejection, while the latter is used more generally, Rashbam asserts that whereas the term tiyuvta represents a full rejection, especially when the term Naḥshon’s commentary (again collected from responsa) to Sanhedrin and Avodah Zarah. 15 Here, the best example is Chapter 143 of Shǝmuel ben Hofni Gaon’s Judeo-Arabic “Introduction to the Talmud,” in which he lists and elucidates fifty terms, many of them technical ones. See Shraga Abramson, Rabbi Shǝmuel ben Hofni (Gaon of Sura): Chapters from the Introduction to the Talmud [in Hebrew], (Jerusalem: Meḳitse Nirdamim, 1990). Nissim ben Jacob’s famous work Sefer Mafteaḥ Man’ulei ha-talmud also contains a list and definitions of fifty terms. 16 In the words of Rav Hai Gaon (Benjamin Lewin, Otsar Ha-Geonim to Berakhot, [Haifa, 1928], 34): ‫ ועד אן בכל העיירות בלשון ארמי וכשדי מספרין‬,‫כי כיוון שבבל מאז לשון ארמי ולשון כשדי‬ '‫ אף במדינות שחידשום ישמעאלים רוב השמות ארמי מרוכך‬,‫ בין ישראל בין הגוים‬,‫הכל‬ 17 Yehudah ben Klonimus, active in the twelfth century, for example, lists and defines the rules regarding a number of technical terms, including tistayem.



is doubled, qashiya does not.18 Thus, he moves beyond simple lexicography toward a broader understanding of how terminology can shape the literary structure of the Talmudic text as a whole. This approach to terminology is worth dwelling on, therefore, especially because it stands in opposition to the approach of his brother, Jacob (e.g., “Rabbenu Tam”). In a disagreement that appears in multiple locations,19 Rashbam and Rashbam to Bava Batra 52a: In every place in which the Talmud states: “Is this a refutation of so-and-so? It is [indeed] a refutation,” the opinion of the one to whom this rejection is aimed is refuted, however, in locations in which [the Talmud] records, “it is difficult,” as here [regarding the statement] of Shǝmuel, his position is not refuted, for we say that it was not clear to them that this tradition should be rejected completely, rather simply that no satisfactory response was found to allow this tradition to stand... 18

...‫'כל היכא דאמר בגמ‬ ‫תיובתא דפלוני תיובתא בטלו‬ ‫דברי מי שהתיובתא עליו‬ ‫לגמרי‬, ‫אבל היכא דעלתה‬ ‫בקשיא כי הך דשמואל לא‬ ‫בטלו דבריו דאמרינן לא הוה‬ ‫ברירא להן דבטלה שמועה זו‬ ‫לגמרי אלא לא אשתכח פירוקא‬ ‫בההוא שעתא דתליא וקיימא‬...

See Tosafot to Kettubot 2b, s.v. “‫”פשיט רב אחאי‬: R. Ahai explained—[this should not be ‫פשיט רב אחאי—לא כמו‬ understood] the way Rashbam explains the ‫שפירש רשב"ם דהיינו רב אחאי‬ passage, namely that [this refers to] the Ahai ‫גאון שעשה שאלתות והיה בסוף‬ who authored the sheiltot, and who lived ‫כל האמוראים ולכך משנה לשונו‬ [long] after all the amoraim, and therefore ‫בכל הש"ס פריך רב אחאי פשיט‬ the [editors of the] Talmud changed the ‫רב אחאי שהרי כאן רב אשי עונה‬ language from ‫ פריך‬to ‫—פשיט‬for here R. Ashi ‫על דבריו אלא אומר רבינו תם‬ responds to him! Rather, Jacob ben Meir ‫שהוא אמורא וכל אמורא היה‬ states that he was an Amora, and each Amora '‫תופס לשונו כמו מגדף בה ר‬ had his own [unique] linguistic style, [as can '‫( תהי בה ר‬:‫אבהו )סנהדרין ג‬ be seen from the following examples:] R. ‫( לייט עלה אביי‬:‫יוחנן )ב"ק קיב‬ (.‫)ברכות כט‬ Abahu at Sanhedrin 3b, R. Yohanan at BL 112b and Abaye at Berachot 29. 19

Zevaḥim 102b, s.v. “‫”פריך רב אחאי‬: R. Ahai explained—in every place, his language is changed, as we find in the beginning of Kettubot (2b). As such, Our Master Shǝmuel (e.g., Rashbam) states that this is R. Ahai who composed the sheiltot, and who was among the Savoraim, who

‫פריך רב אחאי—בכל מקום לשונו‬ ‫משונה כדאשכחן בריש כתובות‬ ‫( פשיט רב אחאי ומתוך כך‬:‫)דף ב‬ ‫היה אומר רבינו שמואל דהוא רב‬ ‫אחאי שעשה השאלתות שהיה‬ ‫מרבנן סבוראי דבתר רבינא ורב‬



Rabbenu Tam each seek to ascribe meaning to the particular verbs that signal that one Amora is attacking another’s legal opinion. For Rabbenu Tam, these words reflect nothing more than a fidelity and accuracy in the transmission of the ipsima verba of the Amoraim themselves; each Amora had his own linguistic style, a historical fact that remains reflected by the text of the Talmud.20 Yet for Rashbam, this specialized vocabulary is a literary device, employed knowingly by the redactor of the text to signal to the audience which character is doing the talking.21 As a result, we see that it matters a great deal when and by whom this set of technical terms was first employed, and distinguishing whether or not they are authentically Amoraic or not is the first step toward understanding them in full.22 Yet we see little of this kind of analysis in the Arukh or the various Sifrei

lived after Ravina and Rav Ashi, and who added teaching and wrote it afterwards in the Talmud. However, in Kettubot we find that Rav Ashi relates [to his words] after him.

‫אשי דהוסיף הוראה וכתבו אחרי‬ ‫כן דבריו בסוף הש"ס ומיהו בההיא‬ ‫דכתובות אשכח רב אשי דמיירי‬ .‫בתריה‬

Rabbenu Tam may be correct, at least part of the time—a feature of the Talmud that would later be analyzed by modern scholars. See Mosheh Weiss, Rava Said... A Study of Talmudic Terminology [in Hebrew], Tarbiz 51d (1982): 543–66. 21 That Rashbam is almost certainly incorrect in asserting that the appearance of a phrase like Pashit Rav Achai (‫ )פשיט רב אחאי‬in Kettubot 2b indicates that the Rav Aḥai in question is the early Geonic author of the Sheiltot is beside the point. This surprising conclusion is recognized in Halichot Olam in the name of, “there is one who says… .” See Shar 2, Chapter 1. A similar disagreement occurs between Zeraḥiyah ha-Levi of Girona and Ramban, among others, at Shabbat 52a regarding the precise meaning and usage of the term tistayem, which is at the heart of this study. 22 Various rishonim seem to have been willing to differentiate not only between what Rashi terms “‫( ”עיקר‬Kiddushin 3b) and “late additions” by the Savoraim or Geonim, but between the words of Amoraim themselves and the (presumably later) explanation of the anonymous voice. See Shamma Yehuda Friedman, “A Critical Study of Yevamot X,” 291–3. See also David Weiss Halivni, Introduction to Mekorot uMesorot to Bava Metzia [in Hebrew], (Jerusalem: Magnes, 2003), 13. 20



kelallei ha-Talmud of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries,23 or even in those of the eighteenth century,24 all of which are incredibly useful in terms of understanding the terms themselves and how they are used; understandably, though, they do not shed light on the process by which the Talmud came together. Nor do they, like the works of the Geonim on which they are based in part, attempt to distinguish between either the technical terminology and other difficult words or between technical terminology and abstract principles of adjudication of practical halakhah.25 It is only with the rise of Wissenschaft des Judentums scholarship in the nineteenth century that we begin to see a more rigorous focus on the technical terminology of the Bavli as such and occasionally on the impact the analysis of a particular term might have on understanding the literary nature of the Babylonian Talmud. Zacharias Frankel, whose Mǝvo haYerushalmi26 contains the first modern attempt to describe and define the terminology of the Yerushalmi, does so specifically in comparison to the terminology of the Bavli.27 Wilhelm Bacher’s For instance, Yehoshua ben Yosef HaLevi’s Halichot Olam, Eliyahu Bachur’s Sefer Hatishbi. 24 Like Malachi ben Jacob HaKohen’s Yad Malachi. For a full listing of these works, primarily in connection to the Yerushalmi, see Leib Moskowitz, Terminology of the Yerushalmi [in Hebrew], (Jerusalem: Magnes, 2009), 6n46. 25 Occasionally, however, in the works of later medieval and early modern commentators (e.g., aḥaronim), we see such an approach. Ya’akov Ettlinger, for example, in his analysis of the term “‫ ”וליטעמיך‬in his commentary Aruch LaNer to Sanhedrin 34a, notes that its usage there seems not to fit its normal meaning throughout the Talmud. For the influence of Western learning of Ettlinger, see Judith Bleich, Jacob Ettlinger, His Life and Works: The Emergence of Modern Orthodoxy in Germany (PhD diss., New York University, 1974). 26 Zacharias Frankel, Mevo ha-Yerushalmi- Introductio in Talmud Hierosolymitanum (Breslau: Schletter’sche Buchhandlung, 1870). 27 Ibid., 7a. Frankel’s introduction to his second chapter makes this explicit: ‫התלמוד ירושלמי משונה הרבה מן התלמוד בבלי הן בהברת האותיות הן בשימוש הלשונות‬ ‫ ואף כי ממעין אחד יצאו הבבלי והירושלמי בכל זאת יש הפרש גדול‬.‫והדיבורים המושאלים‬ ‫ וגם להיודע באר היטב לשון הבבלי ודדנו יש לפעמים דברי הירושלמי כדברי הפפר‬,‫ביניהם‬ 23



Die exegetische Terminologie der jüdischen Traditionsliteratur was, and remains, the only work dedicated solely to the terminology of the Bavli,28 and is invaluable because it meticulously describes the manner in which technical terms are used and provides generous examples. Y. N. Epstein,29 Hanoch Albeck,30 Saul Lieberman,31 Julius Kaplan,32 and others address the precise meaning of technical terms in the Bavli in their work. E.S. Rosenthal’s claims about the redaction of the so-called Lishna Aḥarina tractates is based in large measure on terminology.33 However, the scholar who pioneered an approach to understanding the process of the Talmud’s development specifi-

‫ או מפני שאין בידו לעמוד על תוכן הדיבור והלשון או מפני שאינו יודע היאך מושאל על‬,‫החתום‬ .‫ענין זה‬ Frankel also discusses terminology in his article on the redaction of the Bavli, MGWJ X (1861), 161ff. 28 Moskowitz, 7. 29 See, for example, Epstein’s extended history of the analysis of the term “‫( ”תנא‬and related terms like “‫תנו רבנן‬,” “‫תניא‬,” “‫תני עליו‬,” etc.) in Epstein, Introduction to the Text of the Mishnah, 1291–97. Epstein also devoted serious attention to the terminology of the Sheiltot; see Y. N. Epstein, “Notes on Post-Talmudic-Aramaic Lexicography,” JQR NS 12, no. 3 (1922): 299–390. 30 For example, on the phrase “‫אזדא לטעמיה‬.” See Hanoch Albeck, Introduction to the Talmuds (Jerusalem: D’vir, 1987), 456, 465–6. 31 Saul Lieberman, “Kelas, Kilosin” in Studies in the Torah of the Land of Israel [in Hebrew], edited by David Rosenthal (Jerusalem: 1990), 433–9. 32 Kaplan, Redaction, 201–16. He devotes an entire chapter to terminology, noting that despite common modes of transmission throughout the Talmudic period, distinct periods can be identified by their own unique terminology, writing, “The interpenetration and fading of boundaries counteract the otherwise apparent impression of clear cut sections and sharply defined periods, each with a status and a terminology of its own. What deepens the mystery is that this impression is on the whole correct. The key to the problem lies in the influence of an element which, while its presence in the Talmud is constantly felt, is not easily perceived....” Ibid, 215. 33 Eliezer Shimshon Rosenthal, “The Renderings of TB Tractate Temura” [in Hebrew], Tarbiz 58 (1989): 317–56. However, it is important to note that Aaron Amit has recently challenged Rosenthal’s approach. See Aharon Amit, The Place of Yemminite Manuscripts in the Textual Tradition of Bavli Pessachim [in Hebrew] HUCA 73 (2002): 31–77.



cally through the lens of its technical terminology was Avraham Weiss. Weiss’s first book, Le-korot hithavut ha-Bavli,34 in which he develops this “inside-outside approach,”35 is devoted primarily to two technical terms: gufa and amar mar.36 During the last century of critical scholarship, numerous papers and even a few monographs that take as their subject a single technical term or narrow group of them have appeared, focusing not only on defining the terms themselves, but using a focus on these terms for a broader purpose.37 34 Avraham Weiss, Le-korot hithavut ha-Bavli [in Hebrew] (Warsaw: 1929). 35 Ibid., 3–11. 36 Weiss’s approach to the former term is quite instructive, for he goes far beyond simply defining the term as a lexicographer might, or even describing its usage and place within the sugyah. Rather, he looks to those places in which gufa appears and makes a radical claim. The standard explanation of the term is the following: The Talmud, having quoted a small portion of a broader tradition, incidentally returns to that tradition for the sake of completion, making it the focus of the discussion, and signals that return through the term gufa. Weiss, however, sees the section introduced by gufa as an older, more original piece of redacted text. The word gufa, meaning “body,” is illustrative. The original body is the second one, signaling to a critical audience that that which comes first, ironically, is a later creation. Compare Y. Sussman’s treatment of the term in Babylonian Sugyot to the Orders of Zeraim and Tohorot (PhD diss., Hebrew University, 1969), 126 and 144. 37 Most famously, Judith Hauptman’s Development of the Talmudic Sugya, which analyzed those sugyot in which the phrase “‫ ”תניא נמי הכי‬appears, but also Michael Chernick’s A Great Voice That Did Not Cease: The Growth of the Rabbinic Canon and Its Interpretation (Cincinnati: HUC Press, 2009), which traces the development of Rabbinic theology through terms like “‫לא קשיא‬,” “‫אם אינו ענין‬,” and “‫צריכי‬.” Chernick has made a career of studying the terminology of Tannaitic sources, especially the canonized hermeneutical rules. See, for example, The Use of Ribbuyim and Mi’utim in the halakhic Midrash of R. Ishmael, JQR 70, no. 2 (1979): 96–116, Internal Restraints on “Gezerah Shawah”’s Application, JQR 80, no. 3–4 (1990): 253–82, and “The Formal Development of ‫[ ”כלל ופרט וכלל‬in Hebrew], Tarbiz 52, no. 3 (1983): 393–410. See also the analysis of Louis Jacob’s book Teyku, below. See also Moshe Weiss, “V’Azdu L’taamaihu: A Study in Talmudic Terminology” [in Hebrew], Bar Ilan Annual 20–21 (1982): 102–27. Weiss shows that in nine instances, one of the statements is adduced from other data, and is not an independent tradition;



therefore, it is likely best understood as a later addition to the text. Pinchas Hayman’s work on disputes between R. Yohanan and Reish Laqish shows that redactional activity was already taking place in fourthcentury Mahoza, and suggests that the term eitivey (‫ )איתיביה‬is “an editorial marking that was added as part of the Babylonian amoraic processing of Tiberian sugya components.” See Pinchas Hayman, “From Tiberias to Meḥoza: Redactorial and Editorial Processes in Amoraic Babylonia,” JQR New Series, 98, no. 1 (2002): 132. Likewise, Benjamin de Vries’s masterful study of v’haveinan ba (‫ )והוינן בה‬is important, for he demonstrates that there were, in fact, redacted short sugyot before the Bavli’s final redaction, and sometimes a version of that sugyah is quoted in another place, even though the “source” location was changed by the time of the final redaction. See Benjamin DeVries, “V’haveinan Ba” [in Hebrew], in Studies in Talmudic Literature (Jerusalem: Mossad Harav Kook, 1969), 200–14. However, compare Sussman, Babylonian Sugyot, 164ff. Yaakov Sussman’s monumental work on the Babylonian sugyot, which is based on topics from the Orders of Zera’im and Tohorot and is explored above, relies heavily on the identification and understanding of crucial terms in the Talmud. Judith Hauptman’s monograph on the term “Tanya Nami Hachi” models and ends with a plea for more of what she calls “horizontal” studies of technical terms. Avinoam Cohen’s analysis of the phrase “lo shǝmia li cǝlomar lo sǝvira li” (‫)לא שמיע לי כלומר לא סבירא לי‬ opens up a new understanding of the work of the Savoraim. See Avinoam Cohen, “On the Term Lo Shmia Li Kelomar Lo Sevira Li” [in Hebrew], Tarbiz 53, no. 3 (1983): 467–72. Finally, Richard Kalmin focuses on the terms “matkif la” (‫ )מתקיף לה‬and “eitiveh” (‫ )איתיביה‬to explore the unique characteristics of the statements of late Babylonian Amoraim. See Kalmin, Redaction of the Babylonian Talmud: Amoraic or Saboraic? (Cincinnati: HUC, 1989), 38–40. A final work deserves mention here; Louis Jacob’s monograph on the term “teyku” contains detailed analyses of all 319 instances, which lead to the conclusion that both the arrangement of the sugyot that contain it and the term itself are late products of the editorial layer, and not of the named Amoraim who first proffered the questions contained in the sugyah. His count includes the alternate form ‫תבעי‬, which is the direct parallel of ‫ תקו‬in the “‫”לשנא אחרינא‬ tractates (Jacobs, 114, 290). These editors, according to Jacobs, employ the term precisely to indicate that not only is an answer to the problem unknown, it is unknowable. The book is important for this study, not only on account of its findings, which might be revised based on a more thorough application of the critical methodologies employed by Halivni, Friedman and others, but primarily because of its method. Jacobs first analyzes each sugyah as a discrete unit on its own terms. Only afterwards does he attempt to summarize his findings and provide a global theory of the phenomenon. See Louis Jacobs, Teyku: The Unsolved Problem in the



A focus on terminology is no trifling matter because at the end of the day, the technical terminology is the Talmud. As Daniel Boyarin wrote: Something other than a vaunted pluralism is at stake and at hand in the famous production of the endless and endlessly unresolved conversation across time and space of the Talmud, namely the consolidation of rabbinic power. By confronting rabbinic disagreement and domesticating it such that it becomes a series of distinctions that make no difference, the Talmud reaffirms and reinforces the point that all the rabbinic words add up to the will of the one Divine Shepherd. The point is not so much that no one is ever right (and that, therefore, a genuine pluralism of opinion is imagined), but that no one is ever wrong, as long as he [sic] is in the right institution.38


In this chapter, three technical terms will be discussed: tistayem, mesayymei, and sayemuha. All three are formed from the root that appears in biblical Hebrew as .‫ם‬.‫י‬.‫ שׂ‬or .‫ם‬.‫ו‬.‫שׂ‬,39 though the various documents of rabbinic Judaism (and eastern Christianity) spell the words derived from this root with ‫( ס‬or ‫ )ܣ‬and not ‫שׂ‬.40 In the Babylonian Talmud: A Study in the Literary Analysis and Form of the Talmudic Argument (London: Cornwall Books, 1981). Compare, however, the criticism levied by Bokser in his review; see Baruch M. Bokser, “Jacobs’ ‘Teyku,’” JQR, New Series, 75, no. 1 (1984), 94. 38 Daniel Boyarin, Socrates and the Fat Rabbis, 151–2. 39 There is a longstanding dispute about the “root” system in Semitic languages. While modern grammars assume a triconsonantal root, many triliteral roots seem to bely a biliteral origin. See Noam Agmon, “Materials and Language: Pre-Semitic Root Structure Change Concomitant with Transition to Agriculture,” Brill’s Annual of Afroasiatic Languages and Linguistics 2 (2010): 25–8. 40 Francis Brown, S. R. Driver, and Charles A. Briggs, eds., A Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1906), 962. See also Eliezer Ben Yehuda, Dictionary and Thesaurus of the Hebrew Language [in Hebrew], (Berlin: Schöneberg, 1929), 4022; Menaḥem Zevi Keddari, A Dictionary of Biblical Hebrew [in Hebrew], (Ramat-Gan: Bar Ilan, 2007), 1082–3. This reflects a shift from a voiceless lateral fricative to a sibilant, which had already occurred in post-exilic biblical times. See



Hebrew Bible, the extant forms of this root appear mostly in the Qal stem,41 meaning “put,” “place,” or “set,”42 and much less frequently in the Hiphil and Hophal stems with related meanings.43 Similarly, biblical Aramaic uses the root .‫ם‬.‫ו‬.‫ שׂ‬to mean “put,” “place,” or “set.” For example, the stone that seals the famous “lion’s den” in Daniel 6:18 is ‫שַׂ֖מת‬ ֻ , (sumat) “placed” at the lip of the cave. Rabbinic Hebrew contains verbs from this root in the D (e.g., Piel and Pual) and Dt (e.g., Hitpael) stems.44 Dictionaries for this literature tend to furnish two basic definitions: the first as “to mark” or “to distinguish” and the second, “to finish.”45 In many Talmudic passages, this root in the D stem (piel) does indeed mean “to finish, or conclude,” such as in this passage from bBerachot 9b–10a (AIU: A:1), which seeks to assert that the first two Psalms ought to be considered as a single work.

‫דאמ' ר' שמעון בן‬ ‫פזי כל פרשה‬

For R. Samuel b. Nahmani said in the name of R. Yohanan: Every chapter that was

Gary A. Rendsburg, “Ancient Hebrew Phonology,” in Phonologies of Asia and Africa, ed. Alan S. Kaye, (Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 1997), 73. 41 On the “binyanim” of biblical Hebrew, see Bruce K. Waltke and M. O’Connor, An Introduction to Biblical Hebrew Syntax, (Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 1990), 302ff. 42 BDB 962d. 43 Ibid. 44 On the function of the D stem in Hebrew and related Semitic languages, see John Charles Beckman, Toward the Meaning of the Biblical Hebrew Piel Stem. (PhD diss., Harvard University, 2015). 45 See Alexander Kohut, Aruch Completum (Vienna: Fanto, 1890), Vol. VI, 42–3. Eliezer Ben Yehuda lists tistayem under the first of these two meanings, quoting the phrase from bBK29b, and asserts that the word is best understood as meaning “it is marked” or “it is distinguished”; see Ben Yehuda, 4022–3. In the various dialects of Aramaic, the root in the D stem means “to finish.” See The Comprehensive Aramaic Lexicon, available at: (accessed Oct. 3, 2021). It is perhaps under the influence of Aramaic that this meaning entered Hebrew as well. In Syriac, while the root generally means “to put” or “to place,” it can also take on a number of meanings regarding the composition, editing, and placement of the vowel points in written texts. See Michael Sokoloff, A Syriac Lexicon: A Translation from the Latin, Correction, Expansion, and Update of C. Brockelman’s Lexicon Syriacum (Winona Lake/Piscataway: Eisenbrauns/Gorgias, 2009), 1001–3.



‫שחביבה על דויד‬ ‫פתח בה באשרי‬ ‫וסיים בה באשרי‬ ‫דכת' אשרי האיש‬ ‫וסי' בה באשרי‬ ‫דכת' אשרי כל‬ ‫חוסי בו‬

particularly beloved by David he began with [the word] “Happy” and concluded with “Happy.” He began with “Happy,” as it is written [in Psalm 1:1], Happy is the man..., and he concluded with “Happy,” as it is written [in Psalm 2:12], happy are all they that take refuge in Him.

Here, it should be clear that the only meaning applicable is “to conclude” or “to finish,” and, indeed, many commentators and dictionaries arrest that this meaning should be applied to all instances of this verb. However, there are at least three versions of technical terms from this root, which I believe must be understood in light of the siyyuma, the academic procedure introduced in Chapter 1. This chapter contains extensive analyses of Talmudic passages that contain one of these three phrases. It is instructive that these three terms, in the overwhelming cases of their usage, are presented anonymously, as opposed to having been uttered by the named sages of the Talmud. The dating of this anonymous layer is among the thorniest questions in Talmudic scholarship. Yet even those who challenge the regnant model of the late dating of the stam tend to argue that the literary production of this anonymous layer is in some way connected to the scholastic activity of the Babylonian academies. For example, Moulie Vidas wrote: To be sure, the anonymous narration cannot be identified straight forwardly with the scholars who presented the sugyot in the academy. The written form we have is far from an exact transcription of such presentations.... We can, however, posit that for the purpose of the session, these scholars assumed this role of the narrator. For the duration of the presentation, they were the ones who were quoting the sources, they were the ones who were narrating the sugya, and the narrative of the sugya became theirs to change and expand...46

Moulie Vidas, Tradition and the Formation of the Talmud (New York: Princeton, 2014), 78–9.




Their distinctive use of technical terminology is the key to identifying the work of these “sugya presenters.” It is to this evolving layer of interpretation we now turn. Term #1: Tistayem

Many contemporary introductory guides to the terminology of the Talmud, especially those aimed at students in “traditional” yeshivot, assert that tistayem is related to “finishing” and indicate that the phrase is best translated as “let it be concluded that....”47 However, I will argue that the particular meaning of tistayem in the Babylonian Talmud means, “let it be promulgated that...” or even “let it be published that...,” which is much closer to the first definition (“to set”). That a particular oral tradition has been “set” indicates that the authors of these units thought they had repaired a broken tradition, and also thought that it now could be fixed within a broader literary structure; tistayem derives from the academic procedure called the siyyuma. The term tistayem appears thirty-four times in the Babylonian Talmud,48 and has never been explored using modern critical methods.49 The tistayem formula is a subgenre of an even more See for example Yitzhak Frank, The Practical Talmud Dictionary, (New York: Feldheim, 1991) s.v. ‫תסתיים‬, and Adin Steinsaltz, The Talmud—The Steinsaltz Edition, A Reference Guide, (New York: Random House, 1989), 144–5. Ezra Zion Melamed lists different definitions of tistayem, depending on the context. He translates the phrase ‫שמעתתא תסתיים ומינך מימי‬ as “with both what you and I say the halacha will be clarified,” whereas the phrase ‫ד תסתיים‬... ‫ דאמר הוא‬is rendered, “You will conclude that…he is the one who said….” See Melamed, Aramaic-Hebrew-English Dictionary of the Babylonian Talmud (Jerusalem: Feldheim, 2005), 527. 48 ‫מה ע"ב ברכות‬, ‫שבת"שבת לא ע‬, ‫שבת ב‬, ‫שבת עה ע"א‬, ‫ב"ע קח נב ע"א‬, ‫ע"ב ט עירובין‬, ‫עירובין עירובין‬, ‫ביצה ח יז ע"א‬, ‫ב"ע כה ע"א‬, ‫יומא נז‬, ‫יומא מב ע"א‬, ‫יומא יב ע"ב‬, ‫יומא ד ע"ב‬ ‫סוכה לה ע‬, ‫א"ע"ב‬, ‫מד ע"א ביצה ח ע"ב סוכה‬, ‫ע"א מגילה כז‬, ‫מ"ק כד ע"א‬, ‫יבמות סה ע"ב‬, ‫כתובות‬, ‫נה ע"א כתובות כה ע"ב‬, ‫גיטיז ה ע"ב‬, ‫ע"ב ק כט"ב קידושין ע"ב ע"ב‬, ‫ב"ב‬, ‫מ"ק עד ע"ב‬ ‫ב‬, ‫ב"מא ע"א‬, ‫סנהדרין"מ מד ע"ב‬, ‫סנהדרין עז ע"א‬, ‫פו ע"ב ב קטז ע"א‬, ‫שבועות לז ע"ב‬, ‫ע"ז מו‬ ‫ע"א‬/ ‫זבחים נב ע"ב ע"ז‬, ‫נט ע"א‬, ‫תמורה ד ע"א"ע נו חולין‬, ‫א‬, 49 However, Reuven Margoliot attempted to collect and explain all the disputes in rabbinic literature that are not resolved by means of this kind of sugyah. As such, he devotes a few pages to the explanation of the term. See Reuven Margoliot, An Everlasting Name [in Hebrew], (Jerusalem: Mosad HaRav Kook, 1969), 15–9. 47



widespread one, the ḥad amar... v'ḥad amar formula.50 These traditions, over four hundred fifty in number throughout rabbinic literature,51 present a dispute between two (almost always) contemporary sages, in which the names of the disputants and their positions are known but in which the connection between the two has been severed,52 likely as a result of a flaw in the process of transmission.53 Despite the injunction to always report a tradition in the name of the one who first uttered it,54 one unfortunate consequence of long periods of oral transmission was that dicta occasionally became detached from their tradents. This detachment did not preclude the transmission of “broken” traditions; indeed, numerous Amoraim are praised for transmitting (even) traditions with doubtful attributions, so that those who repeated them would know their status as problematic.55 Disputes from across the rabbinic period seem to have been equally affected by this kind of transmission error, as the ḥad amar...v’ḥad amar form is applied not only to the sages of 50 See Avinoam Cohen, Ravina and the Contemporary Sages [in Hebrew], (Ramat Gan: Bar Ilan, 2001), 247n57. 51 Margoliot, An Everlasting Name, 17. 52 See Robert Brody, “The Anonymous Voice of the Talmud and the Words of the Amoraim,” [in Hebrew] in Ha-Mikra ve-Olamo: Sifrut Hazal u-Mishpat Ivri u-Maḥshevet Yisrael, ed. Baruch Schwartz, et al. (Jerusalem: World Union of Jewish Studies, 2008), 225. It is possible, of course, that presenters of this material expected their audience to intuit the proper connection between a rabbi and his statement, either through some common structural formula (such as ABAB, ABBA, etc.) or, alternatively, based on external knowledge of the hermeneutical methodology of the disputants, an argument that is found from time to time in the medieval commentary tradition, especially in the commentaries of the tosafot or others who adopt their approach of reading the Talmud as a perfect unified whole. For example, Tosafot to MK3b (‫)רבי ה"ד אלעזר אומר חרישה‬ asserts that the reason that the Talmud does not apply the tistayem formula to a dispute between R. Elazar and R. Yohanan on 3a, based on the explicit statement of R. Elazar below, is precisely because the link should already be obvious to anyone confronted with the statement, writing: ‫אינו צריך לומר תסתיים דאין דרך הש"ס לומר תסתיים בדבר המפורש בהדיא כל כך‬. 53 See Frankel, Mevo HaYerushalmi, 38d. 54 mAvot 6:6. 55 David Halivni, “Doubtful Attributions in the Talmud” [in Hebrew], PAAJR 46–47 Jubilee Volume (1979–1980), 68–9.



second century Palestine, but to late Babylonian sages as well.56 As long as disputes were transmitted, they became broken. In the tistayem subset, the authors of these sugyot reveal that they indeed do not know who said what, and utilize a sugya of this type to attempt to “repair” the tradition. When the Talmud does so, it presents the dispute in the following fashion:

.‫רב פלוני ורב אלמוני‬ .Y ‫ וחד אמר‬X ‫חד אמר‬ ‫תסתיים דרבי פלוני הוא דאמר‬ ...(Y ‫ )או‬X 58


R' So and So and R' So and So. One says “X” and the other “Y” Tistayem57 that it is R' So and So who says “X”... (or “Y”) ...(Tistayem)

With one crucial exception,59 the phrase is not presented as having been uttered by named Amoraim, and no named Amoraim seem to be aware of or make use of the relinked statements as such. Rather, the literary recreation of the scholastic enterprise is narrated anonymously, in a form and style that seems to postdate, at least literarily, the rabbis referenced in each sugya. The Aramaic nature of the enterprise itself and the awareness of material from various places and times suggests that these sugyot are relatively late and are also the products of people whose oeuvre was the redaction and presentation of material they had available to them.60

See b.Kiddushin 30a, where the formula concerns R. Judah and R. Nehemiah along with b.Sanhedrin 26b, where the dispute is between R. Aḥa and Ravina. See Yaʻaḳov Shemu’el Shpigel, Later (Saboraic) Additions in the Babylonian Talmud [in Hebrew], (PhD diss., Tel Aviv, 1976), 158– 60. 57 Given the importance of the precise meaning of the term itself, I have chosen to allow it to remain untranslated here. 58 This repetition of the word seems to signal some kind of closure, not unlike with the terms ‫( שמע מנה‬which in some instances and MSS replaces the repeated tistayem) or ‫תיובתא‬. 59 Shabbat 52a, where Rav Yosef and Abayye are depicted as uttering the phrase. This text is discussed in the conclusion. 60 Sometimes, similar activity precludes the need for such behavior. For instance, a general rule is established at Pessachim 74b to disentangle ‫רב‬ ‫ אחא‬from ‫רבינא‬. 56



Ostensibly, the term first suggests and, in many cases,61 later confirms the relinking of a rabbinic statement with the rabbi whose legal position is embodied by the statement. But more than this, the sugyot that employ the phrase tistayem do so in a fashion that presents the search for the recovery of the lost connection between statement and “author” as the central organizing factor in the sugyah itself. This enterprise of linking a position with authority is, in the Talmud as we have it, a literary formula with a clear beginning, middle, and end. In these passages, the reader is first confronted with a pair of statements in which the tradents have become disconnected from the content of the tradition. That is, as a result of time or distance or some other factor, these traditions have become broken.62 And yet, because they are seen as authentic early traditions that contain important information, they continued to be repeated and passed on, brokenness notwithstanding. And yet, by the time of the tistayem sugyot, someone somewhere was no longer content with interacting with these traditions as they had been received. Instead, these scholars sought to repair these traditions, to search the rest of The following is a list of those sugyot in which the phrase tistayem is repeated in the majority of the witnesses: Shabbat 31b (except for MS Oxford Opp. Add. fol. 23), Shabbat 75a, Eruvin 9b, Eruvin 17a, Eruvin 25a (except for Vatican 109 and Oxford), Yoma 4b, Yoma 42b (lacking only in the Prints), Sukkah 35a (except for Bodlian 2677, JTS Rab 218, JTS Rab. 108, Munich140, and Bodlian 2671), Sukkah 42a, Beitza 8b, Megilla 27a (the prints have ‫ שמע מינה‬in place of the repeated ‫)תסתיים‬, Kettubot 25b (except for Vatican 130 and T-S NS 329.606), Gittin 5b, BK 29b, BK 74b, BB 116a, Shavuot 37b (except for Vatican 140), Hullin 56b (except for Vatican 122, Vatican 123, Hamburg 169, and T-S AS 78.392), Temura 4a (the prints lack the repeated ‫)תסתיים‬. Joseph ibn Migash, in his comment to BM 44b, makes a distinction between those sugyot that do and do not repeat the phrase. However, as can be seen from the above list, deciding whether or not the phrase is repeated depends mostly on which manuscript one was reading from. I remain unconvinced that the Talmud always signals acceptance of the relinking by means of the repetition of tistayem, and that the lack of this repetition indicates that the relinking is not accepted. 62 Halivni intimates that, in many cases, information had already become lost during the time of the Amoraim themselves. See Halivni, Introduction to Mekorot Umesorot to Bava Kama, 11. 61



the canon for parallels of varying degrees or even simple analogical clues from the myriad other statements of these rabbis that might help resolve the confusion and allow the relinking of person with utterance. This drive to discover the original form of a tradition is not new; rather, it consciously adopts the terminology of an earlier era. Yet this search is carried out anonymously and in a new literary form. Most tistayem sugyot seem to be what they purport to be, namely the logical reconnecting of transmissional dots. These are based on disagreements whose authenticity can be substantiated from other locations, especially the Talmud of the West. In these sugyot, the tistayem section serves largely the same function as it did during the time of the Amoraim, namely as a literary description of the scholarly search for the correct version of the initial dispute. I use the word largely because there is a significant detail that sets these units apart from the Amoraic texts discussed elsewhere, in which the method of repairing traditions is the consultation of other reports of the same tradition, and nothing more. Here, in these tistayem units, the tradition is instead repaired on the basis of analogical reasoning from other cases. The authors of these units appear to make two assumptions: First, that Amoraim are ultimately consistent in their legal positions, such that a stated position in one case may be inferred from another based on the assumption that a common conceptual framework underpins each Amora’s legal dicta.63 Second, the authors of these tistayem units display a confidence that they are aware of enough other material from the particular rabbi in question to make such an analogy to begin with. These author/editors have access to enough other dicta of the Amora in question to warrant repairing

Leib Moskovitz, Talmudic Reasoning: From Casuistics to Conceptualization [Texts and Studies in Ancient Judaism 89], (Philadelphia: Coronet, 2002). In this sense, the model of legal theory described differs significantly from some depictions of Tannaitic thought as presented in the Bavli. For instance, at bSukkah 27b–28a, R. Eliezer insists upon stating a law if and only if he had heard the tradition from his teacher, explicitly refusing to answer questions based on legal analogies for which he had no received tradition.




their broken traditions on the basis of this broader corpus of statements, and enough confidence in their approach to do so. In this chapter, I make three basic arguments about these sugyot. The first is that the tistayem units are post-Amoraic, but are not always the last layer in the sugya in which they appear. As such, they can provide information about the scholastic settings during a period which indeed postdates those texts discussed in Chapter 2 but also, and much more importantly, predates the full flowering of the Geonic academies, discussed in Chapter 4. The second is that many of these units revolve around early disputes that either originated in the Land of Israel or were known there during the Amoraic period. These disputes appear in parallels in the Talmud of the West, and frequently in that Talmud, the names remain attached to the positions. Thus, the Yerushalmi can be used as a kind of “control” for the Babylonian sugyot. Finally, I will attempt to analyze the entirety of these passages, not only those lines that contain the phrase tistayem. I do so in order to demonstrate how artfully and carefully these longer literary constructions are. Let us now turn to some examples of the tistayem pericopes: Example #1: b.Shavuot 37b, where tistayem units are products of a late editor

That the tistayem is anonymous, lengthy, and demonstrates a clear literary pattern is important for the dating of these passages, for it is precisely material of this type that is thought to be the hallmark of literary activity of the post-Amoraic editor /redactors,64 whose scholarly attention was devoted to comparing, emending, and sometimes even completing the words of the Amoraim65 and dates to the post-Amoraic period itself.66 The 64 Shamma Friedman, Talmud Arukh, Bava Metzi’a VI: Critical Edition with Comprehensive Commentary, Vol 2 (Jerusalem: JTS, 1996), 21–23. 65 Richard Kalmin, The Redaction of the Babylonian Talmud: Amoraic or Saboraic? (Cincinnati: HUC, 1989), 3; and idem, “The Babylonian Talmud,” in Stephen Katz (ed.), The Cambridge History of Judaism, Vol. 4: The Late Roman-Rabbinic Period, (New York: Cambridge, 2006), 845. 66 Friedman, “A Critical Study of Yevamot X,” 7–13. See also David Weiss Halivni, Introductions to Sources and Traditions (Jerusalem: Magnes,



following example, from b.Shavuot 37b, makes it explicitly clear that named Amoraim who knew the dispute were unaware of the relinking performed by the tistayem formula. It serves nicely as an introduction to the formula as well:

:‫איתמר‬ – ‫קרקע‬ ,‫פליגי רבי יוחנן ור"א‬ ,‫ חייב‬:‫חד אמר‬ .‫ פטור‬:‫וחד אמר‬ ‫תסתיים דרבי יוחנן דאמר‬ :‫ מדאמר רבי יוחנן‬,‫פטור‬ ‫הכופר בממון שיש עליו‬ - ‫ שטר‬,‫ חייב‬- ‫עדים‬ 67 ,‫פטור‬ ‫וכדרב הונא בריה דרב‬ ,‫יהושע‬ 68 .‫תסתיים‬

It was stated: Requests that two witnesses testify on one’s behalf in a claim for land,69 R. Yohanan and R. Eleazar disagree. One says they are liable and the other says they are exempt. It may be promulgated that it is R. Yohanan who says they are exempt, for R. Yohanan said: He who denies money for which there are witnesses is liable; for which there is a bond, is exempt; and as R. Huna the son of R. Joshua [explained it]. It is conclusive.

:‫א"ל רבי ירמיה לר' אבהו‬ ‫ רבי יוחנן ורבי‬,‫לימא‬ ‫אלעזר בפלוגתא דרבי‬ ‫אליעזר ורבנן קא מיפלגי‬

R. Jeremiah said to R. Abbahu: Shall we say that R. Yohanan and R. Eleazar disagree on the same principle on which R. Eliezer and the Rabbis [disagree]



‫ הגוזל שדה מחבירו‬70 :‫דתנן‬ ‫ חייב להעמיד‬- ‫ושטפה נהר‬

For it was taught [in a baraita]: He who robs a field from his neighbor and a river

2009). Compare, however, Jacob Neusner’s classic rejection of this model, Making the Classics in Judaism (Atlanta: Brown, 1989). 67 The quotation of R. Yohanan is notably shorter in the MSS, without changing the meaning:

‫ מדאמר רבי יוחנן הכופר בממון שיש עליו עדים חייב שטר פטור‬,‫ תסתיים דרבי יוחנן דאמר פטור‬Vilna ‫ תסתים דר' יוחנן דאמ' פטור מדאמ' רבי יוחנן הכופר בממון שיש ע ליו עדים חייב שטר פטור‬Pessaro ‫ תסתיים דר' יוחנן הו' דא' פטו' דא"ר יוחנן בשטר פטור‬Mun. 95 ‫ תסתיים דר' יוח' דאמ' ]פטור דא"ר יוח' בשטר[ פטור‬Florence ‫ תסתיים דר' יוחנ' הוא ]ד[אמ' פטור דאמ' ר' יוחנ' בשטר פטור‬Vatican 140 ‫ תיסתיים דר' יוח' הוא דאמ' פטור מדאמ' ר' יוחנן בשטר פטור‬New York

This repetition of the term is missing in MS Vatican 140. That is, one who requests that two witnesses testify on his behalf in a claim for land, and then admits that he has not been telling the truth, must he or must he not bring an Oleh VYored sacrifice? 70 While the printed texts read ‫דתנן‬, generally seen as referring to a Mishnah, this tradition appears nowhere in the Mishnah itself. MSS 68 69



,‫ דברי רבי אליעזר‬,‫לו שדה‬ ‫ אומר לו הרי שלך‬:‫וחכ"א‬ 71 ... ;‫לפניך‬

flooded it, must restore a field to him: This is the opinion of R. Eliezer; but the Sages say: He may say to him, ‘Hey! Your [field] is right here.’ ...

‫ כרבי‬- ‫מאן דמחייב‬ - ‫ומאן דפטר‬,‫אליעזר‬ !‫כרבנן‬ ‫ מאן‬,‫ לא‬72 :‫אמר ליה‬ ,‫ כרבי אליעזר‬- ‫דמחייב‬

[Now, shall we say that] he who pronounces liability agrees with R. Eliezer, He said to him: No! He who pronounces liability agrees with R. Eliezer;

:‫ אמר לך‬- ‫ומאן דפטר‬ ‫בהא אפילו רבי אליעזר‬ ‫ דרחמנא אמר מכל‬,‫מודה‬ 73 .‫ולא הכל‬

but he who exempts them, may tell you that in this even R. Eliezer agrees, for Scripture says, ‘of all’, and not, ‘all’

Perhaps the most salient feature of this sugya for our purposes is the fact that neither R. Yirmia (III)74 nor his teacher, R. Abahu, is aware of the tistayem or its conclusion. Instead, when R. Yirmia attempts to link this dispute between R. Yohanan and R. Elazar to the Tannaitic one between R. Eliezar and the sages, R. Abahu may be seen as unaware of any kind of reattaching, and instead uses the terminology of “the one who pronounces liability” (man dǝmehayyev—‫ )מאן דמחייב‬and “the one who pronounces exemption” (man dǝpatar—‫)מאן דפתר‬. In his disciple circle, the traditions continued to be transmitted without any repaired link to their source. Now there is no reason to assume that the words “the one

Munich 95, Florence II-I-9, and Vatican 140 all read ‫דתניא‬, referring to a baraita. This text also appears at bBK 177b, where it is introduced by ‫ר"ת‬. 71 With the notable exception of MS Vatican 140, an Ashkenazi manuscript from the fourteenth century, all the witnesses here present a lengthy discursive analysis of the dispute between these two Amoraim that is likely imported from bBK 177b, where the same baraita is quoted and discussed. For the sake of highlighting the tistayem itself, I have omitted this section. That it is lacking in MS Vatican 140 suggests that it is itself a later addition to the sugya. 72 The words ‫ אמר ליה‬are missing in MS Munich 95, Florence II-I-9, and Vatican 140. 73 MS Munich 95, Florence II-I-9, and Vatican 140 read simply ‫כל‬. 74 See Aaron Hyman, Toledot Tannaim veAmoraim (London, 1910), 803–11.



who pronounces liability” (man dǝmehayyev—‫ )מאן דמחייב‬were the ipsissima verba of any given Amora. Indeed, it may be editorial itself. Yet there are far simpler ways to indicate the tentative nature of the reconnection performed by some tistayem units.75 Instead, it is more reasonable to understand this sugya as one in which the tistayem unit was created after R. Yirmia’s analysis of the dispute.76 The earliest named sage here is R. Huna the son of R. Yehoshua, a late fourth-century Babylonian Amora,77 whose interpretation of R. Yohanan is what allows the (re)identification to take place. Because the tistayem unit is expressed anonymously and explicitly comments on the positions of the named Amoraim in question, it is more reasonable to suppose that the tistayem section postdates, at least literarily, the Amoraim here, and might even date from the time of the redactor of this whole section. Example #2: bBB116a, where there is further redaction after some tistayem units

Just because the tistayem postdates the Amoraim named in a given passage does not mean that the formula is always the last layer added to a sugya. At times, additional material was added after the tistayem unit was composed. This passage presents a clear example: [A] R. Yohanan said in R. Shimon b. Yohai’s name: The blessed Holy One is filled with anger at one who leaves no (male) heir, [for] it is written: and cause his inheritance to pass (v’ha’vartem),

'‫]א[ אמר רבי יוחנן משום ר‬ :‫שמעון בן יוחאי‬ ‫ ליורשו‬78‫כל שאינו מניח בן‬ ‫ עליו‬79‫הקדוש ברוך הוא מלא‬ ‫עברה‬ ‫כתיב הכא ְו ַ ֽהֲﬠַב ְרֶ֥תּם ֶאת־‬ 80 ‫ַנֲחָלֹ֖תו‬

See, for example, bBK 29b and Tosafot ad loc. s.v. ‫תסתיים‬. Halivni makes this point as well, 230n4. Compare this to the similar phenomenon found at Hullin 56a. 77 Hyman, 353–61. 78 MS Paris and MS Escorial add “‫זכר‬,” which is implied in the other textual witnesses. 79 As Rashbam notes, “‫ ”מלא‬is not the only reading here. MS Paris 1337 and MS Escorial G-I-3 have “‫מעלה‬.” Yad Ramah similarly has “‫מלא‬.” 80 Numbers 27:8. 75 76

100 THE SCHOLASTIC CULTURE OF THE BABYLONIAN TALMUD and it is written: That day is a day of wrath. (‘evarah)

‫וכתיב התם ֹ֥יום ֶﬠְב ָ֖רה ַהֹ֣יּום‬ 81 ‫ַה֑הוּא‬

[B] Because they do not change, and do not fear God. R. Yohanan and R. Yehoshua b. Levi [disagree regarding to whom the verse applies].

‫]ב[ ֲאֶ֤שׁר ֵ֣אין ֲחִליֹ֣פות ָ֑לֹמו ְו ֖ל ֹא‬ 82 ‫ ִ ֽהים‬k‫ָי ְר֣אוּ ֱא‬ ‫רבי יוחנן ורבי יהושע בן‬ ‫לוי‬

One says: Whoever does not leave behind a (male) heir. The other says: Whoever does not leave behind a disciple.

‫חד אמר כל שאינו מניח‬ ‫בן‬ ‫וחד אמר כל שאינו מניח‬ ‫תלמיד‬

It may he promulgated [that it was] R. Yohanan who said: A disciple;

‫( דאמר‬83 ‫תסתיים רבי יוחנן )הוא‬ 84 ‫תלמיד‬

for R. Yohanan said: This is the bone of my tenth son. Thus it is proven that it was R. Yohanan who said: A disciple.

‫דאמר רבי יוחנן דין גרמיה‬ ‫דעשיראה ביר‬ ‫תסתיים דרבי יוחנן דאמר‬ 85 .‫תלמיד‬

But since R. Yohanan said: A disciple, R. Joshua b. Levi [must have] said: A son. But R. Joshua b. Levi only went to a house of mourning if it was one who died childless, for it is written: But weep sore for him that goeth away.


‫ומדרבי יוחנן אמר תלמיד‬ ‫רבי יהושע בן לוי אמר בן‬

‫והא רבי יהושע בן לוי לא אזיל‬ ‫לבי טמיא אלא לבי מאן דשכיב‬ ‫ ְבּ֤כוּ ָבֹכ ֙ו‬:‫ דכתיב‬,‫בלא בני‬ 87 ,R‫ַ ֽלֹהֵ֔ל‬

Zephania 1:15. Psalms 55:20. 83 ‫ח"ב‬. This is present in MS Paris 1337. Munich and Escorial have “‫זה‬.” Curiously, the line is missing entirely in Vatican 115 and Bologna, but both assume it, for they both also contain the repetition of the tistayem. See synopsis. 84 This line is missing in MS Vatican 115 and Bologna. 85 The manuscripts all lack “‫דרבי יוחנן דאמר תלמיד‬,” and the first print places it in parentheses. 86 MSS Hamburg and Escoral, the two Spanish MSS, add “‫ ”איני‬here. 87 Jeremiah 22:10. MS Bologna quotes the entire verse, and adds the question “‫”?מאי להולך‬ 81 82


Rav Yehudah said in the name of Rav [that this means]: He who goes [from the world] without [leaving] male children! Rather, [it must have been] R. Joshua b. Levi who said: A disciple. Since, however, it is R. Joshua b. Levi who said: A disciple, R. Yohanan must have said: A son, and thus R. Yohanan contradicts himself! There is no contradiction; one [statement] is his own; the other— his teacher’s.



:‫ואמר רב יהודה אמר רב‬ 89 !‫להולך בלא בן זכר‬

‫ רבי יהושע בן לוי הוא‬,‫אלא‬ ‫דאמר תלמיד‬ ‫ומדר' יהושע בן לוי הוא דאמר‬ 90 ,‫תלמיד‬ ‫קשיא דרבי‬,‫רבי יוחנן אמר בן‬ !‫יוחנן אדרבי יוחנן‬ ,‫ הא דידיה‬:‫לא קשיא‬ .‫הא דרביה‬

This is a good example of an aggadic tistayem unit.91 We begin with a Midrash which seeks, by means of the hermeneutical principle of gezera shava,92 to compare the usage of the root ʿ.b.r. (‫ע‬.‫ב‬.‫ר‬.) in Numbers 27:8 and Zephania 1:15.93 R. Shimon b. Yochai argues that God punishes those who do not have (male) heirs.94 A topically related dispute between R. Yohanan and R. Yehoshua b. Levi follows, regarding the meaning of Psalm 55:20. One argues Escorial reads, “‫ר 'יהושע בן לוי להולך בלא בנים‬.” This is also seen in the Pesaro print. 89 MS Escorial G-I-3 has ‫ר 'יהושע בן לוי‬, a reading also reflected in the Pesaro print. 90 This line is missing in MS Escorial. 91 Another example is Sanhedrin 72b. 92 That is, the kind of analysis of the Bible which seeks to understand a word or phrase in one location in the biblical corpus by comparing it with the usage of the same (or a similar) word from another place in the corpus. The precise usage of this hermeneutical seems to have developed over time. See Michael Chernick, Hermeneutical Studies. See also Yitzhak D. Gilat, Studies in the Development of the Halakha [in Hebrew], (Jerusalem, Bar Ilan University Press, 1992), 265–72. 93 This Midrash also appears at 141a, without the ensuing dispute between R. Yohanan and R. Yehushua ben Levi, hinting that this one is best seen as its “original” context. See Halivni, 209n1. 94 Here following the reading of MSS Paris 1337 and Escorial G-I-3. See synopsis. 88

102 THE SCHOLASTIC CULTURE OF THE BABYLONIAN TALMUD that the verse speaks of one who does not leave behind a son, and the other, a disciple. The Talmud seeks to prove, by means of a tistayem unit, that it is R. Yohanan who interprets the verse as referring to one who has not left a disciple, based primarily on the supposed “biography” of R. Yohanan himself.95 Later rabbinic scholars were nonetheless aware of a tradition that R. Yohanan outlived his (ten) sons,96 for the Talmud quotes R. Yohanan as saying, “This is the bone of my tenth son.”97 Apparently, R. Yohanan used the fact of his own bereavement to comfort others.98 If indeed R. Yohanan had thought that having no (male) children—as implied by this act—demonstrated his lack of fear of G-d, he would not have done so. Thus, for the Talmud, R. Yohanan must believe the verse refers to a disciple. However, despite the seemingly definitive repetition,99 the Talmud rejects the conclusion it has just asserted. For if R. Yohanan believes that the verse in Psalm 55 refers to a lack of disciples, then R. Yehoshua b. Levi is the one who believes that it refers to a lack of sons! However, the Talmud possesses a tradition

There is, as always, no reason to accept these texts as reliable information regarding the biography of a “historical” figure like R. Yohanan. 96 This tradition is recorded at b.Berachot 5a-b: ‫בבלי ב"ב קטז ע"א‬ ‫בבלי ברכות ה ע"ב‬ ‫תסתיים רבי יוחנן )הוא( דאמר תלמיד‬ ‫ױובנים לא היכי דמי אילימא דהוו להו ומתו‬ ‫דאמר רבי יוחנן דין גרמיה דעשיראה ביר‬ ‫ו הא‬ ‫ דין גרמא דעשיראה ביר‬:‫אמר רבי יוחנן‬ .‫אלא הא דלא הוו ליה כלל והא דהוו ליה ומתו‬ 95

The medieval commentators, largely concerned with the issue of ritual impurity implied by carrying around a piece of human bone, differ in their explanations of this line. Rashbam assumes this means a tooth, as this is not ritually unclean (per Oholot 3:3). Yad Ramah, on the other hand, reads this as a small piece of bone inserted into a ring. This is the explanation of Rashi and Rabenu Hananel on Berachot 5b. Aruch, however, says that it is a bone from the meal of comfort for his tenth son. 98 See Rashi to Berachot 5b. 99 A frequent claim of the medieval commentators is that any time the word tistayem is repeated, we are to understand that the Talmud has accepted the relinking. See the comments of R. Yosef Ibn Migash to bBM 44b. 97



that also appears at b.MK 27b,100 which indicates that R. Yehoshua b. Levi only attended funerals of those who died childless. This shows that it is he, as opposed to R. Yohanan, who believes that there is no divine disapproval of such a state. The Talmud accepts this line of inquiry, and rejects the powerful challenge derived from the first half of the sugya by responding that R. Yohanan’s statement about bringing his own son’s tooth/bone to console other mourners represents his true opinion, and that indeed he agrees with R. Yehoshua b. Levi. On the other hand, the statement reported by R. Yohanan in the name of his teacher, R. Shimon b. Yohchai, which began the section, is just that: a faithful report of the opinion of R. Shimon b. Yohchai, an opinion which his student, R. Yohanan, did not accept.101 This is a somewhat strange way to end a tistayem section because at the end of this passage, we are left to understand that there was, in fact, no disagreement to begin with between the Amoraim who are presented as the opposing parties. Furthermore, the Talmud continues with the following somewhat artificial objection: Why would anyone think that R. Yohanan’s report of his teacher’s position would necessarily show that he himself held the same position? These questions likely lead to


‫בבלי ב"ב קטז ע"א‬ ‫והא רבי יהושע בן לוי לא אזיל לבי טמיא אלא‬ ‫ ְבּ֤כוּ ָבֹכ ֙ו‬:‫ דכתיב‬,‫לבי מאן דשכיב בלא בני‬ ,A‫ַ ֽלֹהֵ֔ל‬ !‫ להולך בלא בן זכר‬:‫ואמר רב יהודה אמר רב‬

:‫בבלי מ"ק כז ע"ב‬ ‫ אמר רב יהודה להולך בלא בנים‬A‫ְבּ֤כוּ ָבֹכ ֙ו ַ ֽלֹהֵ֔ל‬ ‫רבי יהושע בן לוי לא אזל לבי אבלא אלא למאן‬ ‫ ִ֣כּי ֤ל ֹא‬A‫ דכתיב ְבּ֤כוּ ָבֹכ ֙ו ַ ֽלֹהֵ֔ל‬,‫דאזיל בלא בני‬ .‫ָישׁוּ֙ב ֹ֔עוד ְוָרָ֖אה ֶאת־ֶ֥אֶרץ ֹמוַלְדֹֽתּו‬

Unlike in halachic matters, in which Amoraim were not free to openly disagree with a Tannaitic opinion unless they relied on a conflicting Tannaitic source, in matters of Aggadah, they seemed free to do so. See Halivni to Sukkah 241n10. It should also be noted that these “biographical” details should not be taken as biography in the conventional sense. While the names of Talmudic rabbis may well have once referred to actual historical figures, mining the rabbinic corpus in order to write biographies of these historical personages is very problematic, owing to the composite nature of the texts themselves.


104 THE SCHOLASTIC CULTURE OF THE BABYLONIAN TALMUD another reading of the sugya, quoted and then rejected by Ritba.102 In this reading, the quotation of R. Shimon b. Yochai represents R. Yohanan’s own opinion, which he then revised to agree with his teacher R. Yehoshua Ben Levi. This reading is too convoluted to be taken seriously, but it shows that the medieval commentators were bothered by this strange passage Halivni attempts to reconstruct the sugya as follows: Initially, R. Yohanan quoted his teacher, R. Shimon b. Yochai, as saying that dying without sons is a terrible thing. Someone who did not know the bone/tooth tradition assumed that R. Yohanan agreed with his teacher, then juxtaposed this tradition with the independent and opposing opinion of R. Yehushua b. Levi.103 Over the long course of temporal and geographical transmission, the names became detached from the positions, like every other had amar...v’had amar sugya. This mistaken assumption then leads to the challenge from the independent material regarding R. Yohanan’s bereavement.104 What Halivni fails to mention is that there is a telling parallel to part of the initial dispute from Numbers Rabba: ‫בבלי ב"ב קטז ע"א‬ ‫במדבר רבה )וילנא( פרשה י‬ ‫ ִ ֽהים‬k‫ֲאֶ֤שׁר ֵ֣אין ֲחִליֹ֣פות ָ֑לֹמו ְו ֖ל ֹא ָי ְר֣אוּ ֱא‬ '‫ֲאֶ֤שׁר ֵ֣אין ֲחִליֹ֣פות ָ֑לֹמו וגו‬ ,‫רבי יוחנן ורבי יהושע בן לוי‬ ,‫ כל שאינו מניח בן‬:‫חד אמר‬ ‫א"ר חנינא זה שאין מניח לו בן‬ .‫ כל שאינו מניח תלמיד‬:‫וחד אמר‬

‫דרביה הא דידיה הא‬. ‫דידיה גרמא דין דקאמר הא 'פי‬, ‫משמיה בן מניח שאינו כל דקאמר וההיא‬ ‫דלעיל י"רשב דרביה‬, ‫דידיה דקמייתא מפרשים ויש‬, ‫רביה יהושע דרבי דגרמא ואידך‬, ‫ביה דהדר‬ ‫דידיה לגבי‬, ‫צורך ואין‬. 103 Yad Rama states this most simply: ‫ ורבי יוחנן דאמר כל שאינו מניח בן דרביה‬,‫ואסיקנא דריב"ל הוא דאמר כל שאינו מניח תלמיד‬ ‫ דריב"ל לא הוה אזיל לבי אבילא אלא‬,‫ אבל איהו כריב"ל ס"ל דאמר כל שאינו מניח תלמיד‬,‫הוא‬ ‫ כלומר לא היה מבטל תורתו לניחום אבלים אלא על מת שהלך לבית‬.‫לבי מאן דאזיל בלא בני‬ ‫ דהא אמר רבי‬,‫ ורבי יוחנן נמי כותיה ס"ל‬,‫ אלמא לאו בחזקת רשע הוא‬,‫עולמו ולא הניח בנים‬ ...‫ דהוו ליה עשרה בנים ומתו בחייו‬,‫יוחנן דין גרמא עשיראה ביר‬ 104 Mekorot UMesorot to Bava Batra, 210. 102

CHAPTER THREE. THE TERMINOLOGY OF THE SIYYUMA b Bava Batra 116a Because they do not change, and do not fear God. R. Yohanan and R. Yehoshua b. Levi One says: Anyone who does not leave behind a son. The Other says: Anyone who does not leave behind a disciple.


Numbers Rabba 10 Because they do not change, etc.

R. Ḥanina says: This is one who does not leave behind a son.

It is certainly problematic to rely on Numbers Rabba, a collection of biblical interpretations now considered to be a product of medieval Europe and not of late antique Palestine,105 which bears a great deal of similarity to the work of R. Moshe HaDarshan.106 However, as Hannel Mack notes, the author of Numbers Rabba— in addition to using late sources like Midrash Tadshe, Midrash Konen, Ottiyot of Rabbi Akiva, and even the liturgical poems of Kalir—likely also relied on an ancient Midrash collection that is now lost to us.107 The names Yohanan/Ḥanina are as close semantically as they are orthographically, and are thus easily confused in both oral and written transmission. If the Numbers Rabba text preserves an original version of this tradition, the solution to the problem at bBB 116 is simple: It was Rabbi Ḥanina, not R. Yohanan, who disagreed with R. Yehoshua b. Levi originally. If we are speaking about Ḥanina b. Hama,108 this makes perfect sense, for he is presented without patronymic, in conjunction with

See Hananel Mack, “The Time, Place and Diaspora [location] of Numbers Rabba” [in Hebrew], Teuda 11 (1995): 91–105. Compare Hermann L. Strack and Gunter Stemberger, Introduction to the Talmud and Midrash (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1992), 337–9. 106 Mack, The Aggadic Midrash Literature (Tel Aviv: Mod Books, 1989), 74. 107 Mack, “The Time, Place and Diaspora [location] of Numbers Rabba,” 93. 108 See Hyman, 484-492. 105

106 THE SCHOLASTIC CULTURE OF THE BABYLONIAN TALMUD Yehoshua b. Levi, his student, in the Yerushalmi,109 in Genesis Raba110 and in the Bavli.111 According to this line of reasoning, the dispute was initially between R. Ḥanina and R. Yehoshua b. Levi. In the course of transmission to Babylonia, two problems occurred. First, the tradition was mistakenly applied to R. Yohanan, the quintessential Palestinian Amora, and second, the association between positions and authorities was lost. The authors of our sugya attempted to put the pieces back together based on known statements of R. Yohanan and R. Yehoshua b. Levi, which had already been placed in their natural locations at b. Berachot 5b and b.MK 27b, respectively. The trouble the Talmud has in correctly applying these is explained by the first problem in transmission. It would be a great mistake, therefore, to see the tistayem unit as part of the last layer of redaction, for it seems that the tistayem unit is based only on the tradition of R. Yohanan from Berachot 5b. Only later, the R. Yohoshua b. Levi text was brought to challenge the tistayem, resulting in the forced explanation we see in the sugya. We have seen in the analysis of these tistayem that both units are products of a post-Amoraic scholastic impulse, as much as they rely on material that may well have been known to Amoraim themselves.112 Yet the second example shows that there is additional work performed on the sugya by redactors after the tistayem unit was added. This fact alone is quite important, for it demonstrates that sugyot are not products of a single redactional moment, but rather, were continuously reworked and reordered not only in the period of the Amoraim, during which each named authority added his own comments to those who preceded him, but also after named authorities ceased to be quoted as such. In these units there is no such thing as the “stam”; rather, there are multiple layers of anonymous literary and redactional activity,113 each of which needs to be stripped away if we are to understand y. Berachot 5:1 (9a), y. Yoma 8:1 (44d). Chapter 96 (Theadore-Albeck edition, 1239). 111 See Yoma 39a. 112 See Kalmin, “Babylonian Talmud,” 867. 113 See Halivni, “Introduction to Bava Batra,” [in Hebrew] in Introductions to Sources and Traditions (Jerusalem: Magnes, 2012), 6. 109 110



the development of each sugya. This claim should not be surprising in the least, for it was Sherira Gaon who first articulated this point in his famous letter that “the Talmud was compiled generation after generation.”114 Example #3: Parallels to Tistayem Sugyot in the Yerushalmi

In many cases, our ability to analyze these sugyot is aided by a parallel sugya in the Talmud of the West. A number of disputes at the heart of tistayem sugyot include early Palestinian or Babylonian Amoraim known to scholars of the Land of Israel. Indeed, the combination of temporal and geographical distance may have been a significant factor in the degradation of these traditions to the point that tradent and “text” became disconnected in the first place. Interestingly enough, the Yerushalmi tends to preserve the connection between name and opinion, the reconnection of which is the explicit goal of the tistayem unit. That is, the Yerushalmi can preserve a record of the dispute before that connection was lost. As such, these parallels can be used as a kind of “control” to analyze how well the redactors did in their quest to repair these traditions. At times, indeed, the tistayem unit the Bavli applies to the old, broken tradition accurately reconnects speaker with opinion, if the Yerushalmi can be trusted in this regard.115 This is an important factor in understanding the phenomenon of the tistayem sugyot as a whole. A clear example of this phenomenon can be found at b.MK 24a:116 Iggerret Rav Sherira Gaon, Lewin edition, “French” recension, 66. That the Babylonian author/editors relied on their own knowledge and not on some “version” of the Yerushalmi is thus a powerful critique of those scholars, like Alyssa Grey and Martin Jaffee, who have argued that, at least in some tractates, the editors of the Bavli relied on something like a redacted Yerushalmi. See Alyssa Grey, A Talmud in Exile: The Influence of Yerushalmi Avodah Zarah on the Formation of Bavli Avodah Zarah (Providence: Brown Judaic Studies, 2005), and Martin S. Jaffee, “The Babylonian Appropriation of the Talmud Yerushalmi: Redactional Studies in the Horayot Tractates,” New Perspectives on Ancient Judaism Vol. 4, ed. Alan J. Avery-Peck (Lantham, MD: University Press, 1989). It is, of course, possible that different modes of redaction were at play in different tractates. 116 It is unfortunate that the Cairo Geniza fragment that Adiel Schremer used to show that there were multiple recensions of this tractate existed 114 115

108 THE SCHOLASTIC CULTURE OF THE BABYLONIAN TALMUD These tears, may they be repaired or not? The Father of Rav Oshaya and Bar Kapara disagree

‫אותן קרעין מתאחין או אין‬ ?‫מתאחין‬ ‫דרב‬ ‫אבוה‬ ‫בה‬ ‫פליגי‬ .‫ ובר קפרא‬117 ‫אושעיא‬

One says: They may not be repaired The others say: They may be repaired. Let it be promulgated that it was the father of R. Oshiya who says that they may not be repaired. As Rav Oshiya says: They may not be repaired! [For] from whom did he receive [this tradition, if] not from his father? No[t necessarily]. [Perhaps] he heard it from Bar Kapara his teacher.

,‫ אין מתאחין‬:‫חד אמר‬ 118 .‫ מתאחין‬:‫וחד אמר‬


‫תסתיים דאבוה דרב אושעיא‬ ‫ דאמר רב‬,‫דאמר אין מתאחין‬ .‫ אין מתאחין‬120 :‫אושעיא‬ ?‫ לאו מאבוה‬121‫ממאן שמיע ליה‬ ‫ שמיע‬122‫ מבר קפרא רביה‬,‫לא‬ 123 .‫ליה‬

This sugya concerns the laws of tearing one’s garments124 upon becoming aware of the death of a close relative. In the section immediately preceding this pericope, Shǝmuel is quoted125 as

for our sugya. See Adiel Schremer, “Between Text Transmission and Text Redaction: Fragments of a Different Recension of TB Moed-Qatan from the Genizah” [in Hebrew], Tarbiz 61 (1992): 375–99. 117 MS Munich 95 has the father of Shǝmuel in dispute with Bar Kapara. All witnesses, with the exception of the Vilna print, refer to him only as “‫אבוה דר 'אושעיא‬,” making it very hard to figure out whether this is the second or third generation Palestinian Amora, the brother of R. Ḥanina, or the first generation Amora, whom the Yerushalmi calls ‫רבי הושעיה רבה‬. 118 In MS Munich 95, the positions are reversed. 119 MS Munich 95 reads ‫אבוה דשמאול‬. 120 Here, too, MS Munich 95 reads ‫דשמאול‬. 121 MSS Oxford and Munich 140 read ‫דשמיע ליה ממאן‬. 122 ‫ רביה‬is lacking in MSS Vatican 134 and Munich 95. 123 ‫ שמיע ליה‬is lacking in MSS Vatican 108, Oxford, Columbia X 893 T 141, and Munich 140. 124 See mMK 3:1. 125 Or, alternatively, Shǝmuel may simply be quoting a baraita, as the Yerushalmi presents this idea:



stating that the tearing of garments only fulfills the obligation if it is done in “the moment of anguish,” immediately upon hearing the report of the death. The dispute between the father of R. Oshaya and Bar Kapara concerns the permissibility of re-stitching the legally obligatory tears, which, in accordance with Shmuel’s dictum, must be torn in the moment of anguish and which must remain torn forever. Here, those tears that are performed when putting on new clothes during the first week of mourning126 in order to honor one’s parents,127 instead, is the subject for the debate. The fathers of R. Oshaya and Bar Kapara differ; one maintains that these tears, like the obligatory ones, may never be resewn, and the other maintains that they may indeed be repaired. The Talmud arrives at an initial proof that it is the father of R. Oshaya who holds that these tears may never be re-stitched, seemingly on an account of an explicit memra in the name of his son. This state of the argument matches the Yerushalmi’s version of the dispute, which will be discussed below. However, given that R. Oshaya had access to both his father’s and his teacher’s halachic opinions, and that his father is here at odds with his teacher, Bar Kapara, the anonymous editor allows that R. Oshaya’s statement is just as likely to have been derived from his teacher’s position as his father’s.128 Thus the tistayem remains ‫א"ע כד ק"מ בבלי‬ ‫דאמר שמואל כל קרע שאינו בשעת חימום אינו קרע‬

(‫יב )ח ט"ד‬:‫ירושלמי ב"מ ב‬ ‫תני כל קרע שאינו של בהלה אינו קרע‬

e.g., Shiva. The tradition may have developed in response to the story in Genesis 50:1–14 in which Joseph mourns the death of his father Jacob (Israel) for seven days. 127 I am here following the reading of ‫ריטב"א‬. 128 The variations in the textual witnesses suggest, following Friedman, that this passage is late: 126

‫ ממאן שמיע ליה לאו מאבוה לא מבר קפרא רביה שמיע ליה‬Vilna ‫ ממאן שמיע ליה לאו מאבוה לא מבר קפרא רביה שמיע ליה‬Pesaro ‫ ממאן שמיע ליה לא מאבוה שמיע ליה לא מבר קפרא שמיע ליה‬Vat. 134 ‫ ממאן שמעיה ליה לא ו מאבוה שמיע ליה לא מדבר קפרא רביה‬Vat. 108 ‫ דשמיע ליה ממאן לאו דשמיע ליה מאבוה לא דשמיע ליה מבר קפרא רביה‬Oxford ‫ ממאן שמיע ליה לא ו דשמיע ליה מאבוה לא מבר קפרא רביה‬Colum. ‫ מ מאן שמיע ליה לאו מאבוה שמיע ליה לא דילמא מבר קפרא שמיע לי ה‬Mun. 95 ‫ דשמיע ליה ממאן לאו דשמיע ליה מאבוה לא דשמיע ליה מבר קפרא רביה‬Mun. 140

110 THE SCHOLASTIC CULTURE OF THE BABYLONIAN TALMUD unresolved, and the gemara moves on, content to allow this lack of resolution. However, some significant questions remain. First, which Amora is this? Is this the father of R. Oshaya/Hoshaya the second or third generation Palestinian Amora, the brother of R. Ḥanina? Or is this the father of the R. Oshaya whom the Talmud of the West calls R. Hoshaya the Great, the third century Palestinian Amora and student of Judah the Prince?129 The former is suggested by the connection with Bar Kapara,130 a first generation Palestinian Amora. If the Amora in question was the colleague of Bar Kapara, and his son was his student, it is likely indeed that the father of the second or third generation sage is the one who appears here. This reading is corroborated by the Yerushalmi, where we also find that the dispute between the father of R. Oshaya and Bar Kapara is much clearer:

‫ ממאן שמיע ליה לאו מאבוה שמיע ליה לא דילמ' מבר קפרא רביה שמיע ליה‬BL

My sense is that this section (‫ממאן שמיע ליה‬...) was appended to the text after the tistayem section, which initially was meant to be conclusive. That is to say, at first the tradition was presented as being broken, and later it was brought in line with what we have in the Yerushalmi by means of the statement of R. Oshaya. At some later point, an additional question and answer were inserted, changing this sugya from one meant to be conclusive to one whose decision remains unclear. This discrepancy would explain the long history of rabbinic dispute on the topic of whether one must tear additional garments, and, if one does, may one re-stitch them. 129 The only MSS that provides a difficult reading is MS Munich 95, which is best seen as an error, with ‫ דשמואל אבוה‬being a relatively common figure:


See Hyman 288–92.

‫ פליגי בה אבוה דרב אושעיא ובר קפרא‬Vilna ‫ פליגו בה אבוה דרב הושעיא ובר קפרא‬Pesaro ‫ פליגי בה אבוה דר' אושעיא ובר קפרא‬Vat. 134 ‫ פליגי בה אבוה דר' הושעיא ובר קפרא‬Vat. 108 ‫ פליגי בה אבוה דר' הושעי' ובר קפרא‬Oxford ‫ פליגי בה אבוה דר' אושעיה ובר קפרא‬Columbia ‫ פליגי בה אבוה דשמואל ור' אושעיא ובר קפרא‬Mun. 95 ‫ פליגי בה אבוה דר' הושעיא ובר קפרא‬Mun. 140 ‫ פליגו בה אבוה דר' הושעיא וב ר קפרא‬BL



‫ירושלמי מ"ק ג‪:‬ח )פג ט"ד(‬ ‫הרי‪ 132‬שהיה מחליף בגדים כל שבעה חייב‬ ‫לקרוע את כולן‪.‬‬

‫רבי‪ 133‬חייה רבה ורבי‪ 134‬חמא אבוי דרבי‬ ‫הושעיה תריהון אמרין כולהן אסורין באיחוי‬ ‫בר קפרא אמר‪ .‬אין לך אסור באיחוי אלא יום‬ ‫הראשון בלבד‬

‫אמר רבי‪ 135‬חונא‪ 136 .‬פלוגא אחרת ביניהון‪.‬מאן‬ ‫דמר‪ .‬כולהן אסורין באיחוי‪ .‬עושה שאר הימים‬ ‫כיום הראשון‪ .‬אפילו יש עליו כמה בגדים חייב‬ ‫לקרוע את כולן‪.‬‬

‫בבלי מ"ק כד ע"א‬ ‫אותן קרעין מתאחין או אין‬ ‫מתאחין?‬ ‫פליגי בה אבוה דרב אושעיא ובר‬ ‫קפרא‪.‬‬ ‫חד אמר‪ :‬אין מתאחין‪,‬‬ ‫וחד אמר‪ :‬מתאחין‪.‬‬ ‫תסתיים דאבוה דרב אושעיא‬ ‫דאמר אין מתאחין‪ ,‬דאמר רב‬ ‫אושעיא‪ :‬אין מתאחין‪.‬‬ ‫ממאן שמיע ליה לאו מאבוה?‬ ‫לא‪ ,‬מבר קפרא רביה שמיע ליה‪.‬‬

‫מאן דמר‪ .‬אין לך אסור באיחוי אלא יום‬ ‫הראשון בלבד‪ .‬עושה שאר הימים תוספת‪.‬‬ ‫אפילו יש עליו כמה בגדים אינו קורע‪ 137‬אלא‬ ‫העליון בלבד‪.‬‬

‫‪This passage containing halachot 7–9 was written twice by the scribe‬‬ ‫‪of MS Leiden. See Shaul Lieberman, Yerushalmi Cifshuto (JTS: New York,‬‬ ‫‪1934), 21. I have presented the text of the second copying, noting any‬‬ ‫‪meaningful changes.‬‬ ‫‪132‬‬ ‫‪ is missing in the first copy.‬הרי ‪The word‬‬ ‫‪133‬‬ ‫‪ in the first copy.‬ר ‪Simply‬‬ ‫‪134‬‬ ‫‪Ibid.‬‬ ‫‪135‬‬ ‫‪Ibid.‬‬ ‫‪136‬‬ ‫‪ in the‬רבי חונה ‪ in the first copy. See Hyman, 412. He equates‬חונה‬ ‫‪. This passage is quoted by Rosh, whose‬רב הונא ‪Yerushalmi with the Bavli’s‬‬ ‫‪, whereas R. Yosef Karo, in the Beit Yosef, quotes this‬רבי חיננא ‪text reads:‬‬ ‫‪.‬רבי חנינא ‪in the name of‬‬ ‫‪137‬‬ ‫‪ here.‬את ‪The first copy has‬‬ ‫‪131‬‬


These tears, may they be repaired or not? Rav Oshaya and Bar Kapara disagree. One says: They may not be repaired. The other says: They may be repaired. Let it be promulgated that it was the father of R. Oshiya who says that they may not be repaired. As Rav Oshiya says: They may not be repaired! [For] from whom did he receive [this tradition, if] not from his father? No[t necessarily]. [Perhaps] he heard it from Bar Kapara his teacher.

y.MK 3:8 One who changes his clothes during the seven days must tear all of them. R. Hiyya the Great and R. Ḥama the father of R. Oshaya—both of them say that it is forbidden to repair these tears. Bar Kapara says: The only kind of tear which is forbidden to repair is the first day’s.

R. Huna said: There is another disagreement between them: The one who states: It is forbidden to repair these tears, behaves during the rest of the days as he does on the first day—even if he is wearing many [layers of] clothes, he must tear them all The one who states: The only kind of tear which is forbidden to repair is the first day’s, behaves during the rest of the days as a ‘addition’— even if he is wearing many [layers of] clothes, he must only tear the outer.



In the Yerushalmi, the question is phrased slightly differently, as it concerns a person who (presumably on account of wealth) changes his clothing during the period of Shiva, and is obligated to tear these garments as well. However, using the Bavli’s terminology,138 these acts of tearing are not performed “in the moment of anguish,” and thus the permissibility of repairing these tears is a matter up for debate. Here, we see that it is R. Ḥama, the father of R. Oshaya, who holds the position that these secondary level tears may never be resewn, precisely as the Bavli initially attempted to prove. The Talmud of the West has no confusion over who said what. The Yerushalmi continues by quoting R. Huna, who states that this disagreement between the two scholars above leads to an additional halachic difference.139 R. Huna, much like the Bavli, seems not to know which Amora held which opinion, referring to them not by name, but by position alone! Here the Yerushalmi’s lack of editing provides a glimpse into the development of this tradition. Having first quoted the original dispute, the Yerushalmi then brings a later source—one which dates from a time during which the link between authority and position was already broken. If the first section of the Yerushalmi is to be trusted, in this case, the Bavli’s tistayem indeed “got it right” (at least initially), and successfully repaired the broken tradition. Example #4: Zevachim 52b, where the Bavli’s re-attaching does not reflect the Yerushalmi

In contrast to the model displayed above, in many places, the opposite is the case. In no fewer than five of the cases,140 the Bavli’s tistayem attaches the positions differently from the way they are presented in the Yerushalmi. This fact is important because it indicates that the creators of these Babylonian sugyot See Korban Haeida who does the same thing. As I have translated it above, the plain sense is that Bar Kapara and the father of R. Oshaya disagree about another matter altogether. However, here this does not make sense, as the second dispute is directly and causally related to the first. Both ‫ קה״ע‬and ‫ פנ "מ‬explain that this is to be understood as a consequence of the first dispute. 140 Kettubot 25b, Yoma 4b, Zevachim 52b, BK 29b, Sanhedrin 77a. 138 139

114 THE SCHOLASTIC CULTURE OF THE BABYLONIAN TALMUD indeed lack the connection between tradent and statement, and are honestly engaged in a search for the repair of the traditions. Unfortunately, and if the Yerushalmi’s version of the disputes can be believed, their reattachment is incorrect. Zevachim 52b is one such example:

‫ ְוִכָלּ֙ה‬:‫תנו רבנן‬

,‫—אם כיפר כלה‬141‫ִמַכֵּ֣פּר‬ ,‫ואם לא כיפר לא כלה‬ ;‫דברי ר' עקיבא‬ 142 ,‫אמר לו רבי יהודה‬ ‫ אם‬:‫מפני מה לא נאמר‬ ‫ אם לא כלה לא‬,‫כלה כיפר‬ ‫כיפר? שאם חיסר אחת‬ ‫מכל המתנות לא עשה ולא‬ .‫כלום‬ ?‫מאי בינייהו‬

Our rabbis taught [in a baraita]: And when [the priest] has made an end of atoning: if he atoned, he made an end, while if he did not atone, he did not make an end—this is R. Akiba’s view. R. Yehudah said to him: Why should we not say: If he made an end, he atoned, while if he did not make an end, he did not atone, for if he omitted one of the sprinklings his service is ineffective?

‫רבי יוחנן ורבי יהושע‬ ,‫בן לוי‬

What is the difference between their views?

‫ משמעות‬:‫חד אמר‬ ,‫דורשין איכא בינייהו‬ ‫ שיריים‬:‫וחד אמר‬ .‫מעכבין איכא בינייהו‬ ‫תסתיים דר' יהושע בן לוי‬ ‫הוא דאמר שיריים‬ ,‫דמעכבי‬ :‫דא"ר יהושע בן לוי‬ ‫לדברי האומר שיריים‬ ‫ מביא פר אחד‬,‫מעכבין‬ .‫ומתחיל בתחלה בפנים‬

R. Johanan and R. Joshua b. Levi [disagree]. One says: They differ on the mode of interpretation, and [the other] one says: They differ as to whether the [pouring out of the] residue is a sine qua non. It may be proved that it was R. Joshua b. Levi who said that [the pouring out of] the residue is a sine qua non. For R. Joshua b. Levi said: On the view that the residue is a sine qua non he brings another bullock and commences within. But does R. Johanan not hold this view? Surely R. Johanan said: R. Nehemiah taught in accordance with the view that

‫אטו ר' יוחנן לית ליה הא‬ ?‫סברא‬

Leviticus 16:20. The version of this baraita in the Yalkut has this as R. Nehemia, perhaps on account of the sugya in Yoma; see below.

141 142

CHAPTER THREE. THE TERMINOLOGY OF THE SIYYUMA '‫ תנא ר‬:‫והאמר ר' יוחנן‬ ‫נחמיה כדברי האומר‬ !‫שירים מעכבין‬ "‫אלא "כדברי האומר‬ ,‫ולאו להני תנאי‬ ‫הכא נמי כדברי האומר‬ .‫ולאו להני תנאי‬


the residue is indispensable? But you must say: “In accordance with the view,” but not that of these Tannaim. Then here too, “on the view” does not refer to that of these Tannaim.

This sugya is based around a baraita that contains a dispute between R. Akiva and R. Yehudah regarding the proper interpretation of Leviticus 16:20,143 which details the end of the process (begun at 16:16) of the solitary spiritual cleansing of the Temple itself, such that the “scapegoat” can be brought in and can metaphorically carry the sins of the people out to the desert. It is not immediately clear from the Tosefta’s version of this baraita that there is a substantive dispute between the parties at all. Rather, at its most basic level, R. Akiva and R. Yehudah seem to agree, especially because each uses the phrase “im killa kippair” (‫אם כילה כיפר‬.) In the Sifra, further, R. Yehudah seems to only add material, but not disagree with R. Akivah. In all versions of this tradition, the essential problem R. Yehudah has with R. Akiva’s Midrash is that he reads the verse out of order, assuming that ‫ְוִכָלּ֙ה‬

The baraita also appears in both the Sifra and in the Tosefta: ‫ח‬:‫תוספתא כיפורים ג‬ ‫ספרא א"מ פ"ד‬ ‫בבלי זבחים נב ע"ב‬ (‫)כ"י וינה‬ (JTS Rab 2171) ‫אע'פ שלא נתן כנגד היסוד יצא‬ :‫תנו רבנן‬ ‫שנ' וכלה מכפר‬ ‫וכלה מכפר את הקודש‬ ‫ְוִכָלּ֙ה ִמַכֵּ֣פּר‬ ‫אם כיפר כלה‬ ‫ ואם לא כיפר אם כיפר כילה‬,‫אם כיפר כלה‬ ‫דברי ר' עקיבא‬ ‫דב' ר' עקיבה‬ ,‫לא כלה‬ '‫ר' יהודה או‬ ‫אמ' ר' יהודה‬ ;‫דברי ר' עקיבא‬ '‫מפני מה הוא אומ‬ ,‫אמר לו רבי יהודה‬ ‫אם כילה כיפר‬ ‫אם כלה כיפר‬ :‫מפני מה לא נאמר‬ ,‫אם כלה כיפר‬ ?‫אם לא כלה לא כיפר‬ ‫אלא ללמד‬ ‫שאם חיסר אחת מכל המתנות שאם חיסר אחת מכל המתבות‬ ‫כאילו לא כיפר‬ .‫לא עשה ולא כלום‬


116 THE SCHOLASTIC CULTURE OF THE BABYLONIAN TALMUD ‫“( ִמַכֵּ֣פּר‬and he shall finish atoning”) implies that the “finishing” is a necessary component of the “atoning.”144 Only in the commentary of both Talmudim do we see the assumption that there is indeed a dispute here. Both Talmuds record an early Palestinian dispute between R. Yehoshua b. Levy and R. Yohanan about the precise point of dispute between R. Akiva and R. Yehudah:

(‫ו )מג ט"א‬:‫ירושלמי יומא ה‬

‫ר' אבהו בשם ר' יוחנן מחלוקת ביניהון‬ ‫ השיריים‬145‫מאן דאמ' אם כיפר כילה‬ ‫מעכבין מאן דאמר אם כילה כפר‬ .‫ השיירים מעכבין‬146(‫)אין‬

(‫בבלי זבחים נב ע"ב )ווילנא‬ ?‫מאי בינייהו‬ ‫רבי יוחנן ורבי יהושע בן לוי חד אמר‬ ‫משמעות דורשין איכא בינייהו‬

‫רבי יהושע בן לוי אמר משמעות ביניהון‬ ‫מן השיריים אין השיירים מעכבין‬

‫וחד אמר שיריים מעכבין איכא בינייהו‬

‫רבי סימון בשם רבי יהושע בן לוי אין‬ 147 ?‫השיריים מעכבין‬

‫תסתיים דר' יהושע בן לוי הוא דאמר‬ ....‫שיריים דמעכבי‬

Yerushalmi R. Abahu (said) in R. Yohanan’s name: The dispute

Bavli What is the difference between their views?

144 Both the Masoretic cantillation notation system and various ancient Aramaic translations indicate the same reading of the biblical verse. The symbol x֙, placed on the word ‫ ְוִכָלּ֙ה‬, called Pashta, Qadma, and Azla by the various Jewish communities who use the system, acts as a conjunctive accent. Three Targums show, though they utilize three different words for ‫ ְוִכָלּ֙ה‬, that the words are understood as linked: ‫ וישיצי מלכפרא על קודשא‬Onkelos ‫ ויפסוק מן למכפרא על קודשא‬Pseudo-Jonathan ܿ *,ܵ‫݂ܕ‬7ܼ: 98ܼܿ 7ܼ65ܵ4ܼܿ32ܼ 1/ܸ,ܼܿ ‫ ܵ(* ܕ‬Peshitta

Though this is the reading of both MS Leiden and the first printed edition, Korban HaEida emends the text here, such that the ‫אין מעכבין‬ position comes first; this is likely an attempt to square the Yerushalmi with the Bavli. Penei Moshe disagrees, as does Lieberman. See Tosefta Kifshuta to Moed, 787n26. 146 See previous note. 147 The consequence of this reading is that this line must be read as a question. 145



between them [is as follows] The one who states: If he atoned he made an end [holds that] the [pouring out of the] residue is a sine qua non. The one who states: If he made an end, he atoned: the [pouring out of the] residue is (not) a sine qua non.

R. Johanan and R. Joshua b. Levi [disagree]. One says: They differ on the mode of interpretation,

R. Yehoshua b. Levi said: They differ on the mode of interpretation, such that [both parties agree that] the [pouring out of the] residue is not a sine qua non. R. Simon said in R. Yohanan’s name: Is [the pouring out of] the residue not a sine qua non?

and [the other] one says: They differ as to whether the [pouring out of the] residue is a sine qua non. It may be proved that it was R. Joshua b. Levi who said that [the pouring out of] the residue is a sine qua non.

Though the connection between the positions and their owners has been lost in the Bavli, one can easily see that R. Yehoshua b. Levi was the one who thought that, following the plain sense of the verse detailed above, there is no halachic dispute here, and the two disagree only on the correct way of reading the verse.148 On the other hand, R. Yohanan believes that the two sages indeed disagree legally, asserting that the issue of the shirayim (the pouring of the remainder of the blood on the base of the altar), stands between the two—one Tanna holding that this pouring is essential and a sine qua non for the atoning, and the other believing that though commanded to be done, the efficacy of the atonement post facto is not in question if this stage of the ritual is omitted. The medieval commentators to the Bavli disagree significantly here on which Tanna is the one who maintains that

Rashi has a long and confusing comment here, which is explained well by R. Betzallel Ashkenazi in the Shitta Mequbetzet.


118 THE SCHOLASTIC CULTURE OF THE BABYLONIAN TALMUD the shirayim are an essential component. Rashi,149 Rabbenu Hannel,150 and Ritba,151 among others, argue that R. Akiva is the one who believes that they are not an essential component, whereas Rabbenu Eliyakim152 and Ravia153 argue that R. Yehudah is the author of this position. Assuming an uncorrected text of the Yerushalmi,154 which associates R. Akivah’s position (e.g., ‫אם כיפר‬ ‫ )כילה‬with the notion that the pouring is essential (e.g., ‫השיירים‬ ‫)מעכבין‬, we see support for the approach of Rabbenu Elikaim, who relied on this passage from the Yerushalmi for support of his position in the Bavli. Additionally, as Penei Moshe notes,155 it is clear from the Yerushalmi that it is R. Yohushua b. Levi who believes that the issue of whether or not the pouring out is mandatory stands between R. Akivah and R. Yehudah, and that it is R. Yohanan who holds that the dispute is only about how to read the verse. This is in contrast to the Bavli, which attempts to argue (ultimately unsuccessfully) that the ḥad amar...v’ḥad amar should be construed the other way around. The editors of the Bavli inherited a complete sugya from their counterparts in the west here. The baraita, the dispute between R. Yohanan and R. Yehoshua b. Levi, and the subsequent probing of R. Yehoshua b. Levi are all inserted neatly into place here in Zevachim. The only difference is that the names and positions have become detached. The tistayem sugya here is a legitimate attempt to put the pieces back together, and, as we have seen so often,156 they seem to get it incorrect here. The sugya appears almost verbatim in Tractate Yoma in the context of a dispute between R. Yehudah and R. Nehemia

S.v. ‫מעקבי איכא בינייהו שיריים‬. To Yoma 60b. 151 See Yoma 60b, s.v. ‫וחד אמר שירים מעכבי איכא בינייהו‬ 152 Eliakim ben Meshullam, commentary to Tractate Yoma, Dov Genachowski edition (Jerusalem: Mekitzei Nedarim, 1964), 186–7. This is his second explanation. 153 Zevachim 1:145. 154 See note 91 above. 155 See Mareh HaPnim to y.Yoma 5:6. 156 See, for example, Kettubot 25b, BK 29b, and Sanhedrin 77a. 149 150



regarding which ritual behaviors of the high priest must be performed in the proper order on Yom Kippur, and which, post facto, may be omitted. R. Yohanan asserts that both R. Yehudah and R. Nehemia derive their respective opinions from Leviticus 16:34. An ensuing anonymous discussion of this then connects R. Yehudah’s position that acts performed out of order in the white vestments render the entire service unacceptable. This is precisely parallel to the way that the second position in the Bavli (R. Yohanan in the Yerushalmi) believes R. Yehudah maintains is the case regarding the pouring of the remainder of the blood on the base of the altar. This is only true, of course, if we accept the reading of Rashi et al., who understand the second unnamed rabbi as ascribing this opinion to R. Yehudah and not to R. Yehoshua b Levy. Indeed, it may well be precisely because of the sugya’s context in Yoma that these commentators read it in Zecachim the way they do.157 In any event, a parallel presentation demonstrated that our entire sugya appears in both contexts, and the primary challenge is to ascertain which one is dependent upon the other:158 159

‫בבלי יומא ס ע"ב‬ :‫כדתניא‬ ‫ ואם‬,‫ְוִכָלּ֙ה ִמַכֵּ֣פּר את הקדש אם כפר כלה‬ 160 .‫ דברי רבי עקיבא‬,‫לא כפר לא כלה‬ :‫ מפני מה לא נאמר‬:‫אמר לו רבי יהודה‬ ?‫אם כלה כפר ואם לא כלה לא כפר‬

‫ב"ע נב זבחים בבלי‬ :‫תנו רבנן‬ ‫ְוִכָלּ֙ה ִמַכֵּ֣פּר אם כיפר כלה ואם לא כיפר‬ ‫לא כלה‬ ;‫דברי ר' עקיבא‬

However, compare the explanation of Meiri, who attributes this position to R. Nehemia. 158 This is perhaps one of the most basic differences between the modern historical critical approach and that of the medieval commentators, the former insisting that each tractate, if not sugya, be read on its own terms as the product of a unique time, place, and authorship, and the latter insisting that a complete and uniform editing was performed on the Talmud. See Jacob Nahum Epstein, Introduction to Amoraic Literature (Jerusalem/Tel Aviv: Magnes/Dvir, 1963), 7. See also Israel Francus, “Establishing the Place of Doubled Sugyot,” Tarbiz 38 (1969): 338n1. 159 See full synopsis in the appendix. 160 The section from ‫ ורבי יהודה‬to ‫ אמר לו רבי יהודה‬is lacking in JTS Rab. 218, a clear case of delitography. 157

120 THE SCHOLASTIC CULTURE OF THE BABYLONIAN TALMUD ‫ אם‬:‫ מפני מה לא נאמר‬,‫אמר לו רבי יהודה‬ ?‫כלה כיפ אם לא כלה לא כיפר‬ ‫ לא עשה‬- ‫שאם חיסר אחת מן המתנות‬ 161 .‫ולא כלום‬ 162 ‫ואמרינן‬ 163 ?‫מאי בינייהו‬ 165 ‫רבי יוחנן ורבי יהושע בן לוי‬164 ‫ משמעות דורשין איכא‬:‫חד אמר‬ ,‫בינייהו‬ ‫ שירים מעכבי איכא‬:‫וחד אמר‬ .‫בינייהו‬ ‫ומי אמר רבי יוחנן הכי? והאמר רבי‬ ‫ תנא רבי נחמיה כדברי האומר‬:‫יוחנן‬ 166 .‫ קשיא‬- !‫שירים מעכבי‬ Yoma As it is taught [in a baraita]: And when [the priest] has made an end of atoning: If he atoned, he made an end, while if he did not atone, he did not make an end—this is R. Akiba’s view. R. Yehudah said to him: Why should we not say: If he made an end, he atoned, while if he did not make an end, he did not atone, for if he omitted one

‫שאם חיסר אחת מכל המתנות לא עשה‬ .‫ולא כלום‬ ?‫מאי בינייהו‬ ,‫רבי יוחנן ורבי יהושע בן לוי‬ ‫ משמעות דורשין איכא‬:‫חד אמר‬ ,‫בינייהו‬ ‫ שיריים מעכבין איכא‬:‫וחד אמר‬ .‫בינייהו‬ ‫תסתיים דר' יהושע בן לוי הוא דאמר‬ ...‫שיריים דמעכבי‬ Zevachim Our rabbis taught [in a baraita]: And when [the priest] has made an end of atoning: If he atoned, he made an end, while if he did not atone, he did not make an end—this is R. Akiba’s view. R. Yehudah said to him: Why should we not say: If he made an end, he atoned, while if he did not make an end, he did not atone, for if he omitted one of

This line of the baraita is missing from the Spanish print. This is missing in MS JTS Rab. 218, MS JTS Rab. 1623, and MS Munich 6. 163 Missing in Munich 6. 164 MS JTS Rab. 1623 and MS Munich 6 add “‫פליגי בה‬.” 165 The Spanish print substitutes ‫ורבי שמעון בן לקיש‬, an obvious error. Presumably, either the typesetter or the scribe of the vorlage inserted the more common disputant of R. Yohanan by mistake. 166 This entire (Stammaitic) section is missing in MS JTS Rab. 218, MS JTS Rab. 1623, and in Munich 6. 161 162



of the sprinklings his service is ineffective?

the sprinklings his service is ineffective?

And we say: What is the difference between their views?

What is the difference between their views?

R. Johanan and R. Joshua b. Levi [disagree].

R. Johanan and R. Joshua b. Levi [disagree].

One says: They differ on the mode of interpretation, and [the other] one says: They differ as to whether the [pouring out of the] residue is a sine qua non.

One says: They differ on the mode of interpretation, and [the other] one says: They differ as to whether the [pouring out of the] residue is a sine qua non.

Did R. Yohanan say this? [No!] For R. Yohanan said: It was taught: R. Nehemia agrees with the one who states that [the pouring out of] the residue is a sine qua non.

It may be proved that it was R. Joshua b. Levi who said that [the pouring out of] the residue is a sine qua non.....

This is, indeed, a difficulty. We may attempt to identify the original context through noting two differences between these two presentations of the sugya, one large and one small. The large and immediately obvious difference is that the tistayem section is missing in b. Yoma (!), replaced with a challenge to R. Yohanan in place of the probing of R. Yehoshua b. Levi. The smaller, but equally important difference is the “addition” of the telling phrase, “and we said [regarding this]” (‫)ואמרינן‬, suggesting that this section was transposed from Zevachim to Yoma—not the other way around.167 Rashi to bYoma 60b, s.v. ‫ואמרינן‬. See also Ritba. This “‫ואמרינן‬,” is present in all the printed versions (including the Spanish print), in MS Munich 95, and in MS London 400 (e.g., Harl. 5508) and Oxford 366, both Spanish manuscripts from the thirteenth century. The word is missing in


122 THE SCHOLASTIC CULTURE OF THE BABYLONIAN TALMUD Benjamin de Vries, in the appendix to his masterful article on the Talmudic term vǝhaveinan ba, (‫—והוינן בה‬when we were there [we explained]),168 argues that in many instances, vǝamrinan (‫—ואמרינן‬and we said) can be seen as an analogous term, indicating an early transposition of a sugya that was later developed more fully in the place from which it was transferred. DeVries notes four places in which vǝamrinan functions this way, but I believe that this sugya represents another. What likely happened here is as follows: This material originated in Yoma, as it is more relevant to Yoma than it is to Zevachim. The Yerushalmi has it in Yoma, and the verse and subsequent discussion are firmly ensconced in the topic of the priest’s duties on Yom Kippur. However, the precise formulation of this originally Palestinian sugya we now see in both locations likely occurred after the attributions became disconnected from their respective positions in their official transmission. Yet they were probably still understood by those who repeated this tradition at first. Thus, the sugya was inserted into the Talmud at Zevachim before the tistayem section was composed.169 The arrival of the Palestinian Amoraic dispute in Bavel occurred after the time of R. Papa, who quotes the baraita without the ensuing Amoraic dispute.170 After the Palestinian dispute became known, both manuscripts from the Yemenite tradition and from Munich 6, thought to be the oldest Spanish manuscript of Yoma. Unfortunately, the circa-1520 edition of Yoma of the Spanish type, perhaps printed in Salonica, extends only seventy-two folios, corresponding to 2a–18a in modern editions. See J. Leveen, “A Rare Edition of the Babylonian Talmud,” The British Museum Quarterly 18, no. 3 (1953): 74–5. 168 DeVries, Studies in Talmudic Literature (Jerusalem: Mosad HaRav Kook, 1968), 213–5. See also the tistayem sugyot, which contain the phrase ‫והבינן‬ ‫בה‬: bBM 41b, and bBerachot 45a–b. 169 That the word ‫ ואמרינן‬is lacking in half the witnesses in the Spanish/Yemenite tradition is an indication that the connection between the two sugyot is a later development, and that originally, the sugya was naturally situated at Yoma and not seen as a transported sugya by those who copied the text. 170 Bavli Zevachim 40a ‫בבלי זבחים מ ע"א‬ Rav Papa attacked it: Where do you find that ‫ ומי מצית‬:‫מתקיף לה רב פפא‬ he says this? For it was taught [in a baraita]. ‫ וכלה מכפר‬:‫אמרת הכי? והתניא‬



it was inserted into its present place (what we now call 52b), and from this context it was quoted in Yoma, because of the implicit understanding that it was R. Yohanan who asserted the relevant position of R. Yehoshua b. Levy.171 When the names and positions became further disconnected in Zevachim, in which it is less important for the surrounding discussion to know who said what, later editors composed the tistayem section as a way of lengthening and expanding the sugya. This was long after the transfer of the original sugya to Yoma, which preserves an earlier version in precisely the same way as vǝhaveinan ba sugyot tend to do. This sugya, as preserved in Zevachim, reads like an authentic attempt to put the pieces of a legitimately early Palestinian dispute back together, despite the fact that the resolution arranges the tradition in such a way that it does not match the version of the tradition in the Yerushalmi. This dispute between the two early Palestinian Amoraim is explicitly a commentary on the Tannaitic dispute, and not a halachic dispute between the two sages themselves. It is thus appropriate for both Talmuds to cite this dispute when explicating the Mishnah. There is also reason to trust the Yerushalmi’s presentation of the material, as it is R. Abahu, the late third/early fourth century student of R. Yohanan, who presents his teacher’s position. The Bavli’s presentation of the same dispute is separated by a great spatial and temporal distance from the original dispute. Over the course of both the intervening centuries and the transfer of the material to

And when [the priest] has made an end of atoning: if he atoned, he made an end, while if he did not atone, he did not make an end— this is R. Akiba’s view. R. Yehudah said to him: Why should we not say: If he made an end, he atoned, while if he did not make an end, he did not atone?

‫ ואם‬,‫את הקודש אם כיפר כילה‬ ;‫ דברי ר"ע‬,‫לא כיפר לא כילה‬ ‫ מפני מה לא‬,‫א"ל רבי יהודה‬ ‫ ואם לא‬,‫ אם כילה כיפר‬:‫נאמר‬ ?‫כילה לא כיפר‬

This, then, might be an important source for the determination of the rule for deciding the halacha (e.g., ‫ )כלל פסק‬between R. Yohanan and R. Yehoshua b. Levi. See Ephraim Bezalel Halivni, The Rules for Deciding Halacha in the Talmud [in Hebrew], (Lod: Haberman Institute, 1998), 113–5. 171

124 THE SCHOLASTIC CULTURE OF THE BABYLONIAN TALMUD Babylonia, the tradition became confused, and the connection between the positions and those who uttered them was lost. When this sugya was created in Babylonia, the search for the reconnection of name and position serves as the ordering principle of the sugya itself, and seems to be authentic. In other words, from the perspective of the audience of these sugyot, the ordering principle seems trustworthy—that the arrangers of the sugya legitimately do not know who said what and are honestly and actively looking to repair the tradition. It is the search for the reattachment that provides the literary framework for other material to be cited and analyzed; here, this additional information is the quotation of and ensuing discussion about the memra of R. Yehoshua b. Levi. We see from this example how, despite the highly stylized literary form of the tistayem unit, there nonetheless remains a similar goal to the Amoraic pericopes, which use the related expression mini uminach tistayem shemata, described above. A legitimately broken tradition is being repaired by this literary aim. Luckily, as in this case, a parallel sugya from the Talmud of the West allows for a kind of “control,” showing the process by which a dispute became broken in the first place—so often, it seems, that the Yerushalmi presents the dispute without any need for repair. Many other sugyot in the Babylonian Talmud demonstrate this pattern, even when the Yerushalmi’s version is much less clear. Example #6: Yoma 12b, A Different Class of Tistayem Sugyot

Up to this point, I have argued that, by and large, the formula should be seen as a largely post-Amoraic creation, but that the usage of the term continued to reflect a real need to connect speaker and statement. In this way, in terms of the content of the sections that contain the phrase, the term tistayem continued to be used the way it had been in the Amoraic period to indicate the repair of a broken oral tradition. The main difference lies mostly in that the tistayem section is a larger literary unit. In other words, instead of a simple expression of the idea that more information can repair a tradition, tistayem now introduces a literary process of relinking speaker with statement.



However, there is a subset of sugyot containing the tistayem formula that are noticeably different from the norm. My claim as to why a subgroup of the tistayem passages differ from the kind explained above is simple: This second type postdates the first. These even later editors were aware of the tistayem formula and the way it had been used to arrange, order, and link hitherto separate traditions as part of the search for the repair of a broken dispute. Utilizing the same tistayem form as the structure by which to order a sugya, these editors applied it to a dispute that had been transmitted in the ḥad amar...v’ḥad amar form, but for which the point of the sugya was not, in fact, the repair of the tradition at all. Tistayem became one of many literary forms into which Talmudic material could be presented, arranged, and, eventually, memorized. There are a number of clues that enable a careful reader to identify sugyot as an examples of this second type. Once such clue is that at times, these tistayem sugyot attempt to fit Tannaitic disagreements into the pattern, even though the ensuing discussion quotes Tannaitic material in which there is no confusion whatsoever about the legal positions held by the quoted authorities! A particularly good example is found at Yoma 12b:

‫ אבנטו‬:‫כי אתא רב דימי אמר‬ ‫ רבי ורבי‬172,‫של כהן הדיוט‬ ;‫אלעזר ברבי שמעון‬

,‫ של כלאים‬:‫חד אמר‬


See Rashi.

When R. Dimi came, he reported: [With regard to] the girdle of the common priest [there is a dispute between] Rabbi and R. Eleazar b. Simeon, One said it was a mixture of [wool and linen.]

;‫ רבי ורבי א לעזר ברבי שמעון‬,‫ אבנטו של כהן הדיוט‬Vilna '‫]ר'[ ור' אלע זר בר' שמע‬ '‫ א בנטו של כהן הדי‬Vatican 134 ‫‪ ‪ ‪ MSS> printed texts) process by which this story reached its current form. 35 For a similar analysis of the one story being the embellished retelling of another, see Friedman, “A Good Story Deserves Retelling.” 36 I have selected the Vatican Manuscript here not because of the excellence of the text, but because of the appearance of the telling phrase ‫לשנא אחרינא‬. See Y.N. Epstein, Introduction to Amoraic Literature, 131–46; and E.S. Rosenthal, The Language of Tractate Temurah [in Hebrew], 317– 56. Whereas Epstein connected the phrase ‫ לישנא אחרינא‬to the postredactional oral tradition of the Talmud and considered the ‫לישנא אחרינא‬ sections to be later, Rosenthal believed that they represented a different pre-redactional layer, and are thus earlier. This passage supports Rosenthal’s convincing claim. However, see Shamma Yehuda Friedman, The Development of Variant Readings, 71n14. In the fall of 2014, largely on the basis of this phrase, I was able to identify a fragment of a Hebrew manuscript, now in secondary use as the cover of a book of church music published in Prague in 1604 and housed in Fales Library at New York University, as containing passages from tractate Temura. See Matthew S. Goldstone and Lawrence H. Schiffman, Binding Fragments of Tractate Temurah and the Problem of Lishana Aḥarina: The Brill Reference Library of Judaism, Volume 58 (Leiden: Brill, 2018). 34

166 THE SCHOLASTIC CULTURE OF THE BABYLONIAN TALMUD reading as it appears in MS Vatican 115,36 an Ashkenazi manuscript written in the fourteenth century:37 For one day, R. Naḥman b. Yitzḥak wanted to begin in the pirka. He found Adda b. Ahava and said to him: Let the master come to the perek. He replied: I am coming now. The day grew late, and he had not come. Eventually, R. Naḥman began, but a [halachic] matter was unclear to him. He said: May it be [G-d’s] will that R. Adda b. Ahava lie down [e.g., die.]

‫דההוא יומא דהוה בעי רב‬38 ‫נחמן בר יצחק למיפתח‬ ‫ אשכחיה אדא בר‬.‫בפירקא‬ ‫ א"ל ליתיה מר‬.‫אהבה‬ ‫ א"ל השתא‬.[‫לפירק]א‬ .‫ ולא אתא‬39‫אתינא נגה‬ ‫אדהכי פתח רב נחמן ולא‬ ‫ אמ' יהא‬.‫איסתייעא מילתא‬ ‫רעוא דלישכוב רב אדא בר‬ .‫אהבה‬

In this version, the story has many fewer characters, and the impetus for R. Naḥman b. Yitzḥak’s lethal indignation is very simple. R. Naḥman b. Yitzḥak invites Adda b. Ahava to an academic session, but he never arrives. When R. Naḥman begrudgingly begins the session without him, he is shamed for his inability to properly transmit and explain a particular tradition. Blaming R. Adda b. Ahava for this misfortune, R. Naḥman b. Yitzḥak curses his colleague, causing his death. Finally, whereas the longer version of the story features the kallah and mentions the siyyuma, here the only academic setting with a name is the pirka. The precise nature of the pirka has also been a topic of considerable scholarly debate.40 Y.N. Epstein, basing his analysis on the Mishnah’s own use of the root p.r.q., derives two separate kinds of pirka sessions. One was an academic lesson directed at scholars that was based on a particular chapter (perek) of Mishnah. The other was a more popular, public lecture on a

Michael Krupp, “Manuscripts of the Babylonian Talmud,” in The Literature of the Sages, Part One: Oral Torah, halakhah, Mishna, Tosefta, Talmud, External Tractates, ed. Shmuel Safrai (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1987), 364. 38 MS Florence II-I-9 prefaces this version with the phrase ‫איכ׳ דאמ׳‬, and MS Paris 1337 with ‫תא שמע‬. 39 See Yevamot 93a, Kettubot 67b, Kiddushin 66a, and B"M 85b. 40 Goodblatt summarizes the debate in Rabbinic Instruction, 171–96. 37



particular halachic topic that scholars may or may not have attended along with members of the general populace.41 With regard to the internal evidence from the Bavli, Richard Chapin summarizes: In thirty-six BT pericopae “pirqa” appears forty-eight times. In fifteen pericopae pirqa denotes “assembly” or “session.” In six pericopae pirqa denotes “lecture.” In the other fifteen pericopae it is difficult to decide what “pirqa” means. Pirqe (plural form) were held on the Sabbath, on holidays for both lay people and scholars. Although pirqa has ambiguous meanings—it seems to mean both “lecture” and “assembly/session”—it was obviously a popular academic institution originating in the late third and early fourth century which continued to develop during the Geonic period.42

The shorter version of the story at bBB 22a contains little explicit information about the nature of the pirka described therein, but seems to conform to the first type, attended by scholars and not the general public.43

41 Epstein, Introduction to the Text of the Mishnah, 898–9. Jacob Mann, however, combines these two meanings. See Jacob Mann, Texts and Studies in Jewish History and Literature, Vol. 1 (Cincinnati: HUC, 1931), 195. 42 Richard Chapin, Mesopotamian Scholasticism: A Comparison of the Jewish and Christian Schools (DHL diss., Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, Cincinnati, 1990), 56. 43 A number of BT texts refer to late Babylonian sages, including Rava (bKiddushin 70a, bPessachim 50a), Rav Huna b. Hanina (bNedarim 23b), Mar b. Rav Ashi (bKiddushin 31b), and R. Hanan b. Ami (bHullin 15a), as engaging in public exegesis in the pirka. At bMenachot 40a, the anonymous voice of the Talmud exclaims, “Let him explicate it in the pirka!” after the possibility of announcing something in the marketplace has already been rejected. Thus, the pirka seems to be more publicly oriented than the true insider discourse of the beit Midrash, but is not fully public the way a thoroughly nonscholastic setting like the marketplace would have been seen. However, bAZ appears to “update” a story found at y.AZ 2:2 (40d) describing an account of something R. Yohanan says in the “study house” as happening in the pirka.

168 THE SCHOLASTIC CULTURE OF THE BABYLONIAN TALMUD When viewed synoptically,44 it becomes clear that both versions tell different iterations of what is, essentially, the same story. Each includes the same three basic components: The first introduces R. Naḥman b. Yitsḥak as a teacher who asks Adda b. Ahavah/Abba45 to help him prepare a halachic lesson. The second depicts the latter as not coming to the session. The final section depicts the classroom itself, in which Adda b. Ahavah/Abba’s 44

‫לישנא בתרא שבכי"ו‬ ‫לישנ' אחרינא‬ ‫אמ' רב נחמן אנא ענישתיה‬ ‫דרב נחמן בר יצחק ריש כלה הוה‬ ‫כל יומא מקמי דליעול לכלה רהיטבהדי‬ ‫שמעתיה לקמיה דרב אדא בר אהבה והדר‬ ‫עייל לכלה ההוא יומא‬ ‫עכבו רב פפא ורב הונ' בריה דרב יהושע לרב‬ ‫אדא בר אהבה משום דלא הוה בסיומא אמרו‬ ‫ליה אימ' לן מהני שמעתא דמעשר בהמה היכי‬ ‫אמרינהו רבא א"ל הכי אמ' רבא והכי אמ' רבא‬ ‫אדהכי והכי נגה ליה לרב נחמן בר יצחק אתו‬ ‫רבנן‬ ‫אמרו ליה אמאי יתיב מר‬ ‫אמ' לו קא נטרנא ערסיה דרב אדא בר אהבא‬ ‫אדהכי נפק קלא דנח נפשיה אדא בר אהבה‬

‫לישנא קמא שבכי"ו‬ ‫דההוא יומא דהוה בעי רב נחמן בר יצחק‬ ‫למיפתח בפירקא‬ ‫אשכחיה אדא בר אהבה א"ל ליתיה מר‬ ‫לפירק א"ל השתא אתינא נגה ולא אתא‬

‫אדהכי פתח רב נחמן ולא איסתייעא מילתא‬

‫אמ' יהא רעוא דלישכוב רב אדא בר אהבה‬ ‫ומסתברא דרב נחמן ענשיה‬

Careful readers will note that in the Vatican manuscript, from which the shorter version is presented above, the Amora who dies at the hands of R. Naḥman b. Yitzhak is Adda b. Ahavah, not Adda b. Abba as preserved in the printed text of this longer version. Below is a chart of the Amora in question in all the extant witnesses:


Vilna Pesaro Vatican Paris Munich Hamburg Florence Escorial Oxford Long Version

‫אדא בר אדא‬ ‫בר‬ ‫אבא‬ ‫אבא‬

‫אדא בר‬ ‫אהבה‬

‫אדא‬ ‫בר‬ ‫אהבה‬

‫אד' בר‬ '‫אהב‬

‫אדא בר‬ ‫אבא‬

Short Version


‫אדא בר‬ ‫אהבה‬

‫אדה‬ ‫בר‬ ‫אהבה‬

‫אד' בר‬ '‫אהב‬




‫אדא בר‬ ‫אהבה‬

‫אדא בר‬ ‫אהבה‬

‫אדא בר‬ ‫אהבה‬

‫אדא בר‬ ‫אהבה‬


It is most likely the case that the story concerns ‫אדא בר אהבה‬, the letter ‫ה‬ having dropped out of the vorlage to the printed edition.



absence leads to the shaming of R. Naḥman b. Yitsḥak, in turn leading to Adda b. Ahavah/Abba’s death. The version introduced by the phrase “lishnah aharina” in the printed texts is more developed and fleshed out than the earlier version in four significant ways. One is the detail of Adda b. Abba, thoroughly unaddressed by the shorter version, which is the topic of an additional “scene” in the longer one, in which R. Papa and R. Huna the son of R. Yehoshua request a review of Rava’s siyyuma. Second, the longer version contains a description replete with suspense-driven detail of the hour growing late while R. Naḥman b. Yitzḥak waits in vain for his colleague. There, the explicit curse in the shorter version is mirrored by a less explicit suggestion that the act of shaming is the cause of death. And finally, the academic terminology differs in the two versions, with the longer version mentioning both the Kallah and siyumma, whereas the shorter version mentions only the pirka. Each of these differences implies that the longer text is a later reworking of the shorter one.46 The section concerning R. Papa and R. Huna seems to have been added to fill in the lacuna of why R. Adda b. Ahava/Aba does not appear at the session with R. Naḥman b. Yitzḥak. As Shamma Friedman writes with regard to a passage in the mekhilta, “The non-corresponding element of the two passages is an innovation, innovated in the second version to supply a necessary clarification or addition to the first version. This paradigm represents the model of active editorial change.”47 Similarly, the details of the day growing late and the students growing restless seems to have been added later, likely to increase the dramatic effect. The curse was modified out of a sense of propriety. Though the larger context of the passage dictates that the story is proof that R. Naḥman B. Yitzḥak is indeed responsible for his colleague’s death, the curse is toned down to “protect” the sage. That the middle passage concerning R. Adda b. Ahava’s detainment is indeed a late addition is supported by the reference to the siyyuma, which is known only from the end of the Talmudic

46 47

Compare Feintuch, “Textual Development,” 234. Friedman, “Uncovering Literary Dependencies,” 36.

170 THE SCHOLASTIC CULTURE OF THE BABYLONIAN TALMUD period or the Geonic period. Whoever updated the story retrojected elements from his own scholastic context. The story, as we have it in the longer version, includes a kernel of a story from an earlier age cloaked in the academic setting of the late Sasanian or early Muslim era. Not unlike a Renaissance painter who paints biblical characters in the garb of sixteenth century Venice,48 a later editor took the basic contents of the story and recast them in the academic setting of his own time. What does the siyyuma of the longer version look like? The two scholars who missed the official and final literary ordering of the material from Bekhorot request that they be instructed in its memorization. This long process of teaching the memorization of the sugyah is what delays Adda b. Ahava to such a degree that he shames his teacher, and in turn, loses his life. This institution, described here in a late reworking of a story, seems to be precisely the same one in time and provenance that we know from the story of Rav Kahana above. B.SANHEDRIN


David Rosenthal has attempted to trace all the ways in which oral traditions from the Palestinian rabbinic context were adapted and transformed by their travels to Babylonia.49 Along with the obvious types of transmission errors common to all oral literatures, Rosenthal argues that distinctively Palestinian language was translated into proper Babylonian language, and that elements of Palestinian realia were similarly substituted with Babylonian ones. Thus, when the Mishnah at BM 9:2 speaks of a “spring,” the source of water for crops in the Palestinian context, the Bavli (bBM 103b) can, without explanation, immediately begin discussing a river, the corresponding source for irrigation in Mesopotamia.50 In this context, Rosenthal includes the category of realia from Geonic contexts inserted into Palestinian narratives,

David Rosenthal makes a similar comparison in “Palestinian Traditions and Their Travels to Babylonia” [in Hebrew], Katedra 92 (1999), 18. 49 Ibid. 50 Ibid, 20–1. 48



using the R. Kahana story analyzed above as his primary evidence.51 In addition, Rosenthal cites the brief narrative about the ordination of R. Zeira found at bSanhedrin 14a. A Yemenite manuscript of Sanhedrin has a fascinating insertion to the sugyah describing the ritual singing surrounding the rabbinical ordination of Rabbi Zeira.52 In the other witnesses to b.Sanhedrin, as well as those to the close parallel at bKetubot 17a,53 those who sing Rabbi Zeira’s praises, exclaiming “neither kohl,54 nor makeup,55 nor paint,56 yet raising grace,” are thoroughly anonymous. However, in MS Rav Hertzog, a Yemenite manuscript of Sanhedrin,57 the song of praise is placed into the mouths of the

Why Rosenthal insists that the R. Kahana story has an authentically Palestinian source is unclear; that story, which serves to elevate the position of Babylonian learning above Palestinian learning, could well have originated in Babylonia, using Palestinian rabbis (R. Yoḥanan, R. Lakish, etc.) as all but fictitious characters. 52 Here is a synopsis of the extant witnesses: 51

‫כי סמכוה לרבי זירא שרו ליה הכי לא כח ל ולא שרק ולא פירכוס ויע לת חן‬ Vilna ‫כי סמכוה לר' זירא שרו ליה הכי לא כח ל ולא שרק ולא פירכ' ו]י[ע לת חן‬ b.ko ‫ כי סמכוה לר' זירא שארו ליה בני סיומיה הכי לא כחל ולא ס רק ולא פרכיס ויעלת חן‬R.Hertzog ‫ כי סמכו לר' זיר' שרו ליה הכי לא כח ל ולא שרק ולא פירכס ויעל' חן‬Mun. 95 ‫ כי סמכו ליה לר' זירא שרו ליה הכי לא כחל ולא שרק ולא פירכוס ויעלת חן‬Karlsruhe ‫‫ כי סמכוה לר' ז‬Flor. II-I 9


bKettubot 17a:

‫כי סמכו רבנן לרבי זירא שרו ליה הכי לא כחל ולא שרק ולא פירכוס ויע לת חן‬ ‫כי סמכו רבנן לר' זי רא שרו ליה הכי לא כחל ולא שרק ולא פירכוס ויעלת חן‬ ‫כי סמכו רבנן לר' זי רא שרו ליה הכי לא כחל ולא שרק ולא פיכוס ויע לה חן‬ ‫כי סמכו רבנן לר' זי ר' שרו ליה הכי לא כחל ולא שרק ולא פי רכוס וי עלת חן‬ ‫?כ?י סמכוה רבנן לר' זי רא שרו ליה הכי לא כחל ולא שרק ולא פ רכוס ויעלת חן‬ ‫כי סמכוה רבנן לר' ז]י[ רא שרו ליה הכי לא כחל ולא שרק ולא פ]י[רכ] ו[ס ויע לת חן‬ ‫כי סמכו רבנן לר' זי רא שרו ליה הכי לא שרק ולא כחל ויע לת חן‬

Vilna Soncino Vat. 487 Vat. 130 Vat. 113 Vat. 112 Mun. 95

54 E.g., the dark cosmetic made from lead sulfite, called ‫ ﻛﺤﻞ‬in Arabic, from which the corresponding European languages take their terms. 55 The term ‫ שרק‬or ‫ סרק‬is a general term for “makeup”; see bShabbat 95a. 56 Probably derived from the Semitic root .‫כ‬.‫ר‬.‫פ‬, this is a more general term for paint, which may indicate the dying of either the face or hair. See bShabbat 53b. 57 For the definitive work of this manuscript, see Mordekhai Sabato, The Yemenite Manuscript of Tractate Sanhedrin (Bavli) and Its Place in the

172 THE SCHOLASTIC CULTURE OF THE BABYLONIAN TALMUD benei siyyuma ‫בני סיומיה‬. Rosenthal points out that this is likely a late addition to a text which is itself likely a later Babylonian interpolation into what was originally a text about earlier Palestinian figures,58 a claim which can be further supported by the fact that this snippet of a song is explicitly stated to be part of a song sung to brides in Palestine.59 Yet even if we see these two words as a later interpolation into an earlier text, we nonetheless see a glimpse into the academic setting of whoever added these words. The people who sing R. Zeira’s praises on the occasion of his ordination are either his colleagues or his students,60 and are thus, for Rosenthal, not to be confused with the advanced, and presumably ordained scholars, R. Zeira’s superior colleagues, who sit in the rows before the head of the academy. Instead, these appear to be students who, owing to their lack of ordination, did not yet merit to be considered the metaphorical heirs to the great Sanhedrin. Rather, they spent their time in the siyyuma, where, as we have seen above, material taught in the “main” lecture was reviewed; it is here where that material then reached some kind of fixed literary form. benei siyyuma and the siyyuma in the Literature of the Geonim

Benjamin Lewin, commenting on a Geonic responsum regarding the washing of hands before and after the meal,61 defines the benei siyyuma (‫ )בני סיומא‬referred to in the responsum as those “who

Transmission of the Text [in Hebrew], (Jerusalem: Magnes, 1996). He addresses this passage on pages 169 and 197–201. 58 Rosenthal, benei Siyyuma, 56–7. 59 bKettubot 17b: When R. Dimi came [from Palestine], he said: ‫הכי‬,‫כי אתא רב דימי אמר‬ This is what they sing before a bride in the ‫ לא‬:‫משרו קמי כלתא במערבא‬ west [e.g., Palestine]: Neither kohl, nor ‫כחל ולא שרק ולא פירכוס‬ makeup, nor paint, yet raising grace. .‫ויעלת חן‬ Rosenthal, benei Siyyuma, 56. On the rarity of collegial relationships in Babylonia, see Kalmin, Sages, Stories, Authors and Editors, 169–192. 61 Otsar ha-geonim, 1, (Berakhot), ed. B. Lewin (Haifa, 1928), 128n11. 60



sealed the final conclusion of the Talmud as the applied law.”62 Lewin cites most of the Talmudic material analyzed above, and also includes many references to Geonic literature that refer to the siyyuma and the benei siyyuma who studied there. He follows Bacher here in asserting that the root s.y.m. in Aramaic is the equivalent of the Hebrew ḥ.t.m, meaning “to seal.”63 He thus argues that these scholars played a role in the redaction or closing of the Talmudic corpus. David Rosenthal, in surveying Geonic literature and some of the Talmudic material presented above (especially the Sanhedrin passage), maintains that the benei siyyuma lacked ordination, and instead were those in the Babylonian academies who sat and memorized sugyot.64 While they may have played a role in the “editing” of the Bavli, he argues, it was not an active one. Rather, the Talmudic material reached its final, orally “published” form in the course of presenting it to these students for memorization. These students were the audience for the promulgation of Talmudic sugyot. Neil Danzig, in his comprehensive tracing of the Talmud’s path from oral to written text,65 shows how the need for memorization produced a specific hierarchy in the Babylonian academies. Recitation of the Talmudic text from memory and critique of the quality of that oral presentation always preceded its analysis. This fact meant that a great deal of the time spent in study in the academy was devoted to memorization and review— and many specific groups of students existed solely to ensure the continual memorization and recitation of the Talmud. While the function of each group (Tannai, beneii Siyyumei, Girse’ani, Tarbitzei, etc.) is not always clear, Danzig makes an explicit connection between the benei siyyuma and the institution of the siyyuma itself,66 a session of study that was separate from the normal mode of learning and seems to have been especially

Ibid. The original text reads, “‫שחתמו הגמרא להלכה של המסקנא‬.” W. Bacher, Die exegetische Terminologie der jüdischem Traditionsliteratur II, (Leipzig: 1905), 137–9. See also Friedman, Further Adventures. 64 Rosenthal, “Rabbanan D’Siyumma,” 52–61. 65 Neil Danzig, “From Oral Talmud to Written Talmud.” 66 Ibid., 91–92. 62 63

174 THE SCHOLASTIC CULTURE OF THE BABYLONIAN TALMUD concerned with the fixing and memorizing of the “text” of each Talmudic pericope.67 In this vein, there is a distinction between how the Geonim refer to siyyuma and the benei siyyumei in their own time and how they imagined these same kinds of students functioned earlier, in the Talmudic period itself.68 This distinction can be seen in the various literatures of the Geonic period. For instance, many responsa from the period begin with lengthy introductions bestowing blessings on the questioner from the entire academy,69 as in this excerpt from a responsum from Rav Amram Gaon to Barcelona:70 Receive peace[ful tidings] from me, and from R. Tzemach the judge of the gate, and from the reshei kallei, and from all the ordained scholars, who stand in place of the great Sanhedrin and from the beneii siyyumei, who stand in place of the small Sanhedrin, and from the rest of the scholars, and repeaters, and students, and from the whole academy.

‫ וממר רב‬,‫קבלו שלום ממני‬ ‫ ומן רישי‬,‫צמח דיינא דבבא‬ ‫ ומכל החכמים‬,‫כלי‬ ‫ שהם במקום‬,‫הסמוכים‬ ,‫סנהדרי גדולה ומן בני סיומי‬ ‫שהם במקום סנהדרי קטנה‬ ,‫ ותנאים‬,‫ומשאר החכמים‬ ‫ותלמידי )חכמים( שבישיבה‬ ...‫כולה‬

Here we see that the beneii siyyumei, whatever their precise role was,71 occupied a formal and central place in the academy, standing in for the “small Sanhedrin” in much the same way the Saul Lieberman also hinted at this connection. See Deuteronomy Rabbah, ed. Saul Lieberman (JTS: Jerusalem, 1964), 41n8 and 136n41, Lieberman’s remarks on the term ‫ ַסֵיּם‬there make the connection quite clear, and are treated in full in Chapter 8. In addition, the benei siyyuma may have been the taught a particular “version” of the Talmud that may not have been identical to that which was studied outside the academy. See Rosenthal, “Lishnah D’Kallah” Tarbiz 52 (1982): 306. 68 P. Mandel hinted at this in “Sayyem.” See also Fuchs, The Geonic Talmud, 37–47. 69 Other examples include a responsum from R. Tzemach to Qairuan, mentioned in R. Amram’s responsum (162 ‫)אוצה"ג כתובות‬, and from Rav Sherira Gaon to Fez (‫מדעי היהדות תרפ"ז 'לג‬, ‫)תש"ג אסף‬. 70 Yaʻaḳov Musafyah, Teshuvot Hageonim [in Hebrew], (Liḳ: Ḥevrat Meḳitse Nirdamim, 1864), No. 56. 71 Danzig, “From Oral Talmud to Written Talmud,” 91. The question regarding whether these scholars were “ordained” or not is an open one. 67



ordained scholars who sat in the rows (described by R. Nathan the Babylonian above) stand in for the “great Sanhedrin.” When a Gaon composed a responsum, the exclusive prerogative of a Gaon,72 he spoke not for himself, but for the academy as a whole. This included a whole class of people called beneii siyyumei, whose role, despite the ambiguity, is intimately connected with the orally transmitted “text” of the Talmud.73 It was the role of these individuals to constantly review the oral text of the Talmudic dialectic so as to be able to teach the memorization of the Talmud to the students of the academy in the siyyuma. In Geonic times, the “text” of the Talmud had already been (more or less) fixed.74 This siyyuma could not be about literary production, but rather, literary preservation. Louis Ginsberg, Geonica, Vol. 1 (New York: JTS, 1909), 8. See also Fuchs, The Geonic Talmud, 36n11. 73 Danzig, ibid.; Rosenthal, Rabanan Dǝsiyyuma, 57–8. 74 Uziel Fuchs, The Geonic Talmud: The Attitude of Babylonian Geonim to the Text of the Babylonian Talmud [in Hebrew], (Jerusalem: Herzog Academic College—Research Authority and World Union of Jewish Studies, 2018), 9. Talia Fishman has argued that the fact that the Talmud was still transmitted orally was crucial to understanding how the Geonim used the oral text of the Talmud for interpreting law. She writes: Though transmitted orally, the Talmud was, nonetheless, a finite corpus of tradition, and the teachings it preserved were those of sages who had lived centuries earlier. As such, the Talmud, on its own, could not bear witness to the ways in which its teachings had been understood by generations of postAmoraic Jews. Only the living testimony of one’s masters could distinguish between the Talmudic teachings that were implemented in practice and those that were not. The overarching conceptual perspective of the Geonim was that no text, whether written (Torah) or oral (e.g., Talmud), could adequately represent the acquired wisdom of a culture’s most learned practitioners. Talia Fishman, Becoming the People of the Talmud (Philadelphia: Penn, 2011), 44. However, see Haym Soloveitchik’s review (“The People of the Book: Since When?” in The Jewish Review of Books, Winter 2013, 14–8), where he strongly challenges Fishman on this point, arguing that the technology of transcription had no bearing on the method of deriving law from the Talmud. 72

176 THE SCHOLASTIC CULTURE OF THE BABYLONIAN TALMUD This institution is also explicitly referenced in Geonic responsa, most famously in this one from R. Sherira Gaon:75 And for us—it is much clearer to us what occurred during the days of Mar Paltoi, Mar Ahai, and Mar Mattattia Geonim... the daily lessons: where each sat, what he expounded, and what was said in his lesson and in his siyyum, than what occurred during the years of Mar Avumai and Mar Avraham Geonim

‫והא אנחנא בריר לנא טובא ממאי‬ ‫דהוה ביומי מר פלטוי ומר אחי ומר‬ ‫ כמאי דבריר לנא‬76‫מתתיה גאונים נ"ע‬ ‫מאי דחזיניה וידעיננא דוכתיה דחד חד‬ ‫ומושב דיליה והרבה משיחותהוו ויומא‬ ‫ ומאי‬,‫יומא מן פיקריה היכא הוי יתיב‬ ‫ ומאי איתמר במתיבתיה‬,‫דריש‬ ‫ובסי]ומ[יה טפי מן מאי דבירר לנא‬ ‫מאי דהוה בשני מר אובמאי ומר‬ ... ‫אבהרם גאונימ ונוחם עדן‬

and in this comparison of the two academies by the penultimate exilarch, Yehudah b. David:77 It is clear in everyone’s eyes that the academy of Pumbeditha is greater in alufim, in scholars, in elders, in masters of Mishnah,

‫וברור לעיני הכל שישיבת פום‬ '‫בדיתא מרובה היא באלופים ובחכ‬ ‫ובזקנים וב]עלי משנה[ בעלי‬

This responsum appears in Lewin’s Otzar Hageonim to Yebamot, 19. This transcription is taken from Shraga Abrahamson, “From the Respona of the Geonim,” Tarbiz 16 (1944): 210. See also Neil Danzig, Introduction to Halakhot Pesuqot with a Supplement to Halakhot Pesuqot, (New York: JTS, 1999), 6n19. 76 ‫נוחם עדן‬. 77 Transcription of T-S NS 308.122; note that the word ‫ סיומין‬is quite clear: 75

Transcription, with considerable emendation, is taken from: Shraga Abramson, Center and Periphery in the Geonic Period [in Hebrew], (Jerusalem: Mosad Harav Kook, 1965), 19. See also Danzig, 91n177.



Masters of Talmud and reciters, masters of (?- Lacuna) There are, in the academy of Pumbeditha,

‫תלמוד ותנאין בעלי )?(יש בה‬ ‫בישיבה של פום בדיתא‬

seven alufim, three siyyumin, in which are great, well known scholars....

‫ שלשה סיומין‬78...‫שבעה אלופים‬ ‫ [ חכמי' גדולים‬...]‫שיש ב‬ ‫נקוב]ים[ בשמות ]וה[ם‬ ....‫תלמידים‬

In these two documents, the authors indicate that an academic institution called the siyyuma was an integral part of the scholastic culture of the academy. Here we see Shǝrira, who was surely aware of the Talmudic texts discussed above, distinguish between two kinds of academic teaching: The first, the metivta (‫—מתיבתא‬lesson), the major time of study during which the Gaon himself presented the Talmudic text and answered challenges from those who sat in the rows; and the second, the siyyuma (‫)סיומא‬, in which the same content of the metivta was repeated, now reordered for posterity in an easily memorizable, fixed literary form. On the other hand, some Geonic sources indicate not only how the siyyuma functioned during their own time, but also display a surprising degree of historical consciousness in imagining how the siyyuma functioned in the Talmudic period itself. R. Natronai Ben Hilai, Gaon of the academy of Sura early in the second half of the ninth century,79 provides a glimpse into how he understood the literary production of a particular sugya at bAZ 22a, which was analyzed in the introduction. Natronai explains that all the confusing elements in the Talmudic text are products of the siyyuma:80

Here the author enumerates the names of the various alufim. Robert Brody, “Amram b. Sheshna—Gaon of Sura?” Tarbiz 56 (1987): 327–45. 80 This responsum is found in Lewin’s Ginzei Qedem Vol 4. (1940), 28, and in Robert Brody, Responsa of Rav Natronai b. Hilai Gaon (Richmond, VA: Ofek Institute, 1994) No. 62. 78 79

178 THE SCHOLASTIC CULTURE OF THE BABYLONIAN TALMUD Since there are two versions of this tradent, the halakhah is in accordance with the second version of Rav Geviah... When the scholars studied this tradition as they were sitting in the siyyuma [they objected]: But Ravina objected to Rava on the basis of a Tannaitic tradition! The scholars answered: It never happened. And the tradition was fixed accordingly.

,‫כיון דאיכא תרי לישאני‬ ‫הילכתא כי הדין לישנא‬ ‫ דקא אמרינן רב‬,‫בתרא‬ ‫ וקא האוו בה רבנן‬...‫גביאה‬ :‫בשמעתא כד יתבין בסיומא‬ ‫תא שמע לזו דאותביה‬ ‫ ופריקו‬...‫ראבינא לראבא‬ ‫ לא היו דברים מעולם‬:‫רבנן‬ ‫וסליקא שמעתא‬

He explains that the end of the confusing sugya amounts to a transcript of the siyyuma from the time of the Talmud itself. Natronai, by ascribing the give and take of the Talmudic passage to the benei siyyuma, demonstrates that he is aware of a crucial distinction between the siyyuma in his own day and the one he imagines to have existed during Talmudic times. In his own day, the siyyuma was a place for continual recitation of the Talmud, but in Talmudic times, it functioned as the place in which the literary presentation of the traditional material was arranged and promulgated. Another such example can be found in the Halachot Gedolot’s brief comment within its citation of a pericope in bBK 97b–98a. The Talmudic text is as follows:

‫בעא מיניה רבה מרב חסדא‬ '‫המלוה את חברו על המטב‬ ‫והוסיפו עליו מהו‬ ‫אמ' לו נותן לו מטבע היוצא‬ ‫באותה שעה‬ '‫אמ' ליה ואפלו כי נפיא אמ‬ ‫ליה אין‬ ‫אמ' ליה אפלו כי תר]י[טא‬ ‫אמ' ליה אין‬ ‫והא קא זילי פירי‬ ‫אמ' רב אשי ניחזי אנן אי‬ ‫מחמת טיבעא זל מנכי ליה‬ ‫)צח ע"א( ואי מחמת תרעא‬ ‫זל לא מנכי ליה‬

Raba asked R. Hisda: If a man lent someone something on [condition of being repaid with] a certain coin, and that coin became more weighty, what then? He said: Payments must be made with the coins in circulation at that time. He said: Even if the new coin be of the size of a sieve? He said: Yes. He said: Even if it be of the size of a tirtia? He said: Yes. But then products would be cheaper! R. Ashi said: We have to look into the matter. If it was through the [increased weight of the] coin that prices [of products] dropped we would have to deduct [from the payment accordingly],


‫והא קא שבח לענין נסכא‬ ‫אלא כי הא דרב פפא ורב‬ ‫הונא בריה דרב יהושע‬ ‫עבדו עובדא בזוזי‬ ‫דאגרדמיס טייעא עד עשרה‬ ‫תמניא‬


but if it was through the market that prices dropped, we would not have to deduct anything. Still, wouldn’t [the creditor] derive a benefit from the additional metal!? [We must] therefore [act] like R. Papa and R. Huna the son of R. Joshua who gave judgment in an action about coins, according to [the information of] an Arabian agoran, that the debtor should pay for ten old coins [only] eight new ones.

The core exegetical “problem” at hand is the somewhat strange juxtaposition of the third part of this three-part sugya with what has come before. The first section concerns the question of paying back a loan in the case that the currency on which the loan was based changed in its material composition between the time of lending and repayment. R. Hisda replies to Raba’s inquiry by essentially quoting the statement of Rav that payment is always made in and according to the currency in circulation at the time of the repayment, even if the coinage in question has changed drastically over the course of the loan. Part B is introduced by a question from the anonymous voice of the Talmud, raising the essential topic of this chapter of the Talmud, worrying that the change in coinage increases their purchasing power—thereby resembling the prohibition of loaning at interest, forbidden by Exodus 22:24, Leviticus 25: 36–37, and Deuteronomy 23:20–21. Rav Ashi is presented as responding to this question,81 arguing that the answer must be evaluated on a case-by-case basis; sometimes a change in the composition of the coin is the cause of price fluctuations, and at other times, other causes are to blame. The Talmud then poses another challenge: Despite Rav Ashi’s claim, is there no essential benefit to being repaid with coins that contain more mass than those originally lent? The For another example of Rav Ashi responding to the anonymous voice, see Shamma Yehuda Friedman, “Tractate Gitin Chapter 9” [in Hebrew], in Five Sugyot from the Babylonian Talmud, (Jerusalem: The Society for the Interpretation of the Talmud, 2002), 121–4. 81

180 THE SCHOLASTIC CULTURE OF THE BABYLONIAN TALMUD Talmud then responds to this question by quoting the behavior of R. Papa and R. Huna the son of R. Joshua, who made a specific judgement that repayment with the coins in circulation at the time of the repayment, at least in some circumstances, does not constitute interest. The author of the Halachot Gedolot, Simeon Qayyāra,82 includes this sugya in his work, which is among the first codes of Jewish law ever produced.83 Presumably responding to the slightly strange ordering of the traditions within this pericope, Qayyāra makes a curious comment after citing the passage in full:

HALACHOT GEDOLOT #4384 ‫בעא מיניה רבא מרב‬ ‫חסדא המלוה את‬ ‫חבירו על המטבע‬ ...‫והוסיפו עליו מהו‬ ‫אלא כי הא דרב פפא‬ ‫ורב הונא בריה דרב‬ ‫יהושע שעור בזוזי‬ ‫דאגרדמים טייעא עד‬ ‫עשרה תמניא‬

Rava asked R. Hisda: If a man lent someone something on a certain coin, and that coin became more weighty, what then? ... [We must] therefore [act] like R. Papa and R. Huna the son of R. Joshua who gave judgment in an action about coins, according to [the information of] an Arabian agoran, that the debtor should pay for ten old coins [only] eight new ones.

‫והכי אסיקו רבנן‬ ‫בתראי בסיומא‬ ‫דמתיבתא דרב הונא‬ .‫בריה דרב יהושע‬

This is how the later rabbis in the siyyuma of the academy agreed with the position of R. Huna the son of R. Joshua.

Qayyāra’s project is less to interpret the Talmudic passage than to identity which Talmudic passages are to be understood as legally operative. Following the flow of the passage, he determines that the third and last section is the one to be relied Though many medieval Jewish scholars attributed the Halachot Gedolot to R. Yehuday Gaon, there is all but consensus among contemporary scholars that the work is to be understood as having been authored by Qayyāra. See Neil Danzig, Introduction to Halakhot Pesuqot, 175–80. 83 For a brief introduction to this work see Brody, Geonim, 223–32. 84 ‫ האוניברסיטה‬:'‫ )עבודת תואר ג‬,‫ נוסח ועריכה‬:‫ עיונים בספר הלכות גדולות‬,‫ראה אהרן שויקה‬ ‫ "והכי אסיקו רבנן בתראי בסיומא דמתיבתא‬,‫ שם הביא גרסת כי"ו‬.207 '‫( עמ‬2008 ,‫העברית‬ ".‫כסיומא דרב הונא בריה דרב יהושע‬ 82



upon in a legal sense.85 However, he intuits that a reader of the passage might be confused as to why one line of argument is abandoned for another. He answers this implicit question by claiming that the last section of the Talmudic pericope above was appended to the previous discussion by the benei siyyuma! It must have been, he argues, that in the siyyuma, all the various pieces of traditional material were collated and fixed into something like the literary form in which we encounter them in the Talmud. Once again, we see from a Geonic source that what contemporary Talmudists tend to ascribe to the redactional layer is understood to have been the product of the siyyuma. From this brief survey of both the “late” uses of the root s.y.m. in the Talmud and in Geonic literature, we can now see how integral the siyyuma was to the functioning of the academy in late Talmudic and Geonic times. While scholars have long noted that the siyyuma and those who studied there were important to the functioning of the scholastic enterprise, the situating of this later institution as the end of a long genealogy helps us to understand something crucial about this scholastic practice. A term which was once used in the context of identifying the precise formulation of a single halakhic statement developed (over the long course of the Talmudic period) into a moniker for those who were responsible for fixing (or having fixed for them) the final literary text of each Talmudic pericope.86 The development of this term thus mirrors the development of rabbinic academization itself, in which a movement that grew out of small disciple circleships in first-century Palestine migrated east and developed unique scholastic practices that focused on institutionalized learning and the promulgation of oral “texts.” Rabbinic Jews, of course, were not the only religious group with roots in disciple-circleships of the Roman west to put down roots in Sasanian Babylonia. Indeed, parallels between rabbinic scholastic culture and the scholastic institutions of Syriac Christianity have long interested historians and text scholars of both traditions. It is to these parallels to which we now turn. 85 86

Compare the code of Alfasi BK 35a. See Jack N. Lightstone, The Rhetoric of the Babylonian Talmud.

CHAPTER FIVE. LINGUISTIC PARALLELS = CULTURAL PARALLELS Jews in Sasanian Babylonia were not the only ones to use terms like siyyuma and tistayem in Aramaic to signal a formal scholastic procedure in which important theological/religious content was promulgated. Rather, as can be seen numerous times in Syriac literature from roughly the same time and place, the root ‫ܡ‬.‫ܝ‬. ‫ܣ‬ (s.y.m) also indicates a more formal academic procedure of “publishing” an official doctrine or philosophy. It is my contention that there is a relationship between these two phenomena, and the fact that both communities use this word in similar ways shows that the linguistic parallels suggest a commonality of scholastic practice as well. Scholars of Babylonian rabbinics have long recognized that many parallels to rabbinic academic culture may be found in the scholastic literature of their Christian neighbors in Sasanian Babylonia.1 After all, Jews and Christians spoke essentially the

See Sebastian P. Brock, “Jewish Traditions in Syriac Sources,” JJS 30, no. 2 (1979): 212–32. See also Burton L. Visotsky, “Three Syriac Cruxes,” JJS 42, no. 2 (1991): 167–75. For a basic history of the eastern church, see Wilhelm Baum and Dietmar W. Winkler, The Church of the East: A Concise History (London: Routledge, 2003). 1


184 THE SCHOLASTIC CULTURE OF THE BABYLONIAN TALMUD same language,2 shared scripture in common,3 and held similar political positions as minority monotheists under a Zoroastrian theocracy.4 Jacob Neusner,5 Isaiah Gafni,6 and Adam Becker7 argue that sources produced by the “schools” of the nonMiaphysite8 Eastern Syriac (frequently, though erroneously called See Yochanan Breuer, “Aramaic in Late Antiquity,” in The Cambridge History of Judaism, Vol. 4: The Late Roman-Rabbinic Period, ed. Stephen Katz (Cambridge University Press, 2006), 457–491. See also Arthur John Maclean, Grammar of the Dialects of Vernacular Syriac as spoken by the Eastern Syrians of Kurdistan, North-West Persia, and the Plain of Mosul, with Notices of the Vernacular of the Jews of Azerbaijan and of Zakhu Near Mosul (Gorgias Press: 2003). 3 On the similarities between the Peshitta and the rabbinic Targumic tradition(s), see Sebastian P. Brock, The Bible in the Syriac Tradition: English Version (Gorgias Press: 2006), 23–6. 4 Ehsan Yarshater, ed., Cambridge History of Iran (Cambridge: Cambridge Press, 1983), 924–48. See also Jean Maurice Fiey, Jalons pour une histoire de l’eglise en Iraq (Louvain: Secretariat du CSCO, 1970); Marie-Louise Chaumont, La Christianisation de l’empire Iranien (Louvain: Peeters, 1988). See also Reuven Kiperwasser and Serge Ruzer, “Syriac Christians and Babylonian Jewry: Narratives and Identity Shaping,” Patristic Studies in the Twenty-First Century: Proceedings of an International Conference to Mark the 50th Anniversary of the International Association of Patristic Studies (Turnhout, Belgium: Brepols, 2015), 421–42. 5 Neusner, Babylonia, Vo. 4 (Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1999), 195–200. Neusner, of course, posits that the academies exited in early Amoraic times. 6 Isaiah Gafni, “Nestorian Literature as a Source for the History of Babylonian Yeshivot,” [in Hebrew], Tarbiz 51d (1982): 567–76. 7 See Adam H. Becker, “The Comparative Study of ‘Scholasticism’ in Late Antique Mesopotamia: Rabbis and East Syrians,” AJS Review 34, no. 1 (2010): 91–113; Becker, Sources for the Study of the School of Nisibis (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2008) 3–4. 8 That is the Christological position which holds that in the one person of Jesus, divinity and humanity are united in one or single nature (“φύσις”). 9 On the emerging academic trend to reject this derogatorily retrojected term, see Brock, “The ‘Nestorian’ Church: A Lamentable Misnomer,” BJRL 78, no. 3 (1996): 23–35. Brock concludes his paper by writing, “[T]he association between the Church of the East and Nestorius is of a very tenuous nature, and to continue to call that church ‘Nestorian’ is, from a historical point of view, totally misleading and incorrect—quite apart from being highly offensive and a breach of ecumenical good manners” (35). See also Nikolai N. Seleznyov, “Nestorius of Constantinople: Condem2



“Nestorian”)9 Church, especially the school of Nisibis,10 which also housed a significant Jewish population,11 have much to teach us regarding the Babylonian academies we know about from late Talmudic and Geonic sources. Jeffrey Rubenstein, following Becker and Gafni, likewise argues that the founding of the school of Nisibis helps provide a framework for understanding the development of the rabbinic academies, about which we know so little.12 Daniel Boyarin, controversially and problematically,13 has gone so far as to posit that Syriac-speaking Christians were a cultural conduit of sorts, allowing Babylonian rabbis access to certain Hellenistic literary tropes and dialogical ideas.14 Even more recently, Mira Balberg and Moulie Vidas have argued that a shared intellectual culture encompassed notions of purity and impurity in the two scholasticisms.15 nation, Suppression, Veneration, with Special Reference to the Role of His Name in East-Syriac Christianity,” Journal of Eastern Christian Studies 62, no. 3–4 (2010): 165–90. 10 This is modern Nusaybin, Turkey, known as Νίσιβις in Greek. For a general history, see Arthur Vööbus, History of the School of Nisibis (Louvain: Secrétariat du Corpussco, 1965). It should be noted, however, that Vööbus’s early dating for a Christian school in Nisibis has been criticized; see Becker, Fear of God, 74–5. That both Openheimer and Gafni base their comparative claims on Vööbus’s work undermines some of strength of their claims. See Becker, “Positing a ‘Cultural Relationship’ between Plato and the Babylonian Talmud,” JQR 101, no. 2 (2011): 259. 11 Aharon Openheimer, Benjamin H. Isaac, and Michael Lecker, Babylonian Judaica in the Talmud, Beihefte zum Tübinger Atlas des Vorderen Orients (Wiesbaden: L. Reichert, 1983), 328–31. 12 Jeffrey Rubenstein, The Culture of the Babylonian Talmud (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins, 2003), 35–8. 13 See Becker, “Positing a ‘Cultural Relationship.’” 14 Daniel Boyarin, Socrates and the Fat Rabbis (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2009), 138–40. This work is a significant departure for Boyarin, who once saw only commonality of discourse as the best way to understand the phenomenon. See Boyarin, “Hellenism in Jewish Babylonia,” in The Cambridge Companion to the Talmud and Rabbinic Literature, eds. Charlotte Fonrobert and Martin Jaffe (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007), 361n23. 15 Mira Balberg and Moulie Vidas, “Impure Scholasticism: The Study of Purity Laws and Rabbinic Self-Criticism in the Babylonian Talmud,” Prooftexts, 32, no. 3 (2012): 312–56.

186 THE SCHOLASTIC CULTURE OF THE BABYLONIAN TALMUD Additionally, Jews and Christians in the Sasanian empire may have been affected in similarly profound ways by traumatic events in the mid-third century, especially during the aftermath of King Shapur I’s incursions into the eastern provinces of the Roman Empire,16 during which large numbers of captives from Roman lands (among them Christians and Jews) were forcibly settled in the Sasanian east.17 As Richard Kalmin writes: This movement of whole populations perhaps contributed to important changes in the cultural life of Babylonian Jews as well as Christians, since western Syria was also an important center of Jewish life. It is not unreasonable to suggest that different communities and literatures within eastern Syria, Mesopotamia, and western Persia showed the effects of Shapur’s policy at differing times during this century, and that these effects developed and deepened throughout the region, until the Muslim conquests of the seventh century drastically altered the political and cultural landscapes.18

These refugees brought with them their own religious and cultural traditions and texts and, as they became integrated into the Sasanian milieu, influenced their co-religionists in significant ways. Both Jews and Christians may have seen themselves as connected in profound ways to their coreligionists across the border in the Roman west, while seeing themselves in other ways as “others” in the Sasanian milieu. More importantly, perhaps, was the degree to which this population transfer mirrored the increasing “Hellenization” of the Sasanian empire and its minority populations of Jews and Christians.19 Indeed, Richard Kalmin has argued that while some linkages between Babylonian Jews and Christians existed, many scholars have been too quick to discount Eastern Provincial Rome as the conduit for many shared traditions and modes of Josef Wiesehöfer, Ancient Persia from 550 BC to 650 AD (London: I.B. Tauris, 2001), 155, 160, and 218–9. 17 Richard Kalmin, Jewish Babylonia Between Persia and Roman Palestine (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006), 7–8. 18 Ibid., 6–7. 19 Shaye J. D. Cohen, “Patriarchs and Scholarchs,” Proceedings of the American Academy for Jewish Research 48 (1981), 57–85. 16



behavior.20 Of course, one of the defining features of all forms of Hellenism is the centrality of παιδεία (paideia) culture and thus, the institution of the “school.”21 Adam Becker in particular has called for an increased awareness of Syriac texts for historians and Talmudists, writing that while “an aware[ness] of the importance of the school of Nisibis...has existed for some time, the sources have not been sufficiently examined and integrated into a concrete scholarly discussion of the relevance of East-Syrian scholastic culture for the history of learning in Sasanian and early Islamic Mesopotamia.”22 One such avenue of examination and integration of East Syrian scholasticism is the comparative study of the academic terminology of the texts produced by both groups. Richard Chapin, whose dissertation is perhaps the only full-length study of the comparative scholasticism of the Jewish and Christian schools as such, suggests that the academic terminology of the various schools begs comparative examination, and simultaneously cautions against making too much of parallels that derive only from the fact that the two communities spoke essentially the same language. He writes: The existence of parallel developments in two minority religious communities is instructive. There are similarities between the educational system employed by the Christian School of Nisibis and the Babylonian Jewish “schools,” particularly in the area of hierarchical structure. Some of these similarities are essentially linguistic, as Syriac is a form of Aramaic. That both the Christian and Jewish “schools” employ similar terms then is not remarkable because of a common linguistic heritage. Whether these similar terms

Richard Kalmin, Migrating Tales: The Talmud’s Narratives and Their Historical Context. (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2014). 21 See Edward J. Watts, City and School in Late Antique Athens and Alexandria (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2008). The standard volume on education in classical antiquity remains Henri-Irénée Marrou, Histoire de l’éducation dans l’Antiquité (Paris: Le Seuil, 1948). 22 Becker, Sources, 3. 20

188 THE SCHOLASTIC CULTURE OF THE BABYLONIAN TALMUD indicate similar positions in the educational hierarchy is the significant question.23

Chapin, who bases himself almost exclusively on the work of Gafni and Goodblatt on the rabbinic side, and Arthur Vööbus on the Syriac side,24 is here speaking mostly about terms like yeshiva and metivta, which relate to the name of the school itself. As important as this kind of comparative work can be, it tells us very little about what the experience of study was in either place. But there are other kinds of terms that are more important for the kind of comparative work called for by Becker. The fact that each center of learning can be analyzed specifically as a site of scholastic practice invites a new mode of comparison, in which terms directly related to scholastic practice are compared. By “scholastic” or “scholasticism,” I follow the definition of John W. Baldwin, who defines the term as comprising a system of thinking, teaching, and producing literary material.25 While the term “scholasticism” itself derives from the study of a western European phenomenon from the high Middle Ages, common features—including rationality, a focus on tradition, and awareness of problems of language—can be seen in multiple communities of learning throughout the world in the course of human history.26 Late antiquity provides a number of examples of Richard S. Chapin, “Mesopotamian Scholasticism: A Comparison of the Jewish and Christian ‘Schools,’” (DHL thesis, Hebrew Union College, 1990), 207. 24 Even a brief perusal of his footnotes shows the paucity of primary sources cited. 25 John W. Baldwin, The Scholastic Culture of the Middle Ages, 1000-1300 (Lexington, MA: Heath, 1971), 6. 26 See José Ignacio Cabezón, Scholasticism: Cross-Cultural and Comparative Perspectives (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1998), 1–17; and ibid., Buddhism and Language: A Study of Indo-Tibetan Scholasticism (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1994). However, Michael Swartz feels that in many ways, rabbinic Judaism does not meet all of Cabezón’s criteria; see Swartz, “Scholasticism as a Comparative Category and the Study of Judaism,” in Scholasticism: Cross-Cultural and Comparative Perspectives, ed. José Ignacio Cabezón (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1998): 91–114. However, Swartz takes “rabbinic Judaism” as a single category and ignores the Geonic period 23



the phenomenon, including Neoplatonists, East Syrian Schools, and, of course, rabbinic academies.27 What these late antique examples share with the western Christian institutions of the Middle Ages28 that lend their name (σχολή - scholē) to the term is the notion that achieving answers to difficult problems in philosophy and theology is inextricably linked to the institutions in which young men29 were educated and molded into ideal types of their respective religious and/or philosophical traditions.30 I wish to be careful here; first of all, it is not clear that “Jews” and “Christians” were totally distinct categories in the Sasanian empire in the fourth century and beyond, any more than they were in the Roman Empire.31 In Edessa, for example, in the first few centuries CE, there were people who surely would have defined themselves as Judeans in terms of “ethnicity” who either altogether; had he been looking only at late Babylonian texts regarding academic life, he would have likely felt otherwise. 27 Adam Becker, basing himself on Cabezón’s claim, discusses scholasticism as a common heuristic model for comparative work in a number of places. See Adam H. Becker, “The Comparative Study of ‘Scholasticism’ in Late Antique Mesopotamia: Rabbis and East Syrians,” AJS Review 34, no. 1 (2010): 91–113; and especially Becker, Fear of God and the Beginning of Wisdom: The School of Nisibis and the Development of Christian Scholastic Culture in Late Antique Mesopotamia (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2006), 12–7. 28 In a sense, here I follow the work of Peter Brown, who argues that the Late Antique period was one of immense cultural innovation, and that many of the features of life we tend to think of as quintessentially “medieval” already have strong roots in late antiquity. See Peter Brown, The World of Late Antiquity: A.D. 150-750 (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1971). 29 On how scholasticism is connected to gender in Judaism, see Elizabeth Shanks Alexander, Gender and Timebound Commandments in Judaism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013): 16n35. 30 For an analogous study of comparative scholasticism, see George Makdisi, “Scholasticism and Humanism in Classical Islam and the Christian West,” Journal of the American Oriental Society, 109, no. 2 (1989): 175–82. 31 See the range of articles contained within Adam H. Becker and Annette Yoshiko Reed, eds., The Ways That Never Parted: Jews and Christians in Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2007).

190 THE SCHOLASTIC CULTURE OF THE BABYLONIAN TALMUD differed from or were unaware of rabbinic interpretations of Torah. They ascribed to Jesus of Nazareth a path to salvation, and their Syriac milieu was as “Hellenistic” as that of the surrounding pagans.32 Speaking of any kind of direct “influence” moving from one fixed community to the other, despite the picture presented by the elite literature which emanated from each community, is exceedingly problematic.33 Instead, I wish to situate myself within the project envisioned by Becker, who writes: We are addressing a historiographical problem of multicausality. Because we can trace the independent development of Jewish and Christian forms of learning in Mesopotamia, such an inquiry entails a synchronic analysis of diachronically distinct entities. But if each entity has its own separate trajectory, do we then assume that these trajectories have no relation to one another? Can each trajectory not be drawn in certain directions by the other, perhaps like a cathode ray drawn by a magnet? Points of interaction of both religious and nonreligious nature between these communities may have existed, but we need to reconceptualize our model of understanding this interaction, if “interaction” is even the right term.34

Thus, the fact that the Jewish and Christian forms of learning can each be explained as having developed from within does not negate the fact that in some ways, these parallel traditions interacted with and influenced each other. Other linguistic parallels, whether terms describing the physical structures of academic space, such as ‫