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Talmudic Portrayals of Relationships Between Rabbis: Amoraic or Pseudepigraphic?

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  15 October 2009

Richard Kalmin
Jewish Theological Seminary, New York, N.Y.
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In both halachic and aggadic contexts the Talmud frequently supplies information about the relationships between sages. Sages interact with each other, or comment on each other's erudition, piety, personality, and the like. From what sources does the Talmud derive this information? From sources contemporary with the sages involved, or from sources of a much later time?

Some of the talmudic information is attributed to named authorities, some of it is presented anonymously. Are the attributed statements pseudepigraphic or authentic? Are there substantive distinctions between the attributed and the anonymous statements? Are the anonymous statements amoraic or post-amoraic?

Copyright © Association for Jewish Studies 1992

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1. See, for example, Halivni, David, Mekorot u-Mesorot: Shabbat(Jerusalem: Jewish Theological Seminary, 1982):Google ScholarMekorot u-Mesorot: Eruvin-Pesahim(Jerusalem: Jewish Theological Seminary, 1982); and Midrash, Mishnah, , and Gemara, : The Jewish Predilection for Justified Law(Cambridge Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1986), pp. 18 and 66–104;Google Scholar and Shamma, Friedman, Perek ha-Isha Rabbah ba-Bavli(Jerusalem: Jewish Theological Seminary, 1978).Google Scholar See also Judith, HauptmanGoogle Scholar, Judith, HauptmanDevelopment of the Talmudic Sugya: Relationship Between Tannaitic and Amoraic Sources (Lanham Md.: University Press of America, 1988);Google ScholarRichard, Kalinin, The Redaction of the Babylonian Talmud: Amoraic or Saboraic?(Cincinnati: Hebrew Union College Press, 1989);Google Scholar and David, C.Kraemer, , The Mind of the Talmud: An Intellectual History of the Bavli(New York: Oxford University Press, 1990).Google Scholar

2. See Eliezer Shimshon Rosenthal. “Rav Ben-Ahi R. Hiyya Gam Ben-Ahoto?” in Hanokh Yalon Jubilee Volume,ed. Saul Lieberman. E. Y. Kutscher, and Shaul Esh (Jerusalem: Kiryat Sefer, 1963), pp. 284–285, n, 1; David, Halivni, Mekorot, u-Mesorot: Nashim(Tel Aviv: Dvir, 1968), p. 17; and Friedman, Perek ha-Isha Rabbah ba-Bavlip. 346, n. 3.Google Scholar

3. See also David Goodblatt. “The Babylonian Talmud,” in The Study of Ancient Judaism: The Palestinian and Babylonian Talmuds, ed. Jacob, Neusner (New York: Ktav, 1981), p. 165, and the literature cited in n. 51a, there.Google Scholar

4. See the Bibliographical Note in Richard, Kalmin, “Saints or Sinners, Scholars or Ignoramuses? Stories About the Rabbis as Evidence for the Composite Nature of the Babylonian Talmud,” AJS Review 15, no. 2 (1990): 203205.Google Scholar See also Baruch, M.Bokser, . Post Mishnaic Judaism in Transition(Chico Calif.: Scholars Press, 1980), p. 1.Google Scholar With regard to the tannaitic period, see Gary, Porton. The Traditions of Rabbi Ishmael(Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1982), vol. 4, pp. 212225;Google Scholar and Cohen, Shaye, From the Maccabees to the Mishna(Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1987), p. 219: and “Patriarchs and Scholars,” Proceedings of the American Academy of Jewish Research48 (1981): 57–85 (see esp. pp. 84–85).Google Scholar

5. See, for example, Goodblatt, David, Rabbinic Instruction in Sasanian Babylonia(Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1975), pp. 45;Google ScholarLevine, Lee, Ma'amad ha-Hakhamim be-Erez Yisrael(Jerusalem, 1985), pp. 45;Google Scholar and Kraemer, David C., “On the Reliability of Attributions in the Babylonian Talmud”. Hebrew Union College Annual 60 (1989): 175190.Google Scholar With regard to the tannaitic period, see Goldenberg, Robert. The Sabbath-Law of Rabbi Meir(Missoula, Mont.: Scholars Press, 1978), esp. pp. 245247;Google Scholar and Neusner, Jacob, Judaism: The Evidence of the Mishna(Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1981), pp. 1422.Google Scholar

6. See, for example, Lieberman, Saul, “Martyrs of Caesarea”, Annuaire de L'Institut de Philologie et d 'Histoire Orientales et Slaves 1(1939–4): 395446 (see esp. pp. 395^*02); and Hellenism in Jewish Palestine(New York, 1950), pp. 83–99: Halivni, Mekorot u-Mesorot: Eruvin- Pesahim,pp. 91–95;Google ScholarGoldberg, Avraham. “The Babylonian Talmud”, in The Literature of the Sages, Part One,ed. Shmuel, Safrai, Compendia Rerum Iudaicarum ad Novum Testamenlum, sec. 2, vol. 3 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1987). pp. 323345;Google Scholar and Zlotnick, Dov, The Iron Pillar–Mishnah(Jerusalem: Bialik Institute, 1988), pp. 89.Google Scholar

7. See Cox, Patricia, Biography in Late Antiquity(Berkeley: University of California Press, 1983), pp. 912.Google Scholar

8. Berakhot 58a. See Fraenkel, Yonah, “Bible Verses Quoted in Tales of the Sages”. Scripta Hierosolymitana 22 (1971): 9498.Google Scholar

9. Zevahira 96b.

10. See, for example, Eruvin 67a, and Albeck, Hanokh, Mavo la-Talmudim(Tel Aviv: Dvir, 1969), pp. 312313.Google Scholar

11. See the discussion below.

12. See the Bibliographical Note in Kalmin, “Saints or Sinners, Scholars or Ignoramuses?” pp. 203–205, and see Kalmin, Richard, “The Talmudic Story. Aggada as History”, Proceedings of the Tenth World Congress of Jewish Studies. Division C, vol. 1 (1990), pp. 916.Google Scholar

13. Baba Mezia 84a.

14. I am not suggesting this as the actual significance of the story, and use this story only for purposes of illustration.

15. See Sperber, Daniel. “On the Unfortunate Adventures of Rav Kahana: A Passage of Saboraic Polemic from Sasanian Persia”, in Irano-Judaica,ed. Shaul, Shaked (Jerusalem: Ben- Zvi Institute, 1982), pp. 1983–100. Cf.Google ScholarGafni, Isaiah, “Ha-Yeshiva ha-Bavlit le-Or Sugyat B.K. 117a.Tarbiz 49 (1980): 292,301.Google Scholar

16. Hullin 110a.

17. I will discuss below the question of whether or not later editors invented hostile commentary and ascribed it to earlier figures.

18. Cf. Neusner, Jacob, In Search of Talmudic Biography: The Problem of the Attributed Saying(Chico, Calif.: Scholars Press, 1984), pp. 113;Google Scholar and Making the Classics in Judaism(Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1989), p. 80. See also Neusner, Jacob, Judaism: The Classical Statement(Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1986), pp. 115131.Google Scholar

19. Cf. the treatment of the stories involving Rabbah and Rav Yosef in Kalmin, “Saints or Sinners, Scholars or Ignoramuses?” pp. 194–196.

20. According to some versions, he refuses because of an astrological prediction that he will die soon after taking office. According to other versions, no reason is stated, and perhaps Yosef refuses out of humility or out of a desire to avoid public office and leave himself more time to study.

21. Berakhot 64a (and Horayot 14a).Google Scholar

22. See Kalmin, “Saints or Sinners, Scholars or Ignoramuses?” pp. 179–180.

23. Or that for twenty-two years Yosef posed a certain objection to Rabbah.

24. Ketubot 42b and Baba Karama 66b.

25. See Eruvin, and Moed, Katan 12a, and see also Kiddushin 20b and Noah Aminoah, Arikhat Massekhet Kiddushin(Jerusalem: E. Levin-Epstein, 1977), p. 377.Google Scholar Perhaps the chronological difficulty in the latter context is best solved not by erasing the words “bar Yizhak,” but by reversing the names, such thatNahman, Rav bar Yizhak quotes Rav Yosef and refers to him as “Sinai”. See Ozar Lashon ha-Talmud,ed. Chaim, Kasowski Joshua and Binyamin Kasowski (Jerusalem: Ministry of Education and Culture, and Jewish Theological Seminary, 1971), vol. 27, p. 172.Google Scholar

26. Rava is sometimes considered to be a student of Rabbah as well, but this is most likely incorrect. See Hyman, Aharon, Toldot Tannaim ve-Amoraim(London: Ha-Express, 1910), pp. 1041–47:Google Scholar and Kalmin, Richard, “Friends and Colleagues or Barely Acquainted? Relationships Between Fourth-Generation Masters in the Babylonian Talmud”, Hebrew Union College Annual 61 (1990): 127128; and “Saints or Sinners, Scholars or Ignoramuses?” pp. 194–196. See Moed Katan 28a and Zevahim 87a.Google Scholar

27. See also Shabbat 108a, where the same practice is featured in another narrative involving Rav and Shmuel, and likewise has unfortunate results.

28. See the other studies by this author, cited above.

29. See, for example, Neusner, Making the Classics in Judaism,pp. 1–12 and 19–44.Google Scholar

30. See, for example, Halivni, David, Mekorot u-Mesorol: Yoma-Hagiga(Jerusalem: Jewish Theological Seminary, 1975);Google ScholarMekorot u-Mesorol: Shabbat; Mekorot u-Mesorot: Eruvin- Pesahim;and Friedman, Perek ha-hha Rabbah ba-Bavli.For a similar argument advanced in a critique of Neusner's work on the Mishna, see Cohen, Shaye, “Jacob Neusner, Mishnah, and Counter-Rabbinics”, Conservative Judaism 37 (1983): 4863.Google Scholar

31. Kalmin. Redaction of the Babylonian Talmud,pp. 5–7, 38–57.Google Scholar

32. Statements by Rav Ashi were also analyzed in detail for the purposes of the present study. Explicit commentary attributed to Ashi contains no criticisms, insults, or complex emotional responses to statements by earlier rabbis, and the same is true of commentary by very late amoraim based on Ashi. On Pesahim 57b, Ashi criticizes Yissakhar Ish Kefar Birkai, but Yissakhar is identified, and criticized, as a wicked high priest on Pesahim 57a. On Pesahim 70b, Ashi refers to Yehuda ben Dortai as a “separatist,” but Yehuda ben Dortai apears only in this one context, and we have no clear idea who he is, or even that he is a rabbi (or a Pharisee). See Hyman, Toldot Tannaim ve-Amoraim,pp. 559–560.

33. Yevamot 24b and 91a, Baba Kamma 47b, 65a, and 67b, Bekhorot 23b, and Niddah 60a. In addition, on Pesahim 109a and Kiddushin 71b, either Rav Yosef or Abaye curses statements by Rav (on Moed Katan 12b, all versions agree that the author is Abaye). Apparently, Yosef and/or Abaye respond to the substance of the opinions alone, but the vehemence with which they express their opposition might be fueled by animosity toward Rav, the author of the opinions. We find no hint of animosity toward Rav by either Yosef or Abaye in other contexts, however, and Yosefs or Abaye's curses are not uniquely directed against Rav. See Masoret ha- Shas on Kiddushin 33b.

34. We also find examples of cooperation and profound respect. See Kalmin, “Saints or Sinners, Scholars or Ignoramuses?” pp. 187–189.

35. Shabbat 53a.

36. Hullin 45b.

37. Moed Katan 12b. See also Kiddushin 44b for Rav's reaction to what he mistakenly believes is the opinion of Shmuel. See also Shmuel's sarcastic reaction on Berakhot 60b.

38. Bezah 16b.

39. Kiddushin 79b.

40. Shabbat 10b.

41. Avodah Zarah 53b and Hullin 68b.

42. Shabbat 22a.

43. Sanhedrin 72a. Our texts read Rava, but in light of Rabbah's preference for the views of Rav, it seems likely that Rabbah is referred to. In general, manuscript variation between the names Rava and Rabbah is so common that even when all versions agree, we cannot be certain which amora is referred to. See Kalinin, “Friends and Colleagues or Barely Acquainted?” pp. 125–135, esp. pp. 129–130.

44. Kalmin, “Saints or Sinners, Scholars or Ignoramuses?” pp. 187–190.

45. Niddah 70a.

46. See also Moed Katan 24b for Sheshet's comment on a statement by R. Yizhak, a thirdgeneration Palestinian sage. See also Shabbat 43a–b.Google Scholar

47. Baba Batra 9a–b.

48. Baba Mezia 16a. Rami bar Hama exclaims “Behold the man [i.e., Sheshet[ and behold the objection!” Rava remarks “I see the man, but I do not see the objection.” Perhaps Rava shares Rami's high opinion of Sheshet, but simply denies that in this particular instance Sheshet's argument is decisive. On the other hand, perhaps Rava suggests that Sheshet is a man and nothing more, in contrast to Rami, who implies that Sheshet is an extraordinary man.

49. Gittin 6b.

50. See Shabbat 142b, Eruvin 29a, and Pesahim 52b. See also Zevahim 118b.

51. Yevamot 105b.

52. Sanhedrin 99a.

53. See also Gittin 56b, where either Yosef or R. Akiba reacts to Yohanan ben Zakkai's failure to respond effectively to Vespasian, the future Roman emperor, just prior to the destruction of Jerusalem. According to Yosef or Akiba, God deliberately confounds Yohanan's speech, directly intervening at this criticial juncture in Jewish history and causing Yohanan to request a scholarly refuge at Yavneh rather than an end to the Roman siege. Yosef (or Akiba) does not criticize Yohanan, but rather transforms the encounter into an act of God, eliminating Yohanan's responsibility for the final outcome.Google Scholar

54. Berakhot 47b.

55. See also Yoma 22b.

56. Eruvin 90a, Baba Mezia 96a–b, and Niddah 33a–b.

57. In two of the three cases (Eruvin 90a and Baba Mezia 96a–b), it is unclear whether the phrase in question was authored by Rava or by the anonymous editors. Rava is most likely the author, however, for as we will argue below, the anonymous editors do not criticize amoraim. See also Halivni, Mekorot u-Mesorot: Eruvin-Pesahim,pp. 233–234.

58. See Green, William Scott, “What's in a Name? The Problematic of Rabbinic ‘Biography,’” in Approaches to Ancient Judaism: Theory and Practice,ed. William Scott Green, (Missoula, Mont.: Scholars Press, 1978), pp. 7796.Google Scholar

59. Pesahim 34b.

60. Yoma 57a and Menahot 52a. The printed editions read Rava in both places, but Rabbah is preferable chronologically.

61. Bekhorot 25b. See also Zevahim 60b. See also Sanhedrin 24a, where Yirmiya ridicules Babylonian learning.

62. Zevahim 44a–b and 100b.

63. Shabbat 21b.

64. Yoma 57a.

65. For another disapproving remark by a Babylonian rabbi directed at Yirmiya, see Rav Aha bar Yaakov's comment on Niddah 23a.

66. The anonymous editors only infrequently remove insults against earlier rabbis (see below). For the most part, they leave the offending passages untouched. Perhaps systematic study would reveal patterns to the editors' decisions to comment on certain sources and to ignore others, but I have not been able to discern any as yet.

67. See above, and see Kalmin, Redaction of the Babylonian Talmud,pp. 1–11 and 151–159, where I discuss earlier scholarship on the question.Google Scholar

68. Baba Kamma 80a–b.

69. Shabbat 108a.

70. See also the Appendix, below.

71. Sanhedrin 5a–b.

72. In explaining the editors' alternative response, I have accepted the interpretation of Rashi and Yad Rama. These commentators read quite a lot into the editors' brief remark, but I have no fully satisfactory alternative to suggest. In any case, the editors' first response supports my contention here. For manuscript variants of this story, see Rosenthal, “Rav Ben-Ahi R. Hiyya Gam Ben- Ahoto?” pp. 289–307. The sections of the story which Rosenthal identifies as late additions have not been included in my description of the narrative.

73. See also Urbach, Ephraim. Ha-Halacha: Mekoroteha ve-Wlpathulah(Yad la-Talmud, 1984131:280, pp. 192193.Google Scholar

74. Kalinin, Redaction of the Babylonian Talmud,pp. 1–11 and 51–94.Google Scholar

75. Hullin 133a.

76. The absence of the term “he said,” indicating amoraic dialogue, does not decide the issue. See the discussion above.

77. In addition to the sources cited below, see Baba Mezia 104b and Hullin 56b, where Ashi's opinions are rejected by the anonymous editors with the words “And it isn't so,” and see the discussion above.

78. Ketubot 15a–b and Hullin 45a.

79. Zevahim 50b–51a.

80. Pesahim lla and parallel. Yevamot 21a and 82a, Baba Mezia 71b, Baba Batra 145a, Zevahim 110b, and Menahot 95b.

81. See, for example, Arukh ha-Shalem,ed. Alexander Kohut 1878; reprint ed., Vienna, 1926), vol. 1, pt. 2, p. 15; and Jastrow, Marcus. Dictionary of the Targumim. Talmud Babli, Yerushalmi and Midrashic Literature(1886–1903; reprint ed., New York: Judaica Press, 1971), pp. 139 and 191.Google Scholar

82. See also Berakhot 47b, where according to some versions of the story of Rami bar Hama's death, the anonymous editors claim that Menashya was a full-fledged rabbi, but Rami “did not examine him adequately.” According to these versions, the anonymous editors add to the criticism of Rami by injecting an element of negligence not explicitly present in Rava's statement. The majority of versions, which contain no explicit criticism of Rami, are most likely correct. See Dikdukei Soferim,nn. lamed and following.

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