(early third century), Babylonian scholar during the transition from the tannaitic to the amoraic period. Abba is overshadowed by his famous son Samuel, and therefore is always referred to in the Babylonian Talmud as "the father of Samuel" (cf. Bezah 16b). He was a native of Nehardea and decided issues of Jewish law there (Ket. 23a). He subsequently emigrated to Palestine and continued his studies in the academy of R. Judah ha-Nasi (tj, rh 3:6, 59a; tj, bm 4:1, 9c). Even after his return to Babylon, he addressed halakhic inquiries to him and maintained contact with his grandson R. Judah Nesia. He was a colleague of R. Levi b. Sisi and their opinions are often cited together (Shab. 108b; mk 26b). Mention is made of a divine revelation granted to the two when they were studying Torah together in the ancient synagogue Shaf ve-Yativ in Nehardea (Meg. 29a). The Jerusalem Talmud (Ber. 2:8, 5c) quotes the funeral oration Abba delivered over his friend. When Rav returned to Babylon, he deferred to Abba by refusing to head the community during the latter’s lifetime. Rav engaged in halakhic discussions with Abba, whom he highly respected (Ket. 51b). Abba derived his livelihood from trading in silk and also owned property. Highly charitable, he supported orphans and redeemed captives, and in all his actions attempted to go beyond the mere letter of the law.


Tanna of unknown date. Four aggadic statements are quoted in his name (Ber. 5b-6a). They include: "A person’s prayer is heard [by God] only in the synagogue." "If two enter [a synagogue] to pray, and one of them finishes his prayers first, and leaves without waiting for the other, his prayers are torn up before his face." "If the eye had the power to see the demons, no creature would be able to endure them." He has been identified with Benjamin the Righteous who was in charge of a charity fund. Once, when the fund was depleted during a famine, he supported a woman and her seven sons from his own pocket. Later he became gravely ill and was about to die, whereupon the ministering angels addressed the Almighty: "Sovereign of the universe, Thou hast said that he who saves one soul is regarded as having saved the whole world. Shall Benjamin the Righteous who saved a woman and her seven sons die so young?" Immediately the decree against him was annulled and a further twenty-two years were added to his life (bb 11a).


Legendary figure mentioned in midrashic literature (Mid. Hag. to Ex. 2:16). Abba Gulish was a priest at a heathen temple in Damascus. However, on one occasion, when in great distress, he supplicated his idol without success. Disappointed with idol worship, he went to Tiberias where he converted to Judaism, zealously observing the precepts. He was there appointed overseer for the poor, but he embezzled the money entrusted to him and was punished by blindness, first of one eye and later of both. An object of contempt, he returned to Damascus where his former friends, regarding his blindness as a punishment for his apostasy, reproached him for his unfaithfulness. He thereupon assembled the people in the shrine for the ostensible purpose of apologizing to the idol, but instead he told them that an idol which is unable to see could not have punished him with blindness; it was the work of the omniscient God. As he descended from the dais, his sight was restored, as a result of which thousands of heathens became proselytes. It is not possible to determine whether there is any historical basis for this legend.


(second century), talmudic sage. Only two of his statements, both quoted in the name of other sages, have been preserved. One (Kid. 4:14) is "a man should not teach his son the occupation of an ass driver, camel driver, barber, sailor, shepherd, or tavern keeper, these being the trades of robbers." The second is contained in the introduction (ix) to a late Midrash on Esther known as Midrash Abba Guryon (ed. by S. Buber, 1886), taken apparently from Esther Rabbah. "With the increase of false judges, false witnesses increased; of informers, the wealth of violent men increased; of impudence, respect for human beings ceased; when the beloved children provoked their heavenly Father to anger, He set an arbitrary king over them." The "arbitrary king" is probably Domitian (89-96 c.e.) and the reference to "informers" may be reflected in the coin struck by his successor Nerva to commemorate the abolition of the calumny connected with the Jewish tax.


Aaccording to the aggadah (Ta’an. 23a-b) a saint who lived in the first century c.e. Like many narratives concerning saints in the ancient world, Abba Hilkiah was famous for his miraculous ability to bring rain in times of drought (Kalmin, 212). The Talmud describes him not as a learned sage, but rather as a common worker to whom the sages turned in time of need. Once when a pair of scholars came to ask him to pray for rain, he was not at home, and they finally found him hoeing in a field. They greeted him, but he did not return their greeting. Toward evening he gathered wood for his fire, put the wood and his hoe on one shoulder and his cloak on the other. All the way home he wore shoes, but when he passed through water he removed them. When he approached thorns and thistles he raised up his garment. And so the story goes on describing his apparently eccentric behavior, which puzzled the two sages, who nevertheless followed him into his home. Without speaking to the sages he and his wife went up to roof and prayed, and his wife’s prayer was answered first. Despite the disclaimers of the humble and saintly man, the sages thanked him for bringing the much needed rain. Before they left, they asked him about his puzzling behavior, and he explained how every element reflected some aspect of practical wisdom or ethical concern. For example his refusal to return their greeting was explained by the fact as a day laborer, he feared to take time off during his work hours lest by so doing he would be defrauding his employer. Similarly, he put the wood and his hoe on one shoulder and the cloak on the other because the cloak was borrowed, and the owner of the cloak had not given him permission to rest wood or a hoe on his cloak, and so on.

The story belongs to a genre of tales of the saints, common in the pagan and Christian world in antiquity. It is somewhat remarkable in the talmudic context because its hero, though not himself a sage, turns out to exemplify many of the most noble values which the sages admired, and was even capable of instructing the sages through his behavior regarding these values (Kalmin, 225-232).

In line with its principle of "creative historiography," the Talmud informs us that this saintly figure, Abba H ilkiah, was in fact the grandson (son of the son) of *H oni ha-Me’aggel, the famous "rainmaker" mentioned in Mishnah Ta’an. 3:8. Similarly, the Talmud tells us that Hanan ha-Nahbah, another saintly rainmaker who is the protagonist of the following story in Ta’an. 23b, was also the grandson (son of the daughter!) of LI oni.

ABBAHU or Avahu

(c. 300), usually counted a second generation Palestinian amora. He is often presented as the disciple of R. Johanan who purportedly called him "Abbahu my son." He also is said to have studied with Resh Lakish (See *Simeon b. Lakish) and *Eleazar b. Pedat. Abbahu most likely lived in Caesarea, then the center of Roman rule and of Palestinian Christianity. He seems to have been an important halakhic figure and his aggadic sayings are significant in the fields of religion, ethics, and philosophy. Abbahu is presented in rabbinic literature as learned in mathematics, rhetoric, and Greek, which, we are informed, he taught his daughters. Tradition also endows him with good looks and physical strength and great wealth. It is reported that the Romans "showed favor to his generation for his sake," perhaps a token of the great esteem in which they may have held him. His access to government circles may have given him a special position among his colleagues.

The Babylonian Talmud (Sot. 40a) tells us that Abbahu declined academic leadership in favor of *Abba of Acre because the latter was poor and debt ridden. This legend goes on to show Abbahu concealing his true reasons. Various passages also depict him in the following ways: He was a peacemaker even when others gave offense. He judged all men favorably and appreciated even a single merit of a sinner. He had special esteem for the scholars and taught that a scholar who had committed an offense deserving niddui ("the minor ban"), should be treated with consideration (tj, mk 3:4, 8id). He enjoyed a position of honor in the community. He was an ordained judge, entitled to sit in judgment alone, but earned his livelihood in trade. He was apparently head of a group of scholars known as "the rabbis of Caesarea" and trained many outstanding disciples, among them the amoraim R. Jeremiah, R. *Jonah, and R. *Yose. He enacted ordinances, issued proclamations, and introduced usages such as the now accepted order of blowing the shofar on Rosh Ha-Shanah (rh 34a). Because of his position within the Jewish community and his connections with the authorities he made many official trips, both in Erez Israel and abroad. On such occasions he always deferred respect to the customs of the local community.

His aphorisms include: "Where the penitent stand, the wholly righteous cannot reach" (Ber. 34b); "A man should never tyrannize his household" (Git. 7a); "Be among the persecuted rather than persecutors" (bk 93a); "The world endures only on account of the man who utterly abases himself" (H ul. 89a). A prayer ascribed to him reflects the times in which he lived: "May it be Thy will … to save us from the arrogance and harshness of the evil times which threaten to overtake the world" (tj, Ber. 5:1, 8d).

With regard to Christianity he said, "If a man tells you ‘I am God,’ he is lying; ‘I am the son of man,’ he will eventually regret it; ‘I shall go up to heaven,’ he promises but will not fulfill" (tj, Ta’an. 2:1,65b). Similarly he explained the verse (Isa. 44:6) "I am the first" means "I have no father"; "I am the last" means "I have no son"; "and beside me there is no God" means "I have no brother" (Ex. R. 29:5). It is stated in his name: "it was ordained [some say, in Usha] that ‘Blessed be the name of His glorious kingdom for ever and ever’ be recited in a loud voice-to offset any false charges by sectarians" (Pes. 56a; Rashi explains "lest they say that we add something improper in a low voice"). Abbahu isolated the Samaritan priests in his town from the Jewish community and decreed that they should be regarded as Gentiles in all ritual matters. When the Samaritans asked him "Your fathers found our food and wine acceptable, why not you?" he answered, "Your fathers did not corrupt their ways, but you have yours" (tj, Av. Zar. 5:4, 44d).


Legendary person mentioned in midrashic literature as the founder of a city, called "Rome-Babylon." It is related of him (Song R. 1:64): "On the day that Jeroboam, son of Nebat, installed the two golden calves, two huts were built in Rome, yet each time they were erected they collapsed. A wise man, Abba Kolon by name, was present. He told them that unless water from the Euphrates was mixed with the mortar, the buildings would not stand. He volunteered to fetch some


(second century), tanna. He is not mentioned in the Mishnah but is quoted by Abba Yose b. Hanin in the Sifrei (Deut. 2). Resh Lakish cites his views on several principles of the laws of acquisition; one is that within a public domain a person may acquire ownership of chattels in a radius of four cubits around him (bm 10a). One of his many aggadic statements is, "Woe to us for the day of judgment. Woe to us for the day of rebuke. Balaam was a wise man of the Gentiles, but could not withstand the rebuke of his ass [cf. Num. 22:30]. Joseph was the youngest of the tribes, but his brothers were unable to bear his rebuke [cf. Gen. 45:3]. When God will rebuke each one of us for what he is, how much less will we be able to bear it" (Gen. R. 93. 10).

There he drew water from the Euphrates, brought it back and mixed it with the mortar. The huts now remained standing. Henceforth people would say: ‘A city without Abba Kolon is unworthy of the name.’" They called this city Rome-Babylon. The moral of this aggadah is that Rome was founded as a result of the iniquities of the kings of Israel. According to one opinion the name, Abba Kolon, is derived from Deucalion in Greco-Roman mythology. According to another, he is identified with Ablaccon, a magician in the time of Emperor Tiberius, who is said to have saved the city of An-tioch from inundation. It has also been suggested that there is a double allusion in this name: father of "a colony" and "of kalon" ("shame").


(Sen Astruc de Noves or de Sen Negre; 14th century), French philosopher, astronomer, physicist, talmudist, and exegete. Born in Noves near Avignon, about 1320 he resided in Salon where Samuel b. Judah of Marseilles studied astronomy under him. In 1335 the latter mentions his teacher as still alive and very old. According to the conjecture of Perles and Gross, he is to be identified with Abba Mari of Salon, whom *Kalonymus b. Kalonymus mentions as his teacher and whose refutation of the philosophic views contained in Joseph *Kaspi’s Sefer ha-Sod is quoted by Kalonymus (Responsa 5, 11, 13). Isaac b. Jacob de Lattes states in his Shaarei Ziyyon that Abba Mari wrote commentaries on various tractates of the Talmud "combining interpretation of the text with halakhic decisions," as well as a commentary on the Pentateuch, an exhaustive interpretation of the Pirkei de-R. Eliezer, and various treatises on logic, metaphysics, and science. Abba Mari’s commentary on Job (and on the story of the Creation), which follows the spirit of the religious-philosophical speculations of Maimonides, is extant (Mss. in Parma, De’ Rossi, no. 1372, and Rome, Vatican, no. 244). A philosophical commentary on the Song of Songs (Neubauer, Cat, 1 (1886), 794, no. 2282 and Ms. Cambridge, Schiller-Szinessy, 215) may also be ascribed to Abba Mari. He may also be the author of a commentary to the "Introduction" of Euclid’s Elements which is to be found at the beginning of the Ms. Munich, no. 91. Graetz’s assertion that Abba Mari was arrested in Beau-caire together with Samuel b. Judah of Marseilles is based on a misunderstanding.


(near Lunel, southern France; c. 1165), bailiff or agent of Count Raymond vi of Toulouse (pakid ha-shilton Ramon). He is mentioned by the 12th-century traveler *Benjamin of Tudela, who met him in St. Gilles. Possibly Abba Mari was the father of *Isaac b. Abba Mari, author of the legal codex Ittur.


(c. 1300), writer who opposed extreme rationalism. He especially attacked the spread of philosophical allegori-zation of Scripture in popular sermons and the use of astral magic for healing. Abba Mari lived in Montpellier where the dispute over Maimonides’ Guide of the Perplexed had broken out as early as 1232-33 and where the controversy between the philosophical and the traditionalist schools of thought persisted up to the beginning of the 14th century. In order to counteract the rationalistic method of biblical exegesis, which in his view undermined belief, Abba Mari laid down three basic principles of Judaism: the existence, unity, and incorporeality of God; the creation of the world by God; and God’s special providence. In his polemical work Sefer ha-Yare’ah (yerah = "moon"; an allusion to his native city Lunel), Abba Mari interprets biblical sayings and stories from the point of view of these three principles. As the leader of the traditionalists in the struggle against their opponents, Abba Mari conducted a vehement propaganda campaign and attempted to induce Solomon b. Abraham *Adret of Barcelona and Kalonymos b. Todros to combine in taking steps against the "corrupters of the holy tradition" (see *Maimonidean controversy). Abba Mari did not succeed, however, in inducing Solomon b. Abraham Adret to oppose publicly the use of astral magic and was barely able to persuade him to join the opposition to allegoristic sermons. Ultimately Adret did join the struggle against rationalism.

After negotiations lasting three years, a 50-year ban was pronounced in the synagogue of Barcelona on the Sabbath before the Ninth of Av, July 1305, against all those who before their 25th birthday engaged in the study of science and of metaphysics. In a special letter to the Provencal communities, this anathema was extended to include those who indulged in rationalistic exegesis and the philosophic interpretation of the aggadah. Abba Mari’s opponents, led by Jacob b. Machir ibn Tibbon of Montpellier, realizing that this movement was directed against the extreme rationalists, issued a counter-ban. Menahem *Meiri of Perpignan sent Abba Mari a sharp rejoinder, and *Jedaiah ha-Penini Bedersi addressed himself in a like manner to Adret. Abba Mari obtained rabbinic opinions concerning the ban and counter-ban and received many favorable comments on his position, among others from the rabbis of Toledo, headed by *Asher b. Jehiel. This controversy, however, came to an abrupt end when the Jews were expelled from France by Phillip the Fair in 1306. Abba Mari then moved to Arles and after that to Perpignan. His enemies sought to prevent his settling in that city. The leaders of the Jewish community, Samuel b. Asher and his son Moses, however, espoused his cause and befriended him. The letters and pamphlets of this controversy were collected by Abba Mari in his work Minhat Kenaot (Pressburg, 1838). The halakhic correspondence between Abba Mari and Adret is contained in the responsa of the latter – Sheelot u-Teshuvot ha-Rashba, 1 (1480; no. 167, 825, in conjunction with no. 413, 424-28; for the correspondence with Asher b. Jehiel, see the latter’s Responsa no. 24). Abba Mari wrote a kinah for the Ninth of Av as well as a commentary on a Purim song in Aramaic, composed by Isaac ibn Ghayyat (Venice, 1632). Presumably, the piyyut, published by S.D. Luzzatto in Kerem Hiemed 4 (1839), 30, is also by Abba Mari (cf. Zunz, against this view, Lit Poesie, 537), and similarly the one written entirely in Aramaic, mentioned in Nahalat Shadal 2 (1879), 4, but omitted in Davidson’s Ozaar. J. *Jabez, at the end of his book Or ha-Hayyim (1554) includes excerpts from Sefer ha-Yare’ah without mentioning Abba Mari, but occasionally referring to the author as "one of the disciples of Ben Adret" (Kerem Hiemed, 9 (1856), 47).

A critical edition of Minh at Kena’ot and other pertinent responsa was published by H ayyim Zalman Dimitrowsky, in Teshuvot ha-Rashba (1990), vol. 2.


(Acre; third-fourth centuries), Palestinian amora. Abba apparently served as a rabbi in Acre. None of his halakhic statements has been preserved. The Midrash (Gen. R. 15:7) quotes a solitary comment to the fact that "the tree of the knowledge of good and evil" (Gen. 2:9) was an etrog ("citron"). He was so humble that even when the amora (the official interpreter of the lecture) introduced into it his own explanation which differed from his, Abba did not protest (Sot. 40a). Since he was poor, his intimate friend R. Abbahu declined to be nominated as head of the yeshivah and instead proposed Abba for the position in order to provide him with a source of livelihood (ibid., loc. cit.; see Rashi ad loc.).


(a village in Galilee, near Nazareth), probably lived in Palestine during the fourth century c.e. (Gen. R. 58:2). None of his halakhot or aggadot has been preserved; but he was remembered for his piety. Abba Oshaya was a launderer who was meticulous in his work. According to the law the launderer could keep the few threads which detached themselves during the wash. Abba Oshaya however refrained from this practice (tj, bk 10:11, 7c). Another incident tells of a queen who was bathing where Abba Oshaya worked. She lost her jewelry and relinquished all claim to it. Abba Oshaya, however, found it and insisted on returning it to her (tj, bm 2:5, 8c). Because of his piety he was regarded as being especially beloved of God. The Midrash (Lev. R. 30:1) relates that "When Abba Oshaya died, his bed was seen floating in the air, and the people applied to him the verse ‘If a man would give all the substance of his house for love’ – the reference being to the love which God bestowed on Abba Oshaya of Tiriah – he would utterly be desposed" (Song 8:7). Abba Oshaya is an example of the influence which some scholars had, not as a result of their teaching, but on account of their exemplary lives. S. Liebermann, however, is of the opinion that Abba Oshaya the launderer is to be identified with the tanna "Isaiah of Tarichae" mentioned in Tosafot (bk 11:14) as a man of exceptional piety and not with the later amora (The Talmud of Caesarea, Musaf le-Tarbiz, 2 no. 4, p. 85 note 12).


(reigned 1588-1629), regarded as the mightiest king of the Safavid period (1501-1736). In 1598 he transferred his capital from Kazvin to *Isfahan, which he transformed into one of the most magnificent cities in the world by constructing monumental mosques and beautiful avenues and squares. He is mentioned as a great builder of roads and carvanserais, a renowned conqueror, an able organizer of the army, and an austere punisher of his opponents. He was famed for his cruel punishment of disloyal officers and, as a fanatical Muslim, was responsible for the assassination of several Jewish rabbis and for the forced conversion of many Jews in Isfahan and in other cities of Iran. His persecutions of the Jews of Iran are recorded in the Chronicle of Babai ben Lutf of Kashan, according to which there were three waves of forced conversion to Islam between 1613 and 1629, but many of the Jews returned to Judaism afterwards.


(reigned 1642-1666), son of Shah Safi; regarded, like his great-grandfather *Abbas 1, as an able administrator and builder. Abbas 11 treated any kind of malfeasance with severe punishment. Iranian sources picture him as generally tolerant in religious matters, possibly because he allowed members of the Catholic orders in his empire freedom of action. This tolerance may have to do with his policy of establishing friendly relations with European states in order to win allies against Iran’s most formidable enemy, the Ottoman Empire. He died at the age of 36 from alcoholism and syphilis. His cruel treatment of the Jews and forced conversions in many cities of Iran are narrated by *Babai ben Lutf of Kashan, who probably witnessed them. He reported a wave of forced conversions to Islam between 1656 and 1662, after which, however, many Jews returned to Judaism.


Moderate rationalist author active sometime between the 13th and 15th centuries. Ibn Abbas’ most important contribution was the rationalist-ethical and educational work Ya’ir Nativ ("He Will Light the Way"). Ibn Abbas also wrote a short book on ethics, Mekor Hayyim ("Fountain of Life"), and two other books which have not survived, Me’ir Einayim ("Light of the Eyes"), on the reasons for the commandments, and a commentary on Aristotle’s Organon.

In Ya’ir Nativ, Ibn Abbas criticized the extremists on both sides of the controversy over philosophy. On the one hand, he criticized the extreme rationalists for their philosophical *antinomianism and for their laxity in, or even mocking, observance of the commandments. On the other hand, he was critical of the "talmudist" rabbis who studied only Talmud and not philosophy. He was thus a model of the moderate rationalism of the period. Ibn Abbas became famous for the curriculum of studies presented in Ya’ir Nativ. The curriculum was printed several times.

ABBAS (Abenabez, Abenavez), MOSES BEN SAMUEL

(c. 1350-c. 1420), talmudist, poet, and communal leader in Saragossa, Spain. Moses was born in Tudela and studied under *Solomon b. H asdai, settling in Saragossa after 1370. He was a close friend of the poet Solomon b. Meshullam *da Piera, with whom he corresponded in Hebrew and Spanish, and some of his poems have been included in collections of the latter’s works. Moses was repeatedly elected to the office of muqad-dam, or administrative officer, of the Saragossa community between 1380 and 1420, representing it at court for the first time in 1389. After the massacres of 1391 Moses did much to relieve the survivors. He represented Saragossa at the disputation of *Tortosa (1413-14).


(c. 1601-1671), tal-mudist, halakhist, and poet. Abbas came from a Spanish family which, after settling in Salonika, spread throughout Turkey. He himself was born in Salonika. From his youth onward Abbas endured poverty and illness. His rabbis were Mordecai Kalsy, Jonah Adelie, and Solomon (111) b. Isaac (Bet ha-Levi) *Levi. Appointed rabbi in Egypt, he founded a yeshivah and talmud torah from which he earned his living. To enlist the necessary financial support he traveled extensively, and wrote appeals to those towns he was unable to visit. In the last years of his life he was a rabbi of Rosetta, where, in about 1669, his house was plundered and he lost all his possessions. Abbas wrote many responsa, most of them in Rosetta, and some during his travels. Two volumes are still extant in manuscript. He wrote Kisse Kavod (now at Jews’ College, London), a commentary on the minor tractates Kallah, Soferim, and Semahot. While still a youth, Abbas corresponded and exchanged poems with Jewish notables in Turkey. As a poet, he was superior to his contemporaries, but did not reach the heights of the Spanish school. He encouraged young poets, correcting their efforts and couching his replies in verse form. His poems, which employ the meter and language of the Spanish poets, express his sufferings and hopes. According to Conforte, Abbas compiled two volumes of poetry. Some of his secular poems were published by Wallenstein (see bibliography), but hundreds of his scattered poems are still in manuscript. In some of his poems, the name MaShYA (an abbreviation for MoShe Yehudah Abbas) appears as an acrostic.


Mid-second century tanna. Quoted frequently in the Mishnah and Tosefta, he was probably a disciple of R. Akiva (in view of the fact that he quotes several halakhot in his name; Tosef., Sanh. 12:10). Abba Saul was the colleague of R. Judah b. Ilai and R. Meir (Men. 11:5). He is not usually mentioned with other tannaim, nor are halakhot transmitted in his name by later tannaim (see *Abba Guryon). His terminology often differed from that normally used, not only in relation to burial tools (tj, Shek. 8:2, 51a) but in other areas as well, so that, for example, one who was commonly called a shetuki ("one whose father is not known"), he calls beduki ("one requiring examination" Kid. 4:2). He often declared: "The rule is just the opposite" (Git. 5:4) indicating that his version of a tradition differed from that of other tannaim. Generally his opinion is quoted as an adjunct to a Mishnah (Sanh. 10:1; et al.). On the basis of these differences, it has been suggested that there was a different "Mishnah of Abba Saul," which Judah ha-Nasi had used. He transmitted traditions with regard to the pathology and growth of the human embryo (tj, Nid. 3:3, 5od), and especially with regard to the structure and utensils of the Temple (Mid. 2:5; 5:4; Shek. 4:2; et al.). One of his few aggadic statements is his comment on "This is my God, and I will glorify Him" (Ex. 15:2), which he interpreted as meaning that man should strive to imitate God, endeavoring – like Him – to be gracious and merciful (Shab. 133b; Mekh., Shi-rah, 3). Later traditions suggest that his father’s name may have been Nannos (arn1 29, 87; cf. Nid. 24b, 25b), and his mother’s Imma Miriam (Ket. 87a). The Talmud describes him as "the baker for the family of Rabbi [Judah ha-Nasi]" (Pes. 34a), but in another place his occupation was given as a gravedigger (Nid. 24b) and he described prevailing burial customs, reporting how a grave was located in the rock at Beth-Horon (Nid. 61a).


(first century c.e.), mentioned a number of times in tannaitic sources. According to Bezah 3:8, Abba Saul was a shopkeeper in Jerusalem who had the custom of filling his measuring vessels with oil and wine before a festival for the convenience of his customers. Praised for his honesty, the Tosefta (ibid., 3:8) reports that he once brought as a gift to the Temple three hundred jars of oil which had accumulated from the drops left in the measuring vessels, to which he had no right. When he was ill and the sages came to visit him, he showed them his right hand, and exclaimed: "See this right hand which always gave honest measure" (tj, Bezah 3:9, 62b). His name is associated with a halakhic precedent at the end of Mishnah Shabbat (24:5), and Tosefta Menahot (13:21, Pes. 57a) mentions him in connection with a series of criticisms of the conduct of the high priestly class in the last decades of the Second Temple.


(incorrectly Akasi and Aksai), JACOB BEN MOSES IBN (second half of 13th century), Hebrew translator. Abbasi was born probably in Beziers in southern France, but he lived in *Huesca, Spain. There in 1297-98 he translated Maimonides’ commentary on the third order of the Mishnah (Nashim) from the original Arabic into Hebrew. As he relates in his introduction, the Jews of Rome had sent an emissary, R. Simhah, to Spain to obtain a translation of the Mishnah commentary; the emissary was directed to Huesca with recommendations from Solomon b. Abraham *Adret of Barcelona and other Spanish rabbinical authorities. The Huesca community agreed to provide translations of the first three orders of Maimonides’ commentary, and commissioned the third to Abbasi with the assistance of H ayyim b. Solomon b. Baka, the physician.

In his introduction Abbasi set down his views on the relation of Judaism to philosophy. Citing Ecclesiastes 7:23, "… I said: ‘I will get wisdom’; but it was far from me," he declared that the powers of man’s mind are limited; neither philosophy nor natural science can reveal the essence of things. The Greek philosophers, whom Abbasi quotes, admitted this. Perfection can be achieved only by the study of the Torah and the observance of its commandments. There are secrets in prophecy that man cannot always penetrate, but the merit of divinely commanded action is evident and leads to deeper knowledge. Abbasi considered men in relation to the Torah in three categories: those who study and observe it, those who study but do not observe it, and those who observe but do not study it. He classified the commandments of the Torah in three categories as well; commandments involving the mind and the soul, commandments pertaining to the body, and commandments dealing with one’s possessions. Abbasi continued his discussion describing the importance of the Oral Law as the indispensable and authoritative interpretation of Scripture; he explained the nature of Mishnah, Gemara, and certain works codifying the law, and stressed the importance of Maimonides’ commentary for the understanding of the Mishnah and establishing halakhah. Thus, he praised the Jewish community of Rome for their initiative in commissioning the translation, which he considered of great importance for the future as well.

Abbasi wrote a short preface in which he explained the principles followed in his work, which for the most part are the same as those followed by other contemporary translators. He states that the translation is strictly literal; only rarely did he expand the text for clarity. He corrected obvious mistakes of transcription in the Arabic manuscript according to talmudic sources and Maimonides’ other writings, but did not attempt to harmonize this commentary with Maimonides’ Mishneh Torah. He also wrote a letter to Solomon b. Abraham Adret submitting his translation for approval. Abbasi’s translation was included in the first edition of the complete Mishnah commentary (Naples, 1492), and after that often appeared in editions of the Mishnah and Talmud.


Second dynasty in Islam, ruling from 750 to 1258, mostly from their capital of Baghdad. At its height (eighth-ninth centuries) the Abbasid realm extended from Central Asia in the east through North Africa in the west. It thus encompassed virtually all the Jewish communities then known, save those in Europe.

The new dynasts came to power after some 50 years of clandestine revolutionary activity resulted in an open revolt (747-50). The ensuing conflict toppled the Umayyads (661-750), usurpers of the Prophet Muhammad’s authority. The change of dynasty has long been regarded as a major watershed in the history of the Islamic state, albeit for different reasons.

Previous generations of Orientalists saw the rise of the Abbasids in the light of 19th century notions of nationalism and race and society. The emergence of the Abbasids was thus depicted as the culmination of a long struggle between the Syria-based "Arab" kingdom of the Umayyads and the conquered people of an Iranian empire that was shattered with the rise of Islam. The conflict was thus seen as being between a ruling institution predicated on the special privilege of a relatively small Arab/Muslim aristocracy and a more broadly defined coalition of forces whose ethnic origins were said to have been in the former Iranian provinces to the east, most especially the great land of *Khurasan. With that, there developed the seductive notion that Islamic government became increasingly Iranized under the Abbasids. In sum, it was believed that the Abbasid triumph heralded the creation of a new political and social order in which a narrowly defined ruling Arab society was replaced by a polity of more universal outlook and composition.

The traditional view has given way to a new consensus. Historians now stress the central role played by Arabs from the eastern provinces, particularly in leading the revolt. It is now believed that the struggle between the rebels and the Umayyads was not to restore an Iranian empire and civilization in Islamized garb, but to restore the pristine Islam of the Prophet’s time under caliphs chosen from the House of the Prophet (Hashimites).

In any case, the Abbasid revolution was not a palace coup in which one family displaced another for reasons of personal aggrandizement only to see business continue as usual. A new age had dawned, or so the advocates of the regime claimed in hyperbolic language spiced with apocalyptical symbols. The Abbasid rulers adopted regnal titles suggesting that the messianic age was at hand and they were the chosen instruments of this manifest destiny. The messiah did not arrive but the new rulers altered the political and social landscape dramatically. With unexpected swiftness, the Abbasids redefined an Islamic state that had been founded on Arab privilege and beset by tribal xenophobia. They replaced it with a broadly based polity aspiring to universal outlook and recognition. Viewed as a whole, the deliberate restructuring of Abbasid society seems radical and far reaching. Whether one speaks of new networks of social relationships, a complete overhaul of the military from tribal to regionally based professional units, innovations in provincial administration that allowed for greater representation of non-family affiliates among the governors and sub-governors, or the creation of a highly centralized and massive bureaucracy that employed many non-Arabs, the changes instituted by the new regime represented an ambitious departure in the style and substance of rule hitherto known amongst the Muslims.

To legitimize these dramatic changes, the new ruling order built a magnificent capital at Baghdad in central Iraq. Never before had so grand a city been built. Completed in 766 as a glorified administrative complex, the city eventually grew to an urban area of some 7,000 hectares that was by all accounts densely populated throughout the eighth-tenth centuries. Population estimates vary, but a settlement of well over half a million is certainly possible. With the building of a second imperial center, Samarra, some 55 years later, the Abbasids completely altered the demographic landscape of Iraq, particularly the central region. The vast majority of the inhabitants now lived in major cities and towns, signifying a dramatic shift from agricultural hinterland to urban environment.

Although we lack firm evidence, we can surmise that the increasing urbanization saw a shift in the pattern of Jewish settlement in the region. Babylonian Jews, previously engaged in agriculture and small crafts, must have been attracted, like their Muslim and Christian neighbors, from the declining villages and small towns to the cities where the Abbasid rulers encouraged urban development and expanded commerce and trade. Jews thus became part of the changing economic environment, and eventually played a central role in long-distance trade throughout the Islamic world and beyond. In the ninth century, a group of Jewish merchants called Radhanites after a district in the vicinity of Baghdad traded from China to the Iberian Peninsula. Although business of this sort was not the archetypal Jewish profession, it was a metier to which they readily adapted and with communities of co-religionists dispersed throughout the Islamic world and in Europe, they were able to create an effective business network that included commerce, trade, and also banking.

In the tenth century, a number of Christian and Jewish bankers were employed by various Abbasid functionaries, including the caliphs in Baghdad. Their task was to manage the fortunes of state officials and of the caliph himself. One might ask to what extent the activities of the Jewish bankers in Baghdad had similar parallels elsewhere in the Islamic world. The contemporary Muslim geographer al-Muqaddasi reports that most of the bankers and moneychangers in Egypt were Jews. However, the broad picture of Jewish involvement in the financial transactions of the times has yet to be fully researched.

The Abbasid state could not sustain the political stability of its early decades. Civil war broke out towards the end of the eighth century and military revolts were common in the ninth. By the latter part of the tenth century, the Abbasid empire witnessed the loss of North Africa and Egypt to the "Fatimids, a Shi’ite dynasty that originated in North Africa. To the east, various petty dynasts recognized the suzerainty of the Abbasid caliphs but withheld the tax revenues for themselves. As a result, economic conditions declined throughout the truncated realm. Already in the ninth century, the state, strapped for revenues, confiscated vast wealth from rich Christians (and presumably Jews) and during the reign of the caliph al-Muta-wakkil (847-61) went so far as to invoke the discriminatory legislation against the Christians and Jews that had long been Islamic law but was seldom put into effect.

With conditions deteriorating in the Abbasid heartland, many Jews migrated westward to Egypt, North Africa, and more distant lands. Their path was made easier by the relative tolerance they experienced in Egypt and North Africa. Slowly, the center of Jewish commercial activity as well as scholarly enterprise shifted westward. Abbasid Iraq, which had been the home of the "exilarchs and of the geonim (see "Gaon), the leading political and scholarly figures of world Jewry, as well as the seat of the great academies of Sura and Pumbedita, was forced to share its preeminence as a Jewish center with rapidly developing communities elsewhere.

Over the centuries the power of the caliphs declined although the empire itself, however truncated, was more or less kept intact. When Baghdad was conquered by the "Mongols in 1258, to all intents and purposes, the Abbasid caliphate came to an end. The Mongol conquest would seem to have created expectations of more relaxed times among Christians and Jews. But the conversion of the Mongols to Islam ended any hopes of dramatic change in the relations among the mono-theists.


(or Sakkara), talmudic name of one of the leaders in the defense of Jerusalem against the Romans in 66-70 c.e. "Abba Sikra" is regarded by some scholars as an epithet meaning "chief of the "Sicarii." Jastrow, however, believes the word sikra means "red paint" or the act of "leaping"; Sikr is also recorded as a name for Arabs. In the two parallel accounts of his activities, the Talmud (Git. 56a) calls him Abba Sikra whereas the Midrash (Lam. R. 1:5 no. 31), refers to him as Ben Batiah, but there is no doubt that both refer to the same person. The Talmud calls him "chief of the biryonim in Jerusalem," seemingly in a deprecatory sense, since this term is frequently used in connection with robbers and brigands (Sanh. 37a; Ber. 10a). He is linked with two episodes; the burning of the storehouses in Jerusalem, and the smuggling of his uncle, Johanan b. Zakkai, out of the city during the siege. The burning is recorded in connection with a dispute between the sages and the "Zealots. The sages wished to sue for peace, while the latter wished to do battle with the Romans. No conclusion was reached; but Ben Batiah, who was in charge of the storehouses in Jerusalem, burnt them all, to R. Johanan’s distress. The resultant famine led R. Johanan to seek the assistance of Abba Sikra in his plan to leave the beleaguered city. Abba Sikra proposed that R. Johanan feign illness and then death. He accompanied the coffin, borne by Eliezer and Joshua, the disciples of R. Johanan, and prevented the guards at the gate from stabbing the body.


(Heb, tmp2C-6_thumb fourth century c.e.), Babylonian bloodletter (hence his cognomen). Abba Umana was distinguished for his exceptional piety and, according to legend, daily received a greeting from the Heavenly Academy, a distinction accorded to Abbaye only once a week, and to Rava only once a year. Abbaye, grieved at not being considered as worthy as Abba Umana, was told: "You cannot do what Abba Umana does." In treating women, he conducted himself with the utmost modesty. In order not to put poor patients to shame, he arranged for his fee to be deposited in a place hidden from public view. He never accepted any remuneration from a scholar but instead would give him money to enable him to recuperate. Once Abbaye sent two sages to test him. Abba Umana gave them food and drink, and in the evening prepared mattresses for them. The following morning they took them to the market to sell. On meeting Abba Umana they asked him of what he suspected them. Abba Umana replied that when he missed the mattresses he assumed that they needed money for the redemption of captives. He refused to take the mattresses back, saying that he already devoted them to charity (Ta’an. 2ib-22a).


(278-338 c.e.), Babylonian amora of the fourth generation; chief of scholars of *Pumbedita. Abbaye was of priestly descent and was reputed to be a descendant of *Eli, the high priest. His father, whose name apparently was Keilil (Zev. 118b), died before, and his mother, at his birth (Kid. 31b). He was raised by his uncle, *Rabbah b. Nahmani, and by a foster mother whom he frequently quoted, calling her "mother." His true name is not known. According to R. Sherira Gaon, he was called "Nahmani" after his paternal grandfather, and Abbaye, then, was a nickname. While he was still a child, his uncle recognized Abbaye’s intellectual capacity, and endeavored to educate him appropriately (Ber. 33b). He continued his studies under R. Joseph who apparently succeeded Rabbah as the head of Pumbedita’s circle of scholars. There is a legend that Abbaye later helped R. Joseph recall what he had forgotten as the result of illness. Abbaye debated legal points with the leading talmudic scholars of the day, such as Judah and *h isda (Ta’an. iib-i2a). In his youth he was poor and watered his fields at night to enable him to study by day (Git. 60b), but later he employed tenant farmers (Ket. 60b) and traded in wine (Ber. 56a). Upon Joseph’s death (333 c.e.), Abbaye succeeded him as head in Pumbedita and held this position for the rest of his life. Until relatively recently, most modern scholars presumed that his most prominent colleague was *Rava, and that their agreements ("Both Abbaye and Rava say …") and disagreements constituted a major element of the Talmud. Today the predominant view is that direct dialogues between Abbaye and Rava are extremely rare. Nearly all of their presumed dialogues, previously thought to form the backbone of the Babylonian Talmud, are, in fact, discussions between Abbaye and his teacher, Rabbah. This misapprehension resulted from the widespread confusion between the names Rava and Rabbah in the manuscripts and printed editions of the Talmud. Indeed, face-to-face contact between fourth generation Babylonian masters has now been shown to be generally infrequent, leading to the conclusion that they may have studied in disciple circles rather than academies. It seems that the editors of the Talmud in a later period gathered issues of law on which Abbaye and Rava’s independently adduced positions contradicted. These contradictions were then hashed out by the anonymous editorial voice of the Talmud. However, actual historically authentic dispute dialogue between Abbaye and Rava is almost nonexistent. In the Talmud’s discussions of their contradictory opinions, generally Rava’s view was accepted as law; only in six instances did Abbaye’s view prevail (bm 22b; etc.). The Talmudic term, "Discussions of Abbaye and Rava" became a general term appellation for the entire system of talmudic dialectics. Abbaye’s method of halakhic study combined erudition with keen, logical analysis. Yet, in contrast to his colleague – Rava – he was said to have preferred to rely on transmitted knowledge rather than on independent reasoning (Er. 3a). Discovering similar principles underlying the opinions of various sages, Abbaye would formulate terse general rules and find support for his opinion and that of others in baraitot. He also classified difficult passages in earlier sources and included in his studies laws no longer in force (Zev. 44b). He had a large stock of popular sayings, which he prepared with "People say …." Some of his own remarks became popular maxims; among them, "Go outside and see what the people say …," i.e., follow popular tradition. Through his foster-mother he became familiar with remedies and justified their use by the rule that whatever is done for healing is not considered "ways of the Amorites" (i.e., pagan superstition; Shab. 67a). In the field of aggadah, Joseph’s influence on Abbaye can be seen, but the former sometimes deferred to his pupil’s exposition of a different verse. Abbaye was also responsible for reversing Joseph’s negative attitude to the book of Ben Sira (Sanh. 100b). He took over aggadot and interpretations brought by Dimi from Erez Israel to Babylon (Sanh. 44b). He was the first to discriminate explicitly between the plain contextual meaning of Scripture and its interpretation use for Midrash (H ul. 133a). Especially noteworthy is his quotation (from a baraita) of an exposition of the verse (Deut. 6:5): "And thou shalt love the Lord, thy God," meaning that "the Name of Heaven should be loved on account of you." One should study Scripture, learn halakhot, be apprenticed to a sage, and deal honorably with one’s fellowmen. Then people will say "How pleasant are the ways of this person who has studied Torah, how proper his conduct" (Yoma 86a). In the discussion between the tannaim as to whether man should devote his time to the study of Torah to the exclusion of everything else (according to the view of Simeon b. Yohai) or whether one should study as well as live a productive life (the opinion of lshmael), Abbaye concurred with the latter (Ber. 35b). Whenever one of his disciples had completed a tractate he would arrange a feast for scholars, thus showing his appreciation and concern for his students (Shab. i88b-ii9a). He often stressed the importance of "A soft answer turning away wrath," and of promoting goodwill among men "so that one may be beloved above and well-liked below …" (Ber. 17a). His second wife, H oma, who was the great-granddaughter of R. Judah, was famous for her beauty (Ket. 65a).


("Abbaye the Elder"; c. 300), Babylonian amora. He is called "the elder" in order to differentiate him from the better known *Abbaye of a later generation. He taught and interpreted halakhic beraitot (Yev. 24a; Ket. 94a, 96b), but also dealt with aggadic topics (Shab. 56a). He compared dissension and controversy to "the planks of a bridge which at first are loose but ultimately become fixed in place through constant treading" (Sanh. 7a). The later Abbaye quotes a baraita transmitted by his namesake (Ket. 94a).


(Dosai; second century c.e.), Palestinian tanna. He is not mentioned in the Mishnah, but he transmitted halakhic statements in the names of R. *Eliezer and R. *Yose ha-Gelili (Tosef., Pe’ah 4:2; Ta’an. 2:6; cf. Tosefta ki-Feshutah. 1 (1955), 180, 5 (1962), 1080). He was a contemporary of *Yose b. Meshullam, and halakhic remarks are quoted jointly in their names (Tosef., Kelim, bk 6:18; Makhsh. 2:10). Aggadot dealing with the reconciliation of contradictory biblical passages are cited in his name by Judah ha-Nasi (Sif. Num. 42).


(Hanan, Johanan; second half of first century c.e.), tanna who transmitted details of the number and location of the Temple court gates (Mid. 2:6) and the order of the Temple service (Tosef., Suk. 4:15). Several of his statements on halakhah have been preserved (Tosef., Er., end; Sif. Num. 8; Sot. 20b). He denounced the priestly families and their corrupt behavior: "Woe is me because of the house of Boethus, woe is me because of their staves! Woe is me because of the house of Kathros, woe is me because of their pens! Woe is me because of the house of Elhanan, woe is me because of their whisperings! Woe is me because of the house of Elisha, woe is me because of their fists! Woe is me because of the house of Ishmael b. Phabi, for they are high priests, and their sons are Temple treasurers, and their sons-in-law trustees, and their servants come and beat us with staves!" (Tosef., Men. 13:21; Pes. 57a). According to some later traditions (dez 9, end; cf. Sperber, dez, 152), Abba Yose transmitted an aggadah conveying the significance of the Temple, in the name of *Samuel ha-Katan: "This world is like the human eyeball. Its white typifies the ocean, which surrounds the world. Its black typifies the world. The pupil of the eye symbolizes Jerusalem. The image in the pupil of the eye symbolizes the Temple, may it speedily be rebuilt."


(1902-1957), U.S. communal worker, lawyer, businessman, and philanthropist. Abbell, who was born in Slonim, Poland, was taken to the U.S. at the age of three by his parents, who settled in Chelsea, Mass. Moving to Chicago, Abbell worked first for the Jewish Social Service Bureau, then as assistant executive director of the Jewish Charities of Chicago (1925-37). In 1937 he established his own accounting firm, and in 1944 he became senior partner of the law firm of Abbell and Schanfeld. He entered the real estate business as well, eventually establishing Abbell Hotels, a large nationwide chain, which he continued to manage until his death. Highly active in local and national Jewish life, Abbell was chairman of the Chicago College of Jewish Studies (1950-54), president of the United Synagogue of America (1950-53), and a founder of the World Council of Synagogues in 1957. His philanthropical activities were devoted mainly to the State of Israel and the Jewish Theological Seminary of America. In 1955 President Eisenhower appointed him chairman of the President’s Committee on Government Employment Policy.


(William Abbott; 1895-1974), U.S. actor. Famous for playing the straight man in the legendary comedy duo "Abbott and Costello" with longtime partner Lou Costello, Abbott was born to Ringling Brothers’ Circus performers in Asbury Park, New Jersey. After dropping out of school in 1909, he began working in carnivals and theaters around the U.S. Eventually he became the manager of the National Theater in Detroit, where he honed his skills playing the straight man alongside vaudeville performers Harry Steepe and Harry Evanson. In 1931, Abbott was working as a cashier at the Brooklyn Theater when he substituted for Lou Costello’s usual straight man, who was ill, and what would become one of comedy’s most celebrated teams was formed. The duo’s first national exposure came in 1938, with an appearance on The Kate Smith Hour radio show that led to a contract with Universal the following year. In 1940, Abbott and Costello secured their place in comedic history with their unforgettable supporting role in Universal’s One Night in the Tropics, in which they performed their signature "Who’s on First?" routine. Abbott and Costello’s first starring role with Universal came in the comedy Buck Privates (1941). The unexpected success of Buck Privates led to a string of starring roles in slapstick comedies such as In the Navy (1941), Hold That Ghost (1941), Keep ‘Em Flying (1941), Ride ‘Em Cowboy (1942), Who Done It? (1942), Hit the Ice (1943), and In Society (1944). The duo continued to rely upon their trademark fast-paced, cross-talking formula in more than a dozen other films throughout the latter half of the 1940s and into the early 1950s, when they also began to appear on the television shows The Colgate Comedy Hour (1951-54) and The Abbott and Costello Show (1952-54). In 1956, Abbott and Costello finally parted ways following an irs investigation that left both men in dire financial straits. Abbott attempted to revive his career with a new partner, Candy Candido, during the 1960s but found little success. In his final performance, Abbott provided his own voice for the 1966 animated television series, Abbott and Costello.

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