Shabbat 29 – Who was Rav?

Another small milestone today – this is the 50th post for ideasonthedaf! Enjoy!

Rav is mentioned very often in the Talmud but who was he? I have provided a slight edit on the Wikipedia page to incorporate a bit more detail about Rav’s life from today’s daf. It is fascinating to read biographical sketches of the characters in the Talmud to provide context for what the Talmud attributes to them.

Here is the beginning of the Wiki article about Rav:

“Abba Arikka (175–247) (Talmudic Aramaic: אבא אריכא; born: Abba bar Aybo, Hebrew: רבי אבא בר איבו) was a Jewish Talmudist who lived in Sassanid Babylonia, known as an amora(commentator on the Oral Law) of the 3rd century who established at Sura the systematic study of the rabbinic traditions, which, using the Mishnah as text, led to the compilation of the Talmud. With him began the long period of ascendancy of the great academies of Babylonia (Oesterley & Box 1920), around the year 220. He is commonly known simply as Rav (or Rab, Hebrew: רב).

His surname, Arika (English, “Long”—that is, “Tall”; it occurs only once—Hullin 137b), he owed to his height, which, according to a reliable record, exceeded that of his contemporaries. Others, reading Areka, consider it an honorary title, “Lecturer” (Weiss, Dor, iii. 147; Jastrow, Dictionary under the word). In the traditional literature he is referred to almost exclusively as Rav, “the Master”, (both his contemporaries and posterity recognizing in him a master), just as his teacher, Judah I, was known simply as Rabbi. He is called Rabbi Abba only in the tannaitic literature (for instance, ToseftaBeitzah 1:7), where a number of his sayings are preserved. He occupies a middle position between the Tannaim and the Amoraim, and is accorded the right, rarely conceded to one who is only an ‘amora, of disputing the opinion of a tanna (Bava Batra 42a and elsewhere).


Rav was a descendant of a distinguished Babylonian family which claimed to trace its origin to Shimei, brother of King David (Sanhedrin 5a; Ketubot 62b). His father, Aibo, was a brother of Chiyya, who lived in Palestine, and was a highly esteemed scholar in the collegiate circle of the patriarch Judah I. From his associations in the house of his uncle, and later as his uncle’s disciple and as a member of the academy at Sepphoris, Rav acquired such an extraordinary knowledge of traditional lore as to make him its foremost exponent in his native land. While Judah I was still living, Rav, having been duly ordained as teacher—though not without certain restrictions (Sanhedrin 5a)—returned to Babylonia, where he at once began a career that was destined to mark an epoch in the development of Babylonian Judaism.

The Aleinu prayer first appeared in the manuscript of the Rosh Hashana liturgy by Rav. He included it in the Rosh Hashana mussaf service as a prologue to the Kingship portion of the Amidah. For that reason some attribute to Rav the authorship, or at least the revising, of Aleinu.”

The full article can be found here


About bookabazza

I am an Osteopath and University Lecturer who is trying to keep up with the 7 year daf yomi cycle. I thought I would try and share a few small thought on the daf each week.
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