Jewish Commentators — Their Lives and Works
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Hebrew Name(s): יהודה בן יחזקאל
Other Names: Rav Yehuda, Judah bar Ezekiel, Judah bar Yehezkel
Period: Amoraim — 3rd Century
Location: Pumbedita, Babylonia
Judah ben Ezekiel also known as Rav Yehuda, was a Babylonian Amora of the Second Generation. He was the most prominent disciple of Rav (Abba Arikha) whose son Ḥiyya was his pupil (Er. 2b). After Rav's death Judah went to Samuel of Nehardea, who called him "Shinena" (meaning, "sharp-witted" (Ber. 36a; Kid. 32a). He remained with Samuel in Nehardea until he founded a school of his own at Pumbedita.
Judah ben Ezekiel's commitment to study was such that it is said that he even omitted daily prayers in order to allow more time for study. He recorded many of the teachings and sayings of Abba Arikha (Rav) as well as many of Samuel's sayings. These are incorporated in the Talmud where he carefully clarifies his sources, stating if he is uncertain of his informant's source (Hul. 18b).
Judah b. Ezekiel introduced an original method of instruction at Pumbedita; emphasizing the need of an exact differentiation and critical examination of subjects treated, he became the founder of Talmudic dialectics (Sanh. 17b; Ḥul. 110b; B.M. 38b). Not all appreciated his method, however, and some of his older pupils left him. However, the school at Pumbedita steadily increased in importance and popularity. After the death of Rav Huna, head of the Academy of Sura, most of his pupils went to Pumbedita, which remained the only seat of Talmudic learning. Despite his major focus on dialectics Judah also interpreted the mishnayot, explaining peculiar words in them (Pes. 2a; M.Ḳ. 6b), and giving the correct reading where several were given (Beẓah 35b; Suk. 50b).
Judah ben Ezekiel was renowned for his piety and it was said that if Judah ben Ezekiel prayed for rain in time of drought, rain fell (Ta'an. 24a). He died in Pumbedita in 299 CE.
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