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Jewish Commentators — Their Lives and Works


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Hebrew Name(s): אבהו
Other Names: Abbahu of Caesarea
Period: Amoraim — 3rd Century
Location: Palestine
Dates: c. 279–320

Abbahu was a Palestinian Amora of the Third Generation who flourished c. 279-320 CE in the Land of Israel. He was a halakhist and a haggadist and had a reputation for modesty, turning down his first teaching position after ordination in favor of his friend, R. Abba of Acre whom he considered to be more worthy (Sotah 40a).
Abbahu studied under R. Johanan in Tiberius and later became the head of the academy at Caesarea. He also travelled, teaching in many Jewish towns and gathering halakhot to the extent that other scholars turned to him for clarification on questions. Abbahu was noted for complying with local rulings but did not hesitate, when the application of a ruling imposed hardship on the people, to modify the decisions of his colleagues for the benefit of the community (BT. Shab. 134b; PT. Shab. xvii 16b; PT. Mo'ed Katan I 80b).
Abbahu is also credited with entering into controversy with Christians (Minnim).
Abbahu studied Greek, taught his daughters Greek (PT. Shab. vi. 7d; PT. Sotah ix. 24c), and encouraged the study of Greek by Jews. He was also involved in consular activities and interceded on behalf of R. Ḥiyya b. Abba, R. Ammi and R. Assi when, as a result of their judicial decisions, complaints were made to the Roman authorities about them (PT. Meg. iii. 74a).
He was famous as a collector of traditional lore, and is very often cited in the Talmud.
One of Abbahu's rulings, that which regulated the sounding of the shofar, has been universally adopted. Medieval casuists referred to it as "Takkanat R. Abbahu."
Abbahu had two sons, Zeira and Hanina. Prominent among his disciples were the leaders of the Fourth Generation of Palestinian Amoraim, R. Jonah and R. Jose. It was said that at his death "Even the statues shed tears" (BT. Mo'ed Katan 25b; PT. Av. Zarah iii 42c).
Others with the name Abbahu: There are other Abbahus mentioned in the Talmud and Midrashim. One Abbahu (Abuha, Aibut) b. Ihi (Ittai) was a Babylonian halakhist and a contemporary of Samuel and Anan (Eruvin 74a) and brother of Minyamin (Benjamin) b. Ihi. While this Abbahu repeatedly applied to Samuel for information, Samuel in return learned many halakhot from him (Naz. 24b; Bava Metzia 14a, 75a).


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