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Jewish Commentators — Their Lives and Works


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Hebrew Name(s): רבי אמי
Other Names: Rabbi Ammi, Ammi ben Nathan
Period: Amoraim — 3rd Century
Location: Palestine
Dates: 3rd Century

Rabbi Ammi, a Third Generation Palestinian Amora, is paired with Rabbi Assi (Assi I) in the Talmud and it is possible that their life long friendship was also related to blood ties. Each bore the name "ben Nathan" and it is possible they were brothers. It is assumed he was born in Babylonia since this is the birth place of Rabbi Assi.
Rabbi Ammi studied in Caesarea under R. Hoshaiah I (Hoshaiah Rabbah) before moving to Tiberius where he became a disciple of Rabbi Yoḥanan ben Nappaḥa. After Yoḥanan ben Nappaḥa died, Rabbi Ammi, together with Rabbi Ḥiyya ben Abba and Rab Assi (R. Assi (Jose) b. Nathan,) became recognized as leading authorities in halakhah in Palestine. Rabbi Ammi was part of a large circle of scholars in Tiberius which included, besides Rabbi Ḥiyya ben Abba and Rab Assi, R. Abbahu, T. Ḥanina ben Pappi, R. Isaac and R. Samuel ben Naḥmani.
Rabbi Ammi was a halakhist and aggadic exegete and is often paired with Rabbi Assi in the Talmud and Midrash. Their close associated seems to be a reflection of their shared opinions e.g., R. Avira discoursed "sometimes in the name of R. Ammi, and sometimes in the name of R. Assi" (Ber. 20b). Rabbi Ammi became rector of the school of Yoḥanan ben Nappaḥa in Tiberius after the death of Rabbi Yoḥanan ben Nappaḥa (Ḥul. 134b).
Ammi was also involved in the community and, with Rabbi Ḥiyya ben Abba and Rab Assi, Rabbi Ammi administrated a Court of Justice which at one time caused them great pain. Having passed judgment on a certain Tamar, she laid charges against them in the Roman courts, and the three were forced to request R. Abbahu to use his influence with the government on their behalf (PT. Meg. iii. 74a).
Rabbi Ammi and Rabbi Assi were referred to by their Babylonian contemporaries as "the Palestinian judges" and "the distinguished priests of Palestine" (Git. 59b; Sanh. 17b). The Talmud alludes to their "simple" language which was understood by all as compared to the learned words of many teachers (BT. Ket. 17a; BT. Sanh. 14a). Ammi, together with Assi and Ḥiyya ensured that schools were made available for adults and children and that itinerant scholars were accommodated in the classrooms. R. Ammi was concerned for the welfare of the poor and it is related that once he took a large sum of money which was donated to the school in Tiberius and distributed it to the poor (BT. Hul. 134b).


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