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what the son knew the father could surely not have been
ignorant of, and yet Rabbi Sherira does not mention the
fact that Rabbi Hai ben David's home was in Bagdad.

This striking peculiarity can be explained only upon the
assumption that Rabbi Sherira adopted the system of
mentioning the provenance of the Geonim of Pumbedita
only when they were members, not of the Academy of
Pumbedita itself, but of Sura— an assumption that rises
to the degree of certaint}^ when we remember that Bagdad
and Sura are close to each other ^. The addition of the
words "of Bagdad" to the name of a Gaon, is tantamount
to calling him a member of the Academy of Sura. It turns
out, too, that not only Rabbi Natronai, of Bagdad, and
Rabbi Isaiah, of nt^i^JD -*, are to be reckoned among the

* Of course, 1 do not take into consideration the Geonim who were
in active life before or about 689. Jlabbi Sherira himself was not always
prepared to give unexceptionable information regarding this early Geonic
time, and therefore he would take good care to add any detail he might
happen to know. The characterisation of the Gaon Rabbi Manasseh ben
Joseph as ni>py n ':i p sin nw2i:i is unintelligible; probably th« passage
is corrupt.

2 Ibn Gajat, uj^^r, I, 63,

3 The distance between these two places can be determined with a fair
degree of accuracy. Al-Kasr, a suburb of Bagdad, the original home of
the Exilarch David ben Zakkai, was six miles from Sura, according
to other readings seven, and even ten miles, the variations being based
upon the resemblance of the letters 1"]"' to one another. Comp. Prof,
Jioldeke in J. Q. R., XVII, 760, note 3.

* Wallerstein's text even has mji"? Niip'^"? srnoT i^no mn hni^d.


scholars of Sura, but even Rabbi Joseph, of ^nb^, which,
as we learn from Talmudic references, is situated close
to Sura ^.

As for the supposition ventured above, that the suc-
cessor of Rabbi Natronai was his brother Rabbi Abraham
Kahana, the proof can be adduced, that he is the sole and
only Gaon of Pumbedita, in the period after 689, whose
name is not linked with his father's. The natural ex-
planation is that, being the successor to his brother, the
father's name appeared in connexion with his predecessor's,
and hence there was no need to repeat it. We should,
therefore, be justified in putting Rabbi Abraham Kahana
among the members of Sura who occupied the Gaonate
of Pumbedita. For my part, I should he inclined to
classify Rabbi Paltoi in the same way, for the reason that
he refers (Mliller, p. 88) to a custom in b22 b^ ijm n-'a, the
venerable old synagogue which Rab had founded in Sura,
and the scholars hailing from Sura were the only ones
who made reference to this institution ^.

^ Berliner, Beitrdge zur Geographie unci Ethnographie Babyloniens, 33, note i,
is of the opinion that ^b'V must be looked for in the vicinity of Sura
or Pumbedita. But Baba Batra, 172 a, shows, as the Tosafists noticed,
that it was in the neighbourhood of Rabbi Huna's place of residence, that
is, Sura. In other passages, too, it occurs only in connexion with Rabbi
Huna's presence in Sura. Comp. Bezah, 25 b; Baba Mezia, 63 b, does not
indicate, as Rashi thinks, that Rabbah and Rabbi Joseph lived close
to "-^Mj. Their dwelling-place was Pumbedita, which may have been
a day's journey from ^'vxo. The real meaning of the passage is that great
traffic in wheat was carried on there, therefore it was denominated
a wheat centre. If Rabbi Sherira, 30, 12, speaks of Rabbi Nahman's
having been in j^nnoi T^bir, he means that after the destruction of
Nehardea he first repaired to Tfh't', and then betook himself to Mahoza
in the vicinity of Pumbedita. Keeping in mind the well-known tendency
of the Babylonians to eliminate the letters n and n, the spelling ''b'XD for
^r\bxo need not astonish us ; comp. Funk, Juden in Babylonien, 155, 160.

^ Rapoport, in J^b^o "jiy, 142, has the proper explanation of the ex-
pression so frequently used by the Geonim, hiiy;D ir^i n^2, or briefly
"i:UT n"'!, an explanation that I had myself hit upon independently of
Rapoport, and communicated to Professor Alexander Marx, who indorses
it in his Untersuchungen, &c., 11. It was only later, while engaged in
the present investigation, that I discovered it in the yhy^ "inr, to


If it is at all proper to constitute the appointment of
members of one Academy to the Gaonate of the other as

M'hich I here give credit for it. Rapoport points out that the academy
and synagogue of Rab were so called in the Talmud, Megillah, 29 a.
Halevy (p. 105) has managed to misunderstand Rapoport's words
entirely. He liad no idea of asserting that in the Geonic time "jani^D "i"a
meant the Sura Academy, seeing that it occurs almost always in con-
nexion with the T^^^T^D^' \-iil\ What Rapoport did say is, that in Talmudic
times the expression was applied to the academy and the synagogue
of Rab, but later only to Rab's synagogue. The change has a good
reason. To replace the academy erected by Rab, his disciple Rabbi
Hisda (Rabbi Sherira, Letter, 30, 16) built a new and apparently a larger
structure somewhere near it. With the disuse of the old building for
academic purposes, the old name ira-i .va ceased to be employed for the
Sura Academy. On the other hand, the building erected by Rab was
used as a synagogue {Baba Batra, 3 b) until the time of Rab Ashi
(according to some, Mar bar Ashi ; comp. Rabbinovicz, ad loc), and the
name h22y<D im n'l was retained for it, even after Rab Ashi rebuilt it.
It is this synagogue that continued to be called bninir' "iD''i-i nu down
to and in the time of the Geonim. The fact that it had been remodelled
by Rab Ashi justifies Nahmanides (quoted by c.'"x-i, end of Rosh ha-Shanah)
in saying of the Geonim that " they prayed in his [Rab Ashi's] synagogue."
Halevy (II, 594) maintains that the n m xn'a:^:D rebuilt by Rab Ashi was
not the synagogue of Rab in Sura, but a place of worship frequented
by the scholars of s^zno «no. But though he is right in taking Sura
and x'Dno xno to be two separate places, as was proved long before him
by Hirschensohn, mo^n yi^", s.v., and by Berliner, Beitrdge, &c., 45, yet
there is no doubt that each of the two names was sometimes applied
indiscriminately to both places together. The epithet i2U"i applied to
Rab in the Geonic time occurs in the Genizah fragment published in
the J. Q. R., XVIII, 403, in Harkavy (253), and in the MS. of Ibn Hofni's
*' Introduction." Halevy's conjecture, that i;'n ir-n was the Exilarch's
synagogue at Bagdad, fails to recommend itself for various reasons. It is
true the Exilarchs had their private synagogue ; comp. the report in Ibn
Verga, 42. But in the first place, the Exilarchs are never called im,
and in the second place, the synagogue in Bagdad, in which the
Geonim worshipped and preached on the «bjm xnn^', had a name of
its own, nbv: -in >2i «nc':3, as Rabbi Sherira tells us explicitly, 38, 6.
If it is argued that Rabbi Sherira is here speaking of a single definite
time when the Geonim worshipped in this synagogue, then the proper
inference from the passage is that the Exilarchs had no synagogue set
apart as theirs, else it would have to be explained why they did not
worship in it on this occasion. Rapoport calls attention to the fact that
the Sura Geonim are the only ones who sjjeak of the synagogue bn^nr 'i '2,
and I shall attempt to give an approximately complete enumeration of


a standard of superiority, we now have further evidence
in favour of the pre-eminence of Sura in the five names
of scholars of Sura who acted as Geonim in Pumbedita,
as against the two from Pumbedita who officiated similarly
in Sura, aside from the fact that the appointment of the

the passages in wliich it is mentioned : h"y , 90, Eabbi Natronai = nV, 55 ;
j"n, 125, Rabbi Zemah, this being Rabbi Zemah ben Hayyim of Sura,
not Rabbi Zemah ben Paltoi of Pumbedita, for lie quotes the Sura
Geonim Rabbi Jacob and Rabbi Hanina. The same Rabbi Zemah is
the author of the Responsum in D"rr, 187, where a certain usage of "i"3
ll^tr) is referred to. By many Poskim it is ascribed to Rabbi Zemah
ben Paltoi. However, it can be proved that it is the Suran Rabbi
Zemah. While the Suran Geonim Rabbi Natronai and Rabbi Amram
agree with Rabbi Zemah, Rabbi Hal (Ibn Gajat, ir>"\y, II, 109, and
others) states that he had never seen, in any synagogue^ the custom
described by Rabbi Zemah. The difference of opinion can be explained
only by the fact that the custom of Pumbedita varied from that in Sura
in this as in so many other respects. To continue our enumeration :
nV, 220, Rabbi Natronai, who shares with the Sura Gaon Sar Shalom
the peculiarity of using the expression oftener than others, comp.
Albargeloni, D^niTT 'd, 172, 173, 174, 249, 281, 289; 'Aruk, s. v. 13; '?n"a^'',
50 ^^''-ic, 25 a, according to the readings of MSS. S and ; also bn"2^', 49,
where the Responsum quoted is by Rabbi Natronai ; see below^ p. 192.
The passages listed by Marx, Untersuchungen, &c., from the Sedey- Rah
Amram probably go back to these two Geonim also. The Responsum
given in G. S., p. 91, where 22."xD Va occurs, in all probability owns Sar
Shalom as author, the next Responsum but one being attributed to him
elsewhere, as I remark in G. S., p. 90. The Responsum on p. 119, which
mentions i"a, is surely by Rabbi Natronai. In oi"n:, 122, the text should
probably read, not pn Vi) nvD^D^ \-i2n, but with Albargeloni, I.e., 281,
13'm bxD nc2Dn rr'iai. In n''^', 287, near the end, the text is altogether
corrupt ; the words n'"2p ^^Dn"*™ -j3"i b22iXD '^2•<2^ "ras om are unintelligible.
Perhaps what we have here is an extract from a Responsum by a
European or African disciple of Rabbi Hai, who calls his teacher 13''^
Siiiu;. The words in c~iD, 46 b, bottom, are also to be traced back to
the Responsum by Rabbi Zemah ben Hayyim just mentioned, in which
the use of bini^ i"! is spoken of. The decision cited in 'jn^rr, 156
(=K'':n, 83), in the name of Rashi is found in dtic, 47 h, end, and
in D"n, 187, whence also the ni"\r! Y'n in Wise and ><"':n, Rabbi Natronai
being the author. This array of material should suffice to convince
the inquirer that "^m n^a must have been a synagogue in Sura, and that
in turn should suffice to identify it with the nm nu of the Talmud, the
synagogue of Rab. Comp. Marx, Untersadamgen, &c., 10-12.


scholars of Pumbedita to Sura may probably be ascribed
to the autocratical interference of an Exilarch ^.

In his eagerness to carry through consistently his theory
of the pre-eminence of Pumbedita as compared with Sura,
Halevy actually turns a scientific somersault. Only by
violent means could he arrive at the desired result of
reversing the true relation between the two Academies.
He maintained, for instance (p. 159), that the precedence
accorded the Gaon of Sura at the "reception Sabbath"
of the Exilarch, of which the sources tell us, is due to
the circumstance that the seat of the Exilarch was near
Sura, and it was natural that first place should be ceded
the Gaon of Sura in his own judicature. But unluckily
Halevy himself quotes a passage (p. 154) from Sherira in
which the fact is stated that the address at one of the
receptions of the Exilarch in Bagdad ^nm n^^n was de-
livered by the Gaon of Pumbedita, and if the heads of the
Sura Academy could lay claim to precedence anywhere,
it was surely in Bagdad, which, as Halevy himself remarks,
is situated in the immediate neighbourhood of Sura.

In point of fact, the passage in Sherira from which
Halevy draws support for his theory is indisputable
evidence in favour of the superiority of Sura. Sherira
maintains {^^, 13) that the regulation, originating in the
time of Rab Ashi, according to which the Exilarch held
his reception at Sura, whither the Gaon of Pumbedita had
to betake himself, was abolished during the Exilarchate
of David ben Judah. The reason was, as Graetz correctly
remarks, that the Mohammedan government no longer put
its powerful assistance at the disposal of the Exilarchate.
From this time on, therefore, if the Exilarchs desired to
keep in touch with the Academy of Pumbedita, they had
no choice but to betake themselves in person to Pumbedita
and arrange for reception ceremonies there.

But this statement is contradicted by two other pas-
sages, one in Nathan ha-Babli's account, and one in

^ Comp. the words of Rabbi Sherira. 36. bottom, and 37, 5.


Sherira's Letter itself. Nathan ha-Babli says that so late
as his own time the two Geonim waited upon the Exilarch
at his reception, which took place in the residence of the
Exilarch, a suburb of Bagdad. Sherira, again, mentions
the fact (38, 6), that Eabbi Abraham and Rabbi Joseph,
Geonim of Pumbedita, went to Bagdad to wait upon the

These contradictions can be harmonised. The preroga-
tive enjoyed by the Exilarch, of summoning the Geonim
of Pumbedita to Sura for the reception, was at the same
time a prerogative of the Sura Academy. Thus the
interests of the Exilarchate, in aiming to abrogate the
institution, coincided with those of the Pumbedita Gaonate.
As the first step towards their end the Exilarchs trans-
ferred their reception to Bagdad, their residence. The
Geonim of Pumbedita were only too well pleased with
the change, and hastened to pay their respects to the
Exilarch at Bagdad. The Geonim of Sura, on the other
hand, hung back for a while, appealing to their time-
honoured right, which required the presence of the
Exilarch at Sura.

This throws light upon Sherira's passage mentioning
the address delivered by the Gaon of Pumbedita on the
occasion of the Exilarch's gala day. The chiefs of the
Sura Academy simply absented themselves, and the privi-
lege of delivering the address naturally devolved upon
the Gaon present, the Gaon of Pumbedita. In the course
of time, in the measure in which the Academy at
Pumbedita gained in strength, and at the same time the
Exilarchate declined, the Geonim of Pumbedita also be-
came derelict, and did not appear to attest their allegiance
to the Exilarchs. Interested in describing only the begin-
ning and the end of the development of the relations
between the Gaonate and the Exilarchate, Sherira had no
intention of speaking about anything except the old
institution of the Exilarch's reception at Sura and the
late custom prevailing in his youth, when the Exilarchs


came to Pumbedita. These questions of etiquette naturally
were determined by the relation of the Exilarch to the
Geonim at a given time, and — a still more important
consideration — by the influence which the Exilarch could
bring to bear upon the government. Some years after
the reception of the Exilarch is known to have taken
place at Bagdad, we find again a reference to an Exilarch
who restores the old prerogative to Sura^. It may, of
course, not be overlooked that at that moment the Gaon
of Sura was Sar Shalom, a son-in-law of the Exilarch,
whose predilection for Sura thus appears most natural^.
In his reference to the homage done the Exilarchs by the
Geonim, Nathan ha-Babli probably had conditions in mind
as they existed at the time of the Exilarch David ben
Judah, who, to judge from our data about him, was a man
likely to exact as a right the consideration due to the
Exilarchs, if need be by resort to the help of the state.
Under him, doubtless, the Geonim found it expedient to pay
their respects to the Exilarch, if not annually, at least
now and then, for the sake of peace.

The Title Gaon originally the Prerogative of


It appears, then, that Sherira, so far from maintaining
that Pumbedita had precedence over Sura, can be cited
as a witness for the correctness of Nathan ha-Babli's state-
ment of the reverse. All that is necessary is to read the
text critically.

The assertion made by Nathan, that the title Gaon
originally appertained to the chief of the Sura Academy
alone, is corroborated strikingly by the following Re-
sponsum, unique in its way, sent by the Sura chief to

1 3"n, 4 ; the author is Sar Shalom ; comp. Tur, Orah Hayyim, 566, and
MS. Sulzberger of the Seder Rah Amram in Marx, Untersnchungen, &c., 16.

2 Comp, Rabbi Hai's Responsum in the appendix to Rabbi Sherira's
Letter, ed. Mayence, p. 63. The Responsum was known to the author
of the Tur, as appears from Tur, Hoshen Mishpaf, 7.


the Pumbedita chief. The mere fact that the Gaon of
Sura transmits a decision to the Gaon of Pumbedita, suffices
to demonstrate the superiority of the former as compared
with the latter. Every remnant of doubt must be banished
by the official superscription. The Responsum in question
has been preserved in Dms (28 a), in the MS. of the r\'''2ii-\ ^
and in ynr niX (I, 114 b). It contains the decision of the
Sura Gaon, Rabbi Jacob ben Mordecai (801-815), addressed
to the Academy of Pumbedita, presided over by Rabbi
Joseph ben Shila, with the attestation to the signature
of the Gaon on the part of the Sura scholars in these

words 2: I'n^) .TDHD NDDI Nnn^DDI Onnn NiD^p^J p''Di^n N3nD

ni?^K^ ^«:n•^1 Nnron nnn ^?nn^nD ^n pi^i^ m n^on njh >2b Nsn
— " This document [of Rabbi Jacob] was seen by us, the
scholars of the Academy at Mehassia, and it is intended for
the court of justice of the chief of the Academy, Rabbi
Joseph ben Rabbi Shila." This official superscription
confirms the statement made by Nathan, that the Gaon
of Sura did not address the head of the Academy at
Pumbedita, but the Academy itself, and when he men-
tioned the head of the Academy, he did not call him
Gaon ^.

Accordingly, it is highly probable that Rabbi Samuel
Resh Kalla, whose pupil. Rabbi Aha, was the author of the
Sheeltot, is none other than the Rabbi Samuel, the chief
of the Academy at Pumbedita, whose successor Rabbi Aha
would have become if the Exilarch had not hindered it.
Sherira was in the habit of conferring the title Gaon by

^ Comp. the extract from the n'^'a^i in i^rDrr, supplem. to the Heb.
periodical n^^n^rr, II, no. 11, p. 18. I am indebted to Dr. A. Marx for
this reference.

^ The text given is based upon a combination of the three sources
mentioned in the text, all of which contain many errors.

^ The question was doubtless addressed by the head of the Academy of
Pumbedita, Rabbi Joseph ben Shila, to the head of the Academy at Sura.
Mere courtesy, then, required that the reply should at least recognise
the existence of the questioner by mentioning his name. The case in
Harkavy, 276-7, does not come in the same class.


courtesy not only upon the chiefs of the Pumbedita
Academy, but also upon Amoraim ^ who were at the head
of schools. He applies the same title to Rabbi Samuel,
though his disciple Rabbi Aha and other sources properly
call him Resh Kalla, the title originally belonging to the
heads of the Pumbedita Academy. That he actually was
at the head of the Academy at Pumbedita appears par-
ticularly from the passage in y'"'^, 17 b, 7, reporting a case
in law which had been submitted during several Kallas
to Rabbi Samuel, who never gave a decisive answer. But
if the case was so important that the questioners urged
a decision, why was not the opinion of the Gaon solicited ?
To say that the difficulty was brought before Rabbi Samuel
durino- the Gaonate of Rabbi Natronai ben Nehemiah,
with whom the scholars of Pumbedita had a feud, and
whom they therefore ignored, is an evasion dictated by
embarrassment. In the first place, one would expect the
question to be put to the Gaon of Sura in such an emer-
gency, and secondly, knowing as we do from Sherira,
that the scholars of Pumbedita took refuge at Sura during
the Gaonate of Rabbi Natronai, it would be very sur-
prising if the Resh Kalla, instead of joining them, stayed
behind in Pumbedita.

A further verification of the fact that this Samuel Resh
Kalla was the actual head of the Pumbedita Academy is
found in the report in ^'n, 84 a, which tells that a certain
case was decided by Rabbi Jehudai, the head of the Sura
Academy, in common with Rabbi Samuel. The case, which
deals with the validit}^ of a marriage between Samaritans
and Jews, being very important, the opinion of both
Academies was desired. There is one difficulty to be over-
come, for, according to Sherira, Rabbi Jehudai attained
to the Gaonate some few years after the death of Rabbi
Samuel. But Rapoport (note 24 on jn: '1 'b^^\) points out
that the dates in this passage of Sherira' s Letter require

^ The Midrash Temurah even has the superscription srpr ^ai cbr ois:


such correction as would bring the beginning of Rabbi
Jehudai's Gaonate earlier. It is interesting to note the
modification which this passage, as cited in "ixn ni3i?n, 83,
has suffered. The names of the authorities are reversed
as compared with the order in ^'n, and it is the correct
order, for Rabbi Samuel doubtless was older than Rabbi
Jehudai, who attained to office only shortly before the
death of Rabbi Samuel.

As for the identity of Rabbi Samuel, the head of the
Academy at Pumbedita, with the Rabbi Samuel who was
the teacher of Rabbi Aha, it can be demonstrated from
data in Sherira's Letter. The first is there called i?N1Dt:^ nn
'ip^i^i ID m no 12 {^^, 2, below). The last word eluded
every attempt at explanation, and there was nothing to
do but cross it off. Now, we know from statements made
by the author of the Sheeltot, that his teacher, Rabbi
Samuel, came from the neighbourhood of Sura, from a
place situated on the river po (see Briill, Jahrhilcher,
II, 149 — a reference not regarded by Berliner, Beitrdge
zuT Geographie unci Ethnographie Babyloniens, 3, s. v.).
Accordingly, np'^i^l calls neither for elision nor emendation.
It simply means that Rabbi Samuel came from Diakara,
a town close to Bagdad and Sura. As Rapoport has
shown in his pi?» "jny, ^^, it is called NT-pi ^T'^^ in the
Talmud, and by the classic writers Diakara, which cor-
responds exactly to Rabbi Sherira's contracted form
^■^P^Nl. Thus we have not only succeeded in finding the
teacher of Rabbi Aha in Sherira's Letter, but at the same
time we learn from it that he was a scholar of Sura, one
of those presiding over the Academy at Pumbedita. As
was proved above, Sherira is in the habit of recording the
Suran origin of Geonim of Pumbedita. Moreover, it is
very probable that Rabbi Huna AUuf — or Resh Kalla, for
the two titles are identical with each other (comp. G. S.,
p. 242) — who is mentioned in 3''n, 8 b, is the Rab Huna
designated by Sherira as the chief of the Pumbedita
Academy at the beginning of the seventh century. The




passage in fn, 34 a, should be corrected according to a''n
ed. Hildesheimer, 170, to read SJin m nm. It refers to the
chief of the Pumbedita Academy, whom the author of a''n
properly calls AUuf or Resh Kalla, but never Gaon.

It appears that the head of the Pumbedita Academy,
Rabbi Judah, who was in office soon after this Rabbi
Samuel, is identical with the Rabbi Judah who is men-
tioned in fn, 21 d (ed. Hildesheimer, 131), and who, though
president of the Pumbedita Academy in this early Geonic
period, bears, not the title Gaon, but the title Resh
Kalla, or its equivalent Alluf. The addition of nips nn^m
to his name does not mean that he was Resh Kalla in
nipa 'J, but that he hailed from that town, and was active
in Pumbedita. As the scholars of llpD 'J at the time of
the Geonim belonged to the Sura Academy — four Geonim
Sura came thence — Rabbi Judah is found to be another
of the Surans appointed to the presidency of Pumbedita.

Harkavy, however (Samuel hen Hofni, note 124), goes
astray in holding Rabbi Haninai, xnm N*:>n, mentioned in
fa, 3 a, 17, to be identical with the Gaon Rabbi Haninai,
who does not bear the title, because at the time of Bostanai,
with whom Rabbi Haninai was contemporary, the title
did not yet exist. The passage cited refers to a dispute
among the descendants of the Exi larch. It was altogether
proper that such a case should go before "the chief judge,"
xnan 'l, of the Exilarch (comp. G. S., p. 318, note 2, and
above, p. 12), and not before the Geonim.

Interesting as these scattered indications are, yet we
have no need of them in order to establish the supremacy
of Sura. The whole of Geonic literature bears irrefutable
testimony to it. Up to the second third of the* ninth
century, the Responsa literature contains not a single
Responsum by a Gaon of Pumbedita^, while the activity

^ Graetz, V\ 400, ascribes the Responsum in y"r, 24 b, 10, to Rabbi

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