Abba Bar Kahana

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ABBA BAR KAHANA (late third century), Palestinian amora. It is possible that he was the son of Kahana the Babylonian, the pupil of Rav who immigrated to Ereẓ Israel. Abba quotes halakhot in the name of Ḥanina b. Ḥama and Ḥiyya b. Ashi (Shab. 121b; tj, Ber. 6:6, 10d), but his talents lay largely in the realm of aggadah and, with his contemporary R. Levi, he was regarded as one of its greatest exponents (tj, Ma'as. 3:10,5 la). Early aggadic traditions of leading tannaim such as *Eliezer b. Hyrcanus, *Simeon b. Yoḥai, *Judah b. Ilai, and *Phinehas b. Jair were known to Abba. Among his statements are "Such is the way of the righteous: they say little and do much" (Deut. R. 1:11) and "No serpent ever bites below unless it is incited from above … nor does a government persecute a man unless it is incited from above" (Eccles. R. 10:11). This statement probably reflects the persecutions of the Jews of his time, to which there may also be a reference in the observation "The removal of the ring by Ahasuerus [Esth. 3:10] was more effective than the 48 prophets and seven prophetesses who prophesied to Israel but were unable to lead Israel back to better ways" (Meg. 14a). His homiletical interpretations deal with biblical exegesis; he identifies anonymous biblical personalities (e.g., Dinah was the wife of Job: Gen. R. 19:12, etc.) as well as geographical sites whose location was not clear (Kid. 72a). He embellishes the biblical narrative with tales and aggadot (Gen. R. 78:16; Eccles. R. 2:5, etc.). His statements reflect the contemporary hardships and persecutions suffered by the Jews (Lev. R. 15:9). Abba expresses his expectation of redemption in the remark that "if you see the student benches in Ereẓ Israel filled with sectarians [Babylonians], look forward to the approaching steps of the Messiah" (Lam. R. 1:41); ibid., ed. Buber, 39a, however reads "every day" (Heb. בכל יום) instead of "Babylonians" (Heb. בבליים).


Hyman, Toledot, 48–50; Bacher, Pal Amor; A. Marmorstein, in: Jeschurun, 13 (1926), 369ff.

[Yitzhak Dov Gilat]