Abba Saul

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ABBA SAUL , mid-second century tanna. Quoted frequently in the Mishnah and Tosefta, he was probably a disciple of R. Akiva (in view of the fact that he quotes several halakhot in his name; Tosef., Sanh. 12:10). Abba Saul was the colleague of R. Judah b. Ilai and R. Meir (Men. 11:5). He is not usually mentioned with other tannaim, nor are halakhot transmitted in his name by later tannaim (see *Abba Guryon). His terminology often differed from that normally used, not only in relation to burial tools (tj, Shek. 8:2, 51a) but in other areas as well, so that, for example, one who was commonly called a shetuki ("one whose father is not known"), he calls beduki ("one requiring examination," Kid. 4:2). He often declared: "The rule is just the opposite" (Git. 5:4) indicating that his version of a tradition differed from that of other tannaim. Generally his opinion is quoted as an adjunct to a Mishnah (Sanh. 10:1; et al.). On the basis of these differences, it has been suggested that there was a different "Mishnah of Abba Saul," which Judah ha-Nasi had used. He transmitted traditions with regard to the pathology and growth of the human embryo (tj, Nid. 3:3, 50d), and especially with regard to the structure and utensils of the Temple (Mid. 2:5; 5:4; Shek. 4:2; et al.). One of his few aggadic statements is his comment on "This is my God, and I will glorify Him" (Ex. 15:2), which he interpreted as meaning that man should strive to imitate God, endeavoring – like Him – to be gracious and merciful (Shab. 133b; Mekh., Shirah, 3). Later traditions suggest that his father's name may have been Nannos (arn1 29, 87; cf. Nid. 24b, 25b), and his mother's Imma Miriam (Ket. 87a). The Talmud describes him as "the baker for the family of Rabbi [Judah ha-Nasi]" (Pes. 34a), but in another place his occupation was given as a gravedigger (Nid. 24b) and he described prevailing burial customs, reporting how a grave was located in the rock at Beth-Horon (Nid. 61a).


Frankel, Mishnah, 186–7; I. Lewy, in: Berichte der Hochschule fuer die Wissenschaft des Judenthums in Berlin (1876); Hyman, Toledot, s.v.; Epstein, Tanna'im, 160–3.

[Bialik Myron Lerner]