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Ammi Bar Nathan


AMMI BAR NATHAN (end of third century), Palestinian amora. Ammi and his colleague, R. Assi, were the most outstanding of the Palestinian amoraim of the period. They were referred to as "the renowned Palestinian kohanim" (Meg. 22a) and "the Palestinian magistrates" (Sanh. 17b). Apparently, while still in Babylonia, Ammi studied under Rav (Ned. 40b–41a). In Palestine he studied under Oshaya and Ḥanina, and also transmitted statements in the names of R. Yannai, R. Joshua b. Levi, and R. Judah ha-Nasi ii. However, like his colleague R. Assi, his main teacher was R. Johanan. Both Ammi and Assi studied at Johanan's yeshivah in Tiberias (Shab. 119a; Git. 40a). When Johanan died, Ammi observed the mourning customary for a father (mk 25b). He also studied under Resh Lakish who once ransomed him from captivity (tj, Ter. 8:10, 46b). Ammi seems to have been both a pupil and a colleague of Eleazar and apparently also of R. Isaac Nappaḥa. Ammi and Assi are frequently mentioned in conjunction. They were ordained together, and at their ordination a song was sung in their honor, commencing: "Ordain us men like these!" (Ket. 17a). After the death of R. Johanan and R. Eleazar in the year 279, both headed the yeshivah at Tiberias, but Ammi was the more important (Iggeret R. Sherira Gaon). Both were praised for their piety and stories were told of miracles which happened to them (Ber. 62a), of their scrupulousness in honoring the Sabbath, of their preparation of *eruv tavshilin for all the inhabitants of Tiberias (Beẓah 16b), and of their good works (tj, Ḥag. 1:7, 76c), especially the redemption of captives. It is also stated that although there were 13 synagogues in Tiberias, they used to pray "between the pillars" in their place of learning (Ber. 8a, 30b). Ammi and Assi would interrupt their studies and announce "Let anyone who has a lawsuit enter" (that the case could be heard in the presence of both litigants; Shab. 10a). Together with R. Ḥiyya b. Abba, Ammi and Assi were appointed by R. Judah ha-Nasi ii as inspectors of education in the towns and villages of Palestine, with authority to introduce necessary reforms (tj, Ḥag. 1:7, 76c). Ammi accompanied Judah ha-Nasi ii to Hammath-Geder (tj, Av. Zar. 2:2, 40d and 5:15, 45b). There is also a record of his visit to the court of Zenobia, queen of Palmyra, to intercede for the release of a scholar who had been taken prisoner (tj, Ter. 8:10, 46b). Despite his closeness to the nasi and his household, Ammi did not refrain from criticizing their actions when he disapproved of them; as in the case of the appointment of magistrates in consideration of monetary payment (tj, Bik. 3:3, 65d). As long as R. Huna, head of the yeshivah of Sura, in Babylonia, was still alive, Ammi and Assi continued to be subject to his authority (Meg. 22a). The reference in Bava Batra 11b, "R. Huna asked R. Ammi" is taken by some to allude to another, earlier Ammi, and by others to another, later R. Huna (see Tos. ibid.). However, after the death of R. Huna in the late third century, Ammi seems to have been the outstanding authority of his generation. On one occasion the preamble to the publication of a certain practical halakhic decision of his read: "From me, Ammi b. Nathan, the Torah goes forth to all Israel" (Git. 44a). Among those who addressed halakhic inquiries to Ammi were R. Abbahu, head of the yeshivah at Caesarea in Ereẓ Israel (tj, Yev. 4:11, 6a) and R. Naḥman and Rava, heads of the yeshivah at Maḥoza in Babylonia (Git. 63b). Ammi probably returned to Babylonia for some time, since halakhic discussions are reported between him and R. Naḥman (Ber. 47b) and R. Ḥisda (Yev. 21b).


Hyman, Toledot, 219–25; Frankel, Mevo, 63ff.; Halevy, Dorot, 2 (1923), 348ff.; Bacher, Pal Amor.

[Zvi Kaplan]

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