ASSI (late third and early fourth century c.e.), Palestinian amora. In the Jerusalem Talmud, he is also known as Issi, Yassi, and Assa; the name is probably a shortened form of Joseph. In both the Jerusalem and Babylonian Talmud, Assi is one of the most frequently mentioned amoraim, often together with his colleague, *Ammi. Assi, who was born in Babylonia, studied together with Ammi at Samuel's academy in Nehardea (cf. tj, Shek. 2:5, 46d; Er. 6:8, 23d) and Huna's in Sura (mk 25a). As a result of a misunderstanding with his mother, he left for Ereẓ Israel (Kid. 31b). Here he attended lectures by such well-known amoraim as Ḥanina (Men. 50b) and *Joshua b. Levi (Ḥul. 28a). He settled in Tiberias, studying at the academy of *Johanan Nappaḥa in whose name he transmitted many halakhic sayings (Pes. 106a, Ḥul. 55b). Among Assi's colleagues in Tiberias was *Eleazar b. Pedat. It was the latter who succeeded Johanan as the head of the academy, although Assi possessed greater knowledge, especially in mysticism (Ḥag. 13a) and was lauded by Eleazar b. Pedat himself as "the prodigy of his generation" (Ḥul. 103b). Another of Assi's associates was *Ḥiyya b. Abba (Er. 32b, 65b, etc.). Assi, Ammi, and Ḥiyya were all priests who emigrated from Babylonia to Ereẓ Israel, and they are often mentioned together (e.g., Yoma 73a; tj, Er. 4:6). *Judahiii put them in charge of supervising schools in the country (tj, Ḥag. 1:7, 76c). After the death of Eleazar b. Pedat (c. 279 c.e.) Ammi was appointed head of the Tiberian academy, Assi having declined to assume public office. He assisted Ammi, however, and taught with him "amid the pillars" of the Tiberian school (Ber. 8a). The two were held in highest esteem as the "distinguished priests of the Holy Land" (Meg. 22a) and were regarded as the most important "judges of the Land of Israel" (Sanh. 17b). Many of Assi's aggadic teachings were transmitted by his pupil *Avira (Ber. 20b, Pes. 119b, etc.). The son of Eleazar b. Pedat was his "amora" (tj, Meg. 4:10, 75c). When Assi died in Tiberias, his death was likened to the collapse of a tower (tj, Av. Zar. 3:1, 42c).
His Aggadic Teachings
He explained the practice of children beginning their Bible studies with Leviticus rather than with Genesis as a matter of the pure (i.e., the young) engaging in the study of the pure (i.e., the laws of purity in Leviticus (Lev. R. 7:3)). One of his famous teachings (based on Isa. 5:18) is that the evil inclination though initially fragile as a spider web, eventually attains the toughness of cart rope (Suk. 52a). Once, being reproached by his wife for siding with his maidservant rather than with her in a dispute, he justified his stand by quoting Job 31:13, "Did I despise the cause of my manservant or of my maidservant when they contended with me?" (Gen. R. 48:3). Among his sayings are: "The pangs of earning one's bread are twice as great as those of childbirth" (Gen. R. 20:9); "A man should eat and drink beneath his means, clothe himself in accordance with his means, and honor his wife and children beyond his means" (Ḥul. 84b). Assi is sometimes confused with the Babylonian amora of the same name.
Bacher, Pal Amor, 2 (1896), 143ff.; Hyman, Toledot, 234–9; Halevy, Dorot, 2 (1923), 232ff.