Assi, Rav

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ASSI, RAV (early third century), Babylonian amora. Assi was a contemporary of *Rav and *Samuel and a friend of R. Kahana. He lived in Huẓal near Nehardea and was wealthy (Ḥul. 105a). His authority was respected throughout Babylonia, and various regulations which he promulgated in Huẓal are referred to in the halakhah (Meg. 5b; Ḥul. 26b). While submitting to the authority of Rav in all that concerned traditions about the oral law which Rav had brought from Palestine, Assi freely contended with him on points of halakhah, in which he was no less conversant than Rav. His independent views were respected even by Rav (Sanh. 36b; Shab. 146b, etc.). Indeed, for fear that the opposing views of Assi might be correct, Rav preferred to conform to them in practice even though he personally differed from him (Kid. 44b, etc.). It would appear that Assi was considered greater than Samuel (bk 80a–b). In his controversies with Ray, he was not always successful in winning the majority of the scholars to his opinion. This was a source of contention between Assi and Rav's pupil Shila b. Avina (Nid. 36b) culminating in the excommunication of Shila by Assi. Assi's death, which apparently occurred not long after that of Rav in 246, was attributed by his colleagues to his excommunication of Shila (ibid.). When Assi was nearing death his nephew came to him and found him in tears. In answer to his question "Master why do you weep? Is there the least portion of Torah that you have not learned and have you not also taught many disciples? Is there any charity you have not performed? Have you not, despite all your virtues, always refused to sit in judgment and always refrained from accepting public office?" Assi replied, "My son, that is precisely what I bewail. Who knows if I shall not be made to answer for not having done what was in my power to regulate in the affairs of Israel?" (Tanḥ., Mishpatim, 2).


Halevy, Dorot, 2 (1923), 228ff.; Hyman, Toledot, 232.

[Yitzhak Dov Gilat]