Dimi of Nehardea

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DIMI OF NEHARDEA (fl. 4th century), Babylonian amora, head of the academy of Pumbedita from 385 to 388. In his youth Dimi was a fruit merchant. The Talmud relates an anecdote concerning him which affords an insight into contemporary social practice. Dimi once brought dried figs to sell, apparently in the market of Maḥoza. As talmudic scholars were permitted to sell their produce before other merchants so as not to be detained too long from their studies, Rava, on the instigation of the exilarch, sent Adda b. Abba to test his scholarship and consequent right to the privilege. Adda put difficult questions to Dimi on the laws of ritual uncleanness and as Dimi could not answer, he was not granted the privilege (bb 22a). Little is known of his relations with his contemporaries. He is mentioned as engaging in halakhic disputes with Abbaye (Men. 35a) and with Rava. Whereas Rava preferred a teacher who taught much, even at the expense of accuracy, since "errors get corrected by themselves," Dimi preferred the more accurate if slower teacher, since "an error once implanted cannot be eradicated." Dimi himself, faithful to his principle, transmitted halakhic statements with great accuracy, his version at times differing from those of his colleagues (rh 20a; et al.). Whereas Rava held that a less qualified schoolteacher should not be replaced by a superior one since the latter, relying upon his talent, might neglect his duty and come to regard himself as indispensable, Dimi held that he should be replaced, for the need to prove his ability would inspire him to greater efforts (bb 21a). Though chiefly a halakhist, he is also known for his aggadic statement: "The dispensing of hospitality is more meritorious than early attendance at the bet hamidrash" (Shab. 127a).


Hyman, Toledot, 333; Weiss, Dor, 3 (19044), 182.

[Moshe Beer]