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KAHANA , name of several Babylonian amoraim. The first two of these amoraim, Kahana (1) and Kahana (2), were both disciples of Rav, and certain traditions relating to these two scholars have become conflated in the Babylonian Talmud. As a result it is necessary to trace the development of these traditions in order to determine which originally related to Kahana (1) and which to Kahana (2).

(1) The first Kahana, together with his companion *Assi, were already prominent scholars when Rav returned from Ereẓ Israel to Babylonia (c. 219 c.e.) but they immediately joined his academy (Sanh. 36b; Naz. 19a) and became his disciples (tj, Suk. 1:1, 52a). Rav held them in very high esteem (Shab. 146b; Naz. 19a) and because of their profound erudition he was sometimes unable to answer their questions (Suk. 6b; Beẓah 6a, 37b; et al.). Kahana later emigrated to Palestine where he joined some of the last of the tannaim such as *Simeon son of *Judah ha-Nasi (Zev. 59a), Judah and Hezekiah the sons of Ḥiyya (bk 10b), and *Oshaiah (tj, Ḥag. 1:14, 57c). Among his pupils were *Eleazar b. Pedat (tj, Kil. 1:7, 27b; mk 3:8, 83d), and *Zeiri (bm 60b). Rav's advice to Kahana: "flay carcasses in the marketplace and earn wages and do not say 'I am a priest and a great man and it is beneath my dignity'" (Pes. 113a) may indicate that Kahana lived in poverty. A Palestinian aggadah describes a meeting between Kahana (1) and *Johanan and *Simeon b. Lakish, two of the most prominent Palestinian amoraim (tj, rh 4:1, 59b; pdrk, 345; Lev. R. 29, 684–5). This tradition is of special interest because certain elements of this story were later combined in the Babylonian Talmud with other narrative elements concerning events relating to Kahana (2) (see below). We are told in the Jerusalem Talmud (and in the parallel texts) that Johanan and Simeon b. Lakish were once sitting and studying together, when they encountered a difficulty concerning a certain halakhah. At that moment Kahana was passing by, so Johanan and Simeon b. Lakish said: "Behold, here is a great scholar (thus in tj; in pdrk, Lev. R.: "a master of the teachings"); let us ask him." They asked Kahana, and he replied with an authoritative answer which they apparently accepted. From this story it is clear that (this) Kahana was already recognized as a mature and respected scholar, to whom both Johanan and Simeon b. Lakish felt comfortable turning to in order to resolve the problem which arose in their study together. There can therefore be no doubt that the Kahana mentioned in this tradition is the elder Kahana (see below).

(2) The second Kahana was also one of Rav's pupils, and used to read the weekly Bible portion at Rav's academy (Shab. 152a). He also stood in close contact with *Samuel and transmitted halakhot from both teachers (Ber. 14b; Ket. 101a, et al.). According to a well-known aggadah in the Babylonian Talmud (bk 117a), Kahana (2) was forced to escape from Babylonia after impulsively killing a person who had threatened to denounce a fellow-Jew to the Persian authorities – by "tearing out his windpipe." Rav advised him to flee to Ereẓ Israel, butmade him swear that he would sit passively in R. Johanan's academy and refrain from asking any difficult questions for a period of seven years, apparently in order not to embarrass R. Johanan with his superior scholarship. Kahana's reputation as a brilliant scholar preceded him, and R. Johanan, unaware of the oath which Kahana had taken, prepared his lesson for the next day with care, anticipating that Kahana might cause him some difficulties. Placed in the first row from which he would be able to engage the master directly, Kahana nevertheless remained silent. Considered by those present to be incapable of serious scholarly debate, he was progressively demoted, until he was seated in the seventh and final row. At this point, R. Johanan mocked Kahana, saying that "the lion who has arrived from Babylonia has turned out to be no more than a fox." After hearing this remark, Kahana held himself absolved of his oath, and began asking questions, which R. Johanan was unable to answer. Quickly regaining his position in the first row, Kahana continued raising objections. For each unanswered question they removed one cushion from under R. Johanan until all seven cushions had been removed and he was sitting on the floor. At this point, R. Johanan made an effort to get a good look at this "lion who arrived from Babylonia," and saw that his mouth was distorted. R. Johanan, unaware that Kahana had a split lip, thought that Kahana was laughing at him and became upset at him, as a result of which Kahaha died. After his students informed R. Johanan of his unfortunate mistake, Johanan went to the cave in which Kahana's body was being kept. The mouth of the cave was, however, blocked by a snake with its tail in its mouth. At first Johanan demanded that the snake grant him entrance to the cave, so that "the master may go in to his pupil." The snake did not respond. He then asked permission to enter the cave so that "one friend may visit another." Still the snake did not respond. Finally he asked permission to enter the cave so that "the pupil may go in to his master." Only then did the snake grant him entrance to the cave. Johanan offered to restore Kahana to life, but the latter apparently refused. R. Johanan then put to him "all the uncertainties that he had, and he solved them for him." R. Johanan concluded by conceding that the Torah of Ereẓ Israel was in fact derivative of the more incisive and original Torah of Babylonia.

After paring away the many supernatural and obviously legendary elements from this tale, the resulting "historical kernel" of this story has in the past been accepted by scholars as providing reliable historical information concerning the life and career of Kahana (2). In 1982 D. Sperber seriously challenged the historical authenticity of this tale as a whole, writing that its author "demonstrates ignorance of Palestinian chronology, of the structure of the Palestinian academy, and, on the other hand, he possesses a knowledge of Persian, of Sasanian folk-literature, courtly practice, and of the structure of the Babylonian academy" (Sperber, 93–94). In addition, the tendency of the entire story is polemical, "asserting Babylonian authority and ascendancy in learning" in opposition to the similar claims put forward by the yeshivot of Ereẓ Israel (98). In Sperber's view such a polemic must reflect a very late, certainly post-amoraic stage in the development of the Babylonian talmudic tradition. Some twenty years later, S. Friedman published a detailed analysis of this aggadah, revealing its literary sources, both in Palestinian and in other parallel Babylonian traditions, and explaining the way in which these sources were combined and reworked by the late Babylonian editor of this story. Particularly relevant here is the Palestinian version brought by Friedman of the events surrounding Kahana's encounter with R. Johanan. The Jerusalem Talmud tells us (Ber. 2:8, 5c): "Kahana was a tall lad. When he came up here (i.e., to Ereẓ Israel), a certain rogue saw him, and asked: What do you hear all the way up there in the sky?" Kahana then impulsively replied: "[I heard that] your death sentence has been sealed." In fact the rogue died. After the same thing happened a second time, Kahana was struck with remorse and said to himself: "I came to do good, and I ended up sinning." Racked with doubts he considered leaving Ereẓ Israel and returning to Babylonia. He then went to see R. Johanan and posed him the following enigmatic question: "If one's mother despises you, but your father's second wife treats you well, where should you go?" R. Johanan responded that he should return to the house of his father's second wife. Kahana took this response to mean that he should return to Bavel, and again impulsively set off home without asking permission or taking his leave from R. Johanan. The description of Kahana (2) in this story is one of an impulsive and indecisive youth, lacking in self-confidence – inexperienced and clearly subordinate to R. Johanan in all respects. Friedman concluded that the first part of the Babylonian aggadah "appears to be a radical reworking of a Palestinian account concerning the second Rav Kahana, who causes death with a lack of self restraint," and the third part of the Babylonian aggadah "is a Babylonian expansion of the [Palestinian] tradition that R. Johanan revered the first Rav Kahana, and turned to him concerning perplexing questions" (Friedman, 258). Therefore the two Palestinian traditions cited above, which clearly distinguish between these two amoraim, must provide the starting point for any historical description of their lives and careers, and not the Babylonian tradition, which conflates the two – in all likelihood intentionally, as Sperber has made clear (cf. Pes. 49a, and Rashi to bk 117a).

(3) Another amora who lived in the second half of the third century c.e., was one of the prominent students of *Huna (mk 13b), the head of the academy of *Sura from 250 c.e., and of *Judah b. Ezekiel of *Pumbedita (Ḥul. 19b). He appears to have visited Ereẓ Israel for a short while (bb 41b), after which he returned to Babylonia. Among his pupils were *Joseph b. Ḥiyya (Yev. 17a, 102a), *Rabbah b. Naḥamani (Yev. 102a), *Abba (Shab. 38a), and Isaac (rh 3b–4a). He may, however, be identical with the second Kahana.

(4) A pupil of Rabbah b. Naḥamani in Pumbedita (Sanh. 41b; Shevu. 36b), early part of the fourth century c.e. He knew the whole Mishnah order by heart at the age of 18 years (Shab. 63a). Among his associates were Aḥa b. Huna, Rama b. Ḥama, and *Safra whom he accompanied on a journey to Ereẓ Israel (Pes. 52b), remaining there for some time. There he joined a new circle of scholars, *Ḥiyya b. Abba (tj, rh 2:6, 58b), Zera (tj, Bik. 2:1, 64d) and *Jacob b. Aḥa with whom he collaborated in the fixing of the calendar (tj, rh 2:6, 58b). Most probably it is this Kahana whom the Talmud refers to as an extremely handsome person (bm 84a; bb 58a). According to the aggadah he was compelled to sell baskets in the marketplace because of his poverty. On one occasion a Roman woman persuaded him to follow her, but he managed to escape from her home by jumping from the roof. The prophet Elijah rescued him and richly rewarded him (Kid. 40a).

(5) A pupil of Rava (Ket. 63a; bk 41b). Ḥanan of Nehardea was his colleague (Kid. 81b; Nid. 66b). He taught at the academy of Pure Nahara (Ḥul. 95b; bb 22a, 88a; et al.). Among his distinguished pupils was *Ashi, the redactor of the Babylonian Talmud (Ber. 39a, 42a; Ket. 69a; et al.). His sons were very wealthy (Me'il. 19a).

(6) Amora who died c. 414 c.e. He succeeded Rafram b. Papa as the head of the academy of Pumbedita from 396 until his death (Iggeret R. Sherira Ga'on, ed. Lewin, 90; cf. Halevy, Dorot, ii, 518, note 144). As a Kohen he once accepted a garment instead of silver coins for the ceremony of Pidyon ha-Ben (Kid. 8a; see also Tos. ad loc.). It is not always possible to distinguish between this Kahana and Kahana (2).


Hyman, Toledot, 846–9; Ḥ. Albeck, Mavoha-Talmudim (1969), 174–5, 203. D. Sperber, in: S Shaked (ed.), Irano-Judaica (1982), 83–100; S. Friedman, in: P. Schäfer (ed.), The Talmud Yerushalmi and Graeco-Roman Culture iii (2002), 247–71.

[Stephen G. Wald (2nd ed.)]