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Samuel ben Naḥman


SAMUEL BEN NAḤMAN (Naḥamani ; late third and early fourth centuries c.e.), Palestinian amora. He was one of the most renowned aggadists of his time (tj, Ber. 9:1, 12d). A native of Lydda in Ereẓ Israel (Lev. R. 35:12), Samuel apparently paid a short visit to Babylon in his youth. On his return, he studied under *Joshua b. Levi (tj, rh 4:4, 59b) and *Jonathan b. Eleazar (Pes. 24a), in whose name he quotes several sayings (Yoma 9b). Samuel, who may have come into contact with *Judah ha-Nasi in his youth, was on intimate terms with *Judah ii. The two went to Tiberias on Diocletian's order (c. 286), and bathed in the hot springs there (tj, Ter. 8, 110, 46b; Gen. R. 63:8). Among his other colleagues were *Simeon b. Jehoẓadak, *Ammi, Ḥanina b. Papa, and *Ḥelbo. Samuel is known to have made two official visits to Babylon. The first was to determine the intercalation of the calendar, a function which, for political reasons, he could not perform in Ereẓ Israel (tj, Ber. 2:1, 2d). The second was in his old age, when he petitioned the empress *Zenobia (267–73) to pardon an orphaned youth who had committed a grave political crime (tj, Ter. 8:10, 46b). His halakhic decisions are recorded in the Babylonian (e.g., Meg. 2a) and Jerusalem Talmuds, and his authority is illustrated by his refusal to allow Ammi to lift a ban on a certain colleague (mk, 17a).

Samuel was considered an authority on the aggadah (Pes. 15b). Among his sayings was, "Whoever associates the name of Heaven with his suffering [by blessing God for the evil, or by prayer], his sustenance shall fly to him like a bird, as it says, in Job 22:25, 'And silver shall fly to thee'" (Bet. 63a, jps "And precious silver unto thee"). His vivid description of the grief of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Rachel over the destruction of the Temple, written in Hebrew and accompanied by dirges in Aramaic (Lam. R. Proem 24), reveals his poetic mind. Among those who transmitted his sayings were Ḥelbo, Levi, and Abbahu (Lev. R. 35:12), and Eleazar b. Pedat.

He was survived by two sons, Naḥman and Hillel; sayings have been preserved from both of them (Gen. R. 10:5, tj; King. 1:9, 61c).


Bacher, Pal Amor; Hyman, Toledot; Ḥ. Albeck, Mavo la-Talmudim (1969), 266–7.

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