Savora, Savoraim

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SAVORA, SAVORAIM (Aram. סָבוֹרָא ,סָבוֹרָאִים), Babylonian scholars between the *amoraim and the *geonim. Very little is known of this period, the principal sources being Sherira (Iggeret Sherira Ga'on, ed. by B.M. Lewin (1921), 67–71,95–99), who drew upon early geonic archival material; Abraham ibn Daud (Ibn Daud, Tradition, 43–55); and some additional geonic fragments such as Seder Tanna'im ve-Amora'im, etc. Traditionally, the amoraic phase ends with the death of *Ravina (bm 86a) in 499 c.e. According to Seder Tanna'im ve-Amora'im (ed. by Grossberg, 105–11) and Sherira, the last of the savoraim were Gada (Gazai) and Simuna, who died in 540, while Ibn Daud extends the savoraic period for five generations, from Mar Joseph (502) until the death of Sheshna in 689. It would appear that the transition from one period to another was so gradual that only in retrospect could the geonim somewhat arbitrarily fix terminal dates to the savoraic period, and different reckonings were adduced. Sherira, Ibn Daud, and Seder Tannai'm ve-Amora'im all give lists of savoraim, but the textual state of these lists is poor, and only a few major personalities can be definitely identified, e.g., Abba (Rava) Joseph (Yose), Aḥa b. Huna, Aḥai of Be-Hatim, Geviha of Argiza (Git. 7a), Mordecai, Pappias, Rabbah of Rov, and Samuel b. Abbahu (Rabbah; Ḥul. 59b).

The term savoraim, first found in geonic sources, and based on savora in the Jerusalem Talmud, Kiddushin 2, 63d (where it means a scholar competent to render decisions) implies those who give private subjective judgments rather than authoritative ones. According to Sherira, after Ravina there was no hora'ah (independent decision based on interpretation of the Mishnah), but the savoraim "rendered decisions similar to hora'ah, and gave explanations of all that had been left unsettled." This implies that they added nothing essentially new to the Talmud, merely adding explanations which in some ways were similar to amoraic decisions and coming to practical conclusions on undecided issues (hence the savoraic terminology of ve-hilkheta ("and the ruling is"), pashit ("he resolved it"), mistabra ("it is reasonable"), etc. Sherira adds that a number of savoraic decisions (of Ena and Simuna) and indeed complete arguments (e.g., Kid. 2a–3b) have been included in the Talmud. Analysis of these additions often demonstrates a close similarity in style and argumentation to that of the later amoraim, again underscoring the problem of pinpointing the moment of transition between the two periods.

According to (some versions of) Seder Tanna'im va-Amora'im, the savoraim did no more than "merely determine the arrangement of the Talmud text in all its chapters." Evidently, this represents but one (the earliest?) phase of savoraic activity, during which the redaction of the Talmud, begun in the late amoraic period, was completed. The savoraim completed the ordering of the Talmud, clarified certain unsettled halakhic decisions, introduced additional discussions and explanations of existing texts, and inserted brief technical guide phrases to facilitate study of the texts. Recent tendencies have been to increase the extent of their contribution to the Talmud, though this is still a subject of considerable controversy.


Baron, Social2, 2 (1952), 426; 6 (1958), 17f., 328f. (with a critical bibl.); B.M. Lewin, in: Azkarah le-Nishmat… A.I. Kook, pt. 4 (1937), 145–208; idem, in: Ha-Tor, 6 (1926), nos. 16, 34; A. Weiss, Ha-Yeẓirah shel ha-Savora'im (1953); Halevy, Dorot, 3 (1923), 1–63; M.D. Yudelivitz, Yeshivat Pumbedita bi-Ymei ha-Amora'im (1935), 52–54; Z. Jawitz, Toledot Yisrael, (1922), 213–24.

[Daniel Sperber]