Shela

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SHELA

SHELA (first half of the third century c.e.), Babylonian amora and resh sidra ("head of the academy") in Nehardea (Iggeret R. Sherira Ga'on, ed. by B.M. Lewin (1921), 78). For a while Shela was the most celebrated religious authority in Babylon, but gradually his importance was overshadowed by *Samuel and later by *Rav, when the latter returned to Babylon. This transition is indicated in the sources. Thus it is related that Rav once came to Shela's academy incognito and was appointed the *amora (the expounder to the students) of Shela. While Shela was expounding, Rav commented that in the presence of R. *Ḥiyya he had explained a certain detail differently. Shela immediately realized that his amora was the distinguished Rav and refused to continue to employ him in a subservient capacity (Yoma 20b; tj, Shek. 5:2, 48d). Rav's position became of such authority that after listening to an exposition of Shela with which he disagreed, he waited until Shela left and then appointed an amora to explain the topic as he understood it. In another case Shela permitted a woman to remarry under questionable circumstances, with the result that Rav considered excommunicating him. Samuel, however, persuaded Rav to consult first with Shela, who later admitted his mistake (Yev. 121a). Shela and Rav disagreed on other occasions (Sanh. 44a).

This change in Shela's status is also illustrated by the following episode. Shela and his disciples were always the first to pay honor to the exilarch, but Shela later granted this privilege to Samuel. When Rav arrived in Babylon, Samuel transferred this honor to him. When Shela's disciples objected to their master thus being the third to be received, Samuel changed places with Shela (tj, Ta'an. 4:2, 68a). R. Ḥisda referred to Shela as a great authority (Ket. 75a). Shela's learning was studied by the rabbis of Caesarea (tj, Mak. 2:7, 31d). It seems that the school of Shela continued after his death, since his school and that of Rav are mentioned as disagreeing on a number of halakhic issues (Git. 52b; Kid. 43a; Sot. 42b; rh 23a).

bibliography:

Hyman, Toledot, 1112f.; Ḥ. Albeck, Mavo la-Talmudim (1969), 177f.; Halevy, Dorot, 2 (1923), 223–6; Neusner, Babylonia, 2 (1966), index.

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