ASHI


ASHI
ASHI (d. 427 C.E.; pronounced by some with hireq under the shin and by others with sere); the most celebrated Babylonian amora of the sixth generation. Ashi, who lived in Mata Mehasya, is reported to be the son-in-law of Rami b. Abba (Ḥul. 111a). Ashi's teachers were Rav Papi I (RH 29b, et al.) and, even more so, Rav kahana of Pum Nahara (Ber. 39b et al.; see cohen , Ravina, p.106–7). Ashi interacts with a large number of his contemporaries, but especially Ameimar, Mar Zutra, and ravina (Ber. 44a). Ashi had at least three children: Mar bar Rav Ashi, Rav Sama, and a daughter (Ket. 69a). Ashi flourished during the reign of the Sassanian ruler Yazdigird I (399–421 C.E.). Yazdigird's general policy of tolerance for minorities extended to the Jews as well. The Talmud reports that Ashi met with Yazdigird together with Amemar and Mar Zutra. Ashi must have been wealthy for he possessed a forest, had a servant, and owned fancy utensils (MK 12b; Ned. 62b; Suk. 10b; Ber. 31a; Jacobowitz, p. 91). Aha bar Rava states that "from the time of Rabbi until R. Ashi we don't find anyone who was supreme both in Torah and in worldly affairs." Even the exilarch, Huna b. Nathan, accepted his authority (Git. 59a; Levin, p. 91). Ashi was responsible for several important innovations and was always concerned that a ruling should not cause embarrassment or monetary loss to people (Jacobowits). Among his sayings are "Everyone who is haughty will finally be humbled" (Sot. 5a); "Any scholar who is not as hard as iron is not a scholar" (Ta'an. 4a). Nineteenth-century scholarship, following the opinion of Rashi (BM 86a) and Maimonides (Yad, Intro), thought that Ashi was the editor of the Babylonian Talmud. However, recent scholarship dates the editing of the Babylonian Talmud one to two centuries after the death of Ashi. The sources used by earlier scholars to prove that Ashi was the editor of the Babylonian Talmud are shown to be unconvincing upon critical analysis. The most important source quoted in this regard is the purported statement of the first-century amora, Samuel, who says he saw it written in the book of Adam that "Rebbi and Rav Natan are the end of the Mishnah; Rav Ashi and Ravina are the end of teaching (hora'ah)" (BM 86a). Besides the anachronism of Samuel (third cent.) speaking about Ashi and the legendary air of a book of Adam, the meaning of the term hora'ah is not at all clear. Early scholars thought hora'ah should be understood in parallelism with Mishnah and so must refer to the next major rabbinic compilation after the Mishnah, the Babylonian Talmud. However, hora'ah elsewhere simply means an authoritative ruling (Yev. 92a, et al.). The statement actually means that Ashi and Ravina mark the end of the amoraic period in that they are the last to teach in an apodictic style (Halivni) and the last to legislate with the authority of the amoraim. sherira gaon , who did equate the end of hora'ah with the end of the Talmud, could not accept that Ashi finished editing the Talmud since there are a number of Rabbis quoted in the Talmud who lived after Ashi such as Mar b. Rav Ashi and Rabba Tosfa'a. Sherirah therefore reads it as referring to Ravina b. Huna (Levin, p. 95) and Assi (ibid. p. 97; Spanish recension reads Yose), both seventh generation amoraim. The second major source for Ashi's editorial activity is the report of Ravina that Ashi taught a certain law one way in his first mahadurah and a different law in his last mahadurah (BB 157b). Early scholars understood the word mahadurah according to it modern usage to mean an edition of the Talmud. Sherirah explains, partly based on the customs of his day in the Geonic yeshivot, that Ashi taught for almost 60 years during   which he reviewed two tractates each year during the two kallah sessions thus twice completing the 63 tractates of Mishnah (Levin, p. 93–94). However, mahadurah can simply mean a review of Ashi's personal teachings which has nothing to do with an official version of the Talmud. Not only is there no good source for Ashi being the editor of the Babylonian Talmud, Ashi's activity and statements in the Talmud itself show that he could not have been its editor. Many passages in the Talmud cite and analyze sayings or practices of Ashi, which implies that a later group of editors received traditions from or about Ashi and discussed them just as they did for all previous amoraim. When Ashi remarks, "I have protected Mata Mehasya from being destroyed," an anonymous questioner says, "but it has been destroyed" (Shab 11a). The questioner here must have lived many years after Ashi. The Talmud is sometimes unsure of whether a certain statement was made by Ashi or someone else; other times it debates which source text was the subject of interpretation in a certain comment of Ashi. This would not occur if Ashi himself was the editor (Kaplan, 104–127). Nevertheless, it is clear that Ashi contributed significantly to the substance of the Babylonian Talmud. The Talmud mentions Ashi's name well over a thousand times, often in the center of debate together with the illustrious names of his generation. Ashi, more so than other amoraim, frequently sits silently while subordinate scholars address arguments to him. Ashi is the dominant figure of his generation and the amoraim of his generation are more centralized than those of earlier generations (Kalmin, p. 125). Ashi's circle of students is referred to throughout the Talmud as "the rabbis of the house of Rav Ashi," a mark of distinction accorded to few others (Shab. 41a). -BIBLIOGRAPHY: Weiss, Dor, 3 (19044), 184–8; S. Fink, Die Juden in Babylonien, 2 (1908), 98, 140ff.; Hyman, Toledot, S.V.; Bacher, Bah Amor, 144–7; Bacher, Trad, index S.V.; Levin, Iggeret Rab Sherira Gaon (1920); Halevy, Dorot, 2 (1923), 536ff.; J.S. Zuri, Rav Ashi (Heb., 1924); J. Kaplan, Redaction of the Babylonian Talmud (1933), index, S.V.; Z.W. Jawetz, Toledot Yisrael, 8 (19383), 128ff.; A. Weiss Hithavvut ha-Talmud bi-Shlemuto (1943), pp. 245ff.; Graetz, Hist, 2 (1949), 605–11; Albeck, in: Sinai, Sefer Yovel (1958), 73–79 (Heb.); idem. Mavo Latalmudim, 427–30; Baron, Social2, index. ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: M. Feldblum, "Prof. Avraham Weiss: His Approach and Contributions to Talmudic Scholarship," in: The Abraham Weiss Jubilee Volume (1964), 43–48; T. Farhsel, "Rav AshiShin Haruqah O Seruyah," in: Hadoar, 56 (1977), 104; J. Jacobowitz, "Aspects of the Economic and Social History of the Jews in Babylonia with Special Emphasis on the Teachings and Decisions of R. Ashi and the Sixth Generation of Amoraim" (Diss. New York University (1978). Strack, Introduction, 98, 192–4; D. Halivni, Mekorot u-Mesorot (1968– ); idem, Midrash, Mishnah, and Gemara (1986), 66–68; R. Kalmin, The Redaction of the Babylonian Talmud (1989); idem. Sages, Stories, Authors and Editors in Rabbinic Babylonia (1994), 111 – 25; A. Cohen, Ravina and Contemporary Sages (2001). (Richard Hidary (2nd ed.)

Encyclopedia Judaica. 1971.

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