Abbahu

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Abbahu (Hebrew: אבהו) was a Jewish Talmudist, known as an amora, who lived in the Land of Israel, of the 3rd amoraic generation (about 279-320), sometimes cited as R. Abbahu of Caesarea (Ḳisrin). His rabbinic education was acquired mainly at Tiberias, in the academy presided over by R. Johanan, with whom his relations were almost those of a son (Yer. Berakhot ii.4b; Gittin 44b; Bava Batra 39a). He frequently made pilgrimages to Tiberias, even after he had become well known as rector of the Caesarean Academy (Yer. Shab viii.11a; Yer. Pesahim x.37c).

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Knowledge of Greek literature

Abbahu was an authority on weights and measures (Yer. Terumot v.43c). He encouraged the study of Greek by Jews. He learned Greek himself in order to become useful to his people and Shimon, then under the Roman proconsuls, that language having become, to a considerable extent, the rival of the Hebrew even in prayer (Yer. Sotah, vii.21b). In spite of the bitter protest of Simon b. Abba, he also taught his daughters Greek (Yer. Shab. vi.7d; Yer. Sotah, ix.24c; San. 14a). Indeed, it was said of Abbahu that he was a living illustration of the maxim (Ecc. vii.18; compare Targum), "It is good that thou shouldest take hold of this [the study of the Law]; yea, also from that [other branches of knowledge] withdraw not thine hand: for he that feareth God shall come forth of them all" (Ecc. R. to vii.18).

Rector in Caesarea

Being wise, handsome, and wealthy (Bava Metzia 84a; Yer. Bava Metzia iv.9d), Abbahu became not only popular with his coreligionists, but also influential with the proconsular government (Hagigah 14a; Ketubot 17a). On one occasion, when his senior colleagues, Ḥiyya b. Abba, Rav Ammi, and Assi, had punished a certain woman, and feared the wrath of the proconsul, Abbahu was deputed to intercede for them. He had, however, anticipated the rabbis' request, and wrote them that he had appeased the informers but not the accuser. The witty enigmatic letter describing this incident, preserved in the Talmud (Yer. Meg. iii.74a), is in the main pure Hebrew, and even includes Hebrew translations of Greek proper names, to avoid the danger of possible exposure should the letter have fallen into the hands of enemies and informers (compare Eruvin 53b).

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