Rabbah bar Nahmani
Rabbah was born into a priestly family, and studied at both the academies in Sura and Pumbedita. He was a great scholar, renowned for his abilities to argue texts, resolve contradictions, and find applications, which gave him the nickname of "oker harim" or 'uprooter of mountains', as the Talmud says that when he was in argument, he got so worked up that he appeared to pick up mountains and grind them against each other. His specialty was the laws of ritual purity, and he was also an exceptional teacher. He used to start every lecture with a joke or funny anecdote to get his students in a good mood. He would then give his lecture.
Rabbah succeeded Judah ben Ezekiel as head of the academy of Pumbedita and held the post until his death. The academy achieved its height under his leadership and he attracted many new students to the academy. During the kallah months he is said to have attracted as many as 12,000 students.
He is also said to have lived in poverty, but little else is known about his private life. He was maligned by his detractors to the Persian king for leading and teaching bi-annual month-long study gatherings for over twelve thousand people, leading to their being absent at the time of tax collections. The king sent bailiffs to seize him; he fled from city to city and finally into a forest, where his body was found in a thicket.
Rabbah was hated by many religiously lax residents of Pumbedita for his outspokenness, but loved by his students. The Talmud records that after his death, he was eulogized for seven days. His nephew was the great scholar Abaye (280–340) who, being an orphan, was raised by Rabbah. He was succeeded by his son, also called Rabbah. Both Rabbah and Abaye lived 60 years—both being descendants of the House of Eli, over whom was the curse to die in the prime of life.
- Encyclopaedia Judaica, 1972, Keter Publishing House, Jerusalem, Israel.
- Sefer Ha-Aggadah (Book of Legends), 1992, Schocken, New York.