A Savora (Hebrew: [savoˈʁa]; Aramaic: סבורא, "a reasoner", plural Savora'im, Sabora'im [savoʁaˈ(ʔ)im], סבוראים) is a term used in Jewish law and history to signify one among the leading rabbis living from the end of period of the Amoraim (around 500 CE) to the beginning of the Geonim (around 600 CE). As a group they are also referred to as the Rabbeinu Sevorai or Rabanan Saborai, and may have played a large role in giving the Talmud its current structure. Modern scholars also use the plural term Stammaim (Hebrew; "closed, vague or unattributed sources") for the authors of unattributed statements in the Gemara.
Role in the formation of the Talmud
Much of classical rabbinic literature generally holds that the Babylonian Talmud was redacted into more or less its final form around 550 CE. The Talmud states that Ravina and Rav Ashi (two amoraim) were the "end of instruction", which many understand to mean they compiled the Babylonian Talmud. Maimonides wrote that Ravina and Rav Ashi were the last generation of sages in the Talmud, and that it was Rav Ashi who composed the Babylonian Talmud.
However, some statements within classical rabbinic literature, and later analysis thereof, have led many scholars to conclude that the Babylonian Talmud was smoothed over by the Savora'im, although almost nothing was changed. There are statements in the Talmud itself referring to generations later than Ravina and Rav Ashi. Occasionally, multiple versions of the same legalistic discussion are included with minor variations. The text also states that various opinions emanated from various Talmudic academies.
Sherira Gaon (c.987 CE) indicates that the Talmud was not in its final form until many generations after Ravina and Rav Ashi, and that Rav Yose was the final member of the Savora'im. Occasionally, specific Savora'im are mentioned by name in the Talmud itself, such as Rabbi Ahai, who (according to later authority Rashbam) was a Savora.
David Weiss Halivni, a modern scholar, has attempted to determine the authorship of anonymous portions of the Talmud. Halivni terms the editors of the Talmud as Stamma'im, a new term for rabbis that he places after the period of the Tannaim and Amoraim, but before the Geonic period. He concludes that to a large extent, the Stamma'im essentially wrote the Gemara (the discussions in the Talmud about the Mishna). Halivni posits that during the time of Ravina and Rav Ashi, they compiled a Gemara that was much smaller than the Gemara known today, and which likely was similar to the Mishna and to the Tosefta. He sees this proto-Gemara as a compilation of rulings that probably had little record of discussions. Halivni also posits that the Stamma'im did not always fully understand the context and import of the statement of the Tanna or Amora when it was said. The methodology employed in his commentary, Mekorot u' Mesorot, will attempt to give Halivni's analysis of the correct import and context and will demonstrate how the Talmud erred in its understanding of the original context.
- Oesterley, W. O. E. & Box, G. H. (1920) A Short Survey of the Literature of Rabbinical and Mediæval Judaism, Burt Franklin:New York.
- Bava Metzia 86a
- R' Meir Triebitz, History & Development of Talmud 1
- Maimonides, Introduction to Mishneh Torah
- Modern Scholarship in the Study of Torah: Contributions and Limitations Shalom Carmy, Ed. The Orthodox Forum Series, Jason Aronson, Inc.
- Berkovits E., "Savora'im". In: Encyclopedia Judaica (first edition) Keter Publishing, 1972
- David Weiss Halivni Peshat and Drash: Plain and Applied Meaning in Rabbinic Exegesis Oxford University Press, NY, 1991