Rav Papa

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For the Amora sages of the Land of Israel,of the 3d Amoraic generation, see Hanina b. Papi or Hanina ben Pappa.
For another Babylonian Amora sage of the 5th Amoraic generation, see Rav Papi.

Rav Pappa (Hebrew: רַב פַּפָּא) (c. 300 – died 375) was a Jewish Talmudist who lived in Babylonia.[1][2] He was an Amora of the fifth generation; born about 300; died 375.


He was a student of Rava and Abaye. After the death of his teachers he founded a school at Neres, a city near Sura, in which he officiated as "resh metivta," his friend and associate, R. Huna bar Joshua, acting as "resh kallah" (356-375), he led the Talmudical academy in Naresh (or Nareš), close to Sura, during the fifth generation of Babylonian amoraim.[3][4]

Papa's father seems to have been wealthy and to have enabled his son to devote himself to study.[5] Papa inherited some property from his father; and he also amassed great wealth by brewing beer, an occupation in which he was an expert,[6] he likewise engaged in extensive and successful business undertakings,[7] and his teacher Rava once said of him: "Happy is the righteous man who is as prosperous on earth as only the wicked usually are!".[8] However, their teacher also accused them of being exploitative in business: "You would take the coats from people's backs".[9] Papa sold his beer at a higher price than ordinary because he gave the buyer credit, although this practice was regarded as a kind of usury.[10] In addition, other scholars were known to criticize him for his reluctance to aid the poor.[11]

Papa married the daughter of Abba Sura'ah (=of Sura) as his second wife, they do not seem to have lived happily together,[12] for she prided herself on the nobility of her ancestry as contrasted with his own. He therefore said, referring to his own experience: "Be circumspect and not hasty in marrying, and take a wife from a class of society lower than your own".[13]

He was obese, and once noted that he could break a bench simply by sitting on it.[14]


Papa did not have reputation for scholarship among his peers, he lacked independence of judgment; in the case of two conflicting opinions he tried to accept both.[15] He was, consequently, not greatly respected as a scholar; and R. Idi b. Abin termed him and Huna b. Joshua "dardeki" (children).[16] R. Huna b. Manoah, Samuel b. Judah, and R. Ḥiyya of Vestania, pupils of Rava, came, after their teacher's death, to attend Papa's lectures, which they found obscure and vague. They communicated their opinions to one another by signs, to the great chagrin of Papa, who noticed them, and said: "Let the scholars ["rabbanan"] go in peace".[17] R. Simai b. Ashi (father of Rav Ashi), who also attended Papa's lectures, often embarrassed him by questions; so that Papa once fell on his knees and prayed that God might protect him from being humiliated by Simai. Simai, who witnessed this scene in silence, thereupon resolved to desist; and he asked no further questions at any time. Papa was extremely anxious to obtain a reputation as scholar, but he also endeavored to do honor to all other scholars, he never excommunicated one,[18] and whenever, during his business journeys, he came to a place in which a scholar lived he visited him.[19] Once when an unseemly reference to scholars escaped him, he fasted in atonement,[20] although he disliked fasting and it did not agree with him.[21]

It is said that whenever he completed a tractate in the Talmud he held a large party at which he invited his ten sons and many other people. At many modern siyums, a short prayer is said which mentions Rav Pappa and his ten sons.

He made journeys in connection with his business,[22] and thus gained much knowledge of the world, he was especially interested in the collection of popular proverbs which he considered as authoritative, using them even to refute the words of a sage.[23] The sayings quoted by him include the following:

  • If no grain is in the house, quarrels knock at the door and enter.[24]
  • Sow corn for thy use that thou mayest not be obliged to purchase it; and strive to acquire a piece of property".[25]
  • The weasel and the cat made a marriage of convenience on the occasion of the fat of misfortune![26][27]
  • Judgment delayed[28] is judgment lost.[29]


  1. ^ Windows onto Jewish Legal Culture: Fourteen Exploratory Essays Hanina Ben-Menahem, Arye Edrei, Neil S. Hecht – 2012 footnote "18 R. Papa, Babylonian Amora (ca. 300–375)."
  2. ^ Self-help in Jewish Law Hanina Ben-Menahem, Neil S. Hecht – 1993- Volume 6 p38 "R. Papa, Babylonian Amora (ca. 300–375)."
  3. ^ Barak S. Cohen The Legal Methodology of Late Nehardean Sages in Sasanian … 2010 "R. Papa was the academy head in Nareš, close to Sura, during the fifth generation of Babylonian amoraim until his …
  4. ^ Ronald L. Eisenberg Essential Figures in the Talmud 2012 p105 "Huna bar Joshua, Babylonian amora (fourth century); when his close friend and business partner, R. Papa, became head of the academy at Naresh, Huna bar Joshua joined him as rosh kallah (head of the general assembly) (Ber. 57a)."
  5. ^ Yevamot 106a; Rashi ad loc.
  6. ^ Pesachim 113a; Bava Metziah 65a
  7. ^ Pesachim 111b
  8. ^ Horayot 10b
  9. ^ Gittin 73a; Ketuvot 85a
  10. ^ Bava Metziah 65a
  11. ^ Bava Batra 9a, 10a
  12. ^ Compare Sanhedrin 14b
  13. ^ Yevamot 63a
  14. ^ Bava Kamma 10b
  15. ^ Berachot 11b, 59b; Megillah 21b; Hullin 17b, 46a, 76b; Shabbat 20a
  16. ^ Pesachim 35a; Yevamot 85a
  17. ^ Ta'anit 9a,b
  18. ^ Moed Kattan 17a
  19. ^ Niddah 33b
  20. ^ Sanhedrin 100a
  21. ^ Ta'anit 24b; Rosh Hashana 18b
  22. ^ Berachot 42; Megillah 21; Niddah 33b
  23. ^ Berachot 59a
  24. ^ Bava Metziah 59a
  25. ^ Yevamot 63a
  26. ^ Sanhedrin 105a
  27. ^ Explained by Rabbi Menachem Posner: "The weasel and the cat are natural rivals. Yet, when there is fat from which they can both benefit, they set aside their animus to enjoy the bounty. Similarly, a common foe often leads human enemies to set aside their differences and work together peacefully."
  28. ^ Literally, "Judgment which has spent the night, etc." i.e., sometimes when judgment is delayed, it loses its effectiveness.
  29. ^ Sanhedrin 95a

 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainSinger, Isidore; et al., eds. (1901–1906). "Papa". The Jewish Encyclopedia. New York: Funk & Wagnalls. It has the following bibliography:

  • Abraham Mordecai Piyorka, Toledot R. Papa, in Oẓar ha-Sifrut, 1896, v. 213-218;
  • Heilprin, Seder ha-Dorot, pp. 315-317, Warsaw, 1882;
  • Grätz, Gesch. 3d ed., iv. 338, where he is erroneously called "Papa b. Hanan";
  • Bacher, Ag. Pal. Amor. pp. 141-143.

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