Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Rav Nachman bar Yaakov and Rav Ashi

In today’s daf (Menachot 102) we seem to have an interaction between Rav Ashi and Rav Nachman, and Tosafot, based on biographical information, argues that this is impossible.

Tosafot write:

 אמר רב אשי אמריתה לשמעתא קמיה דרב כהנא גרסינן. והוא רב כהנא אחרון שהיה בימי רב אשי כדאשכחן בכמה דוכתי אבל רב נחמן לא גרסינן דרבו של רבא היה ונפטר מקמי רבא כדאיתא במועד קטן (דף כח.) וביום שמת רבא נולד רב אשי(קידושין דף עב:) ואי גרסי' רב נחמן בר יצחק ניחא: 

That is, they change the text to Rav Kahana, and specifically the last Rav Kahana (meaning IV), who lived in Rav Ashi’s time, as we find in many places. Meanwhile, we should not read Rav Nachman in the text, for he was the teacher of Rava, and died in Rava’s lifetime, as we see in Moed Katan (28a); and the day that Rava died, Rav Ashi was born. Thus, they did not live at the same time. They also suggest that we could read Rav Nachman bar Yitzchak in its place.

To flesh this out a bit further, here are some of the rabbis in today’s daf. Rav Nachman without the patronymic is generally taken as Rav Nachman bar Yaakov:

Rav Ashi is A6, an Amora of the sixth generation. Exploring the student / teacher graph, we can find a path, as Rav Ashi -> Rav Pappa -> Rava -> Rav Nachman bar Yaakov. But we would not expect a direct relation, across all these generations, even if we did not have the explicit biographical information.

On the other hand, we do detect one instance of Rav Nachman speaking to Rav Ashi, in Kiddushin 6b:

This isn’t compelling counter-evidence, since the gemara there explicitly has an alternate girsa (Rav Chanin from Chozaah) which is more complicated than the common Rav Nachman, and which can easily be switched for Rav Nachman, due to orthographic similarities.

Alternatively, and not just as a girsa switch as Tosafot suggest, it is not obvious that every unadorned Rav Nachman is bar Yaakov, rather than bar Yitzchak. I have encountered some clear counter-examples, but these are instances in which first the gemara gives the full patronymic of bar Yitzchak.

If we say it is Rav Kahana IV, this also makes sense (though might cause some difficulties on the next amud, in terms of harmonizing with Rav Ashi and Rav Kahana’s conversation there). We have some work we need to do, to fix up the process in mi vami, to tag the right Rav Kahana among the ambiguous choices, but here is their relevant relationship. Rav Kahana IV is one of Rav Ashi’s teachers:

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