April 16, 2024
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Rav Yirmeya of Difti, Student of Rav Pappi: Bava Kamma

Vatican 116 manuscript, Bava Kamma 73a.

Rav Yirmeya miDifti is a sixth-generation Amora appearing often in the Talmud. By examining his interactions with other Amoraim, we can guess as to his scholastic generation.

He seems to be sixth and seventh-generation Ravina II’s teacher. In Berachot 25a, Ravina (II) said he was standing before RYmD1 who observed feces. He instructed Ravina to examine it, to see if it was permitted to pray in its presence. Similarly, in Kiddushin 33a, Ravina sits before him when a man passes by without covering his head. Ravina declares that the man was rude, but Rav Yirmiya miDifta defends the man.

He often argues with sixth-generation Rav Ashi as to whether an action is permitted. This includes Shabbat 18b, placing young goat meat, which cooks cooks quickly, into a clay-sealed before Shabbat2. Similarly, Shabbat 74a, regarding liability in selecting (borer) food from food. Similarly in Yoma 63a, about a paschal lamb slaughtered outside the Temple not for the sake of a paschal offering.

He argues with Rav Ashi about how to understand apparent disputes. In Niddah 20a, Rav Yehuda cites first-generation Shmuel that all colors are examined against white linen, while first-generation Rabbi Yitzchak bar Avdimi I says black’s placed against red linen. Rav Yirmeya miDifti harmonizes these positions—they speak of different colors, while Rav Ashi preserves the dispute. In Niddah 57b, a brayta contradicts Shmuel about requiring hargasha to be impure, Rav Yirmeya miDifti harmonizes—Shmuel speaks only of a biblical requirement, conceding on a rabbinic level. Meanwhile, Rav Ashi preserves the dispute, with Shmuel holding like the Tanna, Rabbi Nechemia.

Ravina (II?) listens to him and sometimes relates his words to Rav Ashi. In Yoma 42a, he clarifies to Ravina the topic of a Tannaic dispute. In Zevachim 34b, Ravina tells Rav Ashi that Rav Yirmeyah miDifti quoted Rava (מִשְּׁמֵיהּ דְּרָבָא) explained a Mishna in accordance with Chanan the Egyptian. Rav Ashi proffers a different explanation. In Zevachim 15b, Ravina  tells Rav Ashi that Rav Yirmeyah miDifti held a second conveying of sacrificial blood to the altar was disputed by Rabbi Eleazar and the Sages. (Similarly, in Zevachim 18b, he declares another case a matter of Tannaitic dispute.) Similarly, in Menachot 31b, Rabba Zuti tells Rav Ashi what Rav Yirmeya miDifti said in Rava’s name, מִשְּׁמֵיהּ דְּרָבָא.

Rav Yirmeya miDifti converses with sixth-generation Amoraim. When in Shabbat 82a, Rav Acha b. Rava and Rav Ashi discuss ways to encourage defecation, Rav Yirmeya miDifti describes a successful strategy he saw an Arab employ. (Indeed, he describes other Arab practices about stuffing a camel in Shabbat 155b, and carving a hole in an animal’s thigh for penetration in Avodah Zarah 22b.) In Bava Batra 171b, Rav Yeimar, or perhaps Rav Yirmeya miDifti, as well as Rav Ashi, spoke to Rav Kahana about impact of changed halachic practice, in writing postdated promissory notes.

In Zevachim 99b, he explains a contradiction between Mishnayot, as to whether a mourner may partake of a paschal lamb, while Rav Asi explains the contradiction in another manner. Perhaps this is a late-generation Rav Athi, contemporary of Rav Ashi.



Might we establish him as fifth-generation, namely fourth-generation Rava’s student, based on the aforementioned מִשְּׁמֵיהּ דְּרָבָא in Zevachim/Menachot? We could add Megillah 18b, where fourth-generation Rami bar Chama asks him to interpret a verse in Mishlei. However, מִשְּׁמֵיהּ דְּרָבָא isn’t אמר רבא, and I’d consider an indirect quotation. And Rami bar Chami is a scribal error in printings—the manuscripts correctly have Rami bar Berechya pose this question.

He speaks to, or after, fifth-generation Amoraim, but this needn’t establish him as fifth-generation! Thus, in Sanhedrin 69a, Rav Yaakov of Nehar Pekod sat before Ravina (I, Rava’s fifth-generation student, in Sura/Mata Mechasya academy) and cited an analysis of fifth-generation Rav Huna son of Rav Yehoshua (in Naresh). They convey arguments back and forth, and whether one follows a statistical majority in capital cases is at play. Ravina interprets a Mishna to prove we indeed follow the statistical majority. Thereupon, Rav Yirmeya miDifti says we too can interpret a different Mishnah (אַף אֲנַן נָמֵי תְּנֵינָא) proving this.

Some juxtapositions suggest he’s fifth-generation, but I don’t view such proofs as so solid. In Eruvin 24a, he taught halacha regarding a partially-sown karpef as a carrying leniency, while fifth-generation Rav Huna son of Rav Yehoshua taught it as a stringency. In Nedarim 22b, he’s wedged between third-generation Rabba bar Rav Huna and fifth-generation Rav Nachman bar Yitzchak, and explains how anger causes one to forget learning and increase foolishness.

Other juxtapositions shed no precise light on his scholastic generation. We read in Menachot 42a how third-generation Rav Acha bar Yaakov (of Papunya) would affix tzitzit, then how Rav Yirmeya miDifti would affix them, and finally how seventh-generation Mar bar Rav Ashi would affix them. In Chullin 87b, after Rav Yehuda cites Shmuel that all reddish mixtures effect atonement, Rav Asi of Neharbil (unknown generation), says this refers to blood plasma. Rav Yirmeya miDiftiadds that consumption of such plasma incurs karet. In Chullin 35b, he raises an objection to third-generation Rabbi Yitzchak.

Similarly, in Niddah 23a, Rav Yehuda cites Rav giving a reason for a particular case of ritual impurity, and Rav Yirmeyah miDifti adds that we can deduce this reasoning from a Mishnah— אַף אֲנַן נָמֵי תְּנֵינָא. In Niddah 30a, he interprets a brayta requiring an additional immersion for a woman as when she returned from a journey during twilight, which has doubtful/hybrid status of day and night. Similarly, in Niddah 69a, he explains a brayta requiring two extra immersions (totalling eleven) as where she came before us at twilight.


Rav Pappi’s Student

He appears to be fifth-generation Rav Pappi’s student particularly. Recall that Rav Pappi, like Rav Pappa, was Rava’s student. In Shabbat 109b, when Rav Pappi and others discuss the identity of Biblical hyssop, he explains why Rav Pappi’s position is logical.

Physical possession often establishes ownership, but not for certain people, such as craftsmen, partners, or a father/son regarding the other’s property. In Bava Batra 52a, third-generation Rav Yosef says this is even if the son isn’t dependent on his father. Fourth-generation Rava says if they separated, this carve-out doesn’t apply. To this, Rav Yirmeya miDifti says that in an actual incident, Rav Pappi ruled like Rava. Fifth-generation Rav Nachman bar Yitzchak, Rava’s student, cites a chain up to Rava’s teacher, Rav Nachman bar Yaakov, like Rava. The Talmudic Narrator concludes like Rava.

In Avodah Zarah 40a, Rava and his contemporary, Rav Huna bar Chinana (perhaps of Sichra), take contrary positions about the kashrut of fish that were brought to Sichra, where detached scales were found on the ship, with Rav Huna bar Chinana permitting and Rava prohibiting. Rav Yirmeya miDifta said that Rav Pappi told him that Rava only permitted the brine but not the fish bodies. Rav Ashi said that Rav Pappa told him that Rav Huna bar Chinana even permitted the fish bodies.


Ya’al Kegam

With this as background, we can approach our sugya, Bava Kamma 72b-73a. A conspiring witness, עד זומם, is invalidated from acting as a witness. Fourth-generation Abaye says that, after he’s convicted, the invalidation applies retroactively from when he falsely testified. Fourth-generation Rava says that the invalidation only is from this point onwards. Then, Rav Yirmeyah miDifti related that Rav Pappa practically ruled like Rava. Rav Ashi said the halacha is like Rava.

To slightly emend the above, Rav Yirmiyah miDifti is Rav Pappi’s student, so he should logically speak of Rav Pappi. Indeed, in the Sanhedrin 27a parallel, even the printed text has Rav Pappi. In Bava Kamma, the Vilna printing and Hamburg 165 have Rav Pappa, but the Soncino and Venice printings, as well as the Florence 8-9, Munich 95, Escorial, and Vatican 1164 manuscripts all have Rav Pappi. Additionally, a scribe would more likely err by changing the less common Pappi to the more common Pappa.

Rav Yirmeya miDifti is thus once again arguing with his sixth-generation contemporary, Rav Ashi, and citing his teacher, Rav Pappi. Rav Ashi interacts much less frequently with Rav Pappi than with Rav Pappa, such that we might consider Rav Pappa more of his teacher.

The יעל קגם mnemonic must have been established after Rav Pappi, in Rav Ashi’s generation or later. Without this mnemonic, how would we rule? Rav Ashi is after Rav Pappa, batrai. Rav Yirmeya miDifti is sixth-generation, but only testifying what an earlier generation did. Maybe Rav Ashi carries greater weight because he’s a redactor, and/or because the text would reflect his position. All this leads to ruling like Abaye.

Rabbi Dr. Joshua Waxman teaches computer science at Stern College for Women, and his research includes programmatically finding scholars and scholastic relationships in the Babylonian Talmud.


1 so all manuscripts; printings have “Yehuda” in error

2 Though there’s a second version in the gemara that modifies the case

3 so manuscripts, not Rav Yirmeya as in printings

4 Vatican also uniquely has Rav Ashi practically act. To some extent, it’s a tug of war between the preceding עבד עובדא and the following הלכתא כאביי ביעל קגם.

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