By: Louis Ginzberg
A Palestinian amora, the contemporary of R. Judah (217-299) and of his successor, R. Ḥisda, the head of the Sura Academy, with both of whom Abiathar maintained a correspondence. The great number of Babylonian students who thronged to the Palestinian schools aroused his displeasure and induced him to remonstrate in a letter to Judah, the head of the Babylonian Jews (Giṭ. 6b). The reason of his displeasure was that the Babylonian students generally married before graduating (Ḳid. 29b, where Rashi's opinion is preferable to that of the Tosafot), and when they left for Palestine their wives and children became a burden on the community. He quoted in this connection Joel, iv. 3 (iii. 3, A. V.), and harsh as the parallel may seem, it is not unjustified (Giṭ. 6b). Thereupon R. Judah declared the emigration from Babylonia to Palestine to be a religious offense, but his denunciations were of no avail (Ket. 111a). Abiathar's letter to R. Ḥisda, the successor of R. Judah (Giṭ. l.c.), shows that the close connection between the Babylonian students and Palestinian teachers did not end with the declaration of R. Judah. Abiathar was revered as a model of piety and holiness, and the Babylonians believed that he was in spiritual communication with the prophet Elijah (see Giṭ. l.c. In the Midrash he is mentioned in Gen. R. lxxxviii. 2. Concerning his Haggadah, see Bacher, "Ag. Pal. Amor." iii. 563, 564).