ADDA B. AHABAH (AḤWAH):
By: S. Mendelsohn
1. A Babylonian amora of the second generation (third and fourth centuries), frequently quoted in both the Jerusalem and the Babylonian Talmud. He is said to have been born on the day that Rabbi (Judah I.) died (Ḳid 72a, b; Gen. R. lviii; see Abba Hoshaya). He was one of the disciples of Abba Arika (Rab), at whose funeral he rent his garments twice in token of his mourning for the great scholar (Yer. B. Ḳ. ii. 3a; Ber. 42b et seq.). In Pumbedita R. Adda gathered about him a great many pupils, whom he taught sometimes in the public thoroughfares (Yeb. 110b). He lived to a very old age, and when interrogated on the merits that entitled him to be so favored of heaven, he gave the following sketch of his life and character:
"No one has ever preceded me to the synagogue, nor has any one ever remained in the synagogue after my departure. I never walked as much as four çubits without meditating on the Law, and never thought of its contents at places not scrupulously clean. Nor did I prepare a bed for myself to enjoy regular sleep, nor did I disturb my colleagues by walking to my seat at college among them. I never nicknamed my neighbor nor rejoiced at his fall. Anger against my neighbor never went to bed with me, and I never passed the street near where my debtor lived; and while at home I never betrayed impatience, in order to observe what is said (Ps. ci. 2), 'I will walk within my house with a perfect heart'"
Yet where sanctity of life and the glory of heaven were concerned, he lost his patience and risked much. Thus, on one occasion, when he observed on the street a woman named Matun dressed in a manner unbecoming a modest Jewess, he violently rebuked her. Unfortunately for him the woman was a Samaritan, and for the attack on her he was condemned to pay a fine of 400 zuz (about $60 actual value, or £12), and thereupon he repeated a popular saying, "Matun, matun [waiting, patience] is worth 400 zuz!" (Ber. 20a).Legends as to His Sanctity.
Such a character is generally surrounded by a halo of legend, and later ages supplied this. It is said that R. Adda's piety was so highly valued in the sight of heaven that no favor asked by him was ever refused.In times of drought, for example, when he pulled off but one shoe (preparatory to offering prayer), an abundance of rain descended; but if he pulled off the other, the world was flooded (Yer. Ta'anit, l.c.). Even his teacher, the famous Rab, realized Adda's protective influence. On one occasion when he and Samuel, accompanied by Adda, came to a tottering ruin, and Samuel proposed to avoid it by taking a circuitous route, Rab observed that just then there was no occasion for fear, since R. Adda b. Ahabah, whose merits were very great, was with them; consequently no accident would befall them. Samuel's great colleague R. Huna I. also believed in and availed himself of R. Adda's supposed miraculous influence with heaven. This rabbi had a lot of wine stored in a building that threatened to collapse. He was anxious to save his property, but there was danger of accident to the laborers. Therefore he invited Rab Adda into the building, and there engaged him in halakic discussions until the task of removing its contents was safely accomplished; hardly had the rabbis vacated the premises when the tottering walls fell (Ta'anit, 20b).
Of Rab Adda's numerous noteworthy observations on Biblical texts, the following may be quoted: "The man who is conscious of sin and confesses it, but does not turn away from it, is like the man who holds a defiling reptile in his hand; were he to bathe in all the waters of the world, the bath would not restore him to cleanness. Only when he drops it from his hand, and bathes in but forty seahs (= about 100 gallons) of water he is clean." This follows from the Biblical saying (Prov. xxviii. 13), "Whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy"; and elsewhere it is said (Lam. iii. 41), "Let us lift up our heart as well as our hands unto God in the heavens" (Ta'anit, 16a; compare Tosef. ibid. i. 8).
2. A disciple of Raba, addressed by the latter as "my son." In a discussion the elder rabbi once rebuked him as devoid of understanding (Ta'anit, 8a; Yeb. 61b; Sanh. 81a, b). Subsequently he studied under R. Papa and waited on R. Naḥman b. Isaac (B. B. 22a; see version in Rabbinowicz, "Diḳduḳe Soferim," ad loc., note 6; Ḥul. 133b, where some manuscripts read "bar Ḥana" or "Ḥanah").