JOSEPH BEN ABBA:
Gaon of Pumbedita for a period of two years; died in 816 (Sherira Gaon; Neubauer, "M. J. C." i. 37). Abraham ibn Daud ("Sefer ha-Ḳabbalah," ib. i. 64) calls him Joseph b. Judah and places his death in 824. After the death of the preceding gaon (R. Abumai, or, according to Abraham ibn Daud, Aḥinai) in 814 or 822, Joseph was preferred to Mar Aaron, who, though a greater Talmudist, did not possess the former's miraculous powers. Joseph was believed to have conversed with Elijah, and once, when he was on the point of beginning a lecture before a numerous audience, he exclaimed: "Make room for the old man who is now entering!" The old man, who was invisible to all save Joseph, was believed to be Elijah. On the day of Joseph's death there was an earthquake (Sherira Gaon, l.c.). Judah Gaon, Sherira's grandfather, was Joseph's secretary, according to Sherira Gaon and Abraham ibn Daud (l.c.). These two authorities mention further that Joseph as a boy diligently studied the Talmud, and that his teacher, Mar Shinai Gaon, blessed him, declaring that he would become the head of the people. See Gaon.
- Grætz, Gesch. 3d ed., v. 196, 388.