Mentioned in the Talmud as an example of genuine Jewish piety and benevolence (Ta'anit, 21b et seq.). Although dependent upon his earnings, he was so unselfish and considerate that, in order to avoid embarrassing the poor among his patients, he would never accept pay directly from any one, but instead attached to a certain part of his house a box in which each might place what he pleased. Abba's confidence in humanity was once tested by two young disciples in a remarkable manner. Having lodged with him one night, in the morning they took the mattresses upon which they had slept and offered them to him for sale at his own price. He recognized his own property, but, rather than abash the young men by reclaiming it, he excused their peculiar conduct in his mind on the plea that they certainly must need the money for a benevolent object. When the joke was explained to him, he refused to take back the amount paid, on the ground that, in his heart, he had dedicated it to a charitable purpose. Of Abba the legend is told (Talmud, l.c.) that he daily received greetings from heaven, whereas Abaye, 280-339, the greatest Talmudic authority of that age, was deemed worthy of divine notice once a week only.

L. G.
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