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Rabbi Isaac Nappaha

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Rabbi Isaac Nappaha (Hebrew Rabbi Yitzhak Nappaḥa, רבי יצחק נפחא), or Isaac the smith, was a rabbi of the 3rd-4th centuries (second generation of Amoraim) who lived in the Galilee.


He is found under the name "Nappaha" only in the Babylonian Talmud, not in the Talmud Yerushalmi. In the later midrashic literature he is called Yitzchak Nappaha, whereas the older works call him only R. Yitzchak.

In the Babylonian Talmud he is identified with various other Yitzchaks,[1] and since that was due to the arbitrary action of a later amora, the real name of his father can no longer be determined.

Regarding the name "Nappaha" (the smith), there had been an older Yitzchak of the same name,[2] who was rich and who is said to have owned five courts in Usha. It has not yet been possible, however, to ascertain any relationship between the two. If the elder was an ancestor of this Yitzchak, the younger could well have inherited the name without ever having practised the trade.


He was a pupil of Johanan bar Nappaha.[3] Reish Lakish once used the similarity in their names as the material for wordplay.[4] Isaac's daughter married the Babylonian amora Pappi.[5] Tradition records him teaching in Antioch.[6]

Although he was a pupil of Johanan bar Nappaha, his associations with Johanan are indicated in only one passage, which tells of his once appearing before Johanan.[7] As a traditionist of the aggadah of Johanan, he appears only in the Babylonian Talmud.[8] He was in Babylonia only temporarily, probably soon after the death of Johanan; and while there he visited the house of the exilarch,[9] together with Rav Sheshet[9] and Rav Yosef.[10] Rava quoted in his name;[11] but sometimes tradition maintains that it is uncertain whether the sayings originated with Yitzchak or with Rava.[12] Rabbin bar Adda also cites in his name.[13]

His home was originally in Caesarea, but he afterward went to Tiberias to live. He associated intimately with Rabbi Ammi, with whom he often discussed halakhic questions;[14] and together they sometimes rendered decisions in matters pertaining to religious law.[15] Yitzchak, Abbahu, and Hanina b. Papi constituted a board of judges.[16] Rabbi Helbo referred to Yitzchak two liturgical questions addressed to him from Galilee: the first question he answered immediately; the second he expounded publicly in the academy.[17] A thesis on the creation of light, formulated anonymously, was made public by R. Yitzchak.[18] He also engaged in aggadic discussions with Levi II;[19] with Abba bar Kahana;[20] with Rabbi Aha;[21] and with Hiyya bar Abba.[22] Among those who transmitted in the name of Yitzchak were the famous halakhist Haggai, the latter's sons Jonathan and Azariah,[23] and Luliani ben Tabrin.[24]


That Yitzchak was a great authority on halakhah, as well as aggadah, is shown by an anecdote which is told and according to which Ammi and Assi would not let him speak, because the one wished to hear halakhah and the other aggadah.[25] So after telling them the celebrated story (also known from Aesop's Fables) of the man who had two wives, one of whom pulled out all his white hairs because she was young, whereas the other extracted his black hairs because she was old, R. Yitzchak presented to them an aggadah with a halakhic background, in order to satisfy both at the same time.

However, Yitzchak devoted himself to aggadah with more zeal, because he regarded it as a necessity in the adverse circumstances of the Jews. The poverty of the Jews of Palestine had increased to such an extent that people no longer waited for the harvest, but ate the green ears of wheat;[26] consequently they were in need of comfort and refreshment of soul.[27] Yitzchak tried to make his lectures as effective as possible, and they show him to have been an unusually forceful rhetorician and a skillful exegete.

Yitzchak's aggadic material may be divided according to contents into the following four groups:

  1. Proverbs and dicta: concerning sins;[28] concerning the relation of man to God;[29] on the relation of man to his fellow beings;[30] concerning prayer;[31] concerning study and the Law;[32] concerning Israel;[33] concerning the nations;[34] concerning Jerusalem.[35]
  2. Exegesis: general;[36] halakhic;[37] Biblical personages;[38] Biblical narratives[39]
  3. Homiletics[40]
  4. Proems;[41] maxims;[42] similes;[43] messianic subjects;[44] eschatology[45]

The calendar

According to the unanimous testimony of several writers of the tenth century, the gaon Hai b. David ascribed to Yitzchak Nappaha the calculation of the Rabbinite calendar.

Karaite tradition, borrowed from the Rabbanites, credits Isaac with declaring new months not by observing the moon, but like the Rabbanites computing according to the rule of lo, bet, dalet, waw which meant that Passover can never begin on a Monday, or a Wednesday, or a Friday.[46]


  1. ^ Pesachim 113b
  2. ^ Alfred J. Kolatch, Who's who in the Talmud- 1964 Isaac Nappaha An older, wealthy Amora, named Isaac, is sometimes confused with Isaac Nappaha.
  3. ^ Alfred J. Kolatch Who's who in the Talmud 1964 "Isaac Nappaha A Palestinian Amora of the third and fourth centuries who was a pupil of Johanan"
  4. ^ Sanhedrin 96a
  5. ^ Hullin 110a
  6. ^ Markus N. A. Bockmuehl Jewish law in gentile churches - Halakah and the Beginning of Christian Public Ethics. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2003, Page 54 "Indeed, Antioch continued for several centuries to serve as a place of residence for important religious leaders; even in the Amoraic period famous Rabbis like Simlai and Isaac Nappaha are sometimes cited as teaching in the city."
  7. ^ Bava Metziah 24b
  8. ^ Berachot 62b
  9. ^ a b Moed Kattan 24b
  10. ^ Rosh Hashana 3b; Shabbat 52b
  11. ^ Berachot 32a; Temurah 15a
  12. ^ Sanhedrin 94a; Nedarim 39a; Nazir 23b
  13. ^ Berachot 6a; Pesachim 8b
  14. ^ Sotah 34a; Menachot 11b; Hagigah 26a; Berachot 41a; Yoma 42b
  15. ^ Hullin 48b; Nedarim 57b; Berachot 27a
  16. ^ Ketuvot 84b; Avodah Zarah 39b; Berachot 38a,b; Bava Kamma 117b; Gittin 29b
  17. ^ Gittin 60a
  18. ^ Genesis Rabbah 3, beginning
  19. ^ Genesis Rabbah 19:14; Pesikta Rabbati 23, beginning; Berachot 4a; Yerushalmi Ta'anit 65b
  20. ^ Genesis Rabbah 43:7; Leviticus Rabbah 2:1; Midrash Tehillim to Psalms 49:1
  21. ^ Pesikta Rabbati 15; Genesis Rabbah 5:7; Yerushalmi Pe'ah 1:1 15d
  22. ^ Leviticus Rabbah 20:7; Pesikta Rabbati 22
  23. ^ Genesis Rabbah 22:18, 40:6; Midrash Shmuel 22,end
  24. ^ Genesis Rabbah passim; Midrash Tehillim to Psalms 24:4; Yerushalmi Megillah 75c
  25. ^ Bava Kamma 60b
  26. ^ Genesis Rabbah 20:24
  27. ^ Pesachim 101b
  28. ^ Sukkah 52a,b; Hagigah 16a; Kiddushin 31a; Berachot 25a; Rosh Hashana 16b; Yoma 87a; Bava Batra 9b; Pesachim 90b
  29. ^ Nedarim 32a; Sotah 48b; Ruth Rabbah 1:2
  30. ^ Bava Metziah 42a; Megillah 28a; Bava Kamma 93a
  31. ^ Pesachim 56a; Leviticus Rabbah 30:3; Midrash Shmuel 1:7; Rosh Hashana 16b; Yerushalmi Kiddushin 61b; Yerushalmi Nedarim 41b
  32. ^ Megillah 6b; Leviticus Rabbah 2:1; Sanhedrin 21b, 24a; Hullin 91a; Yoma 77a
  33. ^ Genesis Rabbah 63:8
  34. ^ Esther Rabbah 1:10; Leviticus Rabbah 1:14; Exodus Rabbah 38:3
  35. ^ Pesikta Rabbati 41:1; Pesachim 8a
  36. ^ Sanhedrin 82a, 89a, 95b; Temurah 16a; Yerushalmi Rosh Hashana 57c; Genesis Rabbah 53:20; Hullin 91b; Sotah 48b; Bava Batra 16a
  37. ^ Berachot 13b; Gittin 59b; Pesachim 31b; Yoma 77a; Yerushalmi Sotah 17a
  38. ^ Genesis Rabbah 34:11, 39:7, 58:7; Yebamot 64a
  39. ^ Sotah 34a; Deuteronomy Rabbah 11:2; Bava Batra 91a; Midrash Tehillim to Psalms 7:13; Sanhedrin 106b; Menachot 53b; Esther Rabbah 3:9; Pesikta Rabbati 35:1
  40. ^ Genesis Rabbah 19:6, 38:7; Sanhedrin 96a; Bava Metziah 87a; Yerushalmi Sotah 17b; Exodus Rabbah 43:4; Sanhedrin 102a; Berachot 63b; Ecclesiastes Rabbah 3:19; Temurah 16a; Yerushalmi Ta'anit 65b; Horayot 10b
  41. ^ Genesis Rabbah 3:1, 59:2, 65:7; Exodus Rabbah 32:5; Leviticus Rabbah 12:2
  42. ^ Genesis Rabbah 56:1; Deuteronomy Rabbah 2:27; Leviticus Rabbah 34:8
  43. ^ Yerushalmi Rosh Hashana 57b; Leviticus Rabbah 5:6; Exodus Rabbah 15:16; Yerushalmi Berachot 13a; Bava Batra 74b
  44. ^ Ecclesiastes Rabbah 1:11; Deuteronomy Rabbah 1:19; Avodah Zarah 3b
  45. ^ Leviticus Rabbah 13:3; Midrash Tehillim to Psalms 49:1; Shabbat 152a; Bava Metziah 83b
  46. ^ Moshe Gil, David Strassler Jews in Islamic countries in the Middle Ages Page 224 - 2004 "The Karaite tradition (evidently borrowed from the Rabbanites) about R. Isaac Nappaha ('the smith'): "....the accepted custom was to fix the beginning of ..month by observing the moon, but they (the Rabbanites) began fixing the compute according to the rule of lo, bet, dalet, waw (ie, that the Passover shall never begin on a Monday, or a Wednesday, or a Friday), whose origin is unknown.. This is the method invented by Isaac Nappaha,.. "

 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainSinger, Isidore; et al., eds. (1901–1906). "YIẒḤAḲ NAPPAḤA". The Jewish Encyclopedia. New York: Funk & Wagnalls. It has the following bibliography:

  • Bacher, Ag. Pal. Amor. ii. 205-295;
  • Frankel, Mebo, pp. 106b-107a;
  • Heilprin, Seder ha-Dorot, ii., s.v.;
  • S. Pinsker, Liḳḳuṭe Ḳadmoniyyot, ii. 148-151;
  • Al-Ḳirḳisani, ed. Harkavy, in Publ. Kaiserliche Russische Archœologische Gesellschaft, 1894, vii. 293;
  • Weiss, Dor, iii. 98 et seq.
This page was last edited on 4 February 2020, at 18:22
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