shall be called a wise [ḥakim] physician, but he shall not be called rabbi, and Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi’s convalescence shall be through him. I also saw written there: Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi and Rabbi Natan are the end of the Mishna, i.e., the last of the tanna’im, the redactors of the Mishna. Rav Ashi and Ravina are the end of instruction, i.e., the end of the period of the amora’im, the redacting of the Talmud, which occurred after the period of the tanna’im.
And your mnemonic to remember that Rav Ashi and Ravina redacted the Talmud is the verse: “Until I entered into the sanctuary [mikdashei] of God, and considered [avina] their end” (Psalms 73:17). The sanctuary, mikdashei, alludes to Rav Ashi, while the term avina alludes to Ravina, which is a contraction of Rav Avina. The phrase: Their end, is interpreted as a reference to the redacting of the Talmud.
§ The Gemara relates another story discussing the greatness of the Sages. Rav Kahana said: Rav Ḥama, son of the daughter of Ḥasa, told me that Rabba bar Naḥmani died due to the fear of a decree of religious persecution. The Gemara explains: His enemies accused him [akhalu beih kurtza] of disloyalty in the king’s palace, as they said: There is one man from among the Jews who exempts twelve thousand Jewish men from the king’s head tax two months a year, one month in the summer and one month in the winter. Since many people would study in Rabba’s study hall during the months of Adar and Elul, he was being blamed for preventing those people from working during those months.
They sent a messenger [peristaka] of the king after him, but he was not able to find him. Rabba bar Naḥmani fled and went from Pumbedita to Akra, from Akra to Agma, from Agma to Shiḥin, from Shiḥin to Tzerifa, from Tzerifa to Eina Demayim, and from Eina Demayim back to Pumbedita. Ultimately, he was found in Pumbedita, as the king’s messenger arrived by chance at that same inn where Rabba bar Naḥmani was hiding. The inn attendants placed a tray before the messenger and gave him two cups to drink. They then removed the tray from before him and his face was miraculously turned backward.
The attendants said to Rabba bar Naḥmani: What should we do with him? He is the king’s man, and we cannot leave him like this. Rabba bar Naḥmani said to them: Place a tray before him and give him one cup to drink, and then remove the tray from before him and he will be healed. They did this, and he was healed. The messenger said: I am certain that the man I seek is here, as this unnatural event must have befallen me on his account. He searched for Rabba bar Naḥmani and found out where he was. The messenger said that they should tell Rabba bar Naḥmani: I will leave this inn and will not disclose your location. Even if they will kill that man, i.e., me, I will not disclose your location. But if they will beat him, me, I will disclose your whereabouts, as I cannot bear being tortured.
With that guarantee, they brought Rabba bar Naḥmani before the messenger. They took him into a small vestibule [le’idrona] and closed the door before him. Rabba bar Naḥmani prayed for mercy, and the wall crumbled. He fled and went to hide in a swamp. He was sitting on the stump of a palm tree and studying Torah alone. At that moment, the Sages in the heavenly academy were disagreeing with regard to a halakha of leprosy. In general, a leprous spot includes two signs of impurity, a bright white spot and a white hair. The basic halakha is that if the snow-white leprous sore [baheret] preceded the white hair then the afflicted person is ritually impure, but if the white hair preceded the baheret, he is pure.
The heavenly debate concerned a case of uncertainty as to which came first, the spot or the hair. The Holy One, Blessed be He, says: The individual is pure, but every other member of the heavenly academy says: He is impure. And they said: Who can arbitrate in this dispute? They agreed that Rabba bar Naḥmani should arbitrate, as Rabba bar Naḥmani once said: I am preeminent in the halakhot of leprosy and I am preeminent in the halakhot of ritual impurity imparted by tents.
They sent a messenger from heaven after him to take his soul up to the heavenly academy, but the Angel of Death was unable to approach Rabba bar Naḥmani, as his mouth did not cease from his Torah study. In the meantime, a wind blew and howled between the branches. Rabba bar Naḥmani thought that the noise was due to an infantry battalion [gunda] about to capture him. He said: Let that man, i.e., me, die and not be given over to the hands of the government. The Angel of Death was therefore able to take his soul.
As he was dying, he said in response to the dispute in heaven: It is pure; it is pure. A Divine Voice emerged from heaven and said: Happy are you, Rabba bar Naḥmani, as your body is pure and your soul left you with the word: Pure. A note [pitka] fell from heaven and landed in the academy of Pumbedita. The note read: Rabba bar Naḥmani was summoned to the heavenly academy, i.e., he has died. Abaye and Rava and all of the other Rabbis went out to tend to his burial; however, they did not know the location of his body. They went to the swamp and saw birds forming a shade and hovering over a certain spot. The Rabbis said: We can conclude from this that he is there.
The Rabbis lamented him for three days and three nights. A note fell from heaven, upon which was written: Anyone who removes himself from the lamentations shall be ostracized. Accordingly, they lamented him for seven days. Another note fell from heaven, stating: Go to your homes in peace.
On that day when Rabba bar Naḥmani died, a hurricane lifted a certain Arab [taya’a] merchant while he was riding his camel. The hurricane carried him from one side of the Pappa River and threw him onto the other side. He said: What is this? Those present said to him: Rabba bar Naḥmani has died. He said before God: Master of the Universe! The entire world is Yours and Rabba bar Naḥmani is also Yours. You are to Rabba and Rabba is to You, i.e., you are beloved to each other. If so, why are You destroying the world on his account? The storm subsided.
The Gemara concludes its earlier discussion of obese Sages (84a). Rabbi Shimon ben Ḥalafta was obese. One day he was particularly hot and went and sat on a mountain boulder to cool himself off. He said to his daughter: My daughter, fan me with a fan, and as a gift I will give you packages of spikenard. In the meantime, a strong wind blew. He said: How many packages of spikenard do I owe to the overseers of this wind?
§ The Gemara returns to its discussion of the mishna (83a), which teaches that an employer must provide his laborers with sustenance, all in accordance with the regional custom. The Gemara asks: What is added by the inclusive term: All? The Gemara answers: This serves to include a place where it is customary for the laborers to eat bread and drink a quarter-log [anpaka] of wine. As, if in such a case the employer were to say to them: Arise early in the morning and I will bring you this sustenance, so as not to waste work time, they may say to him: It is not in your power to compel us to do so.
§ The mishna teaches that there was an incident involving Rabbi Yoḥanan ben Matya, who said to his son: Go out and hire laborers for us. His son hired the laborers and stipulated that he would provide sustenance for them. The Gemara asks: After the mishna has stated that all practices are in accordance with the regional custom, how can it cite this incident, which seems to contradict the previous ruling, as Rabbi Yoḥanan ben Matya and his son did not follow the regional custom? The Gemara answers: The mishna is incomplete and this is what it is teaching: All practices are in accordance with the regional custom, but if the employer pledged to provide sustenance for them,