He was a student of Rava and Abaye. After the death of his teachers he founded a school at Naresh, a city near Sura, in which he officiated as "resh metivta," his friend and associate, Rav Huna ben Joshua, acting as "resh kallah" (356-375).
Papa's father seems to have been wealthy and to have enabled his son to devote himself to study. Papa inherited some property from his father; and he also amassed great wealth by brewing beer, an occupation in which he was an expert. He likewise engaged in extensive and successful business undertakings, and his teacher Rava once said of him: "Happy is the righteous man who is as prosperous on earth as only the wicked usually are!". However, Rava also accused Papa and his friend Huna of being exploitative in business: "You would take the coats from people's backs". Rav Papa was known for his honesty in business: he once returned a field he had purchased upon learning that the seller regretted the sale.
He is known to have married two wives. One was the daughter of a kohen, and he attributed his wealth to this marriage. The second was the daughter of Abba Sura'ah (=of Sura). They do not seem to have lived happily together, for she prided herself on the nobility of her ancestry as contrasted with his own. He therefore said, referring to his own experience: "Be circumspect and not hasty in marrying, and take a wife from a class of society lower than your own". Several of his children married prominent figures in Jewish Babylonian society.
He was obese, and once noted that he could break a bench simply by sitting on it.
It is reported that once a non-Jew owed him money, and tried to avoid payment by inventing a blood libel that Papa had killed the non-Jew's son, placing a dead baby under a blanket and encouraging Papa to sit on the blanket. According to one version of the story, Papa figured out the plot and refused to sit on the blanket; according to other versions he did sit on the blanket, and then was either forced to flee the country, or to pay a steep fine.
Papa did not have reputation for scholarship among his peers. He lacked independence of judgment; in the case of two conflicting opinions he tried to accept both. He was, consequently, not greatly respected as a scholar; and R. Idi b. Abin Naggara termed him and Huna ben Joshua "dardeki" (children). R. Huna b. Manoah, Samuel b. Judah, and R. Ḥiyya of Vestania, pupils of Rava, came, after their teacher's death, to attend Papa's lectures, which they found obscure and vague. They communicated their opinions to one another by signs, to the great chagrin of Papa, who noticed them, and said: "Let the scholars ["rabbanan"] go in peace". R. Simai b. Ashi (father of Rav Ashi), who also attended Papa's lectures, often embarrassed him by questions; so that Papa once fell on his knees and prayed that God might protect him from being humiliated by Simai. Simai, who witnessed this scene in silence, thereupon resolved to desist; and he asked no further questions at any time. Papa was extremely anxious to obtain a reputation as scholar, but he also endeavored to do honor to all other scholars. He never excommunicated one, and whenever, during his business journeys, he came to a place in which a scholar lived he visited him. Once when an unseemly reference to scholars escaped him, he fasted in atonement, although he disliked fasting and it did not agree with him.
Papa made journeys in connection with his business, and thus gained much knowledge of the world. He was especially interested in the collection of popular proverbs which he considered as authoritative, using them even to refute the words of a sage. The sayings quoted by him include the following:
- If no grain is in the house, quarrels knock at the door and enter.
- Sow corn for thy use that thou mayest not be obliged to purchase it; and strive to acquire a piece of property".
- The weasel and the cat made a marriage of convenience on the occasion of the fat of misfortune!
- Judgment delayed is judgment lost.
Papa's sons and the siyumEdit
At many modern siyums, a short prayer is said which mentions ten sons of Papa. According to one explanation, whenever he completed a tractate in the Talmud he held a large party at which he invited his ten sons and many other people. Other homiletic understandings exist, connecting the ten names to the Ten Commandments. His ten sons: Hanina b. Pappa, Rami b. Pappa, Nachman b. Pappa, Ahai b. Pappa, Abba Mari b. Pappa, Rafram b. Pappa, Rakhish b. Pappa, Surhav b. Pappa, Adda b. Pappa, Daru b. Pappa.
This passage is first mentioned by Hai Gaon, who however said that not all the names were sons of the well-known Papa, but that tradition held reciting the names was a segulah against forgetting. Some of the names refer to people who lived in earlier generations; for example, Rafram bar Papa was a contemporary of Rav Chisda, Rachish bar Papa was apparently a student of Rav, Aha, Aba, and Ada or Hiyya bar Papa are mentioned in the Talmud with the title "Rabbi" which was applied to scholars from the Land of Israel but not from Babylonia, and Surhav bar Papa was apparently a student of Ze'iri.
- Windows onto Jewish Legal Culture: Fourteen Exploratory Essays Hanina Ben-Menahem, Arye Edrei, Neil S. Hecht – 2012 footnote "18 R. Papa, Babylonian Amora (ca. 300–375)."
- Self-help in Jewish Law Hanina Ben-Menahem, Neil S. Hecht – 1993- Volume 6 p38 "R. Papa, Babylonian Amora (ca. 300–375)."
- Barak S. Cohen The Legal Methodology of Late Nehardean Sages in Sasanian … 2010 "R. Papa was the academy head in Nareš, close to Sura, during the fifth generation of Babylonian amoraim until his …
- Ronald L. Eisenberg Essential Figures in the Talmud 2012 p105 "Huna bar Joshua, Babylonian amora (fourth century). When his close friend and business partner, R. Papa, became head of the academy at Naresh, Huna bar Joshua joined him as rosh kallah (head of the general assembly) (Ber. 57a)."
- Yevamot 106a; Rashi ad loc.
- Pesachim 113a; Bava Metziah 65a
- Pesachim 111b
- Horayot 10b
- Gittin 73a; Ketuvot 85a
- Ketuvot 97a
- Hullin 132a; Pesachim 49a
- Compare Sanhedrin 14b
- Yevamot 63a
- Ketuvot 52b, 85b; Sanhedrin 14b; Brachot 45b; Horayot 12a
- Bava Kamma 10b
- Brachot 8b (but Dikdukei Sofrim sees this as a late addition)
- Rabbeinu Hananel, Rashi, Rashbam to Pesachim 112b
- Raavan[disambiguation needed], commentary Brachot, 134
- Berachot 11b, 59b; Megillah 21b; Hullin 17b, 46a, 76b; Shabbat 20a
- Pesachim 35a; Yevamot 85a
- Ta'anit 9a,b
- Moed Kattan 17a
- Niddah 33b
- Sanhedrin 100a
- Ta'anit 24b; Rosh Hashana 18b
- Berachot 42; Megillah 21; Niddah 33b
- Berachot 59a
- Bava Metziah 59a
- Yevamot 63a
- Sanhedrin 105a
- Explained by Rabbi Menachem Posner: "The weasel and the cat are natural rivals. Yet, when there is fat from which they can both benefit, they set aside their animus to enjoy the bounty. Similarly, a common foe often leads human enemies to set aside their differences and work together peacefully."
- Literally, "Judgment which has spent the night, etc." i.e., sometimes when judgment is delayed, it loses its effectiveness.
- Sanhedrin 95a
- Yam shel Shlomo, Bava Kama chapter 4, end of chapter 7
- Quoted in Sefer haEshkol, Raavad II, Hilchot Sefer Torah 14
- Shabbat 82a
- "קונקורדנציה תלמודית- חלק ב - ייטלש, יששכר דב (Page 54 of 98)".
- Bava Kamma 80b
- Ketuvot 17b
This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Singer, Isidore; et al., eds. (1901–1906). "Papa". The Jewish Encyclopedia. New York: Funk & Wagnalls. It has the following bibliography:
- Abraham Mordecai Piyorka, Toledot R. Papa, in Oẓar ha-Sifrut, 1896, v. 213-218;
- Heilprin, Seder ha-Dorot, pp. 315–317, Warsaw, 1882;
- Grätz, Gesch. 3d ed., iv. 338, where he is erroneously called "Papa b. Hanan";
- Bacher, Ag. Pal. Amor. pp. 141–143.