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Many times throughout the Gemara we come across the term אבוה דשמואל "the father of Shmuel". I was wondering if we know what his real name was? And why he is referred to by his son’s name?

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The sefer Toldos Tannaim and Amoraim here says that his name is Abba bar Abba. He adds that in the Gemora Bavli he is nearly always referred to as the Father of Shmuel, and in the Gemora Yerushalmi he is nearly always called Abba bar Abba.

As to the reason for this appellation, he brings the explanation of the sefer Eshkol (Hilchos Mikvaos para. 59) that it is because Shmuel was greater in Torah and wisdom than his father.

But the author thinks that it is more likely because of the story that is brought in the sefer Halachos Gedolos (Hilchos Gittin) and also briefly in Tosafos in Kiddushin 73a, that the father of Shmuel once traveled to Eretz Yisrael from Bavel and encountered a Modian woman who knew the language of birds, and she said to him that if he sleeps with her she will give him a very large sum of money, because she knew that that night he was to sire a very great person.

But he fled from there to his home using one of Hashem’s holy names and slept with his wife, and then returned to Eretz Yisrael. She became pregnant that night and gave birth to Shmuel.

The author suggests that because the story was widely known in Bavel, he was referred to as the father of Shmuel to testify that he was definitely the father of Shmuel and that Shmuel’s mother was not guilty of adultery (since he has been away from home for a long time when she became pregnant she was initially suspected of adultery).

  • This is explicitly mentioned in Brachot 18b. – Scimonster Nov 20 '14 at 18:49
  • @Scimonster What part? That his name was Abba bar Abba? – Shmuel Brin Nov 20 '14 at 21:28
  • @ShmuelBrin Yes. – Scimonster Nov 20 '14 at 21:28
  • I thought he's known as Ba in Yerushalmi – Shmuel Brin Nov 20 '14 at 21:28
  • @ShmuelBrin Yerushalmi-style Aramaic often dropped initial א sounds in writing. Like חד instead of אחד or לעזר instead of אלעזר etc. It's fundamentally the same name. – Double AA Nov 20 '14 at 21:30

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