Jeremiah ben Abba and Kahana

The Tombs of Jeremiah ben Abba and Kahana

Rabbi Jeremiah ben Abba

Rabbi Jeremiah is credited with giving the name Tiberias a religious interpretation, he said that Tiberias is the centre (tabur in-Hebrew) of Israel. (Megillah 6a) ln his time Tiberias was Israel’s spiritual centre.

Rabbi Jeremiah headed one of its academies, at one time but was suspended for excessive hair-splitting, as the following story relates. The Talmud discusses the question of ownership of a dove found far from its cote. The rabbis ruled that if it is found within 50 cubits of the cote, the dove is the property of the cote’s owner; if it is found beyond 50 cubits, it belongs to the finder. Rabbi Jeremiah asked, ‘If the bird is found with one foot within and the other foot beyond 50 cubits, what is the law?’ The other rabbis threw him out of the yeshiva. (Baba Batra23b)

Rabbi Jeremiah taught that ‘he who is occupied with communal affairs is as worthy as he who engages in Torah study.’ (Jerusalem Talmud, Brachot 5:1) He wrote in his will, ‘Clothe me in a white garment, put socks and shoes on my feet, a staff in my hand, and lay me on my side. When the Messiah comes I shall be ready.” (Jerusalem Talmud, Kilaim 9:4)

Rabbi Jeremiah came to Israel from Babylonia. At this time there was great rivalry between the academies of Israel and Babylonia. Once Rabbi Jeremiah’s Babylonian contemporaries were discussing the relative wisdom of Babylonian and Israeli rabbis. One said, ‘One rabbi in Israel is worth two Babylonian rabbis.’ The other replied, ‘When one of us emigrates (to Israel) he is worth two of them. Take Rabbi Jeremiah, for example: when he lived here he didn’t understand the sages at all, but since emigrating he refers to us as the stupid Babylonians.” (Ketubot 75a)

Rabbi Kahana

Rabbi Kahana was a prominent Babylonian rabbi of the third century. Before coming to Israel his teacher instructed him to ‘flay carcasses in the market and earn wages, and don’t say ‘I am a priest and a great man and it is beneath my dignity [to engage in manual labor].’  (Pesachim 117a)

Rabbi Kahana journeyed from Babylonia to meet Rabbi Yochanan. Because Rabbi Kahana’s lips parted naturally in a way that Rabbi Yochanan thought mocking, he snubbed the visitor.

Rabbi Kahana became so distressed that he died. When Rabbi Yochanan discovered his fault he came to this cave to apologize. A snake guarded the cave’s entrance and Rabbi Yochanan called to it, ‘Let the teacher pass to meet the student’ The snake ignored him. Then Rabbi Yochanan called, “Let the scholars meet.” Again the snake ignored him. When Rabbi Yochanan called, ‘Let the student pass to meet the teacher’ the snake moved aside. Rabbi Yochanan entered the cave and resurrected Rabbi Kahana. (Baba Kama 117a)

Location: Near to the Rimonim Mineral Hotel Tiberias. From the main driveway, continue to the top of the hill, and park in the small lot to the right.  Climb the stairs, turn right and walk about ten metres (to the second tree stump). Leave the path and head towards the white dome up the hill. Cross two pipes and some barb Wire. The grave, cut into the mountain side, is marked by the dome.