Sora, called also Matta Mechassio, a town on the Euphrates, about twenty-two parasangs south of Pumbaditha, is famous in Jewish history as the seat of a renowned academy, which was inaugurated A.D. 219 by Abba Areka, more commonly known by his scholastic title of Rab (q.v.). Rab died in 247 at Sora, where for twenty-eight years he had presided over the Soranic school, remarkable for the pleasantness of its site and accommodations, and numbering, at times, from a thousand to twelve hundred students. Rab's successor in Sora was R. Huna (born about 212; died in 297), a distinguished scholar of Rab's. His learning contributed to sustain the reputation of the school, which could, under him, yet number eight hundred students. After an administration of forty years Huna died, and the rectorship was filled by Jehudah bar-Jecheskel, who died in 299. Bar- Jecheskel was succeeded by R. Chasda of Kaphri (born in 217; died in, 309), a scholar of Rab. Although the colleague of Huna for many years, he was far advanced in life — eighty years of age — when he attained the rectorship, the duties of which he discharged for ten years, and died in 309 at the age of ninety-two. Chasda, who was the last of the men who had been personally instructed by Rab, was succeeded by a scholar of his own,
Rabba bar-Huna Mare, in the rectory, and when A.D. he died the college was without a rector for nearly fifty years ............................... 309-320
Ashi ben-Simai, surnamed Rabbana (our teacher), resuscitated the college of Sora, and was its rector fifty-two years, during which time seven rectors died in Pumbaditha. Ashi immortalized his name by collecting the Babylonian Talmud........................................... 375-427
R. Jemar, or Mar-Jemar, contracted Maremar, succeeded R. Ashi as rector of the college......... 427-432
R. Idi bar-Abin, his successor .................... 432-452
R. Nachman bar-Huna, who is not once mentioned in the Talmud, held the office............... 452-455
Mar bar-R. Ashi, continued collecting the Talmud, which his father began, and officiated....... 455-468
Rabba Tusphah succeeded Mar bar-R. Ashi........ 468-474
Sora, where one of the oldest Jewish academies stood, was now destroyed by the Persian king Firuz.
After the death of Firuz (485), the academy was reopened, and Rabina occupied the rectory of Sora 488-499
In connection with R. Jose of Pumbaditha, and other scholars of that time, they completed the Talmud Dec. 2, 499. For the next one hundred and fifty years Jewish chronology leaves us in the lurch, as this period was rather troublesome for the Jews; and from the middle of the 7th century the presidents of the Soranic school are styled Gaon — i.e. Excellence — a word which is either of Arabic or Persian origin. The first gaon is—
Mar Isaac — cir. 65-670 He was succeeded by— Huna — 670-60 Mar Sheshna ben-Tachlipha. — 680-689 MarChaninai of Nehar Pakoir — 689-697 Nahilai Halevi of Nares — 697-715. Jacob of Nahar-Pakor — 715-732 Mar ben-Samuel — 733-751 Mari Ha-kohen — 751-759 R. Acha — a few months R. Jehudah the Blind — 759-762 Achunai Kahana ben-Papa — 762-765 Chaninai Kahana ben-Huna — 765-775 Mari Ha-Levi ben-Mesharhaja — 775-778 Bebai Halevi ben-Abba — 778-788 Hilai ben-Mari — 788-797 Jacob ben-Mardocai — 797-811 Abumai ben-Mardocai — 811-819 Zadok, or Isaac ben-Ashi — 819-821 Halia ben-Chaninai — 821-824 Kirnoj ben-Ashi — 824-827 Moses ben-Jacob — 827-837 Interregnum — 837-839 Mar Cohen Zedek I, ben-Abimal — 839-849
the author of the first collection of the Jewish order of prayers (טידור).
Mar Sar-Shalom ben-Boas — 849-859 Natronai II, ben-Hilai, the first gaon who used the Arabic language in his correspondence — 859-869 Mar Amram ben-Sheshna — 869-881 Nachshon ben-Zadok (q.v.) — 881-889 Mar Zemach ben-Chajim — 889-895 R. Malchija — only one month Hai ben-Nachshon — 895-906
The Soranic academy loses its importance under the next president— Hilai ben- Mishael — 906-914 It lingers on, but without any outside influence. The study of the Talmud had so diminished at this academy that there was no Talmudic authority worthy of being invested with the gaonate, or presidency. In order not to give up this school entirely, Jacob ben-Natronal-Amram was elected — 914-926
For want of a learned man, a weaver was elected as the next incumbent — Jom-Tob Kahana ben-Jacob-Hai-ben-Kimai — 926-928 Against the customary usage, after Jom-Tob's death, an outsider was elected for the rectorship,
Saadia ben-Joseph (q.v.);..................... 928-932
Under Saadia the Soranic high school revived again. Saadia, unwilling to become a blind tool in the hands of those who called him to his position, was deposed in 930 through the jealousy of others and his own unflinching integrity; and an anti-gaon in the person of Joseph ben-Jacob ben-Satia was elected — 930-932
Saadia, however, retained his office in the presence of an anti-gaon for nearly three years more (930-933), when he had to relinquish his dignity altogether. His opponent,
Joseph ben-Jacob ben-Satia was now sole gaon — 933-937 but when deposed in 937, Saadia ben-Joseph was again incumbent — 937-949
When Saadia died, the deposed anti-gaon was again elected — 942-948
But with Saadia's death the last sunset light of the Soranic academy had passed away; and the dilapidated state of that once so famous school obliged Joseph ben-Satia to relinquish Sora, and to emigrate to Bassra, in 948. The school founded by Rab, after it had flourished for more than seven hundred years, was now closed. But the Soranians, it seems, could not get over the downfall of the venerable academy, and used all their endeavors to continue the same. They sent four famous Talmudists outside of Babylonia to interest the Jewish congregations for this old alma mater. But these messengers never returned; they fell into the hands of a Spanish corsair. Among these captives was Moses ben-Chanoch (q.v.), who was brought to Spain, where he propagated Jewish learning on the peninsula. In the meantime there was an
Interregnum at Sora from — 948-1009 when Samuel ben-Chofni — 1009-1034 was elected to the presidency, to close up the list of presidents of that old school.
See Gratz, Gesch. d. Juden, 4, 5, 6. SEE SCHOOLS, JEWISH. (B.P.)