Rav is considered as a Tanna and consequently has the right to dispute with a Tanna.” Rav was a transitional figure, between the Period of the Tannaim (Scholars of the Mishnah) and the later Period of the Amoraim (Scholars of the Gemara). Alternatively, one could say that he was the last Tanna and the first Amora.
Because of his exceptional height, he was also referred to as “Abba Aricha,” “Tall Abba;” his real name was Abba bar Aivu. Rav was also a transitional figure in that he transitioned between “Bavel,” Babylonia, where he was born, and the Land of Israel, or Palestine, where his uncle, Chiya, lived. As a young man, Rav moved from Bavel to Eretz Yisrael, where he studied under Chiya, and his genius brought him into the circle of Rabbi Yehudah HaNasi.
Later in life, he returned to Babylonia, where ultimately he founded his own Yeshiva (Torah Academy) in Sura, which soon became the center of Torah scholarship in Bavel (this institution lasted more than 700 years). There was another great Yeshiva, the Yeshiva of Nehardea, that was headed by Shmuel, his good friend and adversary in Torah disputes, many of which are recorded throughout the Talmud. The general rule regarding these disputes is that in ritual matters, the halachah is decided according to the opinion of Rav, while in disputes concerning monetary and civil matters, the halachah is decided according to the opinion of Shmuel.
Some of the observations of Rav recorded in the Talmud are:
– One must not eat before feeding his animals.
– Man will be judged in the World-to-Come regarding every pleasure that G-d created in This-World (that the Torah permits), that he refused to indulge in.
When Rav died, Shmuel said, “Gone is the one before whom I stood in awe.”