Together with Abbaye, his older fellow student in the academy of Pumbedita and future rival as a preeminent teacher, Rava brought Talmudic dialectics to an impressive height. Their many statements and halakhic controversies, preserved and conceivably reworked by later generations, are a central feature of the Babylonian Talmud. Rava’s gift for logical analysis enabled him to discover a host of analogies and Biblical support for numerous regulations of rabbinic law. In only half a dozen cases was Abbaye’s ruling rather than Rava’s accepted as authoritative. When Abbaye was chosen to head the Pumbedita Academy, Rava founded a new school in Mahoza which quickly gained renown and large numbers of students. After Abbaye’s death in 338, Mahoza absorbed the older academy's staff and pupils.
For Rava, the transmission and study of Torah in the broadest sense had the highest priority, and (like Abbaye) he also allied this to exemplary conduct. A teacher should be assigned no more than twenty- five pupils; fixed times were needed for study; and those attending his academy had an intensive schedule, which included not only the biannual assemblies providing “extension courses” for the general public but Sabbath afternoon lectures as well. Although "God created the Torah as an antidote to man’s evil inclination", Rava said, "the pursuit of wisdom should not be regarded as an end in itself: it must lead one to repentance and good deeds."
Like his colleague, Abbaye, Rava was fond of using apt sayings To drive home a lesson. He emphasized respect for the feelings of other people, individual responsibility, and psychological factors determining man’s behavior. The prestige which he enjoyed made him the hero of folk tales, Rava’s wealth and influence at the Persian court being used generously to defend the interests of scholars and of the Jewish population as a whole.
FROM THE SAYINGS OF RAVA
• A timely quotation is like bread to the starving.
• Whoever shames someone else in public forfeits a share in the world to come.
• Longevity, children, and sustenance depend on luck, not merit.
• A man is obligated to drink so much on Purinr that he can no longer tell the difference between “Cursed be Human” and “Blessed be Mordccai.”
• One does not meet trouble halfway.
• Rather allow yourself to be killed than commit murder [at a tyrant’s bidding]. Is your blood redder than the other man’s? Perhaps his blood is redder than yours
“Anyone whose inside does not match his outside is no true scholar,’’ Rava declared.