The Father of Samuel, Abba bar Abba, was one of the greatest scholars of his time, in Nehardea, Babylon. He was quite wealthy, dealing with silk.

The venerable Tanna, Rabbi Judah ben Betheirah, who lived in Netzivin, once sent a message to Abba bar Abba, saying that he would like to buy some silk from him. A short while later, Abba bar Abba went to Netzivin and brought the silk for him. Rabbi Judah ben Betheirah asked in astonishment: "But I did not buy the silk for you. I just mentioned it."

"Your word is more trusted by me than money," Abba bar Abba replied.

The elderly Tanna blessed him that he should be granted a son who should be as trusted by the Jews as was Samuel the Prophet. The blessing was fulfilled.

Despite the fact that Samuel's father was himself well known, Samuel was so famous that his father used to be referred to as "Samuel's father!"

Already as a child Samuel was most particular about observing the Mitzvoth, especially that of washing his hands before meals. The story is told that the little Samuel came home crying. His father inquired: "Why are you crying?" Samuel replied: "Because my teacher hit me." "Why did he hit you?" his father continued. "Because he told me to give his little boy to eat, and I had not washed my hands," was the reply. "And why did you not wash your hands?" his father asked. Samuel answered: "That he eats and I should wash my hands?!"

Samuel's father started to teach him himself and his progress gained by leaps and bounds. Samuel possessed exceptional qualities and he studied with great intensity.

Apart from his greatness, in Torah, Samuel was also famous for his wisdom and knowledge of astronomy and medicine. He was called "Samuel Yarchinoi" (Samuel the Astronomer). He himself once claimed: "The paths of the heavens are as familiar to me as are the streets of Nehardea." He was renowned also for his knowledge of medicine, and his prescriptions (cures) were highly esteemed.

Samuel, having acquired an abundance of Torah knowledge, went to Eretz Yisroel to receive "Semichoh" (Special Rabbinical authority) from Rabbi Judah the Prince. Rabbi Judah the Prince suffered an eye ailment and Samuel cured him. There were various reasons, however, that prevented Rabbi Judah from giving him "Semichoh." When Rabbi Judah was troubled by this, Samuel calmed him saying: "I saw Adam's book where the great scholars of all generations are listed. It is written there: "Samuel Yarchinoi will be called "Chochom" (wise man) but not Rabbi (teacher) and Rabbi Judah will be healed by him."

When Samuel returned to Nehardea he was already quite famous and he was chosen to be a Dayan (Judge) Rav and Samuel were the greatest scholars in Babylon, and the scholars in Eretz Yisroel referred to them as "Our teachers in Babylon."

When Rav Shilah, dean of Nehardea, died, Rav did not wish to take his place, as Samuel lived in that town. Rav went to Sura, where he established a great Yeshivah. Samuel became dean of the Yeshivah in Nehardea. Thousands of students studied under Rav and Samuel in the two great Torah Academies and Babylon became a great Torah, center.

Thanks to his great wisdom, Samuel became friendly with Shvur Malkoh, king of Persia. The king once said to him: "As you are such a wise man, tell me what I am going to dream about tonight?" Samuel replied: "You will dream that the Romans have captured you and put you to work in a golden mill." The king walked around the rest of the day in a troubled state of mind, deep in thought about the dream that Samuel had foreseen for him. That night he actually did dream as Samuel had foretold.

Samuel instituted many important laws and together with Rav arranged and composed various prayers. The prayer "Vatodeaynu" that is said on Saturday night when Sunday is a Festival, is one example of the prayers they composed.

A great Persian scholar, an astrologer called Ablat, became friends with Samuel.

They were once sitting and talking together. They noticed some people who were going to cut some grass. Ablat remarked to Samuel: "There goes a man who will not return alive, because the stars show me that a snake will bite him and he will die."

Samuel replied: "If that person is a Jew, he mill return safe and sound, because a Jew's fate depends on his deeds and not on the stars."

Later on they saw that man return. Apparently nothing had harmed him. Ablat stood up, went over to him and shook the bundle of grass that the man was carrying on his shoulders. A snake cut in two fell out of the bundle! It was obvious that the snake had been ready to strike him, but some special merit had saved this man from certain death.

Samuel inquired of him: "What special good deed did you perform, that saved your life?"

The Jew replied: "We workers always put our bread into one basket and eat it together. Today I noticed that one of the workers, a poor man, had no bread to put in the basket as his portion. What did I do? I volunteered to collect the bread from everyone and when I approached the poor man, I pretended to take some bread from him also, and later gave him a portion together with everyone else, so that he should not feel ashamed..."

Samuel told him: "You performed a very great deed," and then Samuel proceeded to deliver a sermon praising the good worker, and remarked that the verse "Charity delivers from death," is referring to exactly such a case.

When Rav died, no successor was appointed in Sura, out of respect for Samuel, and all of Rav's disciples turned to Samuel for inspiration as they previously had turned to Rav. Only after Samuel's death was Rav Huna appointed dean in Sura, being Rav's senior disciple, and Rav Judah then established a Yeshivah in Pumbeditha.