Once upon a time, a non-Jew entered a Jewish store in Mehoza, and asked to purchase wine from the storeowner. The storeowner claimed that he had none to sell, but the non-Jew placed his hand in a vessel that contained wine and said “Are you telling me that this is not wine?!” In his anger, the storeowner took the vessel and poured it back into the barrel.
This case caused a major disagreement among the Sages of the Talmud. Rava ruled that the barrel of wine was permitted and could be sold to non-Jews, while Rav Huna bar Hinnena and Rav Huna bar Rav Nahman forbade it entirely. Rava made a public proclamation asserting that his ruling was correct; Rav Huna bar Hinnena and Rav Huna bar Rav Nahman did likewise. Later, Rava clarified his ruling, saying that the barrel of wine was permitted to be sold, although the value of the wine that the non-Jew had touched was forbidden.
Rava reports that when he arrived in Pumbedita, where this case was being discussed, Nahmani – which was actually the name of his peer, Abayye – brought numerous cases that proved that Rava had ruled incorrectly. For example, Abayye pointed out that Shmuel had ruled otherwise when discussing a similar case in Neharde’a, as had Rabbi Yohanan regarding a similar case in Tiberias. Although Rava responded that they may have ruled stringently in those cases because they were concerned that the communities there were not religious enough, Abayye argued that if anything, Neharde’a and Tiberias were more religious communities than Mehoza where Rava made his ruling. Ultimately the Gemara rules against Rava in this case.
Tiberias in Israel was a major Torah center beginning with the time of Rabbi Yehudah ha-Nassi, and for many years it served as the home of the Sanhedrin. Neharde’a in Bavel was one of the original settlements of Jews in Babylonia, and for generations it was known as a center of Torah and study halls. Mehoza, on the other hand, was a major port city and business center, whose inhabitants were known more for their financial success and business acumen than for their Torah knowledge.