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HUNAʾ (c. 216c. 297) was a leading second-generation Babylonian amora, based in the city of Sura. Along with his colleague Yehudah bar Yeezqeʾl, Hunaʾ expanded the work of the first amoraim who employed the Mishnah to spread rabbinic Judaism. He focused directly on the Mishnah, clarifying it and citing alternative or disputing tannaitic sources. He played a key role in presenting the traditions of Rav, his main teacher (B.T., Shab. 128a), and, in explaining Rav's and, occasionally, Shemuʾel's dicta, he treated unclear legal points and new cases and developed independent teachings (Epstein, 1964). He instructed students and other rabbis in such diverse areas as ritual laws, ethics, and practical behavior (e.g., B.T., Ber. 6b, Shab. 23b, Pes. 105a). Stories, possibly reflecting educational developments, attribute outstanding features to his study sessions (B.T., Ket. 106a) and prominently associate him with the kallah, a periodic academic convention that lasted several days and was open to masters and disciples (Goodblatt, 1975, pp. 156157, 168).

In receiving exilarchic authorization to judge civil and property matters, Hunaʾ applied rabbinic principles in the marketplace and in such areas as divorce and inheritance (e.g., B.T., San. 7b; Neusner, 1968). Stories describe his pious acts for the poor and the sick (B.T., Taʿan. 20b21a), and a dictum claiming that "whoever only studies Torah resembles a person without God" (B.T., ʿA.Z. 17b) stresses the importance of good deeds. The Talmudic tradition, on the other hand, elevates his Torah study, in that its merit is what protected Hunaʾ from natural calamities and enabled him effectively to hurl curses (B.T., Moʿed Q. 27b, Taʿan. 20b).

He also emphasized the human inability wholly to know God's nature and ways (Gn. Rab. 12.1) and, like his contemporaries, saw both divine justice and mercy as well as reward and punishment at work (e.g., B.T., Ber. 7b, R. ha-Sh. 17b; Neusner, 1968, pp. 149158). The accounts of miraculous events attending his burial underscore the esteem Babylonian and Palestinian Jews held for Hunaʾ even after his death (B.T., Moʿed Q. 25a; cf. Neusner, 1968, pp. 5153). His exilarchic backing, however, laid the foundations on which he was able to build his influential career of piety and teaching.


A comprehensive treatment and bibliography of Hunaʾ and his teachings can be found in Jacob Neusner's A History of the Jews in Babylonia, 5 vols. (Leiden, 19661970), esp. vol. 3. Jacob N. Epstein's Mavoʾ le-nusah ha-Mishnah, 2 vols. (1948; reprint, Jerusalem, 1964), pp. 311318, discusses the attitude of Hunaʾ to tannaitic traditions and the Mishnah. See also David M. Goodblatt's Rabbinic Instruction in Sasanian Babylonia (Leiden, 1975) and my Samuel's Commentary on the Mishnah (Leiden, 1975), p. 217.

New Sources

Shapiro, Nathan. "Rav Huna's Views on Medicine and Public Health." Koroth 9 (1988): 262269.

Baruch M. Bokser (1987)

Revised Bibliography