Ḥama Bar Ḥanina

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ḤAMA BAR ḤANINA (third century), Palestinian amora. He lived in the period of Judah Nesi'ah (Shab. 38a), the grandson of Judah Ha-Nasi (but cf. tj, Shab. 3:1, 5d for a different reading), and may have headed an academy at *Sepphoris as his father *Ḥanina b.*Ḥama had done (tj, Shab. 6:2, 8a). Like his ancestors Ḥama was wealthy and built a synagogue in Sepphoris (tj, Pe'ah 8:9, 21b). One of his close friends was *Oshaiah, and once, while visiting the synagogues of Lydda with him, Ḥama exclaimed: "What vast treasures have my ancestors sunk here [in erecting the synagogue]." Oshaiah responded: "How many lives have your ancestors sunk here! For were there not many needy people here who studied Torah in great poverty?" (tj, Pe'ah 8:9, 21b; Shek. 21a). Although often mentioned as participating in halakhic discussions (Shab. 147b; tj, Shab. 5:3,7c et al.), he distinguished himself particularly in the field of aggadah. Many of his homilies are quoted in his name by the aggadist R. Levi ii, especially in Midrash*Tanḥuma. He explained the curtailed form of the Divine name and the word for "throne" in Exodus 17:16 to teach that as long as Amalek's offspring exist, God's name and throne are not complete (Tanḥ. B., Deut. 45), and Psalms 29:4, to the effect that at the Revelation at Mount Sinai, God spoke to the young and strong with power, whereas to the old and weak with majesty (Song R. 5:16).

Commenting on Deuteronomy 13:5, "Ye shall walk after the Lord your God," he asked: "How can man walk after God, of whom it is written 'The Lord thy God is a consuming fire'?" (Deut. 4:24) and explained that it comes to teach that "as God clothed the naked [i.e., Adam], visited the sick [i.e., Abraham after his circumcision], comforted the mourning [i.e., Isaac after the death of his father], and buried the dead [i.e., Moses], so should man pursue similar deeds of lovingkindness in imitation of God's ways" (Sot. 14a). Among his many other beautiful statements in the aggadah may be mentioned, "If a man sees that he prays and is not answered, he should pray again" (Ber. 32b) and "Great is penitence for it brings healing to the world" (Yoma 86a). He expounded Proverbs 18:21, "death and life are in the power of the tongue," to teach that by the power of speech a man can kill another man even at a distance (Ar. 15b). Hyman distinguishes between two scholars by the same name, the second one being the pupil of R. *Ḥiyya b. Abba (an amora of the third generation, c. 290–320).


Bacher, Pal Amor; Hyman, Toledot, 460–1; Ḥ. Albeck, Mavo la-Talmudim (1969), 237f.