Ḥanina ben Dosa

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ḤANINA BEN DOSA (first century c.e.), tanna. Ḥanina lived in Arav in lower Galilee (north of the valley of Bet Netofah) and was a disciple-colleague of *Johanan b. Zakkai. More has been transmitted about his pious deeds and his wonders than about his dicta, and the little preserved is in the field of aggadah, confining itself to emphasis on the importance of good deeds: "He whose deeds exceed his wisdom, his wisdom shall endure; but he whose wisdom exceeds his deed, his wisdom will not endure. He in whom the spirit of his fellow creatures takes delight, in him the spirit of the All-present takes delight; and he in whom the spirit of his fellow creatures takes not delight, in him the spirit of the All-present takes not delight" (Avot 3:9–10). It was said of him "that he was praying when a scorpion bit him, but he did not interrupt his prayer. His pupils went and found it dead at the entrance to its hole. They said: Woe to the man bitten by a scorpion, but woe to the scorpion that bites Ben Dosa" (Tosef., Ber. 3:20; and cf. Ber. 5:5, TJ, Ber. 5:1 and Ber. 33a). Similarly it was said of him: "When Hanina b. Dosa died, men of deeds ceased and piety came to an end" (Sot. 9:15; cf. Tosef. Sot. 15:5). Of his wife too it was said that she resembled her husband in piety (BB 74b) and like him was "accustomed to miracles" (Ta'an. 25a). He was also praised for his integrity. The sages applied to him the phrase (Ex. 18:21) "men of truth" (Mekh., Malek 2). In the Talmud he was held up as an example of a completely righteous man (Ber. 61b), and described him as "one for whose sake God shows favor to his entire generation" (Hag. 14a). He refused to benefit from the property of others though he was destitute, and such remarkable things are related about this conduct that it was stated, "Every day a divine voice proclaims from Mt. Horeb: The whole world is sustained by the merit of my son Ḥanina, and Ḥanina my son subsists on a kav of carobs from one week to the next" (Ber. 17b). He was zealous in observing precepts: e.g., in the observance of the Sabbath, which he kept from midday on Friday (Gen. R. 10:8); in separating tithes (TJ, Dem. 1:3); and in returning lost property to its owner (Ta'an. 25a). His prayers were regarded as being specially accepted, and as a result he was frequently requested to pray for the sick and those in trouble (Ber. 34b; Yev. 121b). When the son of Johanan b. Zakkai fell ill, Ḥanina prayed for him and he recovered. Johanan b. Zakkai claimed that he himself would not have succeeded in achieving this and when his wife asked, "Is Ḥanina greater than you?" he replied, "No! but he is like a servant before the king, and I am like a courtier before the king" (Ber. 34b). The aggadah speaks extensively of the miracles that happened for him (Ta'an. 24b–25a; arn1 8, 38). On one Sabbath eve at twilight he saw his daughter sad. He said to her: "Why are you sad?" She replied: "I exchanged my vinegar can for my oil can, and I kindled the Sabbath light with vinegar (and it will be extinguished)." He said to her: "My daughter, why should this trouble you? He who commanded the oil to burn will also command the vinegar to burn" (Ta'an. 25a).


Bacher, Tann; Hyman, Toledot, s.v.; G.B. Zarfati, in: Tarbiz, 26 (1956/57), 130ff.; E.E. Urbach, Ḫazal (1969) index.

[Zvi Kaplan]