Skip to main content

Ḥiyya

ḤIYYA

ḤIYYA (also called Rabbah , "the Great"; end of the second century c.e.), tanna (bm 5a) during the transition period from the tannaim to the amoraim. Ḥiyya was born at Kafri, near Sura in Babylonia (Sanh. 5a). According to one talmudic tradition his family was descended from Shimei, the brother of David (Ket. 62b), but according to another from Shephatiah, the son of David's wife Abital (tj, Ta'an. 4:2, 68a). After he immigrated to Ereẓ Israel from Babylonia (Ket. 5a), his father, Abba b. Aḥa, died (Pes. 4a) and because of his country of origin the sages referred to him as "the Babylonian" (Gen. R. 26:4). He frequented Judah ha-Nasi's company, studied in his bet midrash (Shab. 66b; Ḥul. 16a; et al.) as well as under him personally (Ned. 41a), asked questions of him (TJ, Git. 7:10, 49a; et al.), and transmitted halakhic statements in his name. Judah ha-Nasi authorized him to act as a dayyan (Sanh. 5a) and once sent him to sanctify the new month (rh 25a). He was the outstanding pupil of Judah ha-Nasi, and the Talmud gives a large number of queries addressed to him (tj, Git. 7:10, 49a; bm 3:4., et al.). On one occasion Judah ha-Nasi was taken ill and forgot something which he had taught Ḥiyya, who reminded him of it (Ned. 41a). Ḥiyya also argued with his master on halakhah (tj, Pe'ah 8:4) and there are even instances of Judah ha-Nasi asking questions of Ḥiyya (Hor. 11b). Judah ha-Nasi himself once said to a pupil of his, "Disregard my reply and adopt that of Ḥiyya" (Av. Zar. 36b). Much is told about their relationship. Although on occasions Judah ha-Nasi adopted a critical attitude toward him (see mk 16b, et al.), he held him in exceptionally great esteem calling him: "A great man, a holy man" (Gen. R. 33:3). Ḥiyya was regarded as second in learning only to Judah ha-Nasi and hence the sages wondered why Judah ha-Nasi had not on his deathbed designated him as the head of his bet midrash. Some explained it as due to Ḥiyya's being so extensively engaged in mitzvot and in spreading knowledge of the Torah, but others think he may have predeceased Judah ha-Nasi (Ket. 103b).

Ḥiyya had his own bet midrash which was famous chiefly for its preoccupation with beraitot. These are quoted frequently in the Talmud, many of them having been taught by Ḥiyya himself (Ber. 24a; bk 4b), who also transmitted to Oshaiah, his pupil, beraitot which the latter taught in his own bet midrash. The productions of these two schools in this field were regarded as the most authoritative and accurate, so that it was said that any baraita which did not emanate from them was a defective version and not to be cited in the bet midrash as a refutation (Ḥul. 14a–b). These beraitot included additional explanations to Judah ha-Nasi's Mishnah as well as halakhic material which Judah ha-Nasi had excluded from his compilation. In it Ḥiyya incorporated not only statements that were based on a ruling he had personally heard from Judah ha-Nasi (tj, bm 5:7, 10c) but also some that were opposed to what Judah ha-Nasi had taught (Ket. 59b). Yet there was the well-known principle: "Since Rabbi Judah ha-Nasi has not taught this ruling, whence could Ḥiyya know it!" (Er. 92a; and parallel passages). A collection of beraitot on the halakhot of usury compiled in Ḥiyya's bet midrash is mentioned in Bava Meẓia (62b, 65b). In the view of S. Zvi Kaplan Sherira *Gaon the Tosefta constitutes the collection of Ḥiyya's beraitot (see: *Tosefta).

Ḥiyya enjoyed the status of both a tanna and an amora, this dual capacity of his being reflected in a discussion in Niddah 26a. As a tanna he was permitted to disagree with other tannaim and hence his statements are quoted in beraitot (Shab. 20a; Ḥul. 27a; et al.), and by virtue of his status as an amora a large number of his halakhic pronouncements are cited in statements of amoraim to be found in all the tractates of the Babylonian and Jerusalem Talmuds. Among the sages with whom Ḥiyya discussed halakhic subjects, either agreeing with or opposing their views, mention may be made of Ishmael b. Yose (tj, Er. 7:1), Yannai (tj, Ber. 4:5), Simeon b. Rabbi (Er. 72a; et al.), and Bar Kappara (Yev. 32b; et al.). Little is known of Ḥiyya's personal life. His wife Judith, described as a harsh woman (Kid. 12b), bore him twin sons, *Judah and *Hezekiah, who were apparently born in Babylonia, became famous sages and immigrated with their father to Ereẓ Israel (Suk. 20a). They also had twin daughters, Pazi and Tavi (Yev. 65b–66a), one of whom died in her youth after being betrothed to Judah ha-Nasi's son.

The most distinguished of Ḥiyya's pupils was *Rav (see Ḥul. 110a; Ker. 21a; et al.), the son of his brother on his father's side and of his sister on his mother's side (cf. Rosenthal, 281ff.). Ḥiyya intervened with Rabbi Judah ha-Nasi on his behalf (Sanh. 5a). The relative intellectual stature of these three is described in the Talmud in the following: "Rabbi (Judah ha-Nasi) was the tallest man in his generation and Ḥiyya reached to his shoulder; Ḥiyya was the tallest man in his generation and Rav reached to his shoulder" (Nid. 24b). Rav also acted as Ḥiyya's interpreter (Yoma 20b), that is, one who at length and in a popular style expounded what the preacher or lecturer had indicated to him in brief. Some of Ḥiyya's other pupils were his nephew, Rabbah bar Ḥanah, Ze'iri (Shab. 156a), and Judah b. Kenosa (bk 81b). Ḥiyya devoted himself to spreading knowledge of and teaching the Torah. He would write out the five books of the Pentateuch, take them to towns which had no teachers for the young, and there teach them to the children. Judah ha-Nasi said of this, "How great are the deeds of Ḥiyya" (Ket. 103b; and parallel passages). Apparently his sons also participated in this work, as can be seen from Resh Lakish's remark reflecting the vast esteem that the early Ereẓ Israel amoraim had for Ḥiyya's achievements in this field: "When the Torah was forgotten from Israel, Ezra came up from Babylonia and established it. When [some of it] was again forgotten, Hillel the Babylonian came up and established it. When [some of it] was once more forgotten, Ḥiyya and his sons came up and established it" (Suk. 20a). The Talmud refers to Ḥiyya's diligent study of the Torah (tj, Kel. 9:3) and his concern for orphans (bm 85b), his scrupulous consideration for the honor of others (Sanh. 11a), and his love of Ereẓ Israel (tj, Shev. 4:7). He would pray: "May it be Thy will that Thy Torah may be our occupation, that our heart may not grieve nor our eyes be darkened" (Ber. 16b). When Ḥiyya and his sons led the congregation in worship, their prayer was immediately answered (bm 85b). It was due to their merit that in Ereẓ Israel "shooting stars and earthquakes, storms and thunder ceased, wine did not turn sour, nor was flax blighted" (Ḥul. 86a).

Ḥiyya discoursed in public on halakhah (see Ket. 34a) and aggadah (tj, Sot. 1:4; et al.). His special method of exposition by the transposition of letters was known as "the Atbaḥ (אטב״ח) of R. Ḥiyya" (see Suk. 52b, and Rashi, ad loc.). Once, when seeing the first rays of dawn piercing the darkness, he said: "Even so is the redemption of Israel. At first it comes gradually, and the longer it continues, the greater it becomes" (tj, Ber. 1:1). Yet Ḥiyya declared: "The Holy One blessed be He knows that Israel is unable to endure the cruel decrees of Edom [Rome], and therefore He exiled them to Babylonia" (Pes. 87b). Because of this he sought, against the wishes of Judah ha-Nasi, to obtain independence in teaching for the sages of Babylonia, so that they should not be subject to the central authority, then still in Ereẓ Israel (Sanh. 5a). Moreover, Rav, Ḥiyya's nephew and the founder of the academy at Sura, one of the pillars of Jewish life in Babylonia, had apparently emigrated there on the initiative and with the encouragement of his uncle. He maintained that the "Holy of Holies," to which, according to the sages, the worshiper is to direct his heart when praying, refers to the "Holy of Holies above," that is, Heaven. He interpreted the place-name Mount Moriah as the site "from which fear goes forth," and not, as Yannai held, "from which teaching goes forth to the world" (tj, Ber. 4:5). These two sages' different interpretations of Jacob's dream in which he saw a ladder reaching to heaven (Gen. R. 68:12) is likewise related to these divergent approaches (cf. also Gen. R. 69:3). Ḥiyya's aggadic statements include remarks against imposing excessively restrictive measures: "You shall not make the fence higher than the essential object (the Torah), that it should not fall and destroy the shoots" (Gen. R. 19:3); and "Whoever rebelled against Divine justice did not emerge unscathed from under its hands" (Gen. R. 48:5). On the evil inclination he observed: "It is poor dough which the baker himself declares to be bad" (Gen. R. 34:10). Among his sayings is the statement originally made in connection with a halakhic problem: "The raven went to join the starling because it belongs to the same species" (ibid. 65:3). He was also the author of the saying: "Such is the punishment of a liar, that even if he tells the truth he is not listened to" (Sanh. 89b, and see Gen. R. 94:3). His extensive business dealings brought him into close touch with daily life. Thus it is known that he traded in silk (Gen. R. 77:2; cf. also bk 99b). His practical advice was: "A person should not put all his money in one corner" (Gen. R. 76:3). Legend embellished Ḥiyya's death (mk 28a). He was buried in a cave, in which his sons, Judah and Hezekiah were also interred on their death, one on each side of him (mk 25a). In the aggadah a graphic description is given of his great merit in the heavenly academy (see bm 85b; tj, Kel. 9:3).

bibliography:

Bacher, Tann.; Hyman, Toledot, 424–34; Ḥ. Albeck, Meḥkarim ba-Beraita u-va-Tosefta (1944), 27–43; idem, Mavola-Talmudim (1969), 144–8; Epstein, Mishnah, 24–40; P. Minzberg,Toledot R. Ḥiyya u-Vanav (1953); J. Liver, Toledot Beit David (1959), 26–32, 37–41; Z. Vilnay, Maẓẓevot Kodesh be-Ereẓ Yisrael (19632), 366–8; I. Konovitz, Ma'arakhot Tannaim, 2 (1967), 47–106; E.S. Rosenthal, in: Hanokh Yalon Jubilee Volume (Hebrew) (1963), 281–337.

[Zvi Kaplan]

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Ḥiyya." Encyclopaedia Judaica. . Encyclopedia.com. 23 Oct. 2018 <https://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Ḥiyya." Encyclopaedia Judaica. . Encyclopedia.com. (October 23, 2018). https://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/hiyya

"Ḥiyya." Encyclopaedia Judaica. . Retrieved October 23, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/hiyya

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.