Ḥiyya Bar Abba

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ḤIYYA BAR ABBA (tj: Bar Ba or Va ; third and the beginning of the fourth centuries c.e.), amora. Ḥiyya was born in Babylonia, of a priestly family (tj, Ber. 3:1, 6a) but migrated to Ereẓ Israel (Shab. 105b; bb 107b) where he was able to attend upon such Palestinian amoraim of the first generation as Ḥanina (tj, Hor. 3:4, 48b) and Joshua b. Levi (tj, Shab. 1:1, 3a). He was the outstanding pupil of Johanan in whose name he transmitted many halakhot (Shab. 105b; Er. 54a, et al.). He was known for being exceptionally precise in transmitting the words of his teacher, and every 30 days revised what he had studied in his presence (Ber. 38b). He also studied under R. Eleazar. Ḥiyya was very poor and left Ereẓ Israel in order to gain a livelihood. On the recommendation of Eleazar he was appointed by Judah ha-Nasi ii as his emissary to the Diaspora. In his letter of appointment Judah called him "a great man," to which another version adds: "wherein lies his greatness? – That he is not ashamed to say 'I have not heard'" (tj, Hag. 1:8, 76d). His mission apparently brought him back to Babylonia for a time and he had discussions with its scholars (Ber. 15a, et al.). He also visited Syria (tj, Meg. 3:1, 74a) and even reached Rome (tj, Ma'as. Sh. 4:1, 54d). Wherever he came he introduced necessary *takkanot, collected monies for the benefit of the yeshivah, and appointed heads of the community (tj, Pe'ah, 8:7, 21a). In Ereẓ Israel too he paid visits to many localities, and evinced a lively concern with the spiritual situation in the various places, dealing with communal needs, and preaching to the congregations. He visited Gavla, south of the Dead Sea (Yev. 46a), Tiberias (tj, Pes. 4:4, 31a), Sepphoris (tj, Ta'an. 4:9, 69b), and Tyre, where he apparently stayed for some time (tj, Av. Zar. 2:9, 42a, tj, Ber. 3:1, 6a). He had many sons who were scholars: Abba, the best-known (Ber. 5a); Jeremiah (Lev. R. 23:8); Kahana (tj, Shab. 1:7, 3d); and Nehemiah (tj, Ber. 3:1, 6a). Ḥiyya was essentially a halakhist (Sot. 40a): "R. Abbahu and R. Ḥiyya b. Abba once came to a certain place. R. Abbahu expounded aggadah and R. Ḥiyya b. Abba halakhah. All the people deserted R. Ḥiyya and went to hear Abbahu. Ḥiyya was upset, but Abbahu said to him: 'I will tell you a parable. To what is the matter like? To two men, one of whom was selling precious stones and the other cheap ware. To whom will the people hurry? Is it not to the seller of the cheap ware?'" Nevertheless aggadic statements are found in his name. He expounded the verse (Jer. 16:11): "they have forsaken Me and not kept My law" – "Would they were to forsake Me, providing that they keep My law, for as a result of occupying themselves with it, its light will bring them back to the right path" (Lam. R., Proem 2, see also tj, Hag. 1:7, 76c).


Bacher, Pal Amor; Frankel, Mevo, 81b–82b, 145b; Hyman, Toledot, s.v.; Ḥ. Albeck, Mavo la-Talmudim (1969), 236–7.

[Zvi Kaplan]