Hiyya bar Abba

For the Amora sage of the Land of Israel, of the 1st Amora Generation, see Rabbi Hiyya (Hiyya the Great).
For the Amora sage of Babylon, of the 2nd and 3d Amora Generation, and Dean of the Pumbedita Academy, see Huna b. Hiyya.

Hiyya bar Abba or Rabbi Hiyya (ca. 180-230 AD) (Hebrew: רבי חייא בר אבא) was an amoraic sage of priestly descent of the latter Mishnaic period. Active in Tiberias, Hiyya was the primary compiler of the tosefta. He was the uncle of Abba Arika.

In the Jerusalem Talmud he is also called Ḥiyya bar Ba or Ḥiyya bar Wa (Yer. Berakhot iii.6a, iv.7d); and in both Talmuds he is frequently mentioned merely as R. Ḥiyya, the context showing that Hiyya bar Abba is meant. Though a native of Babylon, where, perhaps, for a very short time he came under the influence of Samuel of Nehardea (Weiss, "Dor," iii.94), he migrated to Palestine at a very early age. There he studied under Ḥanina and Joshua ben Levi, and came into very close contact with Simeon bar Laḳish. He is, moreover, known as a disciple of Rabbi Johanan, after whose death he and his friends Ammi and Assi were the recognized authorities on the Halakah in Palestine.

Ḥiyya was distinguished for the care with which he noted the sayings of his masters (Ber. 38b), and in questions of doubt as to the phraseology of a tradition the version of Ḥiyya was preferred (Ber. 32b, 38b). Though he was the author of many aggadot, he denounced every attempt to collect and commit them to writing, and upon seeing such a collection he cursed the hand that wrote it (Yer. Shab. xvi.15c). His interest was centered in Halakhah, in the knowledge of which he probably excelled all his Palestinian contemporaries. Together with Ammi and Assi, he formed a court of justice before which a certain woman named Tamar was tried. The sentence involved Ḥiyya and his associates in difficulty, and might have had disastrous results had not Abbahu promptly come to their assistance (Yer. Meg. iii.74a).

Ḥiyya was very poor, and therefore was compelled to go lecturing from town to town in search of a livelihood; he even temporarily left Palestine (Yer. Ma'as. Sh. v.56b). He was greatly annoyed that the lecturer on aggadah drew a larger audience than he (see Jew. Encyc. i.36, s.v. Abbahu). Through stress of poverty he accepted a commission from Judah II to collect money to defray the expenses of the decaying patriarchate. The esteem in which Ḥiyya was held is manifested in the credentials obtained for him by Eleazar ben Pedath: "Behold, we have sent you a great man, our envoy. Until his return he possesses all the powers that we do." According to another version the introduction ran: "Behold, we have sent you a great man. His greatness consists in this, that he is not ashamed to say 'I know not' " (Yer. Ḥag. i.76d; Yer. Ned. x.42b). At another time Ḥiyya, Ammi, and Assi were appointed by Judah II to visit the various communities in Palestine, with the view of reawakening interest in the study of the Law (Yer. Ḥag. i.76c).

Ḥiyya had several brothers: R. Nathanha-Kohen, also known as R. Kohen (or R. Nathan) b. Abba; Rabbannai, or R. Bannai; and R. Simeon ben Abba. He had several children, among whom were R. Abba, R. Kahanah, and R. Nehemiah.

  Rabbis of the Mishnah : Chronology & Hierarchy v · d · e
Gamaliel the Elder
Johanan b. Zakai
R. Gamaliel
Jose the Galilean
Eliezer b. Hyrcanus
Joshua b. Hananiah
Eleazar b. Arach
Eleazar b. Azariah
Elisha b. Abuyah
Ishmael b. Elisha
Judah b. Ilai
Jose b. Halafta
Shimon b. Yohai
Judah the Prince


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