Rav Huna

Rav Huna (Hebrew: רב הונא) was a Jewish Talmudist who lived in Babylonia, known as an amora of the second generation and head of the Academy of Sura; He was born about 216, [(212 according to Gratz)] passed away in 296-297 (608 of the Seleucidan era)). [Sherira Gaon, in Neubauer, "M. J. C." i. 30 or in 290 according to Abraham ibn Daud ("Sefer ha-Kabbalah," in Neubauer, l.c. p. 58)]


He lived in a town, [(Ta'an. 21b)] identified by Wiesener [("Scholien zum Babylonischen Talmud," ii. 193)] with Tekrit. [but read by Grätz (= "Diokart")] He was the principal pupil of Rav, under whom he acquired so much learning that one of Rava's three wishes was to possess Rav Huna's wisdom. [(M. K. 28a)] He was also styled "one of the Babylonian Hasidim," on account of his great piety. [(Ta'an. 23b)] The esteem in which he was held was so great that, though not of a priestly family, he read from the Torah on Shabbat and holy days the first passage, which is usually read by a Kohen (priest). Rav Ammi and Rav Assi, honored Palestinian Kohanim, considered Huna as their superior. [(Meg. 22a; Git. 59b)] Although Rav Huna was related to the family of the exilarch [(Sherira Gaon, l.c.)] he was so poor at the beginning of his career that in order to buy wine to consecrate the Shabbat he had to pawn his girdle. [(Meg. 27b)] But Rav blessed him with riches, and Rav Huna displayed great wealth at the wedding of his son Raba bar Rav Huna. [(ib.)] He owned numerous flocks of sheep, which were under the special care of his wife, "Hobah", [(B. K. 80a)] and he traveled in a gilded litter. [(Ta'an. 20b)] Rav Huna was very generous. When the houses of the poor people were thrown down by storms he rebuilt them; at meal-times the doors of his house would be left open, while his servants would call out: "He who is hungry, let him come and eat". [(ib.)]

In the Talmudic Academy

After Rav's death, Huna lectured in his stead in the Academy of Sura, but he was not appointed head until after the death of Rav's companion, Samuel. [(c. 256)] It was under Rav Huna that the Academy of Sura, which until then was called "sidra", acquired the designation of "mesivta" (yeshivah), with Rav Huna being the first "Resh Mesivta" (rosh yeshivah). [comp. Zacuto "Yuchasin," p. 118b, Königsberg, 1857; and see Talmudic Academies in Babylonia] Under Huna the academy increased considerably in importance, and students flocked to it from all directions; during his presidency their number reached 800, all supported by himself. [(Ket. 106a)] Their instant lecturers ("amora'e") were occupied in teaching them. When his pupils, after the lesson, shook their garments they raised so great a cloud of dust that when the Palestinian sky was overcast it was said, "Huna's pupils in Babylon have risen from their lesson". [(ib.)] Under Rav Huna, Palestine lost its ascendency over Babylonia; and on certain occasions he declared the schools of the two countries to be equal. [(Git. 6a; B. K. 80a)] In Babylonia, during his lifetime, the Sura academy held the supremacy. He presided over it for forty years, when he died suddenly, more than eighty years of age. [(M. K. 28a)] His remains were brought to Palestine and buried by the side of Hiyya Rabbah (. [ib. 25a)]

Rav Huna's principal pupil was Rav Chisda, who had previously been his companion under Rav. Other pupils of his whose names are given were: Abba bar Zavda, Rav Giddel, R. Helbo, R. Sheishet, and Huna's own son, Rabbah. [(Yeb. 64b)]

Method of deduction

He transmitted many of Rav's halakot, sometimes without mentioning Rav's name. [(Shab. 24a et al.)] His own halakot are numerous in the Babylonian Talmud, and although some of his decisions were contrary to Rav's, [(Shab. 21a, b, 128a)] he declared Rav to be the supreme authority in religious law. [(Niddah 24b)] Rav Huna's deductions were sometimes casuistical; he interpreted the text verbatim even where the context seems to prohibit such an interpretation, [(Shab. 20a; Men. 36a; et al.)] . According to Rav Huna, the halakah transmitted in the Mishnah and Baraita is not always to be taken as decisive. [(Ber. 24b, 59b)] He had some knowledge of medicine and natural history, and used his knowledge in many of his halakic decisions. [(Shab. 20a, 54b; Yeb. 75b)] He also interpreted many of the difficult words met with in the Mishnah and Baraita. [(Shab. 53b, 54b, et al.)]

Rav Huna as an aggadist

Rav Huna was equally distinguished as an aggadist, and his aggadot were known in Palestine, where they were carried by some of his pupils, Rav Zeira among them. His interpretation of Prov. xiv. 23, transmitted by Rav Zeira, is styled "the pearl". [(PesiK. ii. 13b; comp. Yer. Shab. vii. 2, where also many halakot of his are preserved, transmitted by Rav Zeira)] Many of his aggadot, showing his skill in Biblical exegesis, are found in the Babylonian Talmud, some in the name of Rav, some in his own. He took special pains to reconcile apparently conflicting passages, as, for instance, II Sam. vii. 10 and I Chron. xvii. 10. [(Ber. 7b)] He endeavored to solve the problem presented by the sufferings of the righteous, inferring from Isa. liii. 10 that God chasteneth those whom He loves. [(Ber. 5a)]


The following of Rav Huna's utterances may be given: "He who occupies himself with the study of the Law alone is as one who has no God". [(inferred from II Chron. xv. 3; 'Ab. Zarah 17b)] "When leaving the synagogue, one must not take long steps". [(Ber. 6b)] "He who recites his prayer behind the synagogue is called impious or "rasha". [(inferred from Ps. xii. 9 [A. V. 8] ; ib.)] "He who is accustomed to honor the Shabbat with light will have children who are scholars; he who observes the injunction of mezuzah will have a beautiful house; he who observes the rule as to the Tzitzit will have fine clothes; he who consecrates the Shabbat and the holy days as commanded will have many skins filled with wine". [(Shab. 23b)]

As a person

Rav Huna was very tolerant. He was also very modest. He was not ashamed, before he was rich, to cultivate his field himself, nor to return home in the evening with his spade on his shoulder. [(Meg. 28a)] When two contending parties requested him to judge between them, he said to them: "Give me a man to cultivate my field and I will be your judge". [(Ket. 105a)] He patiently bore Rav's hard words, because the latter was his teacher, [('Er. 15a; Yer. 'Er. i. 3)] but he showed on several occasions that a scholar must not humiliate himself in presence of an inferior. [(Ket. 69a; B. M. 33a)]

References and further reading

*Bacher, "Ag. Bab. Amor." pp. 52-60.
*Grätz, "Gesch". 3d ed., iv.291 et seq.
*Halevy, "Dorot Ha'Rishonim", ii.411 et seq (Hebrew).
*Heilprin, "Seder Ha'Dorot", ii (Hebrew).
*Lichtmann, in "Keneset Yisrael", iii.297-303.
*Weiss, "Dor", iii.182 et seq.


External links

* [http://www.chabad.org/library/article.asp?AID=112294 A biography of Rav Huna, from Chabad.org]

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