Rav Chisda

Rabbinical Eras

Rav Chisda (Hebrew: רב חסדא) was a Jewish Talmudist who lived in Babylonia, known as an amora of the third generation (died in 320 of the Seleucidan era [1] at the age of ninety-two [2]), mentioned frequently in the Talmud.



Rav Chisda descended from a priestly family [3]. He studied under Rav, who was his principal teacher and after the latter's death he attended the lectures of Rav Huna, a companion of the same age. The pair were called "the Hasidim of Babylon" [4]. Rav Chisda was also among those called Tzadikim, those who could bring down rain by their prayers [2]. At first he was so poor that he abstained from vegetables because they increased his appetite [5] and when he walked in thorny places he raised his garments, saying: "The breaches in my legs will heal of themselves but the breaches in my garments will not" [6]. At the age of sixteen he married the daughter of Hanan b. Raba [7] and together they had seven or more sons and two daughters. Later, as a brewer, he became very wealthy [8]. One of his pupils, Raba, became his son-in-law [9].

In the Talmudic Academy

Rav Chisda was a great casuist [10], his acute mind greatly enhanced the fame of Rav Huna's school at Sura, but his very acuteness indirectly caused a rupture between himself and Rav Huna. The separation was brought about by a question from Rav Chisda as to the obligations of a disciple toward a master to whom he is indispensable. Rav Huna saw the point and said, "Chisda, I do not need thee; it is thou that needst me!". Forty years passed before they became reconciled [11]. Rav Chisda nevertheless held Rav Huna in great esteem, and although he had established a school built at his own expense in Mata Mehasya four years before Rav Huna's death [12], he never published any decision during the Rav Huna's lifetime[13]. Rav Huna came to recognize Rav Chisda's merit later and recommended his son Rabbah bar Rav Hunah to attend his lectures [14].

Rav Chisda also presided over the Academy of Sura for ten years following the death of Rav Yehuda [15], or following the death of Rav Huna, according to Abraham ibn Daud [16]. He always preserved great respect for the memory of Rav, whom he referred to as "our great teacher, may God aid him" [17]. Once, holding up the gifts which are given to the Kohen, he declared that he would give them to the man who could cite a hitherto unknown Halaka in the name of Rav [18].

His teachings

Rav Chisda's halakot are frequent in the Babylonian Talmud, some being given on the authority of his pupils. His principal opponent was Rav Sheshet. Besides deducing his halakot in a casuistic way, Rav Chisda was peculiar in that he derived his halakot less from the Pentateuch than from other parts of the Bible.

Rav Chisda was also an authority in aggadah, and employed special assistants to lecture in that department [19]. Many ethical sentences by him have been preserved [20], for students such as; "Forbearance on the part of a father toward his child may be permitted, but not forbearance on the part of a master toward his disciple" [21] and "He who opposes his master is as though he opposed the Shekinah" [22]. It was said that the Angel of Death, not being able to approach Rav Chisda because he never ceased from studying, cleft the trunk of a cedar-tree. Terrified by the noise, Rav Chisda interrupted his studies, whereupon the angel took his soul [23].

References and further reading

  • Bacher, Ag. Bab. Amor. pp. 61 et seq.;
  • Heilprin, Seder Ha'Dorot Hebrew, ii.;
  • Weiss, Dor, iii. 184.S. M. Sel.
  1. ^ = 308-309; Sherira Gaon, in Neubauer, "M. J. C." i. 30; in 300, according to Abraham ibn Daud, "Sefer ha-Kabbalah," in Neubauer, l.c. p. 58
  2. ^ a b (M. K. 28a)
  3. ^ (Ber. 44a)
  4. ^ (Ta'an. 23b)
  5. ^ (Shab. 140b)
  6. ^ (B. K. 91b)
  7. ^ (Kid. 29b)
  8. ^ (Pes. 113a; M. K. 28a)
  9. ^ (Niddah 61b)
  10. ^ ('Er. 67a)
  11. ^ (B. M. 33a)
  12. ^ (Sherira, l.c.)
  13. ^ ('Er. 62b)
  14. ^ (Shab. 82a)
  15. ^ (298-299; Sherira, l.c.)
  16. ^ (l.c.)
  17. ^ (Suk. 33a, passim)
  18. ^ (Shab. 10b)
  19. ^ ('Er. 21b)
  20. ^ (see especially Shab. 140b)
  21. ^ (Kid. 32a)
  22. ^ (Sanh. 110a)
  23. ^ (Mak. 10a)

External links

This article incorporates text from the 1901–1906 Jewish Encyclopedia article "Hisda" by Isidore Singer and M. Seligsohn, a publication now in the public domain.

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