Hanina bar Hama
(died ca. 250) (Hebrew
: חנינא בר חמא
) was a Jewish Talmudist
frequently quoted in the Babylonian
and the Jerusalem Talmud
, and in the Midrashim
He is generally cited by his prænomen alone (R. Ḥanina), but sometimes with his patronymic (Ḥanina b. Ḥama), and occasionally with the cognomen "the Great" ("ha-Gadol"; Ta'an. 27b; Pesiḳ. R. v. 15a). Whether he was a Palestinian by birth and had only visited Babylonia, or whether he was a Babylonian immigrant in Palestine, cannot be clearly established. In the only passage in which he himself mentions his arrival in Palestine he refers also to his son's accompanying him (Yer. Soṭah i. 17b), and from this some argue that Babylonia was his native land. It is certain, however, that he spent most of his life in Palestine, where he attended for a time the lectures of Bar Ḳappara and Ḥiyya the Great (Yer. Sheb. vi. 35c; Yer. Niddah ii. 50a) and eventually attached himself to the academy of Judah I. Under the last-named he acquired great stores of practical and theoretical knowledge (Yer. Niddah ii. 50b), and so developed his dialectical powers that once in the heat of debate with his senior and former teacher Ḥiyya he ventured the assertion that were some law forgotten, he could himself reestablish it by argumentation (Ket. 103b).
Relations with Judah I
Judah loved him, and chose him in preference to any other of his disciples to share his privacy. Thus when Antoninus
once visited Judah, he was surprised to find Ḥanina in the chamber, though the patriarch had been requested not to permit any one to attend their interview. The patriarch soothed his august visitor by the assurance that the third party was not an ordinary man (Ab. Zarah
10a). No doubt Ḥanina would have been early promoted to an honorable office had he not offended the patriarch by an ill-judged exhibition of his own superior familiarity with Scriptural phraseology (see Hamnuna
of Babylonia). However, the patriarch, on his death-bed, instructed Gamaliel
, his son and prospective successor, to put Ḥanina at the head of all other candidates (Yer. Ta'an.
iv. 68a; comp. Ket.
103a). Ḥanina modestly declined advancement at the expense of his senior Efes
, and even resolved to permit another worthy colleague, Levi b. Sisi
, to take precedence. Efes was actually principal of the academy for several years, but Sisi withdrew from the country, at which time Ḥanina assumed the long-delayed honors (ib.; Shab.
59b). He continued his residence at Sepphoris
, where he became the acknowledged authority in Halakah
i. 46a; Yer. Beẓah
i. 60a; Yer. Giṭ.
iv. 46b), and where also he practised as a physician (Yoma
49a; comp. Yer. Ta'an.
According to Hanina, 99% of fatal diseases result from colds, and only 1% from other troubles (Yer. Shab.
xiv. 14c). He therefore would impress mankind with the necessity of warding off colds, the power to do so, he teaches, having been bestowed upon man by Providence (B. M.
107b). But neither his rabbinical learning nor his medical skill gained him popularity at Sepphoris. When a pestilence raged there, the populace blamed Ḥanina for failing to stamp it out. Ḥanina heard their murmurs and resolved to silence them. In the course of a lecture, he remarked, "Once there lived one Zimri, in consequence of whose sin twenty-four thousand Israelites lost their lives (see Num.
xxv. 6-15); in our days there are many Zimris among us, and yet ye murmur!" On another occasion, when drought prevailed, the murmurs of the Sepphorites again became loud. A day was devoted to fasting and praying, but no rain came, though at another place, where Joshua ben Levi
was among the suppliants, rain descended; the Sepphorites therefore made this circumstance also to reflect on the piety of their great townsman. Another fast being appointed, Ḥanina invited Joshua b. Levi to join him in prayer. Joshua did so, but no rain came. Then Ḥanina addressed the people: "Joshua b. Levi does not bring rain down for the Southerners, neither does Ḥanina keep rain away from the Sepphorites: the Southerners are soft-hearted, and when they hear the word of the Law, they humble themselves, while the Sepphorites are obdurate and never repent" (Yer. Ta'an.
As a haggadist Ḥanina was prolific and resourceful—often, indeed, epigrammatic. Among his ethical aphorisms are the following:
- "Everything is in the power of Heaven, except the fear of Heaven." He bases this doctrine of free will on the Scriptural dictum, "And now, Israel, what doth the Lord thy God require (Hebr. שאל = "request") of thee, but to fear the Lord thy God" (Deut. x. 12; Ber. 33b).
- With reference to Ps. lxxiii. 9, "They set their mouth against the heavens, and their tongue walketh through the earth," he says, "In general, man sins either against the sojourner on earth or against Heaven, but the evil-tongued sins against both" (Eccl. R. ix. 12; comp. Yer. Peah. i. 16a).
- "Whoso avers that God is indulgent (that is, leaves sin unpunished) will find the reverse in his own life's experience; God is long-suffering, but 'his work is perfect: for all his ways are judgment'" (Deut. xxxii. 4; B. Ḳ. 50a). He predicts everlasting punishment for him who seduces a married woman, or who publicly puts his neighbor to shame, or who calls his neighbor by a nickname (B. M. 58b).
His family and pupils
Of Hanina's family, one son, Shibḥat, or Shikḥat, died young (B. Ḳ.
91b), but another, Ḥama, inherited his father's talents and became prominent in his generation (see Ḥama b. Ḥanina
). One of his daughters was the wife of a scholar, Samuel b. Nadab by name (Ar.
16b); another died during Ḥanina's lifetime, but he shed no tears at her death, and when his wife expressed astonishment at his composure he told her that he feared the effects of tears on his sight (Shab.
151b). He lived to be very old, and retained his youthful vigor to the last. He attributed his extraordinary vitality to the hot baths and the oil with which his mother had treated him in his youth (Ḥul.
24b). In his longevity he recognized a reward for the respect he had shown his learned elders (Eccl. R.
vii. 7). Among his pupils were such men as Johanan b. NappaḤa
and Eleazar II
, both of whom became rabbinical authorities in their generation, and in whose distinction he lived to rejoice. One morning, while walking, leaning on the arm of an attendant, Ḥanina noticed throngs of people hurrying toward a certain place. In answer to his inquiry, he was informed that R. Johanan was to lecture at the academy of R. Benaiah, and that the people were flocking thither to hear him. Ḥanina thereupon exclaimed, "Praised be the Lord for permitting me to see the fruit of my labors before I die" (Yer. Hor.
Jewish Encyclopedia bibliography
- Bacher, Ag. Pal. Amor. i. 1 et seq.;
- Frankel, Mebo, p. 86b;
- Grätz, Gesch. 2d ed., iv. 254 et seq.;
- Heilprin, Seder ha-Dorot, ii. 74d, Warsaw, 1897;
- Halévy, Dorot ha-Rishonim, ii. 129b et seq.;
- Weiss, Dor, iii. 44 et seq.;
- Zacuto, Yuḥasin, ed. Filipowski, pp. 141b et seq.