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ḤAMA:

Babylonian scholar of the fourth amoraic generation; contemporary of Papa (Ket. 86a), and successor of Naḥman b. Isaac in the rectorate of the academy at Pumbedita (356-377; Grätz, "Gesch." 2d ed., iv. 366; comp. Sherira's "Iggeret"). Coming from Nehardea (see B. B. 7b; Rashi ad loc.), he became known as "the amora of Nehardea" (Sanh. 17b). As rector of an academy many undecided cases were submitted to him, and his decisions have been approved by later generations as good law (B. B. 7b; Shebu. 48b). On one occasion, however, he signally failed, and was severely criticized. King Shabur inquired of him, "Where does your Law prescribe burial for the dead?" Ḥama found no answer. When Aḥa b. Jacob heard of Ḥama's failure, he exclaimed, "The world is ruled by fools! Why did he not quote the verse (Deut. xxi. 23), 'Thou shalt in any wise bury him that day'?" (Sanh. 46b). Ḥama made his living by "ṭarsha," i.e., selling goods to venders on credit and at the prices prevailing in the higher markets, but assuming the risks of transportation (B. M. 65a; comp. 69b).

Jost ("Gesch. des Judenthums und Seiner Sekten," ii. 197) erroneously identifies him with Ḥama b. Tobiah, who is said to have caused a priest's daughter to be burned for adultery (Sanh. 52b), contrary to the Pharisaic mode of execution and against the law abrogating capital punishment in the absence of the Great Sanhedrin (See Capital Punishment). This Ḥama was a later Babylonian amora, of whom nothing more is known.

Bibliography:
  • Halévy, Dorot ha-Rishonim, ii. 252;
  • Heilprin, Seder ha-Dorot, ii.;
  • Weiss, Dor, iii. 204.
S. S. S. M.
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