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ḤAMA B. BISA (BISAI):

Amora of the third century, who formed the middle link of a scholarly trio, and who exceeded his predecessor, as his successor in turn exceeded him, in the acquisition of knowledge. Like many other students, he left home and family, being gone twelve years. When he returned, fearing to startle his family, he went first to the local bet ha-midrash, whence he sent word to them of his arrival. While there his young son Hoshaiah soon engaged him in a discussion, neither knowing the other. Ḥama, admiring the logical bent of the young man's mind, sorrowfully reflected on his long absence from home, where he himself might have raised such a son. He at last went to his house, and there, while seated beside hiswife, he saw enter his late interlocutor at the bet ha-midrash. Surmising that he had come to continue the discussion, Ḥama rose to receive him, whereupon his wife surprised him by exclaiming, "Does a father ever rise before a son?" (Ket. 72a). On another occasion father and son were discussing a point of civil law. They disagreed and submitted their views to Bisa, the father of Ḥama, who sided with Hoshaiah. On this occasion Rami b. Ḥama expressed the hope that in the learned trio would be fulfilled the Scriptural saying, "A threefold cord is not quickly broken" (Eccl. iv. 12; B. B. 59a).

According to the tosatists (B. B. 59a, s.v. "Weha-Ḥuṭ"), the Hoshaiah here cited is identical with Hoshaiah Rabbah. Bacher ("Ag. Pal. Amor." i. 89) adopts this view, but Frankel ("Mebo," p. 85b) rightly questions its tenability. There is no doubt that Hoshaiah Rabbah's father's name was "Ḥama," but it is cited with the addition of "Father of R. Hoshaiah" (Yer. Sheb. ii. 33d; Yer. Niddah. iii. 50c). Only once does the name "Ḥama b. Bisa" appear so as to leave no doubt of his being a contemporary of Judah I., and, therefore, the father of Hoshaiah Rabbah (Niddah 14b). But the patronymic is an error, and the parallel passage reads correctly: "Ḥama, the father of Hoshaiah" (Yer. Niddah ii. 49d). It is probable that Ḥama was the father of the younger Hoshaiah, and flourished contemporaneously with Rami b. Ḥama, the son-in-law of R. Ḥisda.

Bibliography:
  • Heilprin. Seder ha-Dorot, ii.
J. S. M.
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