Babylonian amora of the third and fourth centuries; in the Babylonian Talmud sometimes referred to as Hamnuna Saba ("the elder"), to distinguish him from a younger Hamnuna. He was a native of Harpania (Hipparenum; Neubauer, "G. T." p. 352), but paid his poll-tax at Pum-Nahara, to which place he was therefore assumed to belong (Yeb. 17a). He sat at the feet of the most prominent teachers of the latter half of the third century, among whom were Adda b. Ahabah, Judah b. Ezekiel, and 'Ula; and by most of them he was greatly respected for his talent (Giṭ. 81b; Yeb. 17a; Shebu. 34a). But he was most esteemed by his teacher Ḥisda, under whom he rapidly rose from the position of pupil to that of colleague (Shab. 97a; 'Er. 63a; Yer. Hor. iii. 47c). Subsequently Huna became his teacher; and as long as Huna lived Hamnuna would not teach at Ḥarta de-Argaz, the place of Huna's residence ('Er. 63a). Hamnuna eventually became a recognized rabbinical authority, and the foremost scholars of his generation, like Ze'era I., applied to him for elucidations of obscure questions (Ber. 24b). The "resh galuta" (exilarch) repeatedly consulted him on scholastic points (Yer. Shab. xii. 13c; Shab. 119a). As a haggadist he strongly advocated the study of the Law, which, according to him, should precede everything, even good deeds (Ḳid. 40b). Providence decreed the destruction of Jerusalem solely because children were not schooled in the Law, as it is written, "I will pour it [fury] out upon the children abroad" (Jer. vi. 11), which is a reference to the fact that the children are abroad, and not in the schools (Shab. 119b). Therefore as soon as a child learns to talk it must be taught to say, "The Torah which Moses hath commanded us is the inheritance of the congregation of Jacob" (Deut. xxxiii. 4, Hebr.; Suk. 42a).
In the numerical value of ("Torah") Hamnuna finds Scriptural support for Simlai's declaration that the Israelites received at Sinai six hundred and thirteen commandments: To the people Moses communicated (400+6+200+5=611), and the first two of the Decalogue were communicated to them directly by God (Mak. 23b; comp. Ex. R. xxxiii. 7). He declared that insolence is providentially punished by absence of rain. This teaching he derives from Jer. iii. 3: "The showers have been withholden, and there hath been no latter rain"; because "thou hadst a whore's forehead, thou refusedst to be ashamed" (Ta'an. 7b). Hamnuna was a considerable liturgical author. To him are ascribed five benedictions which an Israelite should utter at the sight of different Babylonian ruins (Ber. 57b), two to be spoken on seeing large armies (Ber. 58a), and one before engaging in the study of the Torah (Ber. 11b). The last one has been universally adopted, and is still recited at the public readings of the Torah. Various other prayers are ascribed to him (Ber. 17a), one of which is incorporated in the ritual (See Hamnuna Zuṭa). Hamnuna died at the same time as Rabbah b. Huna, and their remains were transported together for burial in Palestine.
- Bacher, Ag. Bab. Amor. p. 73;
- Frankel, Mebo, p. 76a;
- Heilprin, Seder ha-Dorot, ii.;
- Zacuto, Yuḥsin, ed. Filipowski, pp. 130a et seq.