Babylonian amora of the third generation; died in 620 of the Seleucidan era (= 308-309; Sherira Gaon, in Neubauer, "M. J. C." i. 30; in 300, according to Abraham ibn Daud, "Sefer ha-Ḳabbalah," in Neubauer, l.c. p. 58), at the age of ninety-two (M. Ḳ. 28a); descended from a priestly family (Ber. 44a). Ḥisda studied under Rab (Abba Arika), who was his principal teacher; after the latter's death he attended the lectures of Huna, his companion, and of the same age as himself. He and Huna were styled "the ḥasidim of Babylon" (Ta'an. 23b); he was also one of those just ones ("ẓaddiḳim") who could bring down rain by their prayers (M. Ḳ. 28a). At first he was so poor that he abstained from vegetables because they incited the appetite (Shab. 140b), 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" (B. Ḳ. 91b). Later, as a brewer, he became fabulously rich (Pes. 113a; M. Ḳ. 28a). At the age of sixteen he married the daughter of Ḥanan b. Raba (Ḳid. 29b), by whom he had seven or more sons and two daughters. One of his pupils, Raba, became his son-in-law (Niddah 61b).
Ḥisda was a great casuist ('Er. 67a), and his acute mind greatly enhanced the fame of Huna's school at Sura. But his very acuteness indirectly caused a rupture between himself and Huna. The separation was brought about by a question from Ḥisda as to the obligations of a disciple toward a master to whom he is indispensable. Huna saw the point and said, "Ḥisda, I do not need thee; it is thou that needst me!" Forty years passed before they became reconciled (B. M. 33a). Ḥisda nevertheless held Huna in great esteem, and although he had established a school, built at his own expense, at Mata Meḥasya four years before Huna's death (Sherira, l.c.), he never published any decision during the lifetime of Huna ('Er. 62b). Huna came to recognize Ḥisda's merit later, and recommended his son Rabbah to attend his lectures (Shab. 82a).
Ḥisda presided over the Academy of Sura for ten years following the death of R. Judah (298-299; Sherira, l.c.), or following the death of Huna, according to Abraham ibn Daud (l.c.). He always preserved great respect for the memory of Rab, whom he referred to as "our great teacher, may God aid him" (Suk. 33a, passim). Once, holding up the gifts which are given to the priest, he declared that he would give them to the man who could cite a hitherto unknown halakah in the name of Rab (Shab. 10b). Ḥisda's halakot are frequent in the Babylonian Talmud, some being given on the authority of his pupils. His principal opponent was Sheshet. Besides deducing his halakot in a casuistic way, Ḥisda was peculiar in that he derived his halakot less from the Pentateuch than from other parts of the Bible.
Ḥisda was also an authority in Haggadah, and employed special assistants to lecture in that department ('Er. 21b). Many ethical sentences of his have been preserved (see especially Shab. 140b), mostly for students. The following two sentences may be cited: "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" (Ḳid. 32a); "He who opposes his master is as though he opposed the Shekinah" (Sanh. 110a). It is said that the Angel of Death, not being able to approach Ḥisda because he never ceased from studying, cleft the trunk of a cedar-tree. Terrified by the noise, Ḥisdainterrupted his studies, whereupon the angel took his soul (Mak. 10a).
- Bacher, Ag. Bab. Amor. pp. 61 et seq.;
- Heilprin, Seder ha-Dorot, ii.;
- Weiss, Dor, iii. 184.