AḤA (AḤAI) III.:
By: S. Mendelsohn
A Palestinian amora of the fourth century and associate of the most prominent teachers of the fourth amoraic generation, R. Jonah and R. Yose II. He was a native of Lydda in southern Palestine, but settled in Tiberias, where Huna II., Judah bar Pazi, and himself eventually constituted a bet din, or court of justice (Yer. Ter. ii. 41d; Yer. Shab. vi. 8a; Yer. B. B. viii. 16a; Yer. Sanh. i. 18c, end). Like his elder namesakes, he was a recognized authority on Halakah; but in Haggadah he surpassed them, being by far the most frequently quoted by haggadists of his own times and of subsequent generations. Commenting on Abraham's attempt to sacrifice Isaac, Aḥa tries to prove that the patriarch misunderstood the divine call. He refers to Ps. lxxxix. 35 [A. V. 34], "My covenant will I not break, nor alter the thing that is gone out of my lips," which he construes thus:
"My covenant will I not break, even that covenant in which I have assured Abraham: 'In Isaac shall thy seed be called' [Gen. xxi. 12], nor alter the thing which is gone out of my lips, when I said to him, 'Take now thy son' [Gen. xxii. 2]. This may be compared to a king, who expressed to his friend a wish to see a tender child put on his table. His friend immediately went forth, and returned with his own child, whom he placed on the table before the king. He again went forth, and returned with a sword to slay the child, whereupon the king exclaimed, 'What art thou doing?' 'Sire,' replied the anxious friend, 'didst thounot express a desire for a tender child on thy table?' To which the king answered, 'Have I asked for a dead child? It is a live one I desire.' Even so, said the Holy One—blessed be He!—to Abraham: 'Take now thy son, and offer him there for a burnt offering;' whereupon Abraham built an altar, and placed his son upon it. But when he stretched forth his hand for the knife, the angel cried out, 'Lay not thine hand upon the youth.' And when Abraham inquired, 'Didst thou not tell me to offer my son?' the angel retorted, 'Did I tell thee to kill him?'"
One of Aḥa's epigrams reads, "The Jew needs privations to lead him back to God" (Cant. R. i. 4; Lev. R. xiii.). His gratitude to the defenders of his people he expressed by saying, "To him who speaks a good word for Israel, the Lord will assign an exalted station in the world; for it is written [Isa. xxx. 18], 'He will exalt him who has pity on you'" (PesiḲ. R. 32, 196a). For other homiletic observations, see PesiḲ. R. 4, 39b, xiii. 111b, xvii. 131a, 133b, xxi. 145a, xxx. 191b; Tan., ed. Buber, index of authors; Midr. Teh., ed. Buber, index; PesiḲ. R., ed. Friedmann, index; see also a full account in Bacher, "Ag. Pal. Amor." iii. 106-163.