HUNA (called also Huna the Babylonian):

His Liberality.

Babylonian amora of the second generation and head of the Academy of Sura; born about 216 (212 according to Grätz); died in 296-297 (608 of the Seleucidan era; Sherira Gaon, in Neubauer, "M. J. C." i. 30) or in 290 according to Abraham ibn Daud ("Sefer ha-Ḳabbalah," in Neubauer, l.c. p. 58). He lived in a town called (Ta'an. 21b), identified by Wiesener ("Scholien zum Babylonischen Talmud," ii. 193) with Tekrit, but read by Grätz (= "Diokart"). He was the principal pupil of Rab (Abba Arika), under whom he acquired so much learning that one of Raba's three wishes was to possess Huna's wisdom (M. Ḳ. 28a). He was also styled "one of the Babylonian ḥasidim," on account of his great piety (Ta'an. 23b); and the esteem in which he was held was so great that, though not of a priestly family, he read from the Torah on Sabbaths and holy days the first passage, which is usually read by a priest. Ammi and Assi, honored Palestinian priests, considered Huna as their superior (Meg. 22a; Giṭ. 59b). Although Huna was related to the family of the exilarch (Sherira Gaon, l.c.) he was so poor at the beginning of his career that in order to buy wine to consecrate the Sabbath he had to pawn his girdle (Meg. 27b). But Rab blessed him with riches, and Huna displayed great wealth at the wedding of his son Rabbah (ib.). He owned numerous flocks of sheep, which were under the special care of his wife, Ḥobah (B. Ḳ. 80a), and he traveled in a gilded litter (Ta'an. 20b). Huna was very generous. When the houses of the poor people were thrown down by storms he rebuilt them; at meal-times the doors of his house would be left open, while his servants cried, "He who is hungry, let him come and eat" (ib.).

After Rab's death Huna lectured in his stead in the Academy of Sura, but he was not appointed head till after the death of Rab's companion, Samuel (c. 256). It was under Huna that the Academy of Sura, till then called "sidra," acquired the designation of "metibta" (Hebr. "yeshibah"), Huna being the first "resh metibta" (Hebr. "rosh yeshibah"; comp. Zacuto "Yuḥasin," p. 118b, Königsberg, 1857; and see Academies in Babylonia). Under Huna the academy increased considerably in importance, and students flocked to it from all directions; during his presidency their number reached 800, all supported by himself (Ket. 106a). Thirteen assistant lecturers ("amora'e") were occupied in teaching them. When his pupils, after the lesson, shook their garments they raised so great a cloud of dust that when the Palestinian sky was overcast it was said, "Huna's pupils in Babylon have risen from their lesson" (ib.). Under Huna, Palestine lost its ascendency over Babylonia; and on certain occasions he declared the schools of the two countries to be equal (Giṭ. 6a; B. Ḳ. 80a). In Babylonia, during his lifetime, the Sura academy held the supremacy. He presided over it for forty years, when he died suddenly, more than eighty years of age (M. Ḳ. 28a). His remains were brought to Palestine and buried by the side of Ḥiyya Rabbah (ib. 25a).

Huna's principal pupil was Rab Ḥisda, who had previously been his fellow pupil under Rab. Other pupils of his whose names are given were: Abba b. Zabda, Rab Giddel, R. Ḥelbo, R. Sheshet, and Huna's own son, Rabbah (Yeb. 64b).

Method of Deduction.

He transmitted many of Rab's halakot, sometimes without mentioning Rab's name (Shab. 24a et al.). His own halakot are numerous in the Babylonian Talmud, and although some of his decisions were contrary to Rab's (Shab. 21a, b, 128a), he declared Rab to be the supreme authority in religious law (Niddah 24b). Huna's deductions were sometimes casuistical; he interpreted the text verbatim even where the context seems to prohibit such an interpretation, (Shab. 20a; Men. 36a; et al.). According to Huna, the halakah transmitted in the Mishnah and Baraita is not always to be taken as decisive (Ber. 24b, 59b). He had some knowledge of medicine and natural history, and used his knowledge in many of his halakic decisions (Shab. 20a, 54b; Yeb. 75b). He also interpreted many of the difficult words met with in the Mishnah and Baraita (Shab. 53b, 54b, et al.).

Huna was equally distinguished as a haggadist, and his haggadot were known in Palestine, whither they were carried by some of his pupils, Ze'ira among them. His interpretation of Prov. xiv. 23, transmitted by Ze'ira, is styled "the pearl" (Pesiḳ. ii. 13b; comp. Yer. Shab. vii. 2, where also many halakot of his are preserved, transmitted by Ze'ira). Many of his haggadot, showing his skill in Biblical exegesis, are found in the Babylonian Talmud, some in the name of Rab, some in his own. He took special pains to reconcile apparently conflicting passages, as, for instance, II Sam. vii. 10 and I Chron. xvii. 10 (Ber. 7b). He endeavored to solve the problem presented by the sufferings of the righteous, inferring from Isa. liii. 10 that God chasteneth those whom He loves (Ber. 5a). The following of Huna's utterances may be given: "He who occupies himself with the study of the Law alone is as one who has no God" (inferred from II Chron. xv. 3; 'Ab. Zarah 17b). "When leaving the synagogue, one must not take long steps" (Ber. 6b). "He who recites his prayer behind the synagogue is called 'impious'" = "rasha'" (inferred from Ps. xii. 9 [A. V. 8]; ib.). "He who is accustomed to honor the Sabbathwith light will have children who are scholars; he who observes the injunction as to the mezuzah will have a beautiful house; he who observes the rule as to the ẓiẓit will have fine clothes; he who consecrates the Sabbath and the holy days as commanded will have many skins filled with wine" (Shab. 23b). Huna was very tolerant, and on several occasions he recommended mild treatment of Gentiles (B. Ḳ. 113a; B. M. 70a). He was also very modest; he was not ashamed, before he was rich, to cultivate his field himself, nor to return home in the evening with his spade on his shoulder (Meg. 28a). When two contending parties requested him to judge between them, he said to them: "Give me a man to cultivate my field and I will be your judge" (Ket. 105a). He patiently bore Rab's hard words, because the latter was his teacher ('Er. 15a; Yer. 'Er. i. 3), but he showed on several occasions that a scholar must not humiliate himself in presence of an inferior (Ket. 69a; B. M. 33a).

  • Bacher, Ag. Bab. Amor. pp. 52-60;
  • Grätz, Gesch. 3d ed., iv. 291 et seq.;
  • Halévy, Dorot ha-Rishonim, ii. 411 et seq.;
  • Heilprin, Seder ha-Dorot, ii.;
  • Lichtmann, in Keneset Yisrael, iii. 297-303;
  • Weiss, Dor, iii. 182 et seq.
S. M. Sel.
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