Chaninah, also called Haninah, Chananiah, etc. (Hebrew: חנינא, חנניה) was a Tanna of the 2nd century, contemporary of Judah ben Bathyra, Matteya ben Ḥeresh, and Jonathan (Sifre, Deut. 80). Who his father was is not stated; nor is anything known of his early years. He was named after his grandfather, Hananiah, and educated by his uncle, from whom he received his cognomen. In some baraitot, however, he is cited by his prænomen alone (Suk. 20b; Ket. 79b; see Hananiah b. 'Akabia, Hebrew: חנינא בן עקביא).
Emigration to Babylonia
In the days of Gamaliel II, he once ventured to give a decision, for which he was summoned before that patriarch, but his uncle—by reporting that he himself had given Hananiah the decision—mollified Gamaliel (Niddah 24b). It was probably about that time that Hananiah fell in with some sectaries at Capernaum. To remove him from their influence his uncle advised him to leave the country, which he did, emigrating to Babylonia, where he opened a school that eventually acquired great fame (Sanh. 32b; Eccl. R. i. 8, vii. 26). He returned to his native country with ritualistic decisions which had been communicated to him by a Babylonian scholar, and which he submitted to his uncle (Suk. 20b). But during the evil days following the Bar Kokba rebellion, seeing the noblest of his people fall before the vengeance of the Romans, he again emigrated to Babylonia, settling at Nehar-Peḳod (see A. Neubauer, G. T. pp. 363 et seq.).
The appearance of Hananiah in Babylonia threatened to produce a schism in Israel fraught with far-reaching consequences: it created a movement toward the secession of the Babylonian congregations from the central authority hitherto exercised by the Israeli Sanhedrin.
Movement for Independence of Babylonian Schools
Believing that Roman tyranny had succeeded in permanently suppressing the religious institutions which, in spite of the Jewish dispersion, had held the remnants of Israel together, Hananiah attempted to establish an authoritative body in his new home. To render the Babylonian schools independent of Israel, he arranged a calendar fixing the Jewish festivals and bissextile years on the principles that prevailed in Israel. In the meantime, however, Hadrian's death had brought about a favorable change in Judea.
In March, 139 or 140, a message arrived from Rome announcing the repeal of the Hadrianic decrees (see Meg. Ta'an. xii.); soon thereafter the surviving rabbis, especially the disciples of Akiba, convened at Usha, and reorganized the Sanhedrin with Simon ben Gamaliel II as president (R. H. 31b et seq.; see J.L. Rapoport, Erek Millin, pp. 233b et seq.). They sought to reestablish the central authority, and naturally would not brook any rivals. Messengers were therefore despatched to Nehar-Peḳod, instructed to urge Hananiah to acknowledge the authority of the parent Sanhedrin, and to desist from disrupting the religious unity of Israel.
Deputation from Palestine
The messengers at first approached him in a kindly spirit, showing him great respect. This he reciprocated, and he presented them to his followers as superior personages; but when he realized their real mission he endeavored to discredit them. They, for their part, contradicted him in his lectures; what he declared pure they denounced as impure; and when at last he asked them, "Why do you always oppose me?" they plainly told him, "Because thou, contrary to law, ordainest bissextile years in foreign lands." "But did not Akiba do so before me?" asked he; to which they replied, "Certainly he did; but thou canst not compare thyself with Akiba, who left none like him in Palestine." "Neither have I left my equal in Palestine," cried Hananiah; and the messengers retorted, "The kids thou hast left behind thee have since developed into horned bucks, and these have deputed us to urge thee to retrace thy steps, and, if thou resist, to excommunicate thee."
The Jerusalem Talmud relates that the deputies, to impress upon him the enormity of secession from the parent authority, publicly parodied Scriptural passages. One of them substituted "Hananiah" for "the Lord" in "These are the feasts of the Lord" (Lev. xxiii. 4). Another recited, "Out of Babylonia shall go forth the Law, and the word of the Lord from Nehar-Peḳod," instead of "Out of Zion" and "from Jerusalem" (Isa. ii. 3). When the people corrected them by calling out the proper readings, the deputies laconically replied, גבן (= "With us!" Yer. Ned. vi. 23a). They also declared that the steps taken by Hananiah and his followers were tantamount to building an altar on unholy ground and serving it with illegitimate priests. Altogether, they pointed out, his course was a renunciation of the god of Israel.
The people recognized their error, and repented, but Hananiah held out. He appealed to Judah ben Bathyra—then in Nisibis—for support, but the latter not only refused to participate in the secession movement, but prevailed on Hananiah to submit to the orders emanating from the Judean Sanhedrin (Ber. 63a; Yer. Ned. l.c.). Hananiah ended his life peacefully in Babylonia (Eccl. R. i. 8).
Although Hananiah was a prominent figure in his day, rivaling for a time the patriarch in Judea, his name is connected with but few halakot, either original (Tosef., Peah, iii. 3; Ket. 79b) or transmitted (Er. 43a; Beẓah 17b; Suk. 20b; Niddah 24b), and with still fewer halakic midrashim (Mek., Bo, 16; Sifre, Num. 49, 116; Ḥag. 10a; Shebu. 35b). As to haggadot, only two or three originated with him. One declares that where Scripture says, "King Solomon loved many strange women" (I Kings xi. 1), it does not mean to impugn his chastity, but it implies that he transgressed the Biblical inhibition, "Thou shalt not make marriages with them" (Deut. vii. 3; Yer. Sanh. ii. 20c). Another asserts that the tablets of the Decalogue (Deut. iv. 13) contained after each command its scope in all its ramifications, that the Commandments were interwoven with expositions as are the billows of the sea with smaller waves (Yer. Sheḳ. vi. 49d; Cant. R. v. 14).
Jewish Encyclopedia bibliography
- W. Bacher, Ag. Tan. i. 389;
- Z. Frankel, Darke ha-Mishnah, p. 137;
- Grätz, Gesch. iv. 202;
- Heilprin, Seder ha-Dorot, ii.;
- Jost, Gesch. des Judenthums und Seiner Sekten, ii. 109;
- Kobak's Jeschurun, vii. 14;
- Weiss, Dor, ii. 177;
- Zacuto, Yuḥasin, ed. Filipowski, pp. 35a, 66b.
- HANANIAH (HANINA) B. 'AKABIA (AKIBA), jewishencyclopedia
This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Jewish Encyclopedia. 1901–1906.