Hiyya bar Abba
- For the Amora sage of the Land of Israel, of the 1st Amora Generation, see Rabbi Hiyya (Hiyya the Great).
For the Amora sage of Babylon, of the 2nd and 3d Amora Generation, and Dean of the Pumbedita Academy, see Huna b. Hiyya.
Hiyya bar Abba or Rabbi Hiyya (ca. 180-230 CE) (Hebrew: רבי חייא בר אבא) was an amoraic sage of priestly descent who lived in the latter Mishnaic period. Active in Tiberias, Hiyya was the primary compiler of the tosefta. He was also an uncle of Abba Arika.
In the Jerusalem Talmud he is also called Ḥiyya bar Ba or Ḥiyya bar Wa (Yer. Berakhot iii.6a, iv.7d); in both Talmuds he is frequently called merely R. Ḥiyya. He may have briefly studied with Samuel of Nehardea (Weiss, "Dor," iii.94) in Babylon, his native land. When he was still very young, Hiyya migrated to Palestine where he studied under Ḥanina and Joshua ben Levi. He may also have been influenced by Simeon bar Laḳish. Hiyya was also a disciple of Rabbi Johanan. After Rabbi Johanan's death, Hiyya and his friends Ammi and Assi became recognized as some of Palestine's brightest Halakah scholars.
Ḥiyya was distinguished for the care with which he noted the sayings of his masters (Ber. 38b). When questions arose about being faithful to tradition, Ḥiyya's interpretation was widely accepted (Ber. 32b, 38b). Though he was the author of many aggadot, he denounced every attempt to collect and commit his tales to writing. Whenever he came upon such a collection, Hiyya cursed the hand that wrote it (Yer. Shab. xvi.15c). His focus was squarely on Halakhah.
With the help of Ammi and Assi, Hiyya formed a court of law. One day a woman named Tamar came before the court. Her case was a difficult one. The sentence handed down was controversial; Ḥiyya and his associates might have suffered disastrous consequences if Abbahu himself had not come to their assistance (Yer. Meg. iii.74a).
Hiyya was forced to lecture from town to town in an effort to make ends meet. He even had to leave Palestine temporarily (Yer. Ma'as. Sh. v.56b). During these travels, when another lecturer on aggadah drew a bigger crowd than he did, Hiyya couldn't hide his annoyance (see Jew. Encyc. i.36, s.v. Abbahu). To improve his circumstances, Hiyya accepted a commission from Judah II to collect money to help rebuild the decaying patriarchate.
The esteem in which Ḥiyya was held is evident in a letter of introduction Eleazar ben Pedath provided for him: "Behold, we have sent you a great man, our envoy. Until his return he possesses all the powers that we do." According to another version, the introduction read: "Behold, we have sent you a great man. His greatness consists in this, that he is not ashamed to say 'I know not' " (Yer. Ḥag. i.76d; Yer. Ned. x.42b).
Ḥiyya, Ammi, and Assi visited various communities in Palestine at the behest of Judah II who entrusted them with reawakening interest in the study of Jewish Law (Yer. Ḥag. i.76c).
Ḥiyya had several brothers: R. Nathanha-Kohen, also known as R. Kohen (or R. Nathan) b. Abba; Rabbannai, or R. Bannai; and R. Simeon ben Abba. He had several children, including R. Abba, R. Kahanah, and R. Nehemiah.
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- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Solomon Schechter and Nathan Stern (1901–1906). "Hiyya bar Abba". Jewish Encyclopedia.