Nehunya ben HaKanah

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Nehunya ben HaKanah[pronunciation?] (Hebrew: נחוניה בן הקנה‎ was a tanna of the 1st and 2nd centuries. It appears from Bava Batra 10b that Neḥunya was a contemporary, but not a pupil, of Johanan ben Zakai. He was the teacher of Ishmael ben Elisha. Neḥunya was rich and had a large retinue of servants; but he was distinguished for his meekness and forgiving nature, to which he attributed his attainment of great age (Megillah 28a); two short prayers composed by him exhibit the same qualities (Berakhot iv. 2; Jerusalem Talmud Berakhot iv. 2).

According to the statement of Rabbi Yochanan (Shevu'ot 26a), Neḥunya interpreted the entire Torah by the hermeneutic rule known as the "general and particular" ("kelal u-feraṭ"), which rule has also been adopted by his pupil Rabbi Ishmael as the eight of his 13 hermeneutic rules. Neḥunya is frequently mentioned in the Talmud; in Hullin 129b he is referred to as the antagonist of Eliezer and Joshua in regard to a halakhah (comp., however, Eduyot vi. 2). He said that the Pharaoh of the Exodus was rescued from the Red Sea, that he repented, that he afterward reigned in Nineveh, and that it was he who in the time of Jonah exhorted the inhabitants of Nineveh to repentance (Pirke De-Rabbi Eliezer xliii.). Neḥunya is known also for his ethical saying: "Whoso receives upon him the yoke of the Torah, from him is removed the yoke of royalty and that of worldly care; and whoso throws off the yoke of the Torah, upon him is laid the yoke of royalty and that of worldly care" (Pirkei Avot iii. 6; Avot of Rabbi Natan recension B, xxxii. [ed. Solomon Schechter, p. 68]).

As Ishmael b. Elisha, Neḥunya's disciple, is regarded by the kabbalists as their chief representative, Neḥunya is considered to have been Ishmael's teacher in mysticism also. He is generally supposed to have been the author of the daily prayer beginning אנא בכח, the initials of which form the forty-two-lettered name of God. He is also supposed by some to have been the author of the Bahir and of the Sefer ha-Peli'ah.


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