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Jewish Commentators — Their Lives and Works


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Ḥiyya ben Abba
Hebrew Name(s): רבי חייא בר אבא

Period: Amoraim — 3rd Century
Location: Palestine
Dates: c. 280 CE

Rabbi Ḥiyya ben Abba was a Third Generation Palestinian Amora active in the first half of the Third Century. R. Ḥiyya b. Abba is often called Ḥiyya ba Ba and Ḥiyya Bar Wa in the Palestinian Talmud (Berachot iii 6a, iv 7d), and in both Talmuds, R. Ḥiyya, the context showing that Ḥiyya ben Abba was meant. Born in Babylon, he migrated to Palestine where he studied under Rabbi Ḥanina ben Ḥama and Joshua ben Levi. He also knew Simeon bar Lakish. He was a disciple of Rabbi Yoḥanan ben Nappaḥa, and after he died, Rabbi Ḥiyya, together with Rabbi Ammi (Ammi ben Nathan ) and Rab Assi (R. Assi (Jose) b. Nathan,) became recognized as leading authorities in halakhah in Palestine.
Ḥiyya was noted for the care and importance he placed on the saying of his masters. "R. Ḥiyya b. Abba was very particular to get the exact teaching of R. Johanan his master…R. Ḥiyya used to go over what he had learned every thirty days with his teacher R. Johanan" (BT. Berachot 38b). When there was doubt regarding the phrasing of the teaching of a particular master R. Ḥiyya's version was preferred.
Rabbi Ḥiyya's great interest was the area of halakhah where his knowledge excelled among his Palestinian contemporaries.
Rabbi Ḥiyya was a poor man forced to travel and teach to make a living: at one time accepted a commission from Judah II (aka. Judah Nesi'ah) to collect money to defray the expenses of the patriarchate. He had several brothers: R. Nathan HaKohen, (aka. R. Kohen; R. Natan ben Abba), Rabbannai (aka. R. Banai) and R. Simeon b. Abba. He also had several children including: R. Abba, R. Kahanah and R. Nehemiah.
Rabbi Ḥiyya ben Abba should not be confused with Ḥiyya ben Abba Rabbah (The Great) a First Generation Palestinian Amora who, with Rabbi Oshaiah Rabbah, was credited with editing the Tosefta.


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