Rav Chisda

Rav Chisda (Hebrew: רב חסדא) was a Jewish Talmudist who lived in Kafri, Babylonia, near what is now the city of Najaf, Iraq. He was an amora of the third generation (died in ca 320 CE[1] at the age of ninety-two[2]), and is mentioned frequently in the Talmud.


Rav Chisda descended from a priestly family.[3] He studied under Rav, who was his principal teacher and after the latter's death he attended the lectures of Rav Huna, a companion of the same age. The pair were called "the Hasidim of Babylon".[4] Rav Chisda was also among those called Tzadikim, those who could bring down rain by their prayers.[2] At first he was so poor that he abstained from vegetables because they increased his appetite[5] and when he walked in thorny places he raised his garments, saying: "The breaches in my legs will heal of themselves but the breaches in my garments will not".[6] At the age of sixteen he married the daughter of Hanan bar Raba[7] and together they had seven or more sons and two daughters. Later, as a brewer, he became very wealthy.[8] One of his pupils, Rava, became his son-in-law.[9]

Rav Chisda was a great casuist,[10] his acute mind greatly enhanced the fame of Rav Huna's school at Sura, but his very acuteness indirectly caused a rupture between himself and Rav Huna. The separation was brought about by a question from Rav Chisda as to the obligations of a disciple toward a master to whom he is indispensable. Rav Huna saw the point and said, "Chisda, I do not need you; it is you that needs me!". Forty years passed before they became reconciled.[11] Rav Chisda nevertheless held Rav Huna in great esteem, and although he had established a school built at his own expense in Mata Mehasya four years before Rav Huna's death,[12] he never published any decision during the Rav Huna's lifetime.[13] Rav Huna came to recognize Rav Chisda's merit later and recommended his son Rabbah bar Rav Huna to attend his lectures.[14]

Rav Chisda also presided over the Academy of Sura for ten years following the death of Rav Yehuda,[15] or following the death of Rav Huna, according to Abraham ibn Daud.[16] He always preserved great respect for the memory of Rav, whom he referred to as "our great teacher, may God aid him".[17] Once, holding up the gifts which are given to the Kohen, he declared that he would give them to the man who could cite a previously unknown halakha in the name of Rav.[18] After Rav Chisda's death, no one succeeded him as the Rosh Mesivta of Sura and the central Talmudic authority passed to Rabbah in Pumbedita.


Rav Chisda's halakhot are frequent throughout the Babylonian Talmud, some being given on the authority of his pupils. His principal opponent was Rav Sheshet. Besides deducing his halakhot in a casuistic way, Rav Chisda was peculiar in that he derived his halakhot less from the Pentateuch than from other parts of the Bible.

Rav Chisda was also an authority in aggadah, and employed special assistants to lecture in that department.[19] Many ethical teachings by him have been preserved[20] for students, such as: "Forbearance on the part of a father toward his child may be permitted, but not forbearance on the part of a master toward his disciple" [21] and "He who opposes his master is as though he opposed the Shekinah".[22] It was said that the Angel of Death, not being able to approach Rav Chisda because he never ceased from studying, cleft the trunk of a cedar-tree. Terrified by the noise, Rav Chisda interrupted his studies, whereupon the angel took his soul.[23]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ = 308-309; Sherira Gaon, in Neubauer, "M. J. C." i. 30; in 300, according to Abraham ibn Daud, "Sefer ha-Kabbalah," in Neubauer, l.c. p. 58
  2. ^ a b Moed Kattan 28a
  3. ^ Berachot 44a
  4. ^ Ta'anit 23b
  5. ^ Shabbat 140b
  6. ^ Bava Kamma 91b
  7. ^ Kiddushin 29b
  8. ^ Pesachim 113a; Moed Kattan 28a
  9. ^ Niddah 61b
  10. ^ Eruvin 67a
  11. ^ Bava Metzia 33a
  12. ^ Sherira, l.c.
  13. ^ Eruvin 62b
  14. ^ Shabbat 82a
  15. ^ 298-299; Sherira, l.c.
  16. ^ l.c.
  17. ^ Sukkah 33a, passim
  18. ^ Shabbat 10b
  19. ^ Eruvin 21b
  20. ^ See especially Shabbat 140b
  21. ^ Kiddushin 32a
  22. ^ Sanhedrin 110a
  23. ^ Makkot 10a

  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainIsidore Singer and M. Seligsohn (1901–1906). "Hisda". In Singer, Isidore; et al. (eds.). The Jewish Encyclopedia. New York: Funk & Wagnalls. It has the following bibliography:

  • Bacher, Ag. Bab. Amor. pp. 61 et seq.;
  • Heilprin, Seder Ha'Dorot Hebrew, ii.;
  • Weiss, Dor, iii. 184.S. M. Sel.