Rav Huna

Rav Huna belonged to the second generation of Babylonian Amoraim, and he was named Rosh Yeshiva of the academy at Sura after the death of Rav.

Despite his greatness, the Talmud does not say who his parents were, and only in one place is it stated that he was related to the family of the Exilarch.

Besides his considerable wisdom, what was remarkable about Rav Huna was his great qualities, particularly his generosity. With him, riches and the greatness of Torah went together as a pair. He also possessed abilities that characterize a leader of Israel. Early on, when Rav Huna was a student of Rav, he was extremely poor, and so he began farming. He worked the ground himself, irrigated it by his own means, and allowed only the flocks to graze on it. Obviously, he felt no shame in performing all these tasks, and he allowed no one to do it for him. One day, the Gemara says, he was walking with some farm equipment on his shoulder when a Talmid Chacham by the name of Chanah bar Chanilai met him and wanted to carry his load. Rav Huna told him, “If you are accustomed to carrying this type of equipment in your town, then you can do so here if you wish. But if not, do you think that I would allow myself to embarrass you so that I could derive personal honor from it?”

During this time Rav Huna’s poverty was so great that once he didn’t even have wine to recite Kiddush for Shabbat. He went and placed his belt as collateral in order to buy some wine, replacing his belt with a simple piece of string. When Rav noticed, he asked him, “What does this mean?” Rav Huna then explained that he was obligated to put his belt down as collateral in order to buy wine for Shabbat. Thus Rav gave him a blessing that Hashem should provide him with such wealth that he could wear clothes made of velvet!

Starting from then on, his business dealings began to prosper, to the point that he became extremely rich. Once, 400 barrels of wine that he owned became sour and turned into cheap vinegar, and he was faced with a huge financial loss. His friends, the Sages, came to him and advised that he should examine his ways, for he may have committed some sin.

“Do you suspect me of wrongdoing?” Rav Huna asked them.

“Do you suspect the Holy One, blessed be He, of making a Jew lose money for no reason?” the Sages replied.

“If such is the case, please tell me if you have heard anything concerning me that I should rectify. If so, I will immediately mend my ways,” said Rav Huna in a spirit of repentance.

“We have heard,” the Sages told him, “that you have not given your sharecropper his rightful portion of grapevine shoots. For the same reason as he has the right to a portion of a tree’s fruits, a sharecropper has the right to a portion of its shoots and twigs.”

Rav Huna was astonished. “But my sharecropper takes all the shoots, leaving me with hardly anything!” he replied. He then decided, “Perhaps starting from today I will set aside a fixed quantity of grapevine shoots for him. In this way he won’t steal from me anymore!”

Success immediately began to smile on Rav Huna once again, and the price of vinegar started to rise, to the point that he lost nothing in the whole affair.

Rav Huna’s incredible prosperity became well known, to the extent that it was said that whoever saw him in their dreams would experience miracles.

One day a fire broke out in Rav Huna’s town, yet the flames didn’t touch anything in the district where he lived. The residents of the town believed that they had been saved by his merit. However they were shown in a dream that this was insignificant compared to the greatness of Rav Huna, and that the district had been saved by the merit of a woman who each week lit her stove and allowed all her neighbors to benefit from its use. We can learn from this the power of generosity.

Rav Huna’s yeshiva became ever larger. It had about permanent 800 students, and he paid for everything out of his own pocket. Moreover, thousands of students who studied independently during the whole year came to his yeshiva for two months out of the year (Yarchei Kallah in Adar and Elul). They came to listen to the Rosh Yeshiva’s lectures, as well as to those of his colleagues, after which they would go back home and attend to their affairs. At that time Rav Huna had 13 assistants. He died at an advanced age.




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