Rabbi Amram Chisda (The Pious)

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 at the age of ninety-two), mentioned frequently in the Talmud.

Died: Babylonia, 300

R' Amram was a second generation Amora (from the sages of the Talmud). He lived in Babylonia, in Nehardea. 

Rabbi Amram maintained that women were obligated in the laws of tzitzis, and he attached fringes to the aprons of the women in his household (Sukkot 11a).

He was called Chassidah (pious) because of his piety. Rashi explains that the servants of the Exilarch maltreated him because "he was pious and strict, so he imposed many restrictions on them." He became sick from them, and Yalta, daughter of the Exilarch and wife of R' Nachman, cured him (Gittin 67b).

R' Amram Chassida used to whip people for planting gourds in a vineyard, a violation of blending plants: (Shabbat 139a)

Once some redeemed captive women came to the house of R' Amram Chassidah in Nehardea. When the beauty of one was revealed to R' Amram, he was tempted and he set up a very heavy ladder to ascend to the upper chamber in which the women were lodged. When he had climbed up halfway, he stopped and cried out, "there is a fire in the house of R' Amram!" and he refrained from sinning. The sages said to him, "We have shamed you!" He responded, "Better that you shame Amram in this world than that you should be ashamed of him in the next world." He then banished his temptation from himself, and it left him in a form of a fiery column. He said to it, "You are fire and I am flesh, yet I am better [i.e., more powerful] than you" (Kedushin 81a).   


Rav Chisda descended from a priestly family. 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". Rav Chisda was also among those called Tzadikim, those who could bring down rain by their prayers. At first he was so poor that he abstained from vegetables because they increased his appetite 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". At the age of sixteen he married the daughter of Hanan b. Raba and together they had seven or more sons and two daughters. Later, as a brewer, he became very wealthy. One of his pupils, Rava, became his son-in-law.

In the Talmudic Academy

Rav Chisda was a great casuist, 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. 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, he never published any decision during the Rav Huna's lifetime. Rav Huna came to recognize Rav Chisda's merit later and recommended his son Rabbah bar Rav Huna to attend his lectures.

Rav Chisda also presided over the Academy of Sura for ten years following the death of Rav Yehuda,or following the death of Rav Huna, according to Abraham ibn Daud. He always preserved great respect for the memory of Rav, whom he referred to as "our great teacher, may God aid him". 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 hitherto unknown Halaka in the name of Rav.

His teachings

Rav Chisda's halakot are frequent in the Babylonian Talmud, some being given on the authority of his pupils. His principal opponent was Rav Sheshet. Besides deducing his halakot in a casuistic way, Rav Chisda was peculiar in that he derived his halakot 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. Many ethical sentences by him have been preserved 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"  and "He who opposes his master is as though he opposed the Shekinah". 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.

May the merit of the tzaddik Rabbi Amram Chassidah  protect us all, Amen.

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