Tuesday, January 10, 2017

The Rav with the Golden Carriage

The Talmud, which is the written compilation of the Oral Torah, records the discussions and decisions of the scholars who codified Jewish law. Without question, the scholastic scope of the sages is incredible, but the Talmud also records some of the fascinating facts concerning the sages’ lives.

One interesting persona was Rav Huna, a scholar who lived in Babylon and who studied under the great sage Rav. He was an incredible student and eventually succeeded his teacher as the leader of the Babylonian scholars and head of the Academy at Sura. Rav Huna was held in tremendous esteem throughout his 40 years as the Rosh Mesivta (Head of the School).

Beyond his scholarship, however, the Talmud also records more personal information about Rav Huna. He was extremely wealthy - so wealthy that he traveled in a golden carriage - but had actually grown up poor.

His wealth appears to have been achieved after a blessing he received from his mentor Rav: “Rav Huna once came before Rav girded with a string. He said to him, What is the meaning of this?
He replied: I had no [wine for] sanctification, and I pledged my girdle so as to get some. He [Rav] said: May it be the will of heaven that you be [one day] smothered in robes of silk (Talmud Megillah 27b).

Rav Huna was also extremely generous and active in caring for others. “He would survey every part of the city and he would order the demolition of any wall that was unsafe; if the owner was in a position to do so, he had to rebuild it himself, but if not, then [Rav Huna] would have it rebuilt at his own expense” (Talmud Ta’anit 20b).

When Rav Huna died at the age of 80, the sages followed his wishes and his body was transported to Israel for burial.

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