Rebbi Neḥunyah ben HaQanah (נחוניה בן הקנה‎‎) was a tanna of the 1st and 2nd centuries CE. He was the teacher of Rebbi Yishmael ben Elisha. Neḥunya is considered to have been a chief transmitter of an esoteric Jewish lineage in antiquity, the Yordei Merqavah (Descenders to the Chariot). Neḥunyah was wealthy and had a large retinue of servants; but he was distinguished for his meekness and forgiving nature, to which he attributed his attainment of great age (Megillah 28a); two short prayers composed by him exhibit the same qualities (Yerushalmi Berakhot 4b). To him is attributed the daily prayer beginning אנא בכח, the initials of which form the forty-two-lettered name of God. He is also supposed by some to have been the author of the early qabbalistic work, the Bahir, and of the Sefer ha-Peli'ah.

According to the statement of his contemporary, Rebbi Yoḥanan (Shevu'ot 26a), Neḥunya interpreted the entire Torah by the hermeneutic rule known as the "general and particular" ("kelal u-feraṭ"), which rule has also been adopted by his pupil Rebbi Yishmael as the eight of his 13 hermeneutic rules. Neḥunya is frequently mentioned in the Talmud; in Ḥullin 129b he is referred to as the antagonist of Eliezer and Joshua in regard to a halakhah (comp., however, Eduyot vi. 2). He said that the Pharaoh of the Exodus was rescued from the Red Sea, that he repented, that he afterward reigned in Nineveh, and that it was he who in the time of Jonah exhorted the inhabitants of Nineveh to repentance (Pirke De-Rebbi Eliezer §43.). Neḥunya is known also for his ethical saying: "Whoso receives upon him the yoke of the Torah, from him is removed the yoke of royalty and that of derekh erets (worldly concerns); and whoso throws off the yoke of the Torah, upon him is laid the yoke of royalty and that of derekh erets" (Pirkei Avot 3:6; Avot of Rebbi Natan recension B, 32. [ed. Solomon Schechter, p. 68]).

(this summary incorporated content from Wikipedia and Isidore Singer's article in the Jewish Encyclopedia, 1906)


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