QUESTIONS: The Gemara records an odd interchange between Rav Anan and Rav Huna. Rav Anan sent a message to Rav Huna in which he called him "Huna Chavrin" and asked him to give to a certain woman her "Isur Nechasim" (her dowry, a tenth of the estate of her father). Rav Huna, apparently upset with the appellation that Rav Anan chose for him, made Rav Sheshes swear that he would convey to Rav Anan the following statement: "Anan, Anan, [should I give the dowry only] from land or even from mobile property? And who sits at the head of the meal of an Avel (mourner)?"
This exchange is perplexing.
(a) Why did Rav Anan lessen the honor of Rav Huna by calling him, "Huna Chavrin" ("Huna, our colleague")?
(b) What did Rav Huna mean in his message with the repetition of Rav Anan's name, "Anan, Anan"?
(c) Why did Rav Huna add the question about the order of seating at the meal of an Avel? In what way at all is that question related to giving a woman her dowry from the land of her father or from his mobile property?
ANSWER: RAV REUVEN MARGOLIYOS (in "l'Cheker Shemos u'Kinuyim b'Talmud," #11) suggests an ingenious explanation for this incident.
Rav Anan was a member of the Reish Galusa's family, as mentioned in Seder Olam Zuta. He was not the only member of the Reish Galusa's family who called Rav Huna, "Huna Chavrin." Rav Nachman, the son-in-law of the Reish Galusa (see Chulin 124a and Bava Basra 65a), also often called Rav Huna, "Huna Chavrin" (Bava Metzia 15a, Chulin 56a, Nidah 16a). He even referred to Rav Huna's son, Rabah bar Rav Huna, as "Bar Chavrin" ("the son of our colleague"; Beitzah 25a). In other places, Rav Nachman called Rav Huna "Huna" alone (Eruvin 42b; see also Kesuvos 7b, Kesuvos 68a, Bava Metzia 71a, Bava Basra 138b). The fact that a number of members of the house of the Reish Galusa referred to Rav Huna as "Huna Chavrin" indicates a certain attitude of the Reish Galusa's family towards Rav Huna, which may be explained as follows.
The word "Chaver," besides meaning a "friend" or "colleague," is also used in the Gemara to refer to a Talmid Chacham who has not yet received Semichah and is therefore not entitled to judge certain matters of law, such as cases of Kenas penalties (Yerushalmi Sanhedrin 1:2, Kidushin 33b, Shemos Rabah 27:5). The Yerushalmi (ibid.) relates that one Huna was a "Chaver" and not a "Chacham Musmach." Moreover, the Bavli in Sanhedrin (5a) states that while the Rav Huna mentioned in the Gemara here did not receive Semichah from the Reish Galusa in Bavel (although he lived in Bavel), he did receive Semichah from Rav, who received Semichah from Rebbi Chiya, who received Semichah from Rebbi in Eretz Yisrael. This explains why Rav Huna's son, Rabah bar Rav Huna, would say during disputes with the Reish Galusa, "I do not need you -- my Semichah comes from Eretz Yisrael and not from you!"
The Reish Galusa's family was upset that Rav Huna did not receive Semichah from the Reish Galusa. They did not acknowledge the Semichah which he received from Eretz Yisrael. This explains why Rav Anan and Rav Nachman referred to Rav Huna as "Huna Chavrin," as opposed to "Chacham"; they wanted to emphasize that he was not considered a "Chacham Musmach" but only a "Chaver." This also explains the exchange recorded in Pesachim (86b) in which Rav Nachman asked Rav Huna, "What is your name?" Rav Huna replied, "Rav Huna." Rav Nachman asked him, "Why do you call yourself 'Rav' Huna," to which Rav Huna answered, "Because that is my name." RABEINU CHANANEL there explains that by saying, "That is my name," he meant to say that "I have Semichah and therefore I am entitled to call myself Rav Huna."
This approach clarifies the incident recorded in the Gemara here. Rav Anan was a colleague of Rav Nachman (see Chulin 56a) and a relative of Rav Nachman from the family of the Reish Galusa. He called Rav Huna, "Huna Chavrin," to emphasize that the Reish Galusa did not recognize Rav Huna's Semichah. Although Rav Huna tolerated this when Rav Nachman, his contemporary in Torah wisdom, referred to him in such a manner, he did not tolerate the slight to his dignity from a lesser scholar, Rav Anan, when he called him "Huna Chavrin." To prove that his Torah knowledge was deserving of respect whether or not they recognized his Semichah, Rav Huna answered Rav Anan's inquiry with riddles, effectively showing that his level of scholarship was greater than theirs.
Indeed, Rav Huna also communicated with Rav Nachman in riddles. The Gemara in Berachos (47b) relates that Rav Huna told Rav Nachman that "nine people and 'Aron' are considered a Minyan [of ten]." Rav Nachman asked, "How can an Aron count as [the tenth for] a Minyan? An Aron is not a person!" Rav Huna replied that what he meant was that nine people, who are crowded together as a group so that they look like they are ten people, are considered a Minyan. When he said "nine people and Aron," he was speaking in disguised terms; he meant "nine people and Echad Ro'eh v'Eino Nir'eh" (the One Who sees but cannot be seen -- Hash-m's presence), the first letters of which spell the acronym, "Aron." He was saying that nine people, together with Hash-m, count as a Minyan (Divrei Eliyahu to Berachos 47b; see also Kol Eliyahu #186).
In the Gemara here as well, Rav Huna spoke in disguised terms and used an acronym in his coded message. The second "Anan" in his statement is an acronym for "Isur Nechasim Nigvis" -- "the tenth of the [father's] property is collected." Hence, his message stated, "Anan, Isur Nechasim Nigvis (is the tenth of the property collected) from Karka or from Metaltelin?"
In Rav Huna's second statement, in which he asked who sits at the head of the meal of an Avel, Rav Huna was telling Rav Anan that although one with Semichah from the Reish Galusa might have certain privileges over a "Chaver," there are certain situations in which a "Chaver" (like Rav Huna) certainly deserves more respect that Rav Anan, even though Rav Anan has Semichah from the Reish Galusa. That situation would be where they are seated together at a meal, as the Gemara teaches in Bava Basra (120b). The Gemara there says that when the Chachamim are seated together in a discussion of Halachah, the "Chacham" (which might mean one who has Semichah) sits at the head, but when they are seated together at a meal, the Zaken (the oldest person) sits at the head, but one who is an extremely wise Chacham sits at the head even at a meal. Rav Huna was not only older than Rav Anan, but he was exceptionally wise (as the Gemara in Moed Katan 28a says). Rav Huna was saying that "even you, Rav Anan, must agree that I deserve more respect in certain situations, such as at a meal, because I am older and because of my superior wisdom." (Rav Huna mentioned the house of an Avel because the verse which discusses an Avel is the source for the seating arrangement at a meal.)