The Life and Teachings of Hillel

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Both were years old; at the age of forty Hillel went to Palestine; forty years he spent in study; and the last third of his life he passed as the spiritual head of Israel. Of this artificially constructed biographical sketch this much may be true, that Hillel went to Jerusalem in the prime of his manhood and attained a great age. His activity of forty years is perhaps historical; and since it began, according to a trustworthy tradition Shab. According to an old tannaitic tradition founded upon Hillel's own words, Hillel went to Jerusalem with the intention of perfecting himself in the science of Biblical exposition and of tradition Yer.

The difficulties which Hillel had to overcome in order to be admitted to their school, and the hardships he suffered while pursuing his aim, are told in a touching passage Yoma 35b , the ultimate purpose of which is to show that poverty can not be considered as an obstacle to the study of the Law.

On that occasion, it is narrated, they voluntarily resigned their position in favor of Hillel Tosef.

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According to tradition, Hillel thereupon became head of the Sanhedrin with the title of "Nasi" prince ; but this is hardly historical. All that can be said is that after the resignation of the Bene Bathyra Hillel was recognized as the highest authority among the Pharisees and the scribes of Jerusalem. Whatever Hillel's position, his authority was sufficient to introduce those decrees which were handed down in his name. A like tendency is found in another of Hillel's institutions, having reference to the sale of houses Lev.

These two are the only institutions handed down in Hillel's name, although the words which introduce the prosbul Sheb. Hillel's judicial activity may be inferred from the decision by which he confirmed the legitimacy of some Alexandrians whose origin was disputed, by interpreting the marriage document "ketubbah" of their mother in her favor Tosef.

Further Reading on Hillel

Of other official acts no mention is found in the sources. In the memory of po sterity Hillel lived, on the one hand, as the scholar who made the whole contentsof the traditional law his own Soferim xvi. On the other hand, he was known as the saint and the sage who in his private life and in his dealings with men practised the high virtues of morality and resignation, just as he taught them in his maxims with unexcelled brevity and earnestness.

The traditions concerning Hillel's life harmonize completely with the sayings which are handed down in his name, and bear in themselves the proof of their genuineness. Hillel's sayings are preserved partly in Hebrew, the language of the school, partly in Aramaic, the language of the people, or, as it is said in Ab. The saying of Hillel which introduces the collection of his maxims in the Mishnaic treatise Abot mentions Aaron as the great model to be imitated in his love of peace, in his love of man, and in his leading mankind to a knowledge of the Law Ab. In mentioning these characteristics, which the Haggadah then already ascribed to Moses' brother, Hillel mentions his own most prominent virtues.

Love of man was considered by Hillel as the kernel of the entire Jewish teaching.

Hillel Facts

When a heathen who wished to become a Jew asked him for a summary of the Jewish religion in the most concise terms, Hillel said: "What is hateful to thee, do not unto thy fellow man: this is the whole Law; the rest is mere commentary" Shab. With these words Hillel recognized as the fundamental principle of the Jewish moral law the Biblical precept of brotherly love Lev.

Almost the same thing was taught by Paul, a pupil of Gamaliel, the grandson of Hillel Gal. It may be assumed without argument that Hillel's answer to the proselyte, which is extant in a narrative in the Babylonian Talmud comp. Schechter, p.

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He also preached the social tenet, "Do not separate thyself from the community. On this basic issue the two opposing schools agreed that theoretically the Shammaites may be correct, but practically, since existence is a fact, man should live constructively and effectively. Life-affirming Judaism permits of no other attitude.

Teachings of Hillel

Nahum N. Glatzer, Hillel the Elder: The Emergence of Classical Judaism , presents a well-written, popular account of Hillel's life, works, and ideas.


Blumenthal, Aaron H. Buxbaum, Yitzhak. Sentences Sentence examples. By continuing, you agree to our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. Please set a username for yourself. People will see it as Author Name with your public flash cards. Hillel's Teachings Hillel appears to have laid great stress on the practice of Babylonian schools to derive doctrine and law directly from the scriptural text rather than merely relying on established tradition, memorized and transmitted orally from one generation to another. Encyclopedia of World Biography. Copyright The Gale Group, Inc.

Hillel is often seen as the more tolerant, softer teacher, with his teachings representing what we consider "normative" Judaism. Often, the traditions passed down to modern times are a result of the rabbis' reconciliation of the two schools, so that Hillel's pure teachings have been lost. Studied on their own, it becomes evident that Hillel was actually much more radical and "hasidic" than is commonly thought. While he is known for representing the gentler, more loving side of Judaism, in this work his pious radicalism is also apparent.

Hillel's Teachings

Readers will be charmed and fascinated by Hillel's fiery gentleness.