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A biography of hillel the creator of rabbinic judaism

Many scholars have noticed similarities between the sayings of Hillel and some of the teachings of Jesusleading to speculation that Jesus was a hearer of Hillel or at least was influenced by his school. Biography Born in BabylonHillel is traditionally thought to be from the tribe of Benjamin on his father's side, and from the family of David on his mother's side.

His family was not well off, and Hillel earned his living as a woodcutter Hertz 1936. Hillel's personal life was exemplary and virtuous, characterized by patience, civility, and compassion for his fellow man, including not only Jews but also Gentiles. He was a lover of peace, a capable teacher, and man of cheerful faith in God. Hillel's gentleness and patience are illustrated in an anecdote in which two men made a wager on the question whether Hillel could be made angry.

A biography of hillel the creator of rabbinic judaism

Though they questioned him and made insulting allusions to his Babylonian origin, they were unsuccessful in their attempt Shab. As with most rabbis, stories of Hillel's life do not boast of miracles. However, his life history is difficult to separate from legend. In the Midrash Sifre the periods of Hillel's life are made parallel to those in the life of Moses.

Hillel the Elder

Both supposedly lived 120 years. At the age of 40, Hillel moved from Babylon to the Land of Israel. He spent 40 years in study, and the last third of his life was spent as the spiritual head of the Jewish people. While this account may be difficult to accept at face value, a biographical sketch can be constructed that Hillel went to Jerusalem in the prime of his life and attained a great age, spending his later years as head of the Sanhedrin and finally passing away around 10-20 C.

The cave in the Meron river in Israel where Hillel is buried Hillel went to Jerusalem with the intention of studying biblical exposition and tradition.

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The difficulties which he had to overcome in order to be admitted to school and the hardships he suffered while pursuing his aim are told in a touching story.

Hillel's family was so poor that they could not afford to enroll him at Jerusalem's yeshiva. Hill wanted to study so badly that in the winter he climbed up to the roof to observe the lesson through the school's skylight. He became so enthralled in the lesson that he forgot his bodily needs and became frozen in place. The next morning his body was discovered, still with life in it, but needing to be thawed out.

Yoma 35b As an adult Hillel made his reputation when he succeeded in settling a question concerning the sacrificial ritual in a manner which showed his superiority over the "sons of Betheira" who were at that time the heads of the Sanhedrin.

They promptly resigned their control of the presidency of the Sanhedrin in favor of Hillel. He was thereby recognized as the highest authority among the Pharisees.

Hillel's teachings Hillel's authority was sufficient to introduce several decrees which were handed down in his name.

Origins of Rabbinic Judaism

The most famous of his enactments was the pruzbul, an institution which ensured the repayment of loans in spite of the law concerning cancellation of debts in the Sabbatical year Deut. This institution protected both the creditor against the loss of his property, and the needy against being refused loans. Hillel's inclusiveness was demonstrated by his affirming the legitimacy of certain Alexandrian Jews whose origin was disputed and by interpreting the marriage document of their mother in her favor Tosef.

He was open to discourse with the poor, with sinners, and with Gentiles. Love of one's fellow man was considered by Hillel as the kernel of the entire Jewish teaching. Perhaps his most famous saying was "What is hateful to you, do not to your fellow.

One of his most famous sayings was: And when I am for myself, what am I? And if not now, when? In a similar vein, he said: In a paraphrase of Eccl. The most famous of these stories tells of his teaching a summary of the Torah to a non-Jew while standing on one leg see "Hillel and Shammai," below. According to another tradition, Hillel stood in the gate of Jerusalem one day and asked two men on their way to work: Then said he to them: Hillel and Shammai Hillel is also known for his opposition to his Judaean colleague and successor, Shammai.

Despite Hillel's own careful observance of the Jewish law, in these debates, he generally advocated milder interpretations of Halakha Jewish law and tradition. The difference between the two great teachers is epitomized in a famous story concerning a Gentile who wished to understand the law: The man first approached Shammai, asking that the teacher provide him with a summary of the Torah while standing on one foot. Known in later years as a fierce opponent of commerce with Gentiles, Shammai took offense at the request and drove the man away with a measuring rod.

When the man went Hillel, however, the sage saw his request a biography of hillel the creator of rabbinic judaism as a offense but as an opportunity.

Standing on one leg, Hillel said: Shammai became the head of the Sanhedrin after Hillel and the House of Shammai became dominant in the years preceding the Jewish rebellion of 66 C.

Partly because Hillel's disciples opposed confrontation with Rome, while Shammai's opted for war, the exhortation to love peace became came to be known as particularly characteristic of Hillel. The Talmud therefore counsels: It is established at more than 500 colleges and universities.

Hillel figures prominently in the Passover Seder liturgy and is thus fondly remembered each year by Jewish children and parents. The Passover Haggadah instructs participants to take the matzo and make a sandwich of bitter herbs, eating them together while saying: This is what Hillel did when the Temple existed: That is the whole Torah. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Whoever tries to keep his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it.

This has led some to speculate that Jesus was influenced by the teachings of Hillel, if not directly, at least through the sayings popularized by Hillel's school. While the Gospels generally portray the Pharisees as enemies of Jesus, their objections are often based on points important to the House of Shammai rather than the House of Hillel, such as association with sinners, strict interpretation of the dietary and Sabbath laws, etc.

Questioned by certain Pharisees, "Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?

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I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. The Gospels also refer to at least one Pharisee who supported and defended Jesus, while none of the Pharisees who persecuted him are named. Nicodemus is named as the Pharisee and Sanhedrin member who defended Jesus when the council considered arresting him.

The Book of Acts portrays the grandson of Hillel, Gamalielas a Sanhedrin leader who saved the disciples from death.

Some scholars have suggested that the attitude of animosity shown by Jesus to the Pharisees—heaping "woes" upon them and calling them "blind guides" and "hypocrites"—is a reflection of the time that the Gospel stories were formulated in the mid-first century C. This was the period when the House of Shammai was in control of the Sanhedrin and groups that favored peaceful coexistence with Rome—whether Hillelite or Jewish-Christian—faced bitter opposition from a coalition of Shammaite fundamentalists and violent Zealots.

Jesus among the teachers in the Temple. One cannot help but wonder what might have happened if Jesus' parents had supported his continued discourse with and long-term instruction by the teachers in the Temple, perhaps including the Hillel the Elder himself.

Rabbinic Judaism

The Life and Teachings of Hillel. Comparisons of Two Major Religious Leaders. The Major Teachings of the Rabbinic Sages.

Hillel's Teachings

Schocken; Reprint edition, 1995. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2007. ISBN 9780802843586 External links.

  • The maror, if lettuce or endive, is dipped in the meal's traditional charoset a finely chopped sweet mixture of fruits and nuts, typically apples, walnuts, red wine, cinnamon, and honey just before the sandwich is made;
  • Information about jewish sages and scholars, including hillel, shammai, rabbi akiba, judah ha-nasi, rashi, maimonides and the baal shem tov.