Liberal Arts Blog — Shammai (50 BCE-30CE): the Motto, Hillel’s Foil, the Two Houses
Liberal Arts Blog — Tuesday is the Joy of Literature, Language, Religion, and Culture Day
Today’s Topic: Shammai (50 BCE-30CE): the Motto, Hillel’s Foil, the Two Houses
Shammai was a Jewish scholar who lived at roughly the time of Hillel (110 BCE — 10 CE).
He had a three-part motto but is perhaps most famous as Hillel’s foil. The House of Shammai” and the “House of Hillel” were rival schools of thought. The latter prevailed. Today, a few notes. The photograph below is of what is allegedly the tomb of Shammai. Experts — please chime in. Correct, elaborate, elucidate.
SHAMMAI’S THREE PART MOTTO
1. “Make the study of the Torah your chief occupation.”
2. “Speak little but accomplish much.”
3. “Receive every man with a friendly countenance.”
HILLEL’S FOIL AND THE CONVERSION STORY
1. “One famous account in the Talmud (Shabbat 31a) tells about a gentile who wanted to convert to Judaism.”
2. “This individual stated that he would accept Judaism only if a rabbi would teach him the entire Torah while he, the prospective convert, stood on one foot.”
3 “First he went to Shammai, who, insulted by this ridiculous request, threw him out of the house.”
NB: “The man did not give up and went to Hillel. This gentle sage accepted the challenge, and said: “What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor. That is the whole Torah; the rest is the explanation of this — go and study it!” And, of course, the gentile converted.
THE HOUSE OF HILLEL VERSUS HOUSE OF SHAMMAI
1. “A disagreement which is for the sake of Heaven will be preserved, and one which is not for the sake of Heaven will not be preserved.” (Mishnah)
2. “What is a disagreement that is for the sake of Heaven? The disagreement of Hillel and Shammai.”
3. “In most cases, though not always, Beit Hillel’s opinion is the more lenient and tolerant of the two. In nearly all cases, Beit Hillel’s opinion has been accepted as normative by halacha, and is the opinion followed by modern Jews.”
NB: Apparently, there are 300 theological differences between the two Houses. “In general Beit Shammai’s positions are stricter than Hillel’s. It was in general said that the school of Shammai binds, the school of Hillel looses.”
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