Hillel the Elder

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Hillel HaZaken
Hillel HaZaken
הלל הזקן
Other Names:
Hillel HaZaken, Hillel HaBavli, Hillel HaNasi
Nasi and leader of Jewish Nation during 5th Zugot era, founder of the Bais Hillel school.

Hillel Hazaken served as the Nasi of the Sanhedrin around 100 years before the destruction of the Second Temple. Shami served alongside him as Av Bais Din, together forming the final set of Zugot. Hillel was a student of Shmaya and Avtalyon. His students formed the Bais Hillel school and included Yonasan Ben Uziel, Shumel HaKaton and Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakkai. Hillel lived to the old age of 120.


[edit] Early Life

[edit] Bavel

Hillel was born in Bavel and came to Eretz Yisroel when he was forty years old.

[edit] Student of Shmaya and Avtalyon

One Friday Hillel could not afford the entry fee into the Beit Medrash of Shmaya and Avtalyon. He climbed on the roof so he could listen to the lecture through the skylight, where he became so observed in the Torah that he did not realize he had become covered in snow. On Shabbos morning the dimmed lighting in the studyroom led to an investigation and they found Hillel covering the opening, almost frozen to death, covered by five feet of snow. They dug him out, and placed him near a newly created fire, Shmaya and Avtalyon that Hillel was worthy to have the Shabbos desecrated for. This incident led to the abolishment of the entry fee into the Beit Medrash.

[edit] Nasi

[edit] Prozbul

Hillel created the Prozbul when he saw people were not lending their fellow Jews money as the Shmita year approached. According to Halacha, any debt that goes into Shmita becomes canceled and the borrower does not have to pay the lender back. This led many people to transgress the positive commandment of lending fellow Jews money during the latter years of the seven-year cycle, out of fear of being unable to recover the funds. A Prozbul is a document created by the lender at the start of the Shmita year which is then signed by three judges, transferring the collection of the funds to Beis Din, thereby turning his private loans over into the domain of the public administration causing them to have a semi recovered status since potentially there would be no way to avoid repaying such loans.

[edit] Converts

There were a number of converts that were rejected by Shamai who deemed their requests unreasonable but were converted by Hillel. One came on condition that he be taught all the Torah on one foot, Hillel proceeded to convert him and then said "what is despicable to you, do not do to your friend. This is the entire Torah, the remainder is commentary."

[edit] Dynasty

Hillel the Elder began a dynasty of fourteen generations that served as Nasi.

  1. Hillel the Elder
  2. Shimon ben Hillel
  3. Rabban Gamliel the Elder
  4. Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel of the Asorah Harugay Malchus
  5. Rabban Gamliel of Yavneh
  6. Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel of Usha
  7. Rebbe Yehudah Hanasi
  8. Rabban Gamliel son of Rebbe
  9. Rebbe Yehuda Nessia I
  10. Rebbe Gamliel IV
  11. Rebbe Yehuda Nessia II
  12. Rebbe Gamliel V
  13. Rebbe Yehuda Nessia III
  14. Hillel Nesiah

[edit] Teachings

  • Be from the students of Ahron--a lover of peace, a pursuer of peace, one who loves the creatures and draws them close to Torah.
  • One who advances his name, destroys his name. One who does not increase, diminishes. One who does not learn is deserving of death. And one who make personal use of the Crown shall perish.
  • If I am not for myself, who is for me? And if I am only for myself, what am I? And if not now, when?

[edit] Kever Hillel HaZaken

Hillel is buried along with his students in a cave in Meron under the tombs of Rabbi Yochanan Hasandlar and the Rashbi. According to tradition his Kever is located in the little sealed Kuch on the right side of the tunnel at the end of the cave. There are a number of legends regarding the mystical powers of the water found in the 'Cave of Hillel'. In 2012 local authorities sealed off the entrance of the Cave with a metal barricade preventing the public from being able to pray at this holy location. Occasionally the cave is opened up on days like Lag Baomer.

[edit] More Photos

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