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The Stabilization of Rabbinic Culture, 100 C.E.–350 C.E.Texts on Education and Their Late Antique Context$
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Marc Hirshman

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780195387742

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195387742.001.0001

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Teaching with Authority

Teaching with Authority

A Comparative View

(p.97) 7 Teaching with Authority
The Stabilization of Rabbinic Culture, 100 C.E.–350 C.E.

Marc Hirshman

Oxford University Press

One can make a case that of all the famous legends in rabbinic literature that have left a permanent imprint on Jewish consciousness and shaped Jewish identity, the aggada of the Gentile who comes before Shammai and Hillel demanding to be taught the entire Torah while standing on one foot (bShabbat 31a) has achieved a special place. Rebuffed by Shammai for his insolence, the potential convert is accepted by Hillel and instructed, “What is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow—the rest go and study [gemar].” Much scholarship had been devoted to the negative formulation of the Golden Rule, but Hillel's negative answer is no more than a clever and witty reprisal to the potential convert's impudent request to sum-up the entire Torah. Hillel's rejoinder is not to ask of others what you yourself would not want to be asked, and to now go study in a proper fashion. No less fascinating, albeit less well known, is the anecdote about Hillel agreeing to summarize the entire Torah, which is the second of three stories of Gentiles approaching Shammai and Hillel. All the stories share the common element of a potential convert who stipulates the terms under which he is prepared to be converted. In the last of the three, the convert asks to be converted under the condition that he be made the high priest. This chapter addresses the first of these stories as it appears in the baraita in bShabbat 31a, and compares it with two other versions.

Keywords:   rabbinic literature, Gentile, aggada, education, Shammai, Hillel

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