Hillel haZaken (Elder) President of the Sanhedrin - הלל הזקן נשיא הסנהדרין

Hillel haZaken (Elder) President of the Sanhedrin - הלל הזקן נשיא הסנהדרין

אם לא עכשיו אימתי - If not now, when - from these words of Hillel haZaken and also with their meaning, we will begin our story of one of the great men of Israel.

Hillel haZaken - the Elder (113 BCE or 60 BCE - 8 CE) was the last president of the Sanhedrin during the period of the couples. The old appraiser, who was the head of the tribunal at the time, was his regular bar-plugata after Menachem left the post.

Old Hillel is traditionally considered a descendant of the House of David on the part of the mother and the tribe of Benjamin on the part of the father. He was born in Babylon to a respectable family and immigrated to Eretz Israel at the age of 40. According to the legend in the Talmud Bavli, when he arrived in Israel he was very poor, worked as a lumberjack, and earned one trope (half a dinar) a day. Half he would give to the keeper of the beit midrash so that he could learn Torah from his masters, and the other half he used to support his household. It is said that one day he was unable to earn any money at all, and the guard of the beit midrash refused to allow him to enter. He climbed on the roof of the beit midrash and listened to the words of his masters the key to the chimney. The scholars, who did not understand why the light that entered the beit midrash dwindled, went up to the roof and found Hillel covered with three amounts of snow. He was immediately taken down from the roof, and even though it was Saturday he was bathed and seated against the fire. "They said: It is proper to desecrate the Sabbath upon him" (Babylonian Talmud Bavli, Tractate Yoma, p. 35 - תלמוד בבלי מסכת יומא דף ל''ה).

The Talmudic sources do not give any information about the period in which he lived, except for one chronological note: "Hillel and Shimon Gamliel and Shimon presided over the house for a hundred years" (Shabbat p. 15), which means that the presidency of Hillel began around 30 BC, and 100  years before the destruction. If we accept the determination that it lasted 40 years, then the end of his presidency and death was around 10 AD.

We do not have Hillel's moves but a few short rulings, on several different matters in Halacha. However, the imprint of the generation that followed was imprinted in many laws in the Mishnah. His disciples were called Beit Hillel, and they are often quoted as having disagreed with Halacha on Beit Shamai. Throughout the ages, most of the sages of Halacha followed the Beit Hillel method because they were comfortable with the people and let the sages of Beit Shamai express their opinions first, and the sweeping statement that "Halacha as Beit Hillel" was accepted.

Hillel was the founder of the dynasty of Sanhedrin presidents, which lasted for 15 generations and 450 years until the abolition of the institution of the presidency in the 5th century, even after the destruction of Jerusalem.

There are lots of topics related to old Hillel haZakhen in our store books geulabook with shipments in Israel to the USA Canada EU Europe and the whole world.


Back to blog

Leave a comment