Let him who is convinced that his views are true and right express them . . . at every opportunity . . . without considering how much support or how much opposition he will encounter. Only falsehood is in need of many supporters in order to win the day; falsehood must have the authority of numbers to make up for what it lacks in justification. Truth, by contrast, will always prevail, even if it takes time. Noble, courageous and pure, expressed with all the fiery zeal and conviction and with all clarity of sure awareness, stated again and again at every opportunity, truth will ultimately gain respect and admiration even of those who do not accept it. The only truth that can be lost beyond recall is that truth whose adherents no longer have the courage to speak up candidly on its behalf. Truth has never gone down in defeat as the result of opposition, it has done so only when its friends are too weak to defend it. - R' S.R. Hirsch

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

The Seven Rules of Hillel - An Introduction

Rabbis Hillel and Shammai were leading figures in Judaism during the days of Yeshua’s youth.   Many of Y'shua’s teachings aligned largely with the School of Hillel rather than that of the School of Shamai.  For example, Y'shua’s famous “golden rule”: Whatever you would that men should do to you, do you even to them, for this is the Torah and the Prophets. (Matthew 7:12)

This reads very closely with Hillel’s famous statement: What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor that is the whole Torah … (Shabbat 31a)

Upon Hillel’s death, the mantle of the School of Hillel was passed to his son Simeon.  Upon Simeon’s death the mantle of the school of Hillel passed to Gamliel. This Gamliel is noted for speaking up in defense of the early Nazarenes (Acts 5:34-39) and he was also the teacher of Sha'ul/Paul (Acts 22:3).

Therefore, Paul would in all likelihood have been very conversant with the rules as he would have received his instruction and training in the School of Hillel from Hillel's own grandson Gamliel. 

1. Kal v'chomer (light and heavy)

Kal v'chomer is the first of the seven rules for understanding the scriptures.  The kal v'chomer rule is used to make an argument from lesser weight based on one of greater weight.  It may be expressed as:

If X is true of Y then how much more X must be true of Z (Where Z is of greater weight than Y)

A kal v'chomer argument is often signaled by the phrase "how much more..."  The Sages recognized two forms of kal v'chomer:

(1) kal v'chomer meforash - In this form the kal v'chomer argument appears explicitly.

(2) kal v'chomer satum - In which the kal v'chomer argument is only implied.

We find several examples of kal v'chomer in the Tanakh.  For example:

Midrash Rabbah - Genesis XCII:7 AND WHEN THEY WERE GONE OUT OF THE CITY... IS NOT THIS IT IN WHICH MY LORD DRINKETH... AND HE OVERTOOK THEM... AND THEY SAID UNTO HIM:... BEHOLD, THE MONEY, etc. (XLIV, 4-8). R. Ishmael taught: This is one of the ten a fortiori arguments recorded in the Torah. 


(ii) Behold, the children of Israel have not hearkened unto me; surely all the more, how then shall Pharaoh hear me (Ex. VI, 12). 

(iii) Behold, while I am yet alive with you this day, ye have been rebellious against the L-rd; does it not follow then, and how much more after my death (Deut. XXXI, 27). 

(iv) And the L-rd said unto Moses: If her father had but spit in her face; surely it would stand to reason, should she not hide in shame seven days Num. XII, 14). 

(v) If thou hast run with the footmen, and they have wearied thee, is it not logical to say, then how canst thou contend with horses (Jer. XII, 5). 

(vi) Behold, we are afraid here in Judah; surely it stands to reason, how much more then if we go to Keilah (I Sam. XXIII, 3). 

(vii) And if in a land of peace where thou art secure [thou art overcome], is it not logical to ask, how wilt thou do in the thickets of the Jordan? Jer. loc. cit.). 

(viii) Behold, the righteous shall be requited in the earth; does it not follow, how much more the wicked and the sinner (Prov. XI, 31). 

(ix) And the king said unto Esther the queen: The Jews have slain and destroyed five hundred men in Shushan the castle; it stands to reason, what then have they done in the rest of the king's provinces (Est. IX, 12). 

(x) Behold, when it was whole, it was meet for no work; surely it is logical to argue, how much less, when the fire hath devoured it, and it is singed, etc. (Ezek. XV, 5).)

There are several examples of kal v'chomer in the Greek Writings as well. Y'shua often uses this form of argument.  For example:

If a man receives circumcision on the Sabbath, so that the Law of Moses should not be broken, are you angry with me because I made a man completely well on the Sabbath? (John 7:23)

What man is there among you who has one sheep, and if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will not lay hold of it and lift it out?  Of how much more value then is a man than a sheep?  Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath. (Mt. 12:11-12)

Other examples of Y'shua's usage of kal v'chomer are:

Matthew 10:25; Luke 11:13; 12:24, 28; John 7:23; 15:18-20 

Paul also uses kal v'chomer:

Romans 5:8-9, 10, 15, 17; 11:12, 24; I Corinthians 9:11-12; 12:22; II Corinthians 3:7-9, 11; Philippians 1:16; 2:12; Hebrews 2:2-3; 9:13-14; 10:28-29; 12:9, 25.

2. G'zerah Shavah (Equivalence of expressions)

Argument from analogy.  Biblical passages containing synonyms or homonyms are subject, however much they differ in other respects, to identical definitions and applications.  If a similar word or expression occurs in two places in scripture, the rulings of each place may be applied to the other.

In strictly limited cases, the Sinaitic tradition teaches that the two independent laws or cases are meant to shed light upon one another. The indication that the two laws are complementary can be seen in two ways: (a) The same or similar words appear in both cases, e.g. the word in its proper time, is understood to indicate that the daily offering must be brought even on Shabbat. Similarly, the same word in the context of the Pesach offering should be interpreted to mean that it is offered even if its appointed day, too, falls on Shabbat.   

When two different topics are placed next to one another (this is also called comparison), e.g. many laws regarding the technical process of divorce and betrothal are derived from one another because Scripture mentions divorce and betrothal in the same phrase by saying, she shall depart [through divorce] and become betrothed to another man. This juxtaposition implies that the two changes of marital status are accomplished through similar legal processes. 

The phrase ‘Hebrew slave” is ambiguous, for it may mean a heathen slave owned by a Hebrew, or else, a slave who is a Hebrew. That the latter is the correct meaning is proved by a reference to the phrase “your Hebrew brother”, where the same law is mentioned (… If your Hebrew brother is sold to you …). 

3. Binyan ab mikathub echad (Building of the father from one text)

One explicit passage serves as a foundation or starting point so as to constitute a rule (father) for all similar passages or cases.

The Torah teaches that work in preparation of food is permitted on Pesach. We extend this ruling to apply to other holidays as well.

Hebrews 9:11-22 applies "blood" from Exodus 24:8 = Hebrews 9:20 to Jeremiah 31:31-34

4. Binyab ab mishene kethubim (Building of the father from two or more texts) 

Two texts or provisions in a text serve as a foundation for a general conclusion. Where one verse may not be sufficient to apply its rule elsewhere, a combination of two verses might be. For example: The Torah holds the owner of an ox liable for the damages caused by the ox. This ruling applies even if the damages it inflicts occurred somewhere other than where the owner originally placed the ox.

Similarly, one is liable for the damages caused by a pit he dug, or by an inanimate obstacle he placed in a public domain. From the combination of these two laws we derive a third law that if a person places an obstacle in the public domain and it caused damage somewhere other than where it was originally placed, the person who originally put it down is liable. See Bava Kamma 6a.

From Devarim 24:6 (“No one shall take a handmill or an upper millstone in pledge, for he would be taking a life in pledge”) the Rabbis concluded: “Everything which is used for preparing food is forbidden to be taken in pledge.”

From Shemot 21:26-27 (“If a man strikes the eye of his slave … and destroys it, he must let him go free in compensation for his eye. If he knocks out the tooth of his slave … he must let him go free…”) the Hakhamim concluded that when any part of the slave’s body is mutilated by the master, the slave shall go free.

Since the Torah specifies that one may not marry even his maternal half sister, this general principle, dictates that the prohibition against marrying ones father’s sister applies equally to his father’s maternal half sister. The same rule applies when two different verses shed light on one another: Similar situations may be derived from the combination of the two verses.

In Heb. 1:5-14 Paul cites:

Psalm 2:7 = Hebrews 1:5

II Samuel 7:14 = Hebrews 1:5

Deuteronomy 32:43/Psalm 97:7/(Nehemiah 9:6) = Hebrews 1:6

Psalm 104:4 = Hebrews 1:7

Psalm 45:6-7 = Hebrews 1:8-9

Psalm 102:25-27 = Hebrews 1:10-12

Psalm 110:1 = Hebrews 1:13

in order too build a rule that the Messiah is of a higher order than angels.

5. Kelal uferat (the general and the particular)

Gen. 1:27 > Gen. 2:7, 21

A general statement is first made and is followed by a single remark which particularizes the general principle.

In Vayikra (Leviticus) (Leviticus) 18:6 the law reads: “None of you shall marry anyone related to him”. This generalization is followed by a specification of forbidden marriages. Hence, this prohibition applies only to those expressly mentioned.

The Torah writes, If a person shall offer a sacrifice to HaShem of an animal, etc. The generalization of an animal would seem to include any and all animals. However, Scripture follows that phrase with, from cattle or sheep, thereby specifying that only cattle and sheep are fit to be brought as offerings. 

6. Kayotze bo mimekom akhar (analogy made from another passage)

Two passages may seem to conflict until a third resolves the conflict. When two Biblical passages contradict each other the contradiction in question must be solved by reference to a third passage.

The Torah writes In the beginning G-d created the heavens and the earth (see Rashi for the explanation of this verse). This verse implies that the heavens were created before the earth. But later it writes on the day that G-d made earth and heavens, which implies that the earth was created first. However, a third verse resolves the apparent contradiction by stating (HaShem says:) Also my Hand founded the earth while my right hand formed the heavens, indicating that the heavens and earth were created simultaneously.

In Shemot 13:6 we read: “Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread”, and in Devarim 16:8 we are told: “Six days you shall eat unleavened bread”. The contradiction between these two passages is explained by a reference to a third passage where the use of the new produce is forbidden until the second day of Passover. Hence, the passage in Shemot 13:6 must refer to unleavened bread prepared of the produce of a previous year.

Rashi’s Commentary for: Bamidbar (Numbers) 7:89 When Moses would enter [When there are] two contradictory verses, the third one comes and reconciles them. 

One verse says, “the Lord spoke to him from the Tent of Meeting”, and that implies outside the curtain, whereas another verse says, “and speak to you from above the ark cover” [which is beyond the curtain]. This [verse] comes and reconciles them: Moses came into the Tent of Meeting, and there he would hear the voice [of God] coming from [between the cherubim,] above the ark cover.

Paul shows that the following Tanakh passages seem to conflict:

The just shall live by faith (Romans 1:17 = Habakkuk. 2:4)


There is none righteous, no, not one... (Romans 3:10 = Psalm 14:1-3 = Psalm 53:1-3; Ecclesiastes 7:20


[G-d] will render to each one according to his deeds. (Romans 2:6 = Psalm 62:12; Proverbs 24:12)


Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; blessed is the man whom the L-rd shall not impute sin. (Romans 4:7-8 = Psalm 32:1-2)

Paul resolves the apparent conflict by citing Genesis15:6 (in Rom. 4:3, 22):

Abraham believed G-d, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.

Thus Paul resolves the apparent conflict by showing that under certain circumstances, belief/faith/trust (same word in Hebrew) can act as a substitute for righteousness/being just (same word in Hebrew).

7. Davar hilmad me'anino (Explanation obtained from context)

Deduction from the context. 

The Torah included You shall not steal as one of the ten commandments. It is not clear, however, whether this verse is a prohibition against stealing property or against stealing a human being, i.e. kidnapping. The Sages derived from the context that it is a prohibition against kidnapping, which is a capital offense, since the preceding, and following, injunctions, You shall not murder and you shall not commit adultery are capital offenses.

The Torah first writes no person shall have relations with any relative. This verse implies that it is forbidden to marry any relative, regardless of how distant. The Torah then proceeds to list which relatives are forbidden in marriage, indicating that one may marry any relatives that are not included in that list, namely, the more distant relatives.

The noun tinshemeth occurs in Vayikra (Leviticus) 11:18 among the unclean birds, and again (verse 30) among the reptiles. Hence, it becomes certain that tinshemeth is the name of a certain bird as well as of a certain reptile.

In Devarim 19:6, with regard to the cities of refuge where the manslayer is to flee, we read: “So that the avenger of blood may not pursue the manslayer … and slay him, and he is not deserving of death”. That the last clause refers to the slayer, and not to the blood avenger, is made clear by the subsequent clause: “inasmuch as he hated him not in time past.”

"I put the plague of leprosy in a house of the land of your possession", refers only to a house built with stones, timber, and mortar, since these materials are mentioned later in verse 45.

This is only a very basic introduction to the Seven Rules of Hillel, but hopefully it will prove useful in presenting to the reader yet another facet of Rabbinic hermeneutics. 

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