Because they did not serve…

In response to my previous post, Shmuel commented:

“They learned facts from their rabbeim, but without spending the time that comes from watching them live, they didn’t learn attitude.”

That statement alone is worth its own post, or many, for that matter…

So, a little more elaboration. Here’s the section we’re discussing:

Qabbalistically, Beis Shammai is described as embodying the sephirah of Din, strict Justice and uncompromising Truth, whereas Beis Hillel draws from the sephirah of Chessed, Generosity and Lovingkindness. This fits the observation that Beis Hillel is far more often the more lenient of the two. Also, we are told that Beis Hillel’s position was codified as law over Beis Shammai’s because Beis Shammai would only teach their own position, whereas when a member of Beis Hillel taught, he started with Beis Shammai’s position, and then his own. Procedurally, we follow Beis Hillel because they were the larger school, and halakhah follows the majority. Beis Shammai was a smaller school that had stricter entrance requirements. Also, Chessed vs. Din. But their attitude might also explain how Beis Hillel grew more rapidly.

Furthermore, the reason given for the radical increase in the number of disputes between the generation of Hillel and Shammai and those of their schools is “shelo shimshu es rabosam — they did not properly serve their mentors.” They learned facts from their rabbeim, but without spending the time that comes from watching them live, they didn’t learn attitude. The Maharal explains that since Hillel was the nasi, his job was to distribute funds and build an infrastructure for society. His job was Chessed. Shammai, as the head of the court, had Din as a profession. The students, because of their distance from the rebbes, could not separate the differences due to their roles from the rebbeim’s approach to Torah.

The first element is a Tosefta (Chagiga 2:4), which also appears in a slightly different form in the Yerushalmi (Chagiga 1:4, Vilna ed. 8b), and the same basic idea in the Bavli (Sanhedrin 88b). It begins by telling us how machloqes was avoided in the days of the zugos, by having questioned referred up a hierarchy of courts for resolution, and once resolved, the answer was promulgated in the streets. However, “משרבו תלמידי שמאי והלל שלא שמשו כל צרכן [הרבו] מחלוקת בישראל [ונעשו כשתי תורות...] – when the number multiplied of students of Hillel and Shammai who did not serve [their mentors] as much as they needed, machloqes multiplied in Israel and it became as though there were two Torahs.” From then on they would check and inspect anyone who was wise, modest, of positive character, fearful of sin, who has a distinguished appearance and in whom people’s spirits find pleasant, and appoint him a local judge. And from there, the judge would rise up the ranks.

There is a second Tosefta (Sotah 14:1): “משרבו זהיהי\זהוהי הלב רבו מחלוקת בישראל והן שופכי דמים משרבו תלמידי שמאי והלל שלא שמשו כל צרכן הרבו מחלוקת בישראל ונעשית התורה כשתי תורות — When the number of deep-hearted multiplied, machloqes multiplied in Israel — and they spill blood. When the number multiplied of students of Hillel and Shammai who did not serve [their mentors] as much as they needed, machloqes multiplied in Israel and it became as though there were two Torahs.”

(Notice that both tie the lack of shimush, of serving one’s rebbe, to attitude and middos, not a loss of facts. The first Tosefta says that the loss forced us to select judges who are not only wise, but also of proper middos (and who people would obey). The second cites the problem with the students of Hillel and Shammai as a follow up to those whose love of sophistry led to divisions and death.)

In contrast, we have this explanation for why Yehoshuah was selected as Moshe’s successor, from Bamidbar Rabba (21:14). After dealing with the daughters of Tzelafchad’s question about inheriting their father’s land, Moshe turned to Hashem and asked about his own successor. Hashem first ruled out Moshe’s own children, since they did not sufficiently toil in Torah. But “יהושע הרבה שרתך והרבה חלק לך כבוד והוא היה משכים ומעריב בבית הועד שלך הוא היה מסדר את הספסלים והוא פורס את המחצלאות הואיל והוא שרתך בכל כחו כדאי הוא שישמש את ישראל שאינו מאבד שכרו קח לך את יהושע בן נון לקיים מה שנאמר נוצר תאנה יאכל פריה. — Yehoshua served you a lot and accorded you much honor. And he would awaken early and stay late in the evenings in your house of study. He would set up the benches and he would spread the mats. Since he served you with all his strength, is is appropriate that he serve Israel fir he does not lose his reward. Take for yourself Yehoshua bin Nun to fulfill what is days ‘The one who plants the fig shall eat its fruit.’ (Mishlei 27:18)”

The key attribute that distinguished Yehoshua from Moshe’s sons’ lack of toil in Torah was in how he served his teacher.


In Derekh haChaim (on Avos 1:15), the Maharal analyzes the structure of Avos 1:4-15. We are given the maxims of the zugos, the pairs of nasi (prince/president) and av beis din (ABD; head of the Sanhedrin) of each generation. The Mahral notes a pattern.

Generation 1:

Nasi: Yosi ben Y’oezer – Have your home open to sages, you should attach yourself to their dust, and drink their words with thirst.
ABD: Yosi ben Yochanan – Your home should be open to guest, you should be generous, minimize flirtatiousness…

In short, the Maharal notes that the nasi‘s advice has us developing our ahavah, our love of G-d, through His Torah. The ABD, however, is promoting yir’ah, warning us against an excessively material focus and greed. And the Maharal sees this pattern in each of the subsequent generations as well. The nasi is known for preaching a message of ahavah, and the head of the court, one of yir’ah.

Generation 2:

Nasi: Yehoshua ben Perachiah – Get yourself a rabbi and a friend, and judge everyone favorably — ahavah
ABD: Nitai haArbeili – Avoid a bad neighbor, don’t befriend evil people, and don’t give up in times of trouble — yir’ah

Generation 3:

Nasi: Yehudah ben Tabai – A judge should act like an advocate; when the litigants come before you, assume they’re both guilty, but when they leave, since they follow your ruling, assume they’re both righteous — ahavah
ABD: Shin’on ben Shetach – Meticulously cross-examine the witnesses, and be careful not to ask leading questions — yir’ah

Generation 4:

Nasi: Shemaya – Love work, hate leadership, and avoid government ties — ahavah
ABD: Avtalyon – Sages, be careful with your words! The wrong words could get you exile, mislead your students and lead to chillul Hashem! yir’ah

Generation 5:

Nasi: Hillel- Be like the students of Aharon: love and pursue peace, love all people and bring them to the Torah — ahavah
ABD: Shamai – Sages, be careful with your words! The wrong words could get you exile, mislead your students and lead to chillul Hashem! yir’ah

A pattern. Until we get to the students who didn’t sufficiently serve their mentors, and we needed a new sort of transmission and a new sort of leadership. No longer did we have zugos, a pair of leaders attached to the Sanhedrin. As we saw from the Tosefta, no longer was the Sanhedrin sufficient to resolve all the differences of opinion between them.

As I put it in that earlier post:

They learned facts from their rabbeim, but without spending the time that comes from watching them live, they didn’t learn attitude. The Maharal explains that since Hillel was the nasi, his job was to distribute funds and build an infrastructure for society. His job was Chessed. Shammai, as the head of the court, had Din as a profession. The students, because of their distance from the rebbes, could not separate the differences due to their roles from the rebbeim’s approach to Torah.

And so, rather than each having a job of preaching one side of a balance, each school lost that balance. One can view the halachic process as a search to reintegrate, to become whole. And so, with balance lost, the process became far more complex, and the search for integration that much more difficult.

And your thoughts...?