Rabbi Hillel’s Three Questions: What Did He Mean?

July 31, 2012

I have always been drawn to the deeper questions in life and I spent quite a bit of my life defending clients charged with death penalty offenses and I confronted those questions on a daily basis. I am opposed to the death penalty in all cases.

I believe that, as long as we remain alive, we retain the capacity for redemption, no matter what we have done.

As we tread water waiting for Judge Lester’s decision on Friday regarding the defense motion to disqualify, I have taken the opportunity to establish some guidelines and rules for the site.

To further set the tone for a new way in the blogosphere to learn about law and grow in wisdom together, I decided to provoke some philosophical thought and discussion regarding Rabbi Hillel’s famous three questions.

Rabbi Hillel

Wikipedia states:

Hillel (הלל) (born Babylon traditionally c.110 BCE, died 10 CE[1] in Jerusalem) was a famous Jewish religious leader, one of the most important figures in Jewish history. He is associated with the development of the Mishnah and the Talmud. Renowned within Judaism as a sage and scholar, he was the founder of the House of Hillel school for Tannaïm (Sages of the Mishnah) and the founder of a dynasty of Sages who stood at the head of the Jews living in the land of Israel until roughly the fifth century of the Christian Era.

He is known for many things, including this expression of the Golden Rule:

“That which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow. That is the whole Torah; the rest is the explanation; go and learn.

The man had a way of cutting through the bullshit and getting to the essence of things.

I do not mention him for any religious purpose. Instead, I mention him as a sage and, specifically, for the following three questions he asked his students.

If I am not for myself, who will be for me?

But if I am only for myself, who am I?

If not now, when?

What are your thoughts?


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