Shabbat 31 – Conversion and Jewish Law

Today’s daf contains one of the most famous pieces of aggadata. The convert who is turned away by Shammai but accepted and converted by Hillel. In fact there are three different converts who are each in turn, rather unceremoniously, refused entry into the Jewish covenant by Shammai, and seemingly shortly after, accepted by Hillel.

The famous convert is the one who asks to be taught the Torah whilst he stands on one leg but all three cases are fascinating in there own ways.

However it is the final piece of this aggadata that I find most fascinating:-

לימים נזדווגו שלשתן למקום אחד, אמרו: קפדנותו של שמאי בקשה לטורדנו מן העולם, ענוותנותו של הלל קרבנו תחת כנפי השכינה

“Eventually, the three [converts] gathered together [in] one place, [and] they said: Shammai’s impatience sought to drive us from the world; Hillel’s patience brought us beneath the wings of the Divine Presence.”

The converts are grateful for being accepted into the covenant and yet we do not follow this ruling of Hillel. We are told to follow Hillel, to be ‘lovers of peace and pursuers of peace’ and yet we require that converts accept on themselves the whole of the Torah. In this aggadata Hillel was willing to accept that the converts may come to accept the whole of the Torah at a later date – why can we not follow his example in the modern day?

Here is a fascinating article by Rabbi Riskin in Tradition Journal. There are many more such articles on the subject.



About bookabazza

I am an Osteopath and University Lecturer who is trying to keep up with the 7 year daf yomi cycle. I thought I would try and share a few small thought on the daf each week.
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