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Religion Library: Judaism


Written by: Marc A. Krell

Indeed, the school of Hillel was so influential that it produced a dynasty following the destruction of the Second Temple that shaped the very foundations of rabbinic Judaism in the land of Israel. This was period of the tannaim, those "repeating" oral interpretations of the Torah that were eventually compiled in the 3rd-century rabbinic text, the Mishnah or "teaching." The tannaitic period began in 70 C.E. following the destruction of the Second Temple with Hillel's youngest disciple Rabban Yochanan ben Zakkai, who established the first rabbinic community in the northern city of Yavneh. The dynasty continued with the grandson of Hillel, Rabban Gamaliel who expanded the authority of the Sanhedrin at Yavneh and instituted the rule of the Patriarchate that would lead the Sanhedrin through the 5th century. Yet despite the seemingly monarchic structure of rabbinic leadership in antiquity, Hillel's ethical legacy of personal responsibility, mutual respect, and dedication to the community remained a permanent fixture in Jewish life.

Six Books of the Mishnah
1. Zeraim: On Agriculture
2. Moed: On Festivals
3. Nashim: On Women
4. Nezikin: On Jewish criminal and civil law
5. Kodashim: On religious services
6. Tohorot: On Purification

Study Questions:
1.     Who was Hillel? Who was Shammai?
2.     What event provided the most obvious difference between the schools of Hillel and Shammai? How did this influence Judaism's theology?
3.     How did Judaism survive after the Second Temple was destroyed?


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