Hello everyone! I have very good news. Some of you must have read the work the great talmudic and biblical scholar, Professor Henry J., who is the author of several books that combine impeccable scholarship and a remarkably innovative approach. So much so, that some conservative rabbis say the professor’s views border on iconoclastic blasphemy! However, this is far from the truth. Professor Henry J. also has a doctorate in psychology, and his hobby is to analyze ancient personalities and their behavior, based on his deep knowledge of human nature and of the ancient sources. Incidentally, his name is a pseudonym -- the professor is too modest to reveal his real name.
I had the honor of receiving an e-mail from the professor, who had read some of this blog. He feels that there is much I should be enlightened about regarding the character of Hillel the Elder. He likes Hillel (who wouldn’t?) but he feels that the views about him are more hagiography and blind admiration than need be, and the truth is that he was a very different person from what he appears to be in the legends about him. Here is the professor’s remark about the famous snowy roof legend; I sincerely hope to have more remarks in the future. I quote Professor Henry J.:
One day Hillel wanted to enter the Academy and study. Since he had no money, the guard did not allow him to go inside. Hillel climbed on the roof and leaned over the opening of the chimney. The official, and utterly wrong version, claims that Hillel was willing to lie on the roof in the snow so that he could listen to the sages. The truth is completely different. Hillel went on the roof to block the sunlight so the people inside the Academy could not study. "If I am not studying," he later said to his friend, the student Chavtaliahu Gazit, "no one else is studying."
Even though I truly respect Professor Henry J., I personally find this version very difficult to believe. The wording, indeed, sound exactly like a quote from Hillel, but still... it is complex. So I sincerely hope to hear from readers! Any comment about this subject is welcome, and please feel free to accept or object. The professor and I will both welcome your views. Incidentally, does anyone know anything about the other student, Chavtaliahu Gazit? I could not find a source about him.