In this segment, I would like to explain the way this book is going to be constructed when it reaches its final form, and to introduce part of the structure that I did not as yet make available until today. The book will be done in three separate parts.
The first part is history. You have seen it in the way I described the Hasmonean Dynasty, the lifestyle of the Babylonians, and the personalities, such as Salome Alexandra or Judas Maccabee. There are extremely interesting characters that belong to the story, such as Herod, the mad king, Mariamne, the beautiful princess he loved and murdered, and even Cleopatra, who was not at all like her Hollywood persona. The material is taken from well-established sources such as Josephus, the ancient historian, Jewish sources, the Dead Sea Scrolls, and modern archaeological research.
The second part is what I am introducing today. I plan to collect every saying, rule, and legend connected to Hillel. Not the Beth Hillel Academy, which comes later, but the man himself. It will be taken from the Talmud itself and from every other Judaic source I can find. I expect to arrange it according to subject matter, such as study, work, women/marriage, teaching, real estate, religion, agriculture, and everything else Hillel was involved with. You will see two examples at the end of this note. I am not including explanations or analysis, since these are merely examples, but I will supply them when I write the segments.
The third part will be the "connect the dots" where I will super-impose the Jewish sources and the historical sources on each other, and create a narrative about Hillel's exciting life and times. I will warn the readers that this part is based on analysis, with some speculation included.
There have been other books written about Hillel, some of them very good, but they do not include the historical background. I am hoping to create something that does not exist -- the life of this giant among scholars against the turbulent times in which he lived.
In the next few weeks, I also plan to create an added page which will display the material in order. I will still do the weekly blog, but for anyone interested in chronological order, or for someone who might just be stumbling on this blog for the first time, it will make the reading simpler and better organized, and hopefully, more fun!
Here are the Talmudic examples:
Berakhot Tractate, 60a
IF HE WAS COMING FROM A JOURNEY.
Our Rabbis taught: It once happened with Hillel the elder that he was coming from a journey, and he heard a great cry in the city, and he said: I am confident that this does not come from my house. Of him Scripture says: He shall not be afraid of evil tidings; his heart is steadfast, trusting in the Lord.13
Berakhot Tractate, 63a
It was taught: Hillel the Elder said: When the scholars keep in [the teaching of] the Torah, do thou disseminate it,12 and when they disseminate it do thou keep it in.13 If thou seest a generation which is eager for the knowledge of the Torah, spread it abroad,14 as it says, There is that scattereth and yet increaseth.15 But if thou seest a generation which takes no interest in the Torah, keep it in to thyself, as it says, When it is time to work for the Lord,16 they make void Thy law.