From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. A rabbi, lecturer, ethicist, novelist, playwright, and author, Telushkin demonstrates his unusual versatility in this 15th entry in the Jewish Encounters series. This new book about Hillel, "perhaps the greatest rabbi of the Talmud," is not a conventional biography, since little is known about Hillel's life. What is known comes as maxims and teachings based on stories in the Talmud and the Midrash; speculation places the period of Hillel's religious leadership from about 30 B.C.E. to 10 C.E. During that time, he and his followers, the School of Hillel, frequently had disputes with the School of Shammai, led by Hillel's adversary. One argument they had dealt was with the attitude to be taken toward a potential convert. Hillel offered this instruction: "That which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow. This is the entire Torah! All the rest is commentary. Now, go and study." Telushkin points out that this response is about ethics, not about rituals or even about God, thereby underlining Judaism's ethical essence. Telushkin's lucid explanations are a model of clarity, enabling readers to better understand and appreciate the significant contributions of Hillel and their contemporary applications.
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“Rabbi, lecturer, ethicist, novelist, playwright, and author, Telushkin demonstrates his unusual versatility in this fifteenth entry in the Jewish Encounters series. . . . Telushkin’s lucid explanations are a model of clarity, enabling readers to better understand and appreciate the significant contributions of Hillel and their contemporary applications.”
“Joseph Telushkin’s portrait of the ancient Jewish leader Hillel jumps off the page with its contemporary resonances. Hillel’s lessons and sayings as a Talmud scholar have universal application for anyone interested in bringing dignity and peace to the world. In Hillel we find a master educator and a person of profound learning, spiritual depth, humility, and tolerance.”
—David Gregory, moderator, Meet the Press
“Here’s a book to start quite a little intra-Jewish conversation, and I, for one, will be eavesdropping with interest.”
—Jack Miles, author of God: A Biography
“The venerable and much-quoted Rabbi Hillel has a lot to teach us twenty-first-century Jews. Thanks to Joseph Telushkin’s book, we experience Hillel at his most optimistic, succinct, and radical, insisting on the primacy of righteous behavior, an arms-wide welcome for converts, the challenge and blessing of lifelong Jewish learning, and the importance of Jewish educators who love their students and studies in equal measure.”
—Anita Diamant, author of Choosing a Jewish Life: A Handbook for People Converting to Judaism and for Their Families and Friends
and president of Mayyim Hayyim Living Waters Community Mikveh