This is the fifth of my series on great quotations. The fourth was from Noam Chomsky, and that one has links to earlier entries.
That which is hateful to you, do not to your fellow man. That is the whole Torah. The rest is detail. Go and study.
The story behind this quote from Hillel
Hillel was challenged to explain the Torah while standing on one foot. In some versions of the story, the man issuing the challenge said he would convert if Hillel could do this. The quotation was his response.
Why this quote is great
There are many versions of the golden rule. Some are phrased in the negative “don’t do things you don’t want done to you” and some in the positive “do things that you want done to you”. I think the negative is better, because others may not like what you like, but they probably won’t like what you hate. For a trivial example, if you like cabbage, it’s not necessarily a good idea to serve cabbage to others – they may not like it.
In additon, the story is a good one, with a nice humorous touch.
Who was Hillel?
Hillel (roughly 110 BCE – 10 CE) was a famous Jewish scholar, and played major roles in the development of the Talmud and the Mishnah. He was born in Babylon and lived most of his life in Jerusalem. He is reputed to have been saintly in his private life, and to have favored milder interpretation of Jewish law.