Shammai

Shabbat 46a: Going Barefoot

One of the inspiring things we see in the many stories found in the Talmud is the realistic portrayal of our great sages. We see not only much greatness, but also the occasional lapses. Our sages were not averse to displaying their feelings, and were unafraid to both heap praise and scorn upon their colleagues. “Rav Avia visited Rava's home. His feet were full of mud, [yet] he sat down on a bed before Rava. Rava was annoyed and wanted to bother him” (Shabbat 46a).

Shabbat 31b: One-Foot Judaism

One of the most famous Talmudic stories is that of the potential convert who conditioned his conversion on whether or not he could be taught the Torah while standing on one foot. Shammai, bothered by the chutzpah of this non-Jew (imagine going to a nuclear physicist and asking to learn all of physics while standing on one foot!), “pushed him with the construction board in his hand”. Hillel, non-plussed by this ludicrous request, simply answered, “What is hateful to you, do not do to others; all the rest is commentary. Go and learn”.

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