THE SEVEN RULES OF HILLEL
The Seven Rules of Hillel existed long before Rabbi Hillel (60 BCE – 20 CE?), but he was the first to write them down. The rules are so old we see them used in the Tenach (Old Testament).
Rabbis Hillel and Shamai were competitive leading figures in Judaism during the days of Yeshua’s youth. Hillel was known for teaching the Spirit of the Law and Shamai was known for teaching the letter of the Law. Yeshua’s teaching largely followed that of the School of Hillel rather than that of the School of Shamai (an exception being Yeshua agreeing with Shamai regarding divorce in Matthew 19:9).
For example, Yeshua’s famous “golden rule”: Whatever you would that men should do to you, do you even to them, for this is the Torah and the Prophets. (Matthew 7:12)
This reads very closely with Hillel’s famous statement: What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor that is the whole Torah … (b.Shabbat 31a)
Upon Hillel’s death the mantle of the School of Hillel was passed to his son Simeon. Upon Simon’s death the mantle of the school of Hillel passed to Gamliel. This Gamilel spoke in defense of the early Nazarenes (Acts 5:34-39). He was the teacher of Shaul/Paul (Acts 22:3).
In 2 Tim. 2:15, Paul speaks “rightly dividing the word of truth.” What did Paul mean by this? Was he saying that there were right and wrong ways to interpret the scriptures? Did Paul believe there were actual rules to be followed when interpreting (understanding) the Scriptures? Was Paul speaking of the Seven Rules of Hillel?
Paul was certainly taught these rules in the School of Hillel by Hillel’s own grandson Gamliel. When we examine Paul’s writings we will see that they are filled with usages of Hillel’s Seven Rules (several examples appear below). It would appear then that the Seven Rules of Hillel are at least part of what Paul was speaking of when he spoke of “rightly dividing the Word of truth.”
The Seven Rules of Hillel are:
1. Kal Vahomer (Light and heavy)
The Kal vahomer rule says that what applies in a less important case will certainly apply in a more important case. A kal vahomer argument is often, but not always, signaled by a phrase like “how much more…”
The Rabbinical writers recognize two forms ok kal vahomer:
- kal vahomer meforash – In this form the kal vahomer argument appears explicitly.
- kal vahomer satum – In which the kal vahomer argument is only implied.
There are several examples of kal vahomer in the Tenach.
For example: Behold the righteous shall be recompensed in the earth: much more the wicked and the sinner. (Proverbs 11:31)
And: If you have run with footmen and they have wearied you, then how can you contend with horses? (Jerermiah 12:5a)
Other Tenach examples to look at: Deuteronomy 31:27; 1 Samuel 23:3; Jerermiah 12:5b; Ezekiel 15:5; Esther 9:12
There are several examples of kal vahomer in the New Testament. Y’shua often uses this form of argument.
For example: If a man receives circumcision on the Sabbath, so that the Law of Moses should not be broken, are you angry with me because I made a man completely well on the Sabbath?(Jn. 7:23)
And: What man is there among you who has one sheep, and if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will not lay hold of it and lift it out? Of how much more value then is a man than a sheep? Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath. (Mt. 12:11-12)
Other examples of Y’shua’s usage of kal vahomer are: Matthew 6:26, 30 = Luke 12:24, 28; Mathhew 7:11 = Luke 11:13; Matthew 10:25 & John 15:18-20; Matthew 12:12 & John 7:23
Paul especially used kal vahomer. Examples include: Romans 5:8-9, 10, 15, 17; 11:12, 24; 1 Corinthians 9:11-12; 12:22; 2 Corinthians 3:7-9, 11; Philippians 2:12; Philemon 1:16; Hebrews 2:2-3; 9:13-14; 10:28-29; 12:9, 25.
2. G’zerah Shavah (Equivalence of expresions)
An analogy is made between two separate texts on the basis of a similar phrase, word or root – i.e., where the same words are applied to two separate cases, it follows that the same considerations apply to both.
Tenakh example: By comparing 1 Samuel 1:10 to Judges 13:5 using the phrase “no razor shall touch his head” we may conlude that Samuel, like Samson, was a nazarite.
“New Testament” example: In Hebrews 3:6-4:13 Paul compares Psalms 95:7-11 = Hebrews 3:7-11 to Genesis 2:2 = Hebrews 4:4 based on the words “works” and “day”/”today” (“today” in Hebrew is literally “the day”). Paul uses this exogesis to conclude that there will be 6,000 years of this world followed by a 1,000 year Shabbat.
3. Binyan ab mikathub echad (Building up a “family” from a single text)
A principle is found in several passages: A consideration found in one of them applies to all.
Hebrews 9:11-22 applies “blood” from Exodus 24:8=Hebrews 9:20 to Jerermiah 31:31-34
4. Binyab ab mishene kethubim (Building up a “family” from two or more texts)
A principle is established by relating two texts together: The principle can then be applied to other passages. i.e:
You shall do no unrighteousness in judgment, in measures of length, of weight, or quantity. Just balances, just weights, a just ephah, and a just hin, shall you have; I am the Lord your God, which brought you out of the land of Egypt. (Leviticus 19:35-36)
By use of the fourth rule of Hillel we can recognize that the provision of equals weights and measures applies also to how we judge others and their actions.
In Hebrews 1:5-14, Paul sites the following to build a rule that the Messiah is of a higher order than angels:
- Psalms 2:7 = Hebrews 1:5
- 2 Samuel 7:14 = Hebrews 1:5
- Deuteronomy 32:43/Psalms 97:7/(Neh. 9:6) = Hebrews 1:6
- Psalms 104:4 = Hebrews 1:7
- Psalms 45:6-7 = Hebrews 1:8-9
- Psalms 102:25-27 = Hebrews 1:10-12
- Psalms 110:1 = Hebrews 1:13
Binyan ab mikathub echad and Binyab ab mishene kethubim are especially useful in identifying biblical principles and applying them to real life situations. In this way Scripture is recontextualized so that it remains relevant for all generations.
5. Kelal uferat (The general and the particular)
A general principle may be restricted by a particularization of it in another verse – or, conversely, a particular rule may be extended into a general principle. A Tenach example: Genesis 1:27 makes the general statement that God created man. Genesis 2:7, 21 particularizes this by giving the details of the creation of Adam and Chava (Eve). Other examples would be verses detailing with how to perform sacrifices or how to keep the feasts. In the Gospels, the principle of divorce being allowed for “uncleanliness,” is particularized to mean for sexual immorality only.
6. Kayotze bo mimekom akhar (Analogy made from another passage)
Two passages may seem to conflict until compared with a third, which has points of general though not necessarily verbal similarity. Tenach examples:
- Leviticus 1:1 “out of the tent of meeting” and Exodus 25:22 “from above the ark of the covenant between the chrubim” seem to disagree until we examine Num. 7:89 where we learn that Moses entered the tent of meeting to hear YHWH speaking from between the cherubim.
- 1 Chronicles 27:1 explained the numerical disagreement between 2 Samuel 24:9 and 1 Chronicles 21:5.
- Exodus 19:20 “YHWH came down upon Mount Sinai” seems to disagree with Deuteronomy 4:36, “Out of Heaven He let you hear His voice.” Exodus 20:19 (20:22 in some editions) reconciles the two by telling us that God brought the heavens down to the mount and spoke. (m.Sifra 1:7)
An example from Romans: Paul shows that the following Tenach passages SEEM to conflict:
The just shall live by faith (Romans 1:17 = Habakkuk 2:4) with There is none righteous, no, not one … (Romans 3:10 = Psalms 14:1-3= Psalms 53:1-3; Ecclesiastes 7:20). Paul does the same here: [G-d] will render to each one according to his deeds. (Romans 2:6 = Psalms 62:12; Proverbs 24:12) with Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; Blessed is the man whom YHWH shall not impute sin. (Romans 4:7-8 = Psalms 32:1-2)
Paul resolves the apparent conflict by citing Genensis 15:6 (in Romans 4:3, 22): Abraham believed G-d, and it was accounted to him for righteousness. Thus Paul resolves the apparent conflict by showing that under certain circumstances, belief/faith/trust (same word in Hebrew) can act as a substitute for righteousness/being just (same word in Hebrew).
7. Davar hilmad me’anino (Explanation obtained from context)
The total context, not just the isolated statement must be considered for an accurate exegesis. An example would be Romans 14:1, “I know and am convinced by the Lord Yeshua that nothing is unclean of itself; but to him who considers anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean.” Paul is not abrogating the kosher laws, but pointing out to gentile believers in the congregation at Rome (within his larger context of Romans) that: 1) things are unclean not of themselves but because God said they are unclean, and 2) they must remember the higher principle, that their “freedom to eat what is unclean” is secondary to the salvation of unsaved Jews who are observing their behavior, as they are looking for “gentiles coming into the faith of Israel” to be acting in an “appropriate manner” as a truth test of Paul’s ministry (and Yeshua’s Messiahship).
The 13 Torah Interpretation Rules of Rabbi Ishmael
By Rabbi Edward L. Nydle B’nai Avraham
“But you remain in the shiurim you have learned and things you were convinced of, knowing under which rabbi
you have sat.” 2 Timothy 3:14
There are three fundamental principles in Torah hermeneutics:
These are the underpinnings of all Torah interpretation by the sages and Torah scholars of Yehudah. These are the
same foundations that we also need to incorporate into our exegesis of the Scriptures. When we try to implement the
Greek thought pattern of logic alone to the Scriptures, then we lose the Hebraic way of thinking and Torah
understanding. The goal of these Beginner Torah Lessons is to reintroduce to Ephraim the Hebraic-thinking pattern
and renew our Greek programmed minds to true Torah interpretation. We cannot use the “Church’s” methods to arrive
at Hebraic conclusions concerning the Scriptures as they are based upon Greek thought and patterns (see all the
previous lessons under ASK THE RABBI at our website).
A Quick Review
We have studied in the previous Torah Lesson Number 8 the “Seven Rules of Rabbi Hillel”. Let us review for a few
moments. The Seven rules of Hillel are important to us as Messianic Yisrael because:
• They were written by Hillel BEFORE Moshiach Yahshua
• The Moshiach and the other writers of the Brit Chadasha used them.
Rav Shaul speaks of “rightly dividing (interpreting) the Torah”. He was a student of Rabbi Gamaliel (the grandson of
Hillel) and he used the Seven Rules, so it is obvious that Shaul was referring to these Torah skills.
The 13 Rules of Rabbi Ishmael were written after the First Century CE (but they existed orally before that time). These
rules are of great value, and we must be able to follow the Hebraic mind of the rabbis and the writers of the Mishnah
and Talmud, as they relied upon these Torah rules in all their application of the Torah.
The dilemma in the Restoration of Yisrael is that we have too many “Ephraimite” leaders and rabbis trying to set
Halakah (the way to walk in Torah) without any scholarship and knowledge of the traditional rabbinical accouterment
and Hebraic mindset that is needed to rightly divide the Word of Yahweh. The purpose of Lessons 8 and 9 in this
series are to equip the advanced student of the Torah with the interpretive skills they will need to set Halakah and
make righteous judgments. These are for the more advanced student of Torah and will require much study in order to
apply these in your studies.
Rabbi Ishmael B. Elisha
Rabbi Ishmael was a Tanna (Torah scholar) of the first and second centuries CE. He was born to a priestly family in
the Northern Galilee area of Eretz Yisrael. As a young man his colleagues recognized him as a brilliant Torah scholar.
Rabbi Ishmael’s teachings were calculated to promote good will and shalom among all mankind, and he practiced what
he taught. He was a father to the down and outcasts (as our Master Yahshua was), particularly the poor and plain
He was a prominent member of the Sanhedrin at Yavneh and Usha. Rav Ishmael developed a system of interpretation
and exegesis of the Torah that was more logical than that of Rabbi Akiba.He established a logical system by which the
laws of the Torah may be deduced from laws and decisions founded upon the PASHAT (plain meaning) of the text.
Unlike Rabbi Akiba, he required more than a mere jot or letter as a basis for making important rulings. His opinion
was that the Torah was given in the language of man and that therefore a seemly redundant word or syllable can not be
taken as a basis of new deductions. The PASHAT level of the text, irrespective of its verbal figures, was the only safe
guide for him to make his halakic rulings. He based his laws upon the Seven Laws of Hillel and added his own method
of logical deduction of textual evidence to it.
The 13 Rules of Ishmael
Rule #1 is the same as rule #1 of Hillel
Rule #2 is the same as rule #2 of Hillel
Rule #3 is the same as rule #3 of Hillel
Rule #4 is the same as rule #4 of Hillel
Perat Ukhelal (particular and general): If the general instances are stated FIRST and they are followed by the
general category, instances other than the particular ones mentioned are included. EXAMPLE: Shemot (Ex.) 22:9 “an
ass, or an ox, or a sheep, or any beast” therefore ANY BEAST other than those mentioned ARE included.
Kelal uferat ukhelal I atah dan ella ke-ein haperat (general, particular, general): You may derive only things
similar to those specified. EXAMPLE: D’varim (Deut.) 14:26 ” Other things than those specified in verse 26 may be
purchased, but ONLY if they are food and drink like those that are specified by the text.
Kelal she-hu tzarik liferat uferat she-hu tzarik li-kheal (the general requires the particular and the particular
requires the general): Specification is provided by taking the general and the particular together, each requiring the
other. EXAMPLE: D’varim (Deut.) 15:19 “Set-apart to Me all the firstborn (MASCULINE).” With Shemot (Ex.) 13:2
“whatsoever opens the womb”. A firstborn male would have been understood to be included in the term “ALL the
firstborn” even if a female had previously been born to that particular mother. Therefore the particular limiting of the
term “whatsoever opens the womb” is stated. But this term would NOT have excluded one
Davar she-hayah bi-khelal veyatza min hakelal lelammed lo lelammed al atzmo yatza ella lelammed al hakelal
kullo yatzo (if a particular instance of a general rule is singled out for special treatment, whatever is postulated
of this instance is to be applied to ALL the instances embraced by this general rule): EXAMPLE:
Vayikra (Lev.) 20:27 “A man, also, or a woman that divines that by a ghost or a familiar spirit shall surely be put to
death; they shall stone them with stones.” Divination by a ghost or any familiar spirit is include din this general rule
against the practice of witchcraft (see D’varim 18:10). Since the penalty in this verse is stoning, then the very same
penalty applies to any other instance within the same general rule (see Talmud: b.San.67b).
Davar she-hayah bi khelal veyatza liton to’an echad she-hhu khe-inyano yatza lehakel ve-lo lechachmir (when particular instances of a general rule are treated specifically, in details similar to those included in the general rule, then only the relaxations of the general rule and not its restrictions are to be applied in those instances). EXAMPLE: Vayikra (Lev.) 13:18-21 The law of the boil and the burn (Lev.13: 24-28) are treated specifically even though these are particular instances of the general rule regarding the spots of the plague in Vayikra 13:1-17.Therefore the general restrictions of the law of the second week (13:5) and the quick raw flesh (13:10) are NOT applied to them (see Talmud m. Sifra 1:2).
Davar she-hayah bi-khelal veyatza liton to’an acher she-lo khe-inyano yatza lehakel-leachmir (When particular
instances of a general rule are treated specifically in details dissimilar from those included in the general rule,
then BOTH relaxations and restrictions are to be applied in those instances). EXAMPLE: Vayikra (Lev.) 13:29-
37 on the details of the laws of plagues in the hair and beard are dissimilar from those of the general rule of plague
spots. Therefore both the relaxation regarding the white hair mentioned in the general rule (Lev.13: 4) and restriction
of the yellow hair mentioned in the particular instance of Lev.13: 30 are applied (see Talmud m. Sifra 1:3).
Davar she-hayah bi-khelal veyatza lidon ba-davar he-chadesh I-atah yakhol lechatziro li khelalo ad she-yachazirennu hakatav li-khelalo be-ferush (When a particular instance of a general rule is singled out for a completely fresh treatment, the details of the general rule must not be applied to this instance unless Scripture does so specifically). EXAMPLE: The guilt offering for the leper requires the placing of the blood on the ear, thumb, and toe, see Vayikra (Lev.) 14:14.The laws of the guilt offering, sprinkling blood on the altar (Lev.7: 2) would not have applied in this case IF it had not been for the Scripture in Lev.14: 13 “For as the sin offering is the priest’s so is the guilt offering”, i.e. that is the same as the other guilt offerings (see Talmud b.Yev.7a-b).
Davar halamed me-inyano vedavar halamed mi-sofo (The meaning of a passage may be deduced from 1.its
context or 2.froma later reference in the very same passage). EXAMPLE: This first part is the same as Rabbi
Hillel’s Seventh rule. “You shall not steal” Shemot (Ex.) 20:13 must also refer to the death penalty offense of
kidnapping, since the other two offenses mentioned WITH it “You shall not murder” and “You shall not commit
adultery” are both death penalty offenses (Mekh.BaChodesh 8,5).
Shenei khetuvim hamakhchishim zeh et the ad she-yavo hakatuv hashelishi veyakhira beineihem (Two verses
contradict one another UNTIL a third verse reconciles them). SEE SIXTH RULE OF RABBI HILLEL IN
BEGINNERS TORAH LESSON #8.
Among the other rules are ribbui (inclusion) and mi’ut (exclusion). The School of Rabbi Akiba uses these rules from
the premise that every letter has significance. An example would be the particle “et” begins the verse “You shall fear
Yahweh your Elohim” in Devarim 10:20.This implies application of that verse is extended to include reverence for
Torah scholars (Pes.22b). According to Rabbi Akiba, the use of the infinitive absolute (which repeats the verb) implies
amplification. An example of this is “That being shall utterly be cut off” (Bemidbar 15:31) – “hikkaret tikkaret” in
Hebrew. Rabbi Akiba therefore said, “Hikkaret in this world, tikkaret in the world to come.” But, Rabbi Ishmael says,
the duplication of the verb is according to regular Hebrew usage and therefore carries no other significant implication.
The Hebrew word “KOL (all)” is treated as a ribbui. EXAMPLE: “All the days of your life” in Devarim 16:3 devolves
upon one at night as well as the day (Ber.1: 5).
Sometimes dots called nekuddot are found over certain letters calling the reader’s attention to certain special features
of that word or phrase. EXAMPLE: “And he kissed him (Hebrew – va-yishakehu)” in Bereshith 33:4, to teach that
Esau was sincere in what he did. Gematria refers to the numerical equivalent of a word or phrase. EXAMPLE: The
name ELIEZAR has the same numerical value as soldiers (318). The Midrash therefore states that Avraham only had
to send ELIEZAR into battle. Notarikon or shorthand means the letters of a word represent the initial letters of other
words. EXAMPLE: Nimrezet (grievous in 1 Melakim 2:8) alludes to No’e