Yeshua's Words - Hillel vs. Shammai

Today we're going to discuss some of Yeshua's teachings on Jewish traditions and how they apply to us today.

Matthew 15:10-20

10 And he called the multitude, and said unto them, Hear, and understand:

11 Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man.

12 Then came his disciples, and said unto him, Knowest thou that the Pharisees were offended, after they heard this saying?

13 But he answered and said, Every plant, which my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up.

14 Let them alone: they be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch.

15 Then answered Peter and said unto him, Declare unto us this parable.

16 And Jesus said, Are ye also yet without understanding?

17 Do not ye yet understand, that whatsoever entereth in at the mouth goeth into the belly, and is cast out into the draught?

18 But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man.

19 For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies:

20 These are the things which defile a man: but to eat with unwashen hands defileth not a man.

The Pharisees were the only group that believed in Resurrection. They were the only group that believed in sin and repentance of it. They were the only group that allowed women equal rights. They were the only group that believed in Heaven and Hell. They were the only group that believed in Angels and Demons. They were the only group that followed Yeshua’s admonition to give unto G-d that which is G-d’s and to give unto Caeser that which was Caeser’s and that saved their lives. 

ALL the Jews were wiped out except the Pharisees and the Believers. The Herodians, the Saducees, the Essenes didn’t believe in those things.

When the Church teaches that ALL Pharisees, the word in Greek means “interpreter” were blind or ALL Pharisees were hypocrites, they probably would have to lump Yeshua right in there with the rest of them. Yeshua is not talking about ALL Pharisees, He’s talking about individual Pharisees. Yeshua beliefs followed those of the Pharisees. Actually, the Pharisees beliefs followed that of Yeshua. If you look up Pharisee in an American Dictionary, you’ve got hypocrisy as a synonym. It’s ridiculous! When Yeshua talks about the “blind leading the blind, He’s talking about one group of Pharisees. He’s almost always talking about this small group. This group didn’t believe anyone but their small group was going to Heaven. They were the Shammaites. They didn’t want the Jews to witness to anyone else. They certainly didn’t want the flood gate opened to the world and this is the group that Yeshua’s is getting on as we’ll see in Matthew 23. This is the Group where He says’ “you don’t want to go in yourselves, but you stand in the door where others can’t get in!: This is the group where Yeshua kicked over the money tables and said: “My Father’s House is a House of Prayer for ALL nations, yet you try to make it for yourselves only!” That’s what He was mad about, not exchanging money, that had to be done. He calls them a Den of Thieves. The phrase “this is a House of Prayer for All Nations, not just for you!” He calls them a Den of Thieves because they were “Stealing” the right to approach HaShem from the masses. This was basically the concept that the Shammaites had and Yeshua is constantly coming against this Group. They were very stern and made a bondage out of the Law of G-d. The Hillelites, on the other hand, were pretty much against what the Shamaites were for. I think this is a subjest we have to study, the Shammaites and the. Hillelites. Let’s start with verse 15: Matthew 15:15-20:

15 Then answered Peter and said unto him, Declare unto us this parable. 

16 And Jesus said, Are ye also yet without understanding? 

17 Do not ye yet understand, that whatsoever entereth in at the mouth goeth into the belly, and is cast out into the draught (the sewer) ? 

18 But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart (mind); and they defile the man. 

19 For out of the heart (mind) proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies: 

20 These are the things which defile a man: but to eat with unwashen hands defileth not a man.

Yeshua’s quoting the Law of G-d! All breaking of G-d’s Law comes first from the inside, from the heart, the mind. It’s not the outside keeping of a religious doctrine or dogma, it’s what’s in your Spirit! It’s not that you have STEPPED in something that defiled you, but it’s that you THOUGHT something! It’s not that you STOLE something, but that you held something AGAINST someone in your heart without humbling yourself and asking HaShem for FOREGIVENESS! This DEFILES a man.

These are the things that defile a man, (verse 20), not to eat without washing your hands, it’s not what you wear or where you go to church, it’s not the Religious things, it’s not the outward things that defile a man, but it’s the things that come out of breaking the Laws of G-d! That’s the principle.

We now understand part of that. But to understand the rest we have to go back to the First Century, to Yerushalayim, Jerusalem! I pray you get this Mind set. We are going to lay a Historical foundation tonight. These ten verses are very simple to understand, but, if you don’t get what’s happening, you are not going to understand the whole First Century thing. This was not written to King James. These were written to Yeshua’s Disciples, past present and future. There were two schools in Judaism having a tremendous debate, Yeshua takes sides by the words coming out of His mouth, they are a direct quote from one side of the teachings being held in those days. We know what side He took. The Book of Luke makes it very clear, telling the same story. The Book of Mark makes it very clear adding another part of this story. There are two major points that should be seen in this text from the First Century Perspective, so we don’t miss the entire story. Last week, we studied that a certain Group of the Pharisees complained to Yeshua that His disciples didn’t wash their hands before they ate.

Luke 11:37 tells the story from a better perspective. A man invites Yeshua into his house to eat. Yeshua doesn’t wash His hands before the meal. The whole thing here isn’t whether Yeshua washed His hands or not, it’s when and how you wash your hands. . One group believed you had to wash your hands BEFORE you touched the cup because it would defile your hands that the cup was dirty. The other one said: “you do not have to wash your hands until you break the bread.” This was because they started every meal by drinking the cup. If you were made ritually impure, you couldn’t go to church, you couldn’t be around other believers, you couldn’t take Fellowship (Communion), if you were impure, you were like a Leper. It was like crying “unclean.” You couldn’t participate in the Worship Service if you were ritually unclean. Why? We’ll look at this in a minute. You remember last week, and now this week Yeshua is using the phrase: “Now YOU Pharisees.” He’s always using this phrase. He’s not talking about all the Pharisees, only this group of Shammaites. “NOW YOU PHARISEES!” By YOUR traditions, not ALL traditions, but by YOUR Traditions, by your certain, specific traditions, you make the Word of G-d non effective. In the days of Yeshua there were MANY hundreds of Traditions, He left almost all of them alone. He only went after those that broke the Word of G-d. There WERE many tradition and there ARE many traditions that are good for us! Tonight I would like to show you the GOOD traditions, that Yeshua did that are not in the Torah.

He did them because they were a good traditions.

Yeshua says: “You Pharisees, you Shammaites, you cleanse the outside of the cup." (He rebukes them as He does in Matthew 23 for their hypocrisy). He says it’s not the outside that causes the problem, it’s what you have in your heart.

Now, you have to realize that you need to see the good things of G-d in the Churches. We can’t always be in an attack mode. If you don’t watch yourselves, you could be caught up in the Ritual: praying too quickly, giving G-d a couple of minutes of our time. You could be just washing your spiritual hands on the outside and not on the inside. You have to get your Spirit RENEWED. WHY? Because someone at work will say something to you that will offend you. The Bible says in Psalm 119, if you have the Law of G-d in you, you can not be offended because you have the PEACE, the SHALOM of G-d in your LIFE!

Now, we don’t always function on that level. Because sometime I just wash the outside of the cup real quick, I Shower, shave, get dressed in my casual Shabbat clothes, thanking G-d I have enough time to be ready. But I never got to clean the inside of the cup. I didn’t get my Spirit RENEWED. I didn’t get my inside ready and Yeshua says that it’s the INSIDE things that foul us, not the outside.

To understand this whole study tonight, a brief history of the two Schools of Rabbis Shammai and Hillel has to be understood. If we were living in the First Century, In Jerusalem, we wouldn’t need this study, we would already understand it. Just as we watch the news and know what’s going on in the Government, for the most part. Paul wouldn’t possibly know these things unless he read a book about our day. Every Jew of Yeshua’s time and many Jews understand that there were two major schools that were in great disagreement over this subject that Yeshua is talking about. Unfortunately, very few Pastors understand about these two schools and certainly have not a clue as to what Yeshua is referring.

Hillel, was a Rabbinic authority that died in 10 CE. This was just before Yeshua’s ministry. Yeshua was very familiar with Hillel and quotes Him all the time. Hillel is a Rabbinic authority in the Pharisitic movement of the First Century, who had gone to Jerusalem from Babylon to study under two great men. Shimmi ah (not Shammaia), and Aptalon. These were converts. They were not born and bred Jews. They became great scholars. There were 5 groups of these scholars. In every generation for five generations before the time of Yeshua, they were called the ZUGOTE. In Hebrew ZUGOTE means pair, P_A_I_R. One would have been the Nasi, the president. In the Early Church, we find Justin Martyr calling the Pastor, the Nasi. I you go to the average Synagogue today, you’ll find two parking spaces outside. One for the President, the Nasi and one for the Rabbi, the Teacher. These great men ran together in pairs, Zugote..

One of these men was the Nasi of the SanHedrin and the other was the Rabbi of the San Hedrin. They both lived at the same time and they both monopolized Judaism with their beliefs.

From the Macabee times 165 years before Yeshua coming down to the time of Herod, just before the coming of Yeshua.

One was the head of the SanHedrin, the Nasi, and the other one was head of the Bet Din, the Court.

The Head of the Senhedrin and the Head of the Bet Din, they are the ZUGOTE, the pair, they are THE voice, they make THE decisions in that day. The last of these Zugote, the last pair, were Hillel and Shamaia. In the First Century in the days of Yeshua. They were both great scholars and they both headed great schools. Opposing schools! And EVERYONE knew what these two believed.

Now for us to really understand what’s going on, you have to know at least a little bit of their beliefs.

Every time, almost without exception, Yeshua using Remez, hinting, quoted the school of Hillel.

The School of Hillel loved people. The School of Hillel wanted to open the floodgates to the whole world and teach them of G-d. The School of Hillel wanted to bring EVERYBODY in, it wanted to show Forgiveness and Love and Mercy.

The school of Shammai wanted to show the strict order of the Law. They wanted no one saved except the Jews. And only certain of them. They certainly wouldn’t give you the time of the day if you were not Orthodox.

Hillel and his colleague Shammai disagreed on many matters. There were over 300 points they disagreed on.

In Christianity today for instance, Baptism: Full emersion, infant baptism, three times forward, three times back, sprinkled, dipped. How do you go in? How do you come out? In totally by yourself or helped. How about the Blood? Almost all of us believe in the Blood. It’s all on how we apply it in our lives. The two men didn’t make new laws, they set the old ones upright! They interpreted the Laws from the Oral Word and the Written Word! They taught how to DO the Law!

Hillel dedicated himself to raising an academy for the study of G-d’s Law. He warned his contemporaries to shun the Politics of Herod.

Now, here’s what you probably don’t know: In Yeshua’s day, the High Priesthood and many of the Religious appointments were so political that one large group of religious people were called Herodians. Everything Herod was for, they did! Herod appointed the High Priest! Herod wasn’t even Spiritual he was a half Jew. Hillel comes on the scene and says NO! We have to get back to the principals of G-d’s word. Forgive people, love people, treat them right. Get them back to the very principles of G-d’s Word.

The Sadducees were very Political. They were the High Priesthood appointed by Herod. The Bothithians, the Herodians, the Sadducees and many other groups were nothing more than political figureheads for the Roman Government and Hillel was against that. Hillel’s group took the High Priest, a Saduccee away and for ten days taught him how to function as the High Priest. He couldn’t sleep with a woman that was not his wife. He was not allowed to eat unkosher things. He was not allowed to curse and do the things of the Gentiles. He had to live the Law of G-d for 14 days before going into the Holy of Holies on the High Holy Day. He forced the Saducees in high Priestly positions to become Preists.

This is how serious it was. Hillel was dedicated to doing love and peace. This is his motto: it is recorded for us in Mishnah Avot tractate 112: To love Peace and draw fellow men to the Torah. That was his Schools Motto. Hillel, like Ezra, returned from Babylon to Jerusalem to restore the teaching of Torah. Which had been neglected. Hillel taught that the the Mishna tells us that to love man is the essence of all the Laws. EXACTLY what Yeshua said! What is the greatest of all the commandments, what is the essence of the Ten Commandment. And Yeshua said Love your G-d (which is the first four) and love man as your own brother (which is the next six). Do unto others as you would want them to do unto you! The rest of it is commentary!

There is a story of a man coming to Shammai while Shammai was working as a carpenter. The man, a Pagan, who wanted to become a Believer said to Shammai: “I’m in a hurry! While I am standing on one foot, tell me all you can about the Word of G-d. Tell me how to keep, the 613 Laws. Tell me how to please G-d.” The story goes that Shammai whupped him and threw him out of the School.

His motto was: Greet everyone with a smile, but he was a tough cookie. The guy goes to the school of Hillel and Hillel tells him that he must love the Lord thy G-d with all your heart, might and being and love your neighbor as you love yourself/ THAT is the Law and the Prophets. This saying by the way, didn’t start with Hillel. It goes back to an old Rabbi who was the Rabbi over five very poor parishes. He goes to the only wealthy man in the five villages and begs him for money for the needy. The rich man is sick and tired of the Old Rabbi constantly asking for his help so he makes a deak with the Rabbi. “if you can stand on one foot while reciting the whole Law (the Torah), and the Prophets, I will feed all the needy for the next five years. If you can’t do it, get out of here and never come back again. The Ancient Rabbi accepts the challenge. He stands on one leg and says. “Love the Lord thy G-d with all thy might and do unto others as you would want them to do unto you. That is the Law and the Prophets!” The rich man took care of the needy for the next five years!

This is the original of the Rabbinic theme that Yeshua quotes years later.

Please G-d first and treat your fellow man as you want to be treated. This is for lifestyle, not Salvation. Salvation was based on Repentance, always, and your Faith in G-d. Not by works. Don’t confuse a right standing lifestyle with Salvation. Salvation is only by the Grace of G-d. A good lifestyle was by the nurturing of fellow man.

OK, Shammai was the vice president of the Sanhedrin. He taught many things that we find Yeshua voicing out against. He doesn’t come against ALL of the Pharisees, only this group, the Shammaites. Yeshua says that they are hypocrites because they put more on the peoples shoulders than any man can carry, and they are not carrying the load themselves. He lists the things that the Mishnah says are what hypocrites do.

Now, that said, lets go back to hand washing.

In ancient Jewish circles, washing the hands before meals has its source in Talmud as one of the 18 measures. Not to be confused with the Shemoni Esray, the 18 prayers. These 18 measures were written by the school of Shammai.

It required that the Priests Tithe could not be eaten by the Priest until he had washed his hands. But by New Testament times, thirty years later, this fence around the Law was extended to cover ALL people. It was originally just for the Priest and then was put on everyone, for every meal by the Shammaites. They looked for bondage to put people under to prove they were G-d Fearers. If it’s bondage, it’s not from G-d.

Remember, Yeshua was only hostile to one group of Pharisees. It was Pharisees that came to Yeshua and told Him not to go to Jerusalem on a certain day, they were laying in wait for Him. Many of the Pharisees were in His camp, they were Righteous men and they were in His Kingdom. Joseph of Armathea was a Pharisee and he put Yeshua in his own tomb when He came down from the Cross. It was Nic Demone Ben Gurion, the head of the Pharisees that came to him by night. Yeshua has all kinds of Pharisees following Him. They believe as He believes. That Salvation comes only by the Grace of G-d, not by good works. But, once you are saved, you had better go out and do what G-d has told you to do! The Shammaites are hypocrites and He is always straightening out what they say and do.

Why is He sometimes so irritated by these Pharisees? When this great debate came about because of the outside of the cup thing in the First Century, the School of Shammai killed many of the members of the School of Hillel. They killed them over this stupid cup thing. There are records of actual blood brothers that had this problem. The one brother who belonged to the School of Shammai, killed his brother that went to the School of Hillel because he believed that since he was a Hillelite, he was cursed and would go to hell. They were extremists and called others the “first born of Satan.” They called all the others that were not Shammaites or Hillelites “the synagogue of Satan.” This is used in the Bible when Yeshua says to Peter, “get behind me Satan.” This was a common expression of the day when someone was doing the things of a Shammaite. Yeshua was talking about a specific group and their actions. Not all of the Pharisees.

OK, let’s go on. The School of Hillel was a loving, good, generous, lenient school that helped slaves and women and the poor in the first century when most of the other groups were ignoring them, and making life harder for them. Yeshua was against this. And He really got hot when He kicked over the tables in the Temple and said “you are not willing to go in yourself but you won’t let others in either and this is the House of Prayer for ALL Nations, not just you!” The School of Shammai said that the hands must be washed Before filling the cup of wine. The School of Hillel ruled the washing must be done just before you took the bread. The Talmud explains this in Buracote 52A and B talks about this in the First Century and helps us get some information about it. The School of Shammai was concerned that the cup of wine, the cup of blessings, would become virtually unclean from the hands. And the hands from the cup. The school of Hillel was concerned that the washing of hands may interfere with the actual taking of bread and blessing G-d for it, so they did not agree with Shammai in the least. Yeshua quotes this when He is confronted by Shammai’s men from the Temple He quotes Hillel’s rules EXACTLY. The Talmud further explains that the School of Shammai considered those that followed the school of Hillel’s ruling as: eating with unclean hands, and because the unclean cup would foul the hands, which explains why they were getting on Yeshua and His disciples. This was a Rabbinical ruling, a fence around the Law that was not in the Word of G-d but was a way of protecting the man of G-d from fouling himself while speaking prayers to G-d. In the teaching last week, Yeshua rebuked the Pharisees who vowed their possessions to the Temple as Corban, (vowed to G-d). They didn’t want to support their parents as the 5th Commandment says, so they said they had no money, that they had vowed it to G-d, Corban. Then they only gave a small portion to the Temple. This is probably what happened with Annanias and Sophia. This goes directly back to the Shammaites. They were the too straight, too strong, the bondage part of the Pharisees. They were the hipocrates. In the situation with Corban. Other dishonest Pharisees were probably doing the same thing. But the School of Shammai’s ruling made it even worse. They said that “once you made a vow to the Temple, it can’t be broken, no matter what!”

Hillel on the other hand said: “If you need the money to take care of your parents, go and take care of them. Because the Spirit of the Law is more important than the letter of the Law.” Man was not made for the Sabbath, the Sabbath was made for Man. The Sabbath was not made to put you in bondage, it was made FOR you. This was the point of Yeshua’s teaching. This was the point of Bet Hillel. But Shammai would have no part of it. Yeshua hated strict religion because the Word of G-d hates strict religion. So again we see Yeshua directing us to the School of Hillel opposed to the School of Shammai.

Yeshua of Nazareth never wished to see His fellow Jews change their traditional faith in G-d. He Himself remained a Jew until His last moment. He never mentioned or suggested forming a new religion, or setting up new scriptures to replace the old. He never suggested starting a Christian Church to replace the Synagogue. He told us to STAY in the synagogue. He told us in Matt 10, that even if we got whipped, not to leave the synagogue! The Synagogue was where you got the teaching. From now on, we are no longer only a bible study or Friday Night Service to beat the rush. From now on we are a Bet Knesset. An assembly of Believers. Ecclesia, Church, has the connotation of a large building with commerce going on. Bet Knesset has the connotation of a place of Prayer and Worship and Learning. It perfectly fits the saying that the Church, the Kaheelah, the LIVING body grew daily. It grew in Wisdom, Knowledge and Understanding, not in numbers. Yeshua wanted His disciples to learn and go back to the correct teachings. He came to set the Law, the Word of G-d upright. This is what He was doing. Among the Pharisees in the Sanhedrin in the First Century it was said that if they killed seven people in seventy years, it was to be called a bloody Sanhedrin. The people we see stoning everyone are not from the Sanhedrin. They are judging among themselves by the Laws that are passed down to them. People were aggravated because the Sanhedrin wasn’t putting enough people to death. They were taking action using the interpretations of the Pharisees. That’s why they had to bypass the Sanhedrin and go to the Romans to get Yeshua killed, He didn’t break any Laws of G-d. And if the Roman’s didn’t kill Him by Crucifiction, He would have been stoned. You need to separate this in your mind. The Sanhedrin was like the Supreme Court of today, they made the Laws. They judged very few individuals. The Bet Din, the Synagogue courts did the Judging. These were mob action, vigilante groups.

OK, Yeshua is showing them the loving policies of Forgiveness and Repentance and Salvation. He wanted them to return to these traditions of bringing this love to the world. Shammai is against this. Yeshua’s attacks on the Pharisees was an attack on the School of Shammai. He probably also came against the Essenes. If you don’t understand what these groups were all about, you really can’t understand the Words of Yeshua. You shouldn’t stereotype all the Pharisees, because you will be stereotyping Yeshua right in with them. They were the interpreters of the Word. Now this doesn’t interfere with your Salvation! You are saved! In the Talmud, when it was put into writing in the First to third Centuries said that any Jew that followed the teachings of the School of Shammai, was worthy to be put to death!

Let me close with this, it should help you, it really helped me. The Mishnah has a whole tractate giving us record that if you are a Jew in the Marketplace and you touch something that is ceremoniously impure, you could become pure again by washing your hands up to the wrist. Orthodox Jews even today do this BEFORE having their meals. It has a good basis to it. The rational for this is not for hygienic reasons. The basis for this is that after the destruction of the Temple, man’s prayers were as incense going up to G-d. They had evening prayers and morning prayers for evening sacrifice and morning sacrifice. The idea was that a man’s body was his Temple. The dining table was his altar. The food on it was the sacrifice to G-d. And with this concept, the man became the priest of his own home. The Hebrew Testament requires the priest to be ceremoniously clean before they offered the sacrifice on the altar of HaShem! ALSO, the food was to be pure, kosher and not pig meat and the like offered on the altar. Now I don’t want to put you in bondage, I’m just giving you “food for thought”. Another thing to realize is that ANY table we sit down at and pray, becomes the Altar of HaShem! That includes McDonalds!

OK., let’s go to:

Mark 7:9

9 And he said unto them, Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition.

And also in verse 13 Mark 7:13

13 Making the word of God of none effect through your tradition, which ye have delivered: and many such like things do ye.

Yeshua ONLY pointed out those traditions that made the Laws of G-d ineffective. There were HUNDREDS of traditions He left alone.

There are many of the Traditions that we need to know and do today. How about when the people laid their palm fronds in front of His donkeys feet and cried HOSHIANA, save us!

Where did they learn this stuff if not from tradition, from the Talmud.

In John 10:21-22 Yeshua is celebrating Hanukkah. How did He know if not by the Talmud and tradition?

Yeshua did many things with tradition, but never one tradition that would interfere with the Word of G-d.

We learn to do the right things because when we go out and DO the right things, People see Christ in us the hope of Glory.

Boruch arta Adonoy Elohanu Melech Ho olom, asheer kid shanu b’Mitzvotso, v’tzivanu l’heet ateef B’Tzit Tzit. Omen


Boruch HaShem! (Praise the Name!)
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About Harvey Cohen

Rabbi Harvey Cohen has been serving the community's spiritual and physical needs through Bosko Ministries since 1983.


  1. Thank you for this teaching. I see many christians today cursing the talmud without understanding that Messiah taught from the talmud, something they knew.