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What do you think of this interpretation of Hillel's questions?

Asked by LostInParadise (17815 points ) 3 months ago

All that I know about Hillel is that he was a highly influential reformer and Talmudic scholar who lived about a generation before Jesus. He is well known for the following set of questions, which I believe are written in the Talmud. I am unfortunately not aware of the context.

If I am not for myself, who will be for me?
If I am only for myself, what am I?
If not now, when?

The first and third questions are relatively straightforward. I find the second one to be most interesting and profound. The question does not speak about morality or responsibility or relation to God. It is an existential question. I see it as saying that we most attain our humanity when we transcend our own needs and respond to the needs of others. It goes beyond a concern for self-actualization. In a sense it says that we most become ourselves when we lose ourselves.

Does that seem reasonable or am I reading too much into it? I checked online for interpretations and found a variety of shades of meaning.

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