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HILLEL II.:

Patriarch (330-365); son and successor of Judah III. Only in two instances is his name quoted in connection with halakot: in one, Jose b. Abin expounds to him a law; in the other, Hillel cites a mishnah to establish a law (Yer. Ber. ii. 5a; Yer. Ter. i. 41a). Tradition ascribes to him an enactment which proved of incalculable benefit to his coreligionists of his own and of subsequent generations. To equalize the lunar with the solar year, and thereby render possible the universal celebration of the festivals on the days designated in the Bible, occasional intercalations of a day in a month and of a month in a year were required (see Calendar). These intercalations were determined at meetings of a special commission of the Sanhedrin. But Constantius, following the tyrannous precedents of Hadrian, prohibited the holding of such meetings as well as the vending of articles for distinctively Jewish purposes. How difficult the fixing of the annual calendar consequently became may be judged from an enigmatic letter addressed to Raba, the principal of the academy at Maḥuza, and preserved in the Talmud. It was evidently written by a friend in Palestine who wished to acquaint the Babylonian religious authorities with the condition of Judaism in its mother country, and with the resolutions of a meeting held for the purpose indicated above. It reads thus:

(the month of Ab; Sanh. 12a).

"A pair [of disciples], coming from Raḳḳat [Tiberias; see Meg. 6a], were apprehended by the Eagle [Romans], because in their possession they had fabrics from Luz [blue or purple yarn for fringes, the ẓiẓit]. By the grace of the All-merciful and through their own merits they escaped. Also, the burden-bearers of Nahshon [the diviner: the commission appointed by the patriarch] desired to establish a guard [an intercalary month], but the Arameans [Romans] would not permit them. However, the commanders of the gathering [leaders of the council] convened [another time] and established a guard in the month in which Aaron the priest died"

Almost the whole Diaspora depended for the legal observance of the feasts and fasts upon the calendar sanctioned by the Judean Sanhedrin; yet danger threatened the participants in that sanction and the messengers who communicated their decisions to distant congregations. Temporarily to relieve the foreign congregations, Huna b. Abin (doubtless with the approval, or by the order, of Hillel) once advised Raba not to wait for the official intercalation: "When thou art convinced that the winter quarter will extend beyond the sixteenth day of Nisan declare the year a leap-year, and do not hesitate" (R. H. 21a). But as the religious persecutions continued, Hillel determined to provide an authorized calendar for all time to come, though by so doing he severed the ties which united the Jews of the Diaspora to their mother country and to the patriarchate.

The emperor Julian showed himself particularly gracious to Hillel, whom he honored on many occasions. In an autograph letter to him, Julian assured him of his friendship and promised to ameliorate further the condition of the Jews. Before setting out for the war with Persia, Julian addressed to the Jewish congregations a circular letter in which he informed them that he had "committed the Jewish tax-rolls to the flames," and that, "desiring to show them still greater favors, he has advised his brother, the venerable patriarch Julos, to abolish what was called the 'send-tax.'"

Bibliography:
  • Grätz, Gesch. iv. 332 et seq., and note 34;
  • Halévy, Dorot ha-Rishonim, ii. 197;
  • Heilprin, Seder ha-Dorot, ii.;
  • Krochmal, Yerushalayim ha-Benuyah, Introduction, pp. 27 et seq.;
  • Maḥzor Vitry, p. 478, Berlin, 1893.
S. S. M.
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