Hillel II, (
Hebrew: הלל נשיאה, Hillel the Nasi) also known simply as "Hillel" held the office of " Nasi" of the ancient Jewish Sanhedrinbetween 320 and 385 CE. He was the son and successor of Judah III. He was a Jewishcommunal and religious authority, circa 330- 365CE. He is sometimes confused with Hillel the Elder, as the Talmudsometimes simply uses the name "Hillel".
In two instances his name is quoted in connection with important decisions in Jewish law: in one,
Jose ben Abinexpounds to him a law; in the other, Hillel cites a mishnahto establish a law ( Yer. Ber.ii. 5a; Yer. Ter.i. 41a).
He is traditionally regarded as the creator of the modern fixed
Hebrew calendar. However this attribution is tenuous. It first appears in a responsum of R. Hai Gaon(early eleventh century) cited by R. Avraham b. Hiyyain his " Sefer Ha'ibbur", written in 1123. The topic of that responsum is the 19-year cycle for leap-year intercalations, so the most that can be inferred from that attribution is that Hillel was responsible for the adoption of that cycle for the regulation of the distribution of leap-years. Scholars who have studied the history of the Hebrew calendar are in general agreement (and there is much evidence for this in the Talmuditself and in other rabbinic sources) that in practice, the evolution of the calendar into its present form was a gradual process spanning several centuries from the first to about the eighth or ninth century CE. Rabbinictradition ascribes to him an enactment which proved of incalculable benefit to his coreligionists of his own and of subsequent generations. The Jewish calendar is lunisolar. That is, its months are synchronized with the phases of the moon, but its average year length approximates the mean length of a solar year. The purpose of the latter is to ensure that the festivals, all of which occur on fixed dates of the lunar months, are also observed each year in the seasons designated for them in the Bible. To ensure the former, occasional intercalations of a day in a month were required; to ensure the latter, occasional intercalations of an extra month in a year were required.
These intercalations were determined at meetings of a special committee of the
Sanhedrin. But Constantius II, following the precedents of Hadrian, prohibited the holding of such meetings as well as the vending of articles for distinctly Jewish purposes.
The entire Jewish community outside the land of Israel depended on the calendar sanctioned by the
Judean Sanhedrin; this was necessary for the unified observance of the Jewish holidays. However, danger threatened the participants in that sanction and the messengers who communicated their decisions to distant congregations. Temporarily, to relieve the foreign congregations, Huna ben Abinonce advised Rava not to wait for the official intercalation: "When you are convinced that the winter quarter will extend beyond the sixteenth day of Nisandeclare the year a leap year, and do not hesitate" ( R. H.21a). But as the religious persecutions continued, Hillel decided to provide an authorized calendar for all time to come, though by doing so he severed the ties which united the Jews of the diaspora to their mother country and to the patriarchate.
Julian the Apostatewas gracious to Hillel, whom he honored on a number of occasions. In an autograph letter to him, Julian assured him of his friendship and promised to amelioratefurther 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'".
Hillel the Elder
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