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The Bavli, Shabas 31 amud 1, has two stories in which a gentile came to Shamay asking to be converted to Judaism, upon which Shamay "pushed him with the construction cubit in his hand". Rashi explains that a construction cubit was a cubit-long stick used in construction for measurement.

Why did Shamay have one in his hand?

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2 Answers 2

I heard once in a recording from R. Y.S. Schorr that Shamai represented a middas hadin, an exacting attitude of strict justice (as is evidenced by those very stories). His measuring stick was a display of just that point - everything had to be measured and exactly according to what was deserved.

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+1, and thanks. Is that the one at Or Sameach (Monsey)? –  msh210 Jul 28 at 5:16
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@msh210 Yessir. I bought the recording there, but you can find them at jhfweb.org/parsha_schorr.html. I think it was in either Parshas Korach or Pinchas. –  YEZ Jul 28 at 5:18

The Chassam Sofer says that Shammai was actually a builder by trade. He wanted to show this apikores that there is more to religion than just kindness to your fellow, its possible to be a talmid chacham and a builder. Whereas Hillel said that you can learn on one foot, i.e. kindness, but don't forget that includes kindness to Hashem which means keeping His torah.

The Ben Yehoyada (in one explanation here), similarly, says he was a building-measurer by trade, and so carried a stick with him.

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Can,you source where? –  sam Jul 28 at 15:05
    
Its in the chidushim of Chassam Sofer on the sugya. –  user6591 Jul 28 at 21:37
    
i dont see it,where? –  sam Jul 29 at 0:47
    
I don't have one with me. Its the set that is collated all his chidushim that are on a given sugya. I actually have a picture of the vort in my phone but i dont know how to put it up here. –  user6591 Jul 29 at 0:57

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