Why did Hillel not turn a convert away three times, not even once?

And why did he convert them straight away, when if seen by todays standards, they're the most terrible candidates.

They were either not serious or were heretics!

(the guy on one foot was not really serious, the guy that wanted to be kohen gadol wasn't serious, they'd be laughed out of any beis din or even any pub as even a frivolous person would see they are frivolous. And the guy that denied the oral torah - which is pretty heretical).

I'm looking at sefaria.org, Talmud tractate Shabbat 31a


The talmud uses the word גייריה which according to the translation seems to mean he converted him.. And it says later that the three (converts) gathered together.

I notice that on Shabbat 31a there are three incidents where Hillel converted a gentile immediately.. and the three gentiles showed afterwards that they were sincere..but not necessarily at the time. One was the famous 1 foot guy. Another was one that immediately before conversion, wanted to be the high priest so he could be dressed like the high priest(so doesn't sound like a serious guy). And another that immediately before conversion, denied the oral torah(really a heretic!).

Also the one foot guy didn't even ask to be converted.

The guy that wanted to be dressed like the kohen gadol wanted to convert, though for the most ridiculous of reasons.

And the guy that guy that didn't believe the oral torah wanted to be converted under a condition that wouldn't really be acceptable to any orthodox authority today - denial of the oral torah!

  • related- see youtube.com/watch?v=a9TTH-e3kpk 45:00 Rabbi Federow thinks Regel means regulation... And he thinks the three times thing is in some commentary of a commentary of a commentary.. he is not sure where off hand.
    – barlop
    Nov 7, 2019 at 17:21
  • 1
    Maybe he didn't hold of this "rule" to turn a convert away three times. It's not mentioned in the Talmud.
    – Double AA
    Dec 5, 2019 at 0:43

1 Answer 1


See Rashi there, ד"ה גייריה:

גייריה - וסמך על חכמתו שסופו שירגילנו לקבל עליו דלא דמיא הא לחוץ מדבר אחד שלא היה כופר בתורה שבעל פה אלא שלא היה מאמין שהיא מפי הגבורה והלל הובטח שאחר שילמדנו יסמוך עליו:

[Hillel] converted him, relying on his own wisdom, that he would eventually convince him to accept [the Torah in its totality]. It's not like the case of [one who wants to convert on condition that he'll accept the Torah] except for one detail, because this person wasn't denying the Oral Torah, just that he didn't believe that it was G-d-given. So Hillel was certain that after he taught him, [the prospective convert] would rely on him [and accept that it indeed is].

That's as far as the first person. Presumably Rashi would say something similar about the other two: they were operating based on mistaken premises, which Hillel knew he could correct.

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