Who ordained Hillel and Shammai?

I have searched but have been unable to find any indication of who gave them semicha/ordination.

It's clear in the mishna that they received the tradition from the pair/zugot that preceded them, that's Shmaya and Avtalyon, but that doesn't say from whom they received semicha/ordination.

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    could whoever downvoted my question please comment on why?
    – barlop
    Dec 6, 2019 at 11:24
  • 1
    one anonymous downvote is only a side effect.
    – kouty
    Dec 6, 2019 at 11:47
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    It's extremely rare to know who gave semikha to whom. Why would you expect we might know in this case? And why do you want to know? Please edit to clarify. Important info should be in the question.
    – Double AA
    Dec 6, 2019 at 14:00

2 Answers 2


Pirkei Avos Chapter 1:10--12:

א,י שמעיה ואבטליון קיבלו מהם. שמעיה אומר, אהוב את המלאכה, ושנוא את הרבנות; ואל תתוודע לרשות.&rim;

א,יא אבטליון אומר, חכמים, היזהרו בדבריכם--שמא תחובו חובת גלות, ותגלו למקום המים הרעים, וישתו התלמידים הבאים אחריכם וימותו, ונמצא שם שמיים מתחלל.‏

א,יב הלל ושמאי קיבלו מהם.‏

Shamaya and Avtalyon received [the tradition] from [their teachers] ... Hillel and Shammai received it from them.

Similarly the Rambam writes in his introduction to the Yad HaChazaka (paragraph 8):

שמעיה ואבטליון גרי הצדק ובית דינם קיבלו מיהודה ושמעון ובית דינם. והילל ושמאי ובית דינם קיבלו משמעיה ואבטליון ובית דינם.

Shamaya and Avtalyon, the righteous converts, and their court, received from Yehudah, Shimon, and their court; and Hillel, Shammai, and their court received from Shamaya, Avtalyon, and their court.

In the discussion about rebooting real ordination today, it is observed that Eliyahu the Prophet could descend from the heavens anytime and grant someone real semicha; how do we know he has it? "Because the Rambam's introduction lists him on the chain as receiving it from Achiyah HaShiloni."

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    Are you equating Torah with s'micha? Can you provide sources that show that what was passed down from Moshe to Yehoshua to the Z'keinim etc was s'micha?
    – rosends
    Dec 6, 2019 at 11:22
  • shmaya and avtalyon were the zugot before hillel(the elder) and shammai en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zugot#List_of_zugot but that doesn't mean that either of them gave semicha to hillel(the elder), and shammai
    – barlop
    Dec 6, 2019 at 11:23
  • This answer is right, the zugot were Nasi and Av Bet din. Despite that Shmaya and Avtalion were Gerim. I don't remember, but A gemara adresses this.
    – kouty
    Dec 6, 2019 at 11:37
  • @kouty Who gives Smicha, the Nasi, or the Av Bet Din, or either? And which one are you saying gave him Smicha? Shmaya, or Avtalyon?
    – barlop
    Dec 6, 2019 at 14:35

When the Romans destroyed the Second Temple in 70 C.E., Yochanan ben Zaccai preserved Judaism by substituting the synagogue for the Temple and prayers for sacrifices. Then, Rabbi Akiva further preserved Judaism. Before Yochanan ben Zakkai, no one was called rabbis. Hillel had no title, and neither did the sages of the Mishnah Pirke Avot. It follows that Shmuley Boteach, in his book Kosher Jesus where he calls Jesus “Rabbi Jesus” is mistaken because while the Pharisees preceded the rabbis, the institution of rabbis began approximately 70 C.E, when the temple was destroyed.

The idea of a rabbi who is “ordained”, semicha institution was abolished by the Romans in the year 415 of the Common Era, and yet the idea of semicha persists, which indicates that the institution was reinstituted. But there were no rabbis or semichas before Rabbi Akiva’s time. Thus, no one “ordained”, semicha Hillel or Shammai but they are still great sages of Judaism.

  • I don’t really understand this answer. Are you saying that there couldn’t have been semicha because no one was called “Rabbi”?
    – Alex
    Dec 8, 2019 at 18:23
  • The institution of rabbis did not exist before 70 C.E., when the system of “ordained”, semicha began.
    – Turk Hill
    Dec 8, 2019 at 18:25
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    I don’t see anything in the question about the institution of rabbis. I see a question about who gave specific people semicha. If your answer is that there was no such thing as semicha, then that’s exactly what your answer should say, preferably with supporting evidence.
    – Alex
    Dec 8, 2019 at 18:28
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    @barlop That you for your comments. I don't think רבי refers to semicha as the institution of rabbis began late, after the destruction of the Second temple in 70 C.E.. It is possible that the gemara implies semicha like other meanings of words change over the years, but I am skeptical.
    – Turk Hill
    Dec 9, 2019 at 0:29
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    @barlop The term Moshe Rabbenu is popular but Moses was not a rabbi. The Pharisees (320 BCE-70 CE) were followed by the rabbis. The name Pharisees is from the root p-r-sh, and means those who “separated.” When the rabbis succeeded the Pharisees in 70 CE, Rabban Yochanan ben Zakkai was the spiritual leader and he revived Judaism after 70 C.E..
    – Turk Hill
    Dec 9, 2019 at 4:36

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