The Talmud states (Shabbos 30b)

לעולם יהא אדם ענוותן כהלל

One should be humble like Hillel

However, it says explicitly in Tehillim (10:3):

כי הלל רשע

Hillel is wicked

Why would we want to emulate such an individual?

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When King David writes "כי הלל רשע" he isn't talking about the sage Hillel, but rather about Hillel International. He was making an "Aggie joke", as the first Hillel was set up on the Texas A&M campus. Now if only we can find proof that King David attended UT Austin...

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    King David did indeed attend UT Austin (my alma mater) and stayed on to open a fitness center: yelp.com/biz/david-king-fitness-austin that is still thriving. – Maurice Mizrahi Feb 25 '18 at 23:25
  • @MauriceMizrahi Amazing! I thought he might have... My father's alma mater is also UT Austin. Go Longhorns, haha! – ezra Feb 26 '18 at 0:15
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    @ezra As you point out, their students are called "aggies"/"אגגי"s, making Texas A+M Haman, if not Amalek. Therefore it is clear that DhM had Texas A+M in mind when he spoke about a rasha. – SAH Feb 26 '18 at 1:55
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    @SAH THAT IS AMAZING. Thank you for your addition to my Purim Torah. – ezra Feb 26 '18 at 5:12
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    @ezra "more like Texas A+Malek" – SAH Feb 26 '18 at 16:40

Ramba"m suggests that people use the "Golden Mean" rule. I.e., one should not be overly humble, because that allows people to take advantage of you. When you allow people to take advantage of you, you become evil in your own eyes, or essentially, your own רשע.

The end of Pirkei Avot 2:18 cites Rabbi Simon who said that one should not be a רשע to himself.

Sadly, Hillel allowed his humility to let people take advantage of him. Avot D'Rav Natan (B"N, I'll link in the place, later) relays a story about someone who made a bet with his friend that he could get Hillel to be angry. So, he appears before Hillel's home while Hillel was showering. He yells in front of Hillel's house, "Where's Hillel? Where's Hillel?" Hillel dresses himself, opens the door, and the man asks Hillel a crazy question. Hillel patiently answers it.

The man leaves. Hillel goes back in to shower again. A few minutes later, the same man repeats his behavior, and, again, Hillel opens the door and answers the crazy question. This repeats again.

Now, the story ends with Hillel telling the man that he lost his bet and he should have lost even more than the bet, to prove that Hillel doesn't get angry.

Fine - nice story. But, meanwhile, Hillel let himself be inconvenienced two more times than needed. His shower was probably cold. He was probably all wet and cold. He had puddles of water all over his home. He let this man take advantage of him, all because he was so humble. He became his own wickedness.

And, this is just one story that we know of. There were probably a few other situations where people took advantage of Hillel.

So, even though the Talmud suggests being humble like Hillel, that's fine. But, keep in mind that there is a limit to it.

  • +1 for shaloch-manos-style upcycling of rambam's "golden mean" idea. And for general quality – SAH Feb 26 '18 at 6:13
  • @SAH The +1 counteracts the -2 that I had. I'm still on the negative. It's quite humbling! – DanF Feb 26 '18 at 16:28
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    You are allowing your humility to let people take advantage of you. Aim for a score of 0; then you will be on the right track – SAH Feb 26 '18 at 16:38
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    Isn't humility one of two exceptions to the golden mean--ויש דעות שאסור לו לאדם לנהוג בהן בבינונית, אלא יתרחק עד הקצה האחר--והוא גובה הלב, שאין הדרך הטובה שיהיה האדם עניו בלבד, אלא שיהיה שפל רוח, ותהיה רוחו נמוכה למאוד. ולפיכך נאמר במשה רבנו "עניו מאוד" (במדבר יב,ג), ולא נאמר עניו בלבד. ולפיכך ציוו חכמים, מאוד מאוד הוי שפל רוח. – wfb Feb 26 '18 at 17:43
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    @SAH Basically, they asked a pious man what the happiest day of his life was. He said that it was when he was on a boat in the lowest of places wearing filthy rags and one of the bigwigs on the boat urinated on him. When the pious man realized that this did not cause him to feel anything negative he declared it the happiest day of his life (in that he had been able to eradicate every last vestige of גאוה from himself). This story also appears in Rambam's letter to Hasdai Halevi (with minor variances). – Alex Feb 27 '18 at 0:41

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