In Ethics of the Fathers chapter 1 (Mishna 11-13) three sayings are said in Hillel's name. Two are in Hebrew while one (Mishna 12) is in Aramaic. The rest of the chapter is all in Hebrew. Why the sudden change to Aramaic? please source.

הִלֵּל וְשַׁמַּאי קִבְּלוּ מֵהֶם. הִלֵּל אוֹמֵר, הֱוֵי מִתַּלְמִידָיו שֶׁל אַהֲרֹן, אוֹהֵב שָׁלוֹם וְרוֹדֵף שָׁלוֹם, אוֹהֵב אֶת הַבְּרִיּוֹת וּמְקָרְבָן לַתּוֹרָה:‏

הוּא הָיָה אוֹמֵר, נָגֵד שְׁמָא, אָבֵד שְׁמֵהּ. וּדְלֹא מוֹסִיף, יָסֵף. וּדְלֹא יָלֵיף, קְטָלָא חַיָּב. וּדְאִשְׁתַּמֵּשׁ בְּתָגָא, חָלֵף:‏

הוּא הָיָה אוֹמֵר, אִם אֵין אֲנִי לִי, מִי לִי. וּכְשֶׁאֲנִי לְעַצְמִי, מָה אֲנִי. וְאִם לֹא עַכְשָׁיו, אֵימָתָי:‏

By the way, this switch to Aramaic happens again in chapter 2 mishna 6 when Hillel speaks to the floating skull in the river.

  • Note that in this early manuscript it's all one mishnah, and Rambam has it as 2 mishnayos.
    – Alex
    Jul 11, 2018 at 5:57
  • 2
    Note that Hillel would natively speak Aramaic, but he probably would speak Hebrew on occasion. It may be as simple as that.
    – user15253
    Jul 11, 2018 at 6:59
  • 2
    related judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/20708/…
    – michael
    Jul 11, 2018 at 13:28
  • Hillel spoke Hebrew, Hillel spoke Aramaic, and used both languages interchangeably, as did many of the Tannaim and Amoraim. Is there a deeper reason besides this? @Orangesandlemons
    – ezra
    Jul 12, 2018 at 5:07
  • @Orangesandlemons the mishna is not a newspaper report. if it changed to aramaic then there's a reason
    – michael
    Jul 12, 2018 at 5:50

1 Answer 1


SEE TOSFOS YOM_TOV on this mishnah HERE.

והא דאמר בלשון תרגום עיין סוף מכילתין: - See my comments on 5:22 for why this mishna uses Aramaic.

He sends to his comments HERE

הפוך בה והפוך בה וכו'

פי' הר"ב בתורה. וכתב במד"ש בשם רבינו אפרים שלפי שדברי תורה הן צורך גדול לבני אדם. היה אומר בלשון ארמי. שהיו הכל מכירין בו כשעלו מבבל וכן שנינו לעיל דלא יליף וכו'. ע"כ. ובדרך חיים כתב שהיו גרים ולשונם לשון ארמי. עוד כתב לפי שהתורה לא נתנה למלאכים. ולא שייך לגבייהו שכר מצות אמרו בלשון ארמי לשון שאין מלאכי השרת מכירין בו.

TURN IT OVER AND OVER, ETC. Rav: the Torah. Midrash Shmuel writes in the name of Rabbenu Ephraim that because Torah is something that people greatly need, Ben Bag Bag said his dictum in Aramaic, which everyone knew upon their return from Babylon. Hillel did so as well, in the mishna of “and he who does not learn” (1:13). Maharal writes in Derech Chaim that they were converts and they thus spoke Aramaic. He also writes that because the Torah was not given to the angels and they cannot receive reward for performing commandments, Ben Bag Bag said his dictum in Aramaic, which the angels do not understand.

  • 1
    While this explains why sometimes Aramaic is used by certain people, that wouldn't explain why out of 3 statements said by Hillel, the middle one is in a different language. This sounds like it would be an 'absolute' type rule, either you make everything in Aramaic, or everything in Lashon Hakodesh. Why would only one of the three be in Aramaic? Jul 11, 2018 at 17:00
  • 1
    @Salmononius2 The fundamental dictums about Torah were said in Aramic aso that all should understand. (except angles). Jul 11, 2018 at 17:22
  • If I'm understanding your point correctly, you're saying that these Aramaic statements are more 'fundamental' than the other ones? Ok, that's a fair point that one can make (although to be frank, I don't see how the Tosfos Yom Tov is saying there that these phrases are more fundamental, just that since it's Torah, it's important to know it. Could equally apply to all words of Torah). However, this then begs the question of why these particular phrases are considered 'more fundamental' than any of the other ones, but that's a separate question. Jul 11, 2018 at 18:28
  • @Salmononius2 not because they are torah, but because they are fundamentals ABOUT Torah "because Torah is something that people greatly need,". Jul 11, 2018 at 18:36
  • Yeah, I get that's what you're saying, but personally, I don't see that in the words of the Tosfos Yom Tov (he doesn't say something like 'Ikarei Torah', just 'Divrei Torah'). I'm reading it as 'since Torah is something that people greatly need, they said [this piece of Torah] in a language that people understand'. Jul 11, 2018 at 18:41

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