But staying with the early parts of the page: the famous story of Hillel – “standing on one foot.” You remember – the person who comes to both Shammai and Hillel with the proposition that he will convert to Judaism if the rabbi will teach him all of Torah while he performs the short-lived childish feat. Shammai beats him with a stick, Hillel teaches him the “Golden Rule” and tells him that the rest of commentary – “go and learn it.”
But, this is just one of – count ‘em – four “mocking proselytes vs. Hillel and Shammai.” In the first a heathens make a bet that they can make Hillel angry. He asks a series of absurd and even offensive (what we would call racist) questions. Hillel maintains his cool and the questioner loses the bet. But we gain a picture of equanimity.
In the second story the heathen in given a lesson in trust. Refusing to believe in the concept of the “Oral Torah” Hillel teaches him the “aleph-bet” in order. The next day he teaches him the “aleph-bet” in reverse order. “But yesterday you taught it to me the other way!” he complained. “Does this mean you have to rely on me?” Hillel answered “then you have to rely on me about the Oral Torah as well.”