Category Archives: Hillel and Shammai


In דמאי ו:ו we have וצנועי בית הלל היו נוהגין כדברי בית שמאי.

I want to use this post to write about the root צנע, but it also gives me my first opportunity to write about הלל and שמאי or בית הלל and בית שמאי.  We are all brought up to think that the halakhah is in accordance with הלל or בית הלל.  And at some point that has become the normative halakhah. But the impression one gets from the Mishnah is that שמאי was considered in the right, and often בית הלל acknowledges the opinion of בית שמאי.

Just last shabbat I came across reference to some publications that I think make a similar point (though I haven’t yet read them, so I cannot be sure).


ההכרעה כבית הלל ביבנה, דברי הקונגרס העולמי השביעי למדעי יהדות – מחקרים בתלמוד, הלכה ומדרש, ירושלים תשמח עמ’ 42-43

But here I want to write about the root צנע, which here seems to mean those who are scrupulous.  The root appears only twice in תנ”ך:

מיכה פרק ו:ח

הִגִּיד לְךָ אָדָם מַה טּוֹב וּמָה יְדֹוָד דּוֹרֵשׁ מִמְּךָ כִּי אִם עֲשׂוֹת מִשְׁפָּט וְאַהֲבַת חֶסֶד וְהַצְנֵעַ לֶכֶת עִם אֱלֹהֶיךָ


משלי פרק יא:ב

בָּא זָדוֹן וַיָּבֹא קָלוֹן וְאֶת  צְנוּעִים  חָכְמָה

It appears 27 times in the Mishnah (I really should check the תוספתא and other Tanaitic literature, but again it’s getting late which is interfering with my methodological integrity).

Most of those occurrences have the literal sense of to put away or hide.

But there are a number of references to צנועים (our Mishnah, כלאים ט:ה-ו, נדה ב:א) where it refers to people who are especially scrupulous about the halakhah.  Jastrow gives a sense of צנע as “guard”, so these could be people who guard the mitvoth with special care.