The importance of Hillel the Elder in rabbinic Judaism can hardly be understated. The destruction of the Temple of Jerusalem in 70 C.E. spelled an end to the authority of the priesthood and the emergence of the rabbis as the primary carriers of Jewish teaching tradition. With the demise of the stricter House of Shammai as a result of its role in fomenting the Jewish rebellion, the House of Hillel emerged as the dominant rabbinical voice in the days when the oral law of the Mishnah and the early traditions of the Talmud were being formulated.
The providential role of Hillel and his followers is an interesting one for Unificationists to ponder in considering the life and times of Jesus. Pharisees of both parties awaited the Messiah and believed themselves to be preparing for him. Shammai urged strict conformity with the Law of Moses in an effort to bring a strong God-centered orientation to the Jewish people. Hillel was more broad-minded and "horizontal" than Shammai, yet on most issues, Jesus' teachings harmonized more easily with Hillel than Shammai.
While we cannot say for certain that it was the followers of Shammai and not the disciples of Hillel who rejected and persecuted Jesus during his lifetime, it is certain that Shammai's disciples had more reason to be outraged by Jesus' teachings than did those of the House of Hillel. In fact, many of Jesus' teachings bear a striking resemblance to those of Hillel and his disciples.
The encounter of the young Jesus with the teachers of the law in the Temple courtyard also provides fertile food for thought, in the context of the Unificationist teaching that Mary and Joseph did not adequately protect Jesus and connect him to the Jewish leaders that could have helped him fulfill the Messianic task. Hillel was still alive and active at the time, and even if he himself was not present at the time, it is nearly certain that his disciples were. The Bible reports that the teachers were "amazed" at Jesus. If Jesus had been allowed to continue his dialogue with these teachers, it stands to reason that the House of Hillel, whose master himself had been too poor to afford lessons, would have sponsored such a prodigy, even if Jesus' parents could not.
What would have happened if Mary and Joseph had not forced Jesus to return immediately with them to Nazareth
at that pregnant moment? Hillel's grandson Gamaliel
later protected Jesus' disciples from death. How differently would things have turned out if Hillel, in his final years, had become Jesus' mentor and protector?