Would Christmas even exist if it were not for the teachings of Rabbi Hillel the Elder (110 BCE-10 CE)?
Christmas is a celebration of the birth of Jesus by Christians worldwide. In order to understand how Judaism may behind this religious holiday celebration we need to understand more about Jesus and what influenced his teachings through his upbringing.
It's no secret that a young Jesus went to synagogue in his formative years. Being a Galilean from Nazareth we can assume Jesus learned of the most predominate teachings of that time. Those of Rabbi 'Hillel the Elder'.
Most scholars link to the similarities of what Jesus later said and that of his earlier teachings of Rabbi Hillel. There are several examples. The most clear example was when Jesus said in Matthew 7:12- “do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.”. This nearly parallels Rabi Hillel's words, "That which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow. That is the whole Torah;"
Another example from Luke 7:33, " Whoever tries to keep his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it.” This too reflects the same teachings Jesus was taught in synagogue by the words of Rabbi Hillel who taught, “Whoever would make a name loses the name… whoever makes use of the crown perishes.”
Rabbi Hillel also taught, "Pass not judgment upon thy neighbor until thou hast put thyself in his place." In Luke 6:37 Jesus spoke saying "Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned.”.
Where Jesus differed from his mentors was on women's rights. He also tended to be outspoken more so then any other rabbi of his day. As we all know this led to his crucifixion. It is at this point Judaism and Christianity separate paths. One line of religious thought is, had he not been crucified he would have went down in history as one of the great Rabbis. As a result of him dying on the cross he became martyrized. As such a whole new religion sprung up called Christianity. Thus giving birth to the Christian holiday called Christ-mas.
Where things get off base is when people tend to assume Jesus wanted a religion based on him rather then his teachings. I am of firm belief Jesus would not be well pleased and would discourage this. He thought of himself as a teacher and a prophet. Not someone separate or any more important to God then anyone else to whom he spoke. Nor that others couldn't do what he did.
Call him a prophet. Call him a great Rabbi. Call him what you will, but we should understand he valued his words and deeds much more then he valued his own life. It is on this day we should be reminded to focus on these rather then Jesus the man. We should seek to emulate his teachings, the way he treated others and the things that he had done. I think he would want it that way.