Q. I read that Hillel said, “If I am here, everyone is here”. I thought Hillel was meant to have been modest?
A. Hillel was definitely a modest man and no egotist. The saying is found in the Talmud – Sukkah 53a. Hillel was not showing off. Rashi explains that the Ani – “I” – was God, not Hillel himself. God calls himself “I” at the beginning of the Ten Commandments (Ex. 20). Hillel was speaking in the context of the observance of Simchat Bet HaSho’evah, the festive water-drawing on Sukkot. If, he implies, the people’s sins have driven away the Divine Presence, then the crowds may be there, but really nobody is present.