On another occasion it happened that a certain heathen came before Shammai and said to him, 'Make me a proselyte, on condition that you teach me the whole Torah while I stand on one foot.' Thereupon he [Shammai] repulsed him with the builder's cubit which was in his hand. When he went before Hillel, he said to him, 'What is hateful to you, do not to your neighbor: that is the whole Torah, while the rest is the commentary thereof; go and learn it.'This story tells of two competing rabbis that lived in the first century: Hillel and Shammai. Much of their legacy reflects the concerns of rabbinic Judaism of a later period (often favoring Hillel). But the the story works equally well even if it reflects a later date. My purpose has been to point out that we shouldn't think of "the Pharisees" an ideological monolith. Moreover, some rabbis were quite happy to sum the instructions of Moses (for non-Jews) into a simple "golden rule" while others endeavored to protect the complexity and intricacy of Torah.
Presumably a lesson taught while the student balances on one foot is a short lesson. The question becomes, then, can a non-Jew learn what is important about the Torah in one short, simple lesson? Judging from this story Hillel was willing to try; Shammai was not (we might also keep in mind that Shammai's "builder's cubit" might be a metaphor for the Torah itself). Of course, I have pointed to a similar "golden rule" attributed to Jesus: "So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets" (Matt 7:12). These "golden rules" aren't exactly the same, but they are similar. And to the point: both Jesus and Hillel are willing to attempt a summative statement. Thus Jesus seems to have more in common with Hillel than he does with Shammai in this case.
But I was rereading this story today and I think that I've missed something important. In attempting to emphasize Jesus' Jewishness via Hillel's liberal tendencies, I missed Hillel's final statement: "...go and learn it." The suggestion here is that the non-Jew can begin with a simple summative statement, "What is hateful to you, do not to your neighbor." Hillel can even make the remarkable claim that this summation is "the whole Torah"! Or it is at least a lens by which to read the whole Torah. But the final exhortation, "go and learn it" can be taken in two ways: (1) The non-Jew should go and practice the simple rule; (2) The non-Jew should go and learn the whole Torah. Traditionally (or at least from my limited study) the first of these interpretations has gotten the most traction. But there is a danger of superseding the Torah with a "Torah-lite" life ethic. If however Hillel is offering a hermeneutical key for unlocking the Torah for non-specialists (and this applies to me) the complexity and intricacy of the Torah is maintained. Indeed, the ethical lens offered by Hillel might heighten the complexity and intricacy of interpretation. This would fit well with what we read of Hillel elsewhere. Rather than reducing the Torah, Hillel might be inviting the non-Jew to use his other foot as he walks away on the right path.
For what it's worth, Jesus' view on Torah was not as simplistic as we make it out to be either: "But it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one stroke of a letter of the Law to fail" (Luke 16:17).