Hillel was one of the greatest of the Talmudic rabbis, and a typical story is told in the Talmud, Shabbat 31a, about one of the arguments he brings to a potential convert. From the Sefaria translation:
תָּנוּ רַבָּנַן: מַעֲשֶׂה בְּגוֹי אֶחָד שֶׁבָּא לִפְנֵי שַׁמַּאי. אָמַר לוֹ: כַּמָּה תּוֹרוֹת יֵשׁ לָכֶם? אָמַר לוֹ: שְׁתַּיִם, תּוֹרָה שֶׁבִּכְתָב וְתוֹרָה שֶׁבְּעַל פֶּה. אָמַר לוֹ: שֶׁבִּכְתָב אֲנִי מַאֲמִינְךָ, וְשֶׁבְּעַל פֶּה — אֵינִי מַאֲמִינְךָ. גַּיְּירֵנִי עַל מְנָת שֶׁתְּלַמְּדֵנִי תּוֹרָה שֶׁבִּכְתָב. גָּעַר בּוֹ וְהוֹצִיאוֹ בִּנְזִיפָה. בָּא לִפְנֵי הִלֵּל, גַּיְירֵיהּ. יוֹמָא קַמָּא אֲמַר לֵיהּ: א״ב ג״ד. לִמְחַר אֲפֵיךְ לֵיהּ. אֲמַר לֵיהּ: וְהָא אֶתְמוֹל לָא אֲמַרְתְּ לִי הָכִי! אֲמַר לֵיהּ: לָאו עֲלַי דִּידִי קָא סָמְכַתְּ? דְּעַל פֶּה נָמֵי סְמוֹךְ עֲלַי.
The Sages taught: There was an incident involving one gentile who came before Shammai. The gentile said to Shammai: How many Torahs do you have? He said to him: Two, the Written Torah and the Oral Torah. The gentile said to him: With regard to the Written Torah, I believe you, but with regard to the Oral Torah, I do not believe you. Convert me on condition that you will teach me only the Written Torah. Shammai scolded him and cast him out with reprimand. The same gentile came before Hillel, who converted him and began teaching him Torah. On the first day, he showed him the letters of the alphabet and said to him: Alef, bet, gimmel, dalet. The next day he reversed the order of the letters and told him that an alef is a tav and so on. The convert said to him: But yesterday you did not tell me that. Hillel said to him: You see that it is impossible to learn what is written without relying on an oral tradition. Didn’t you rely on me? Therefore, you should also rely on me with regard to the matter of the Oral Torah, and accept the interpretations that it contains.
Firstly, it is important to note that the bold letters are the translation of the Aramaic, and the normal typeset is the interpretation of the translators, based on rabbinic commentaries.
Shammai - Hillel’s colleague and sometime opponent is not interested in accepting the convert or answering his questions.
Hillel’s approach was to accept the convert but to firstly indoctrinate (or educate) him.
The method that Hillel uses is to teach the basics of the Hebrew aleph bet, and then reverse it. The candidate for conversion asks him what he is doing, and the rabbi replies that since the convert is relying on him on day 1, he must also rely on him on day 2.
The fallacious argument has a number of flaws in it, but is also a good method of brainwashing. The candidate is not a scholar, and has no knowledge of Hebrew. Thus, he could be easily misled. After all, the teacher he approached is the most senior authority of the Pharisees in his generation – and I am sure he was a very distinguished personality. Also, most likely , Hillel will be highly knowledgeable on a lot of matters in Judaism. So the “authority” figure can also skilfully mislead his student, at a whim. And what is it that he says? His argument about the reversal of the letters is a basic method of mind control and cult brainwashing. It is saying that:
a) You rely on me for your information, and nobody else can give it to you.
b) Nothing you know about truth, or validation of truth vs falsehood has any relevance here – you must obey me, and if I change the truth as I please, or when it is convenient, you must accept it. After all, you already accepted what I said on day 1, so therefore you must do this on day 2 etc.
This is actually not an argument at all, but is a fallacy. He may have told the truth , or at least partial truth on day 1. That is no guarantee that he will tell the truth on day 2 or day 3.
This story, ironically, I have heard a few times from one of the most sophisticated Orthodox thinkers of our generation, Lord Rabbi Dr Jonathan Sacks. It is all the more surprising that he is dishonest enough to use this approach.