בראשונה לא היתה מחלוקת בישראל אלא על הסמיכה בלבד ועשו שמאי והלל ועשו אותן ד' משרבו תלמידי ב"ש ותלמידי ב"ה ולא שימשו את רביהן כל צורכן ורבו המחלוקת בישראל ונחלקו לשתי כתות אלו מטמאין ואלו מטהרין ועוד אינה עתידה לחזור למקומה עד שיבוא בן דוד.
Originally there was no machloket in Israel except on s’micha alone. Shammai and Hillel came and made them four. When the students of the House of Shammai and the students of the House of Hillel multiplied and inadequately served their masters, machloket multiplied in Israel. They split into two camps; these ones would declare unclean and these would declare clean. Furthermore the situation won't be set right until Ben David arrives!
- How does this text understand the development of Machloket? Where does it come from?
- How does the text regard the phenomenon of Machloket?
- What kind of religious attitude or emotion might accompany Jewish learning according to this text?
(יז) כָּל מַחֲלֹקֶת שֶׁהִיא לְשֵׁם שָׁמַיִם, סוֹפָהּ לְהִתְקַיֵּם. וְשֶׁאֵינָהּ לְשֵׁם שָׁמַיִם, אֵין סוֹפָהּ לְהִתְקַיֵּם. אֵיזוֹ הִיא מַחֲלֹקֶת שֶׁהִיא לְשֵׁם שָׁמַיִם, זוֹ מַחֲלֹקֶת הִלֵּל וְשַׁמַּאי. וְשֶׁאֵינָהּ לְשֵׁם שָׁמַיִם, זוֹ מַחֲלֹקֶת קֹרַח וְכָל עֲדָתוֹ:
(17) Every argument that is for [the sake of] heaven's name, it is destined to endure. But if it is not for [the sake of] heaven's name - it is not destined to endure. What is [an example of an argument] for [the sake of] heaven's name? The argument of Hillel and Shammai. What is [an example of an argument] not for [the sake of] heaven's name? The argument of Korach and all of his congregation.
- What do you think the Mishnah means by the phrase: סוֹפָהּ לְהִתְקַיֵּם?
- Why would that be?
- How does the text seem to regard this situation?
א"ר אבא אמר שמואל שלש שנים נחלקו ב"ש וב"ה הללו אומרים הלכה כמותנו והללו אומרים הלכה כמותנו יצאה בת קול ואמרה אלו ואלו דברי אלהים חיים הן והלכה כב"ה
Rabbi Abba said that Shmuel said: For three years Beit Shammai and Beit Hillel disagreed. These said: The halakha is in accordance with our opinion, and these said: The halakha is in accordance with our opinion. Ultimately, a Divine Voice emerged and proclaimed: Both these and those are the words of the living God. However, the halakha is in accordance with the opinion of Beit Hillel.
- What does it mean for both to be “words of the living God”?
- If so, why is halakha decided like one of them?
- What is gained by deciding the halakha is like one of them? What is lost?
Despite this, the Talmud records many instances where the halakha IS NOT clearly decided. Different schools followed their own views. Different localities followed their local authorities or had their own customs. And this “halakhic pluralism” has only increased as the Jewish people had diversified and spread out.
The Talmud tells of a machloket between Beit Hillel and Beit Shammai about a very rare and specific case of Levirite marriage that should have caused a schism between the two communities.
חלצו ב"ש פוסלין מן הכהונה ובית הלל מכשירין נתייבמו בית שמאי מכשירין ובית הלל פוסלין
אע"פ שאלו אוסרים ואלו מתירין אלו פוסלין ואלו מכשירין לא נמנעו בית שמאי מלישא נשים מבית הלל ולא בית הלל מבית שמאי כל הטהרות והטמאות שהיו אלו מטהרים ואלו מטמאין לא נמנעו עושין טהרות אלו על גבי אלו:
If any of the rival wives of the brother performed ḥalitza, Beit Shammai disqualify her from marrying into the priesthood, as in their opinion these rival wives were fit for levirate marriage, which means that the ḥalitza was fully valid. Consequently, they are disqualified from marrying a priest, like all other women who perform ḥalitza. And Beit Hillel deem them fit, as they maintain that no legal act of ḥalitza was performed here at all. If they entered into levirate marriage, Beit Shammai deem them fit for the priesthood, as in their opinion, this is a fully legal levirate marriage. And Beit Hillel disqualify them, because they engaged in licentious sexual relations as the rival wives of a forbidden relative.
The mishna comments: Although Beit Hillel prohibit the rival wives to the brothers and Beit Shammai permit them, and although these disqualify these women and those deem them fit, Beit Shammai did not refrain from marrying women from Beit Hillel, nor did Beit Hillel refrain from marrying women from Beit Shammai. Furthermore, with regard to all of the disputes concerning the halakhot of ritual purity and impurity, where these rule that an article is ritually pure and those rule it ritually impure, they did not refrain from handling ritually pure objects each with the other, as Beit Shammai and Beit Hillel frequently used each other’s vessels.
מי סברת עשו ב"ש כדבריהם לא עשו ב"ש כדבריהם ור' יוחנן אמר עשו ועשו ובפלוגתא [דרב ושמואל] דרב אומר לא עשו ב"ש כדבריהם ושמואל אמר עשו ועשו
Reish Lakish said to him: Do you hold that Beit Shammai actually acted in accordance with their own statement? Beit Shammai did not in fact act in accordance with their own statement, as the dispute was merely theoretical. And Rabbi Yoḥanan said: Beit Shammai certainly did act in accordance with their opinion. The Gemara comments: And this is also reflected in the dispute between Rav and Shmuel, as Rav says: Beit Shammai did not act in accordance with their own statement, and Shmuel said: They certainly did act in that manner.
Given the idea that there should only be one halakha, how could they each do it?
And yet, if they didn't do it, why would the Mishnah tell us that they nevertheless married each other?
The Gemara gets into a whole discussion about how this could be, given that there was a Divine Voice that said halakha is like Beit Hillel. And the answers are EITHER that this was before the Divine Voice, or that we don't follow a Divine Voice (Oven of Akhnai Story).
We see that even for "serious" halakhic issues, a plurality of practices was allowed to develop, and this was not considered making different sects, as long as each was following the legitimate authority in its area.
But, in essence the Levirite marriage issue is about when different practices in different places conflict. What happens when different practices would cause immediate, or even gradual, separation between the communities?
When the differences are practical, but have serious practical consequences?
Or even worse, when the differences are rooted in a conflict of ideology and/or values, and one side sees the other as not just incorrect, but WRONG? IMMORAL?
And what if, in entering the other's space, one side feels violated?
ומ"ד עשו קרינן כאן (דברים יד, א) לא תתגודדו לא תעשו אגודות אגודות אמר אביי כי אמרינן לא תתגודדו כגון שתי בתי דינים בעיר אחת הללו מורים כדברי ב"ש והללו מורים כדברי ב"ה אבל שתי בתי דינים בשתי עיירות לית לן בה
אמר ליה רבא והא ב"ש וב"ה כשתי בתי דינים בעיר אחת דמי אלא אמר רבא כי אמרינן לא תתגודדו כגון ב"ד בעיר אחת פלג מורין כדברי ב"ש ופלג מורין כדברי ב"ה אבל שתי בתי דינין בעיר אחת לית לן בה
תא שמע במקומו של רבי אליעזר היו כורתים עצים לעשות פחמים בשבת לעשות ברזל במקומו של ר' יוסי הגלילי היו אוכלים בשר עוף בחלב במקומו של רבי אליעזר אין במקומו של רבי עקיבא לא דתניא כלל אמר רבי עקיבא כל מלאכה שאפשר לעשותה מע"ש אין דוחה את השבת והאי מאי תיובתא מקומות מקומות שאני ודקארי לה מאי קארי לה ס"ד אמינא משום חומרא דשבת כמקום אחד דמי קמ"ל
ת"ש דרבי אבהו כי איקלע לאתריה דרבי יהושע בן לוי הוה מטלטל שרגא וכי איקלע לאתריה דר' יוחנן לא הוה מטלטל שרגא והאי מאי קושיא ולא אמרינן מקומות שאני אנן הכי קאמרינן ר' אבהו היכי עביד הכא הכי והיכי עביד הכא הכי רבי אבהו כר' יהושע בן לוי סבירא ליה וכי מקלע לאתריה דרבי יוחנן לא הוה מטלטל משום כבודו דרבי יוחנן והאיכא שמעא דמודע ליה לשמעא
According to the one who said that Beit Shammai acted in accordance with their opinion, we should read here: “You shall not cut yourselves” (Deuteronomy 14:1), which is interpreted to mean: Do not become numerous factions. Abaye said: When we say that the prohibition: “You shall not cut yourselves” applies, we are referring to a case where two courts are located in one city, and these rule in accordance with the statement of Beit Shammai and those rule in accordance with the statement of Beit Hillel. However, with regard to two courts located in two different cities, we have no problem with it.
Rava said to him: But the dispute between Beit Shammai and Beit Hillel is considered like a case of two courts in one city, as these two schools of thought were found everywhere, not in any specific place. Rather, Rava said: When we say that the prohibition: “You shall not cut yourselves” applies, we are referring to a case where there is a court in one city, a section of which rules in accordance with the statement of Beit Shammai and another section rules in accordance with the statement of Beit Hillel. However, with regard to two courts located in one city, we have no problem with it.
The Gemara cites other relevant sources. Come and hear: In the locale of Rabbi Eliezer, where his ruling was followed, they would cut down trees on Shabbat to prepare charcoal from them to fashion iron tools with which to circumcise a child on Shabbat. In Rabbi Eliezer’s opinion, not only does the mitzva of circumcision override Shabbat, but also any action required for the preparation of the tools necessary for the circumcision likewise overrides Shabbat. The baraita adds: In the locale of Rabbi Yosei HaGelili they would eat poultry meat in milk, as Rabbi Yosei HaGelili held that the prohibition of meat in milk does not include poultry.
The Gemara infers: In the locale of Rabbi Eliezer, yes, they would act in this manner, whereas in the locale of Rabbi Akiva, for instance, no, they would not do so, as it is taught in a baraita that a principle was stated by Rabbi Akiva: Any prohibited labor that can be performed on Shabbat eve does not override Shabbat even if it involves a mitzva. A mitzva whose proper time is on Shabbat overrides Shabbat only if its performance was impossible earlier, e.g., the act of circumcision itself, which cannot be performed earlier. The Gemara asks: And what is this refutation? As stated above, it is different when dealing with numerous places, and the baraita explicitly states that this practice was followed in Rabbi Eliezer’s locale. Consequently, there is no violation of the prohibition against splitting into factions. The Gemara asks: He who asked it, why did he ask it, i.e., what is the basis for the question in the first place? It is obvious that the baraita is referring to a specific place.
The Gemara answers: It might enter your mind to say that due to the severity of Shabbat, it, i.e., the world, is considered like a single locale. In other words, one might have thought that the permission to tolerate diverse customs in different places applies only to other prohibitions, whereas the prohibition of Shabbat is so severe that it is unacceptable to allow different customs, as this might lead people to disrespect Shabbat. Therefore, the baraita teaches us that even in the case of Shabbat there can be different customs in various locales.
The Gemara cites another relevant case involving Shabbat: Come and hear that Rabbi Abbahu, when he happened to come to the place of Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi, would move an oil lamp [sheraga] after the flame that had been lit for that Shabbat had burned out, as Rabbi Yehoshua accepted the ruling that it is permitted to carry items of this sort that had been set aside. But when he happened to come to the place of Rabbi Yoḥanan, who prohibited carrying items of this kind that had been set aside on Shabbat, he would not move an oil lamp. This indicates that divergent customs are followed in different places.
Again, the Gemara asks: And what is this difficulty? Didn’t we say that it is different when dealing with numerous places? The Gemara explains that this is what we are saying: With regard to Rabbi Abbahu himself, how could he act in this manner here and how could he act in that manner there? The Gemara answers: Rabbi Abbahu holds in accordance with the opinion of Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi that it is permitted to carry this item. And when he happened to come to the place of Rabbi Yoḥanan he would not carry it, in deference to Rabbi Yoḥanan, so as not to act contrary to his ruling in the place where he was the authority. The Gemara asks: But there was a servant accompanying Rabbi Abbahu who would see him carrying these types of articles that had been set aside. Wasn’t Rabbi Abbahu concerned that the servant might carry them in Rabbi Yoḥanan’s locale? The Gemara explains that he would inform the servant and explain to him the reason for his change in behavior.