Rabbis Debate God
Taken From :
RABBIS VERSES EVIL RABBI ELIEZER....AND GOD: The Majority Rules!!! (GOD LOOSES!)
The Mishnah is the Written-Down Oral Law. The Gemarra is the major discussion of the Mishnah. Mishnah + Gemarra = Talmud.
This week's text is a piece from the Babylonian Talmud. The Babylonian Talmud was probably finished in the mid eighth century of the Common Era. It shows primarily the thoughts and beliefs of certain Jewish leaders and creators-of- legal material in Babylonia from around 200 CE to 500 CE.
The Talmud refers frequently to a Divine Voice called a Bat Kol (literally "daughter of sound"). Under some circumstances, the Bat Kol has been understood to provide Divine authority to a rabbinic legal situation. This week's selection, Baba Metzia 59a-b, turns the concept of the Bat Kol on its head. The Talmud presents a scene. A new oven has been created which consists of separate tiles with sand between the tiles. This would, apparently, enable a TILE of the oven to become ritually impure while the rest of the oven remains ritually clean. One of the great authorities of the Jewish Court was Rabbi Eliezer, and there was a tradition that his rules were binding. Until this selection of Talmud.....
Baba Metzia 59a:
We learned elsewhere: If he cut it (this new special stove) into separate tiles, placing sand between each tile: R. Eliezer declared it clean, and the Sages declared it unclean; and this was the oven of ‘Aknai (which means "serpent," probably named after either the inventor or because long serpentine pieces of clay were used to attach the separate tiles).....
It has been taught: On that day (of the discussion about the new Aknai oven) R. Eliezer brought forward every imaginable argument, but they did not accept them.
Said he to them: ‘If the halachah agrees with me, let this carob-tree prove it!'
Thereupon the carob-tree was torn a hundred cubits out of its place; others affirm, four hundred cubits.
‘No proof can be brought from a carob-tree,' they retorted.
Again he said to them: ‘If the halachah agrees with me, let the stream of water prove it!'
Whereupon the stream of water flowed backwards
‘No proof can be brought from a stream of water,' they rejoined.
Again he urged: ‘If the halachah agrees with me, let the walls of the schoolhouse prove it,' whereupon the walls inclined to fall.
But R. Joshua rebuked them, saying: ‘When scholars are engaged in a halachic dispute, what (right) have you to interfere?'
Hence they did not fall, in honor of R. Joshua, nor did they resume the upright (position), in honor of R. Eliezer; and they are still standing thus inclined.
Again he said to them: ‘If the halachah agrees with me, let it be proved from Heaven!'
Whereupon a Bat Kol cried out: ‘Why do you dispute with R. Eliezer, seeing that in all matters the halachah agrees with him!'
But R. Joshua arose and exclaimed: ‘It is not in heaven.'
What did he mean by this?
Said R. Jeremiah: That the Torah had already been given at Mount Sinai; we pay no attention to a Bat Kol, because You have long since written in the Torah at Mount Sinai, "After the majority must one incline."
R. Nathan met Elijah (the prophet) and asked him: What did the Holy One, Blessed be He, do in that hour?
He laughed [with joy], he replied, saying, ‘My sons have defeated Me, My sons have defeated Me.'
SOME COMMENTARY: In one case, the Sages reject the authority of a Bat Kol and maintain the authority of a majority of rabbis even though the Divine Voice acknowledges that Rabbi Eliezer is correct. It is interesting to note that Rabbi Joshua's response "It is not in heaven," is explicated by a later sage, R. Jeremiah, and not by any contemporary. For all we know, R. Joshua's exclamation could challenge the legitimacy of that single Bat Kol by claiming that it is fraudulent. Instead, it became a tradition that R. Joshua denied the authority of ANY Bat Kol, and that became the Talmudic tradition.
(For a wide variety of Talmudic selections about the Bat Kol and its diminished role in providing Divine authority, click here.)
For the continuation of the Rabbi Eliezer story, click here.
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