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Heavenly Voices and Rabbinic Stories – Gefet 30

The first perek of Masechet Yevamot ends with words of aggada, and at its center is a Tosfot which discusses aggada in general. Today we will discuss two passages in Tosfot at the end of the perek which touch on important points regarding halacha and aggada.


א.     תוספות ד”ה אין משגיחין בבת קול

The last mishna in the perek reveals to us one of the most important and fascinating disputes between Beit Hillel and Beit Shamai:

משנה מסכת יבמות פרק א משנה ד

 בית שמאי מתירין הצרות לאחים ובית הלל אוסרים חלצו בית שמאי פוסלין מן הכהונה ובית הלל מכשירים נתיבמו בית שמאי מכשירים ובית הלל פוסלין אף על פי שאלו אוסרין ואלו מתירין אלו פוסלין ואלו מכשירין לא נמנעו בית שמאי מלישא נשים מבית הלל ולא בית הלל מבית שמאי כל הטהרות והטומאות שהיו אלו מטהרין ואלו מטמאין לא נמנעו עושין טהרות אלו על גבי אלו:

Here we retroactively discover that the mishnayot at the beginning of the first perek are according to Beit Hillel, while according to Beit Shama, the tzarot are allowed. Using the discussion of this great dispute, the gemara brings a fundamental discussion about the world of halachic disputes in general. The discussion in the gemara begins from Purim, which we just celebrated, and ends with the dispute between Beit Hillel and Beit Shammai regarding the tzarot. The gemara brings a challenge which Reish Lakish poses to Rabbi Yochanan – what is the relationship between disputes and the rule of “לא תתגודדו”? Reish Lakish’s question begins with the out of the ordinary laws on Purim, which marks different dates for different communities in terms of reading the megillah. However, the discussion between Rabbi Yochanan and Reish Lakish continues from there and includes the entire world of disputes. Reish Lakish asks Rabbi Yochanan how Beit Hillel and Beit Shammai can argue about the prohibition of tzarot if the fact that they are arguing goes against the law of “לא תתגודדו”, not creating different factions within halacha. Here Beit Hillel and Beit Shammai are acting in accordance with a different halacha and in essence are creating different factions within halacha. Reish Lakish and Rabbi Yochanan argue about this question. 

Reish Lakish claims that Beit Shammai didn’t really act differently from Beit Hillel and that their whole argument was on the theoretical plane. In actuality, they acted the same. Rabbi Yochanan, in contrast believes that their argument was also on the practical plane, however this does not constitute transgression of “לא תתגודדו”. The gemara ends this progression in the sugiya with a dispute between Abayei and Rava regarding the extent of the law of “לא תתגודדו”. According to Abayei, there really is a problem with this argument between Beit Hillel and Beit Shammai, and therefore agrees with Reish Lakish that their argument was only on the theoretical plane. However, Rava is like Rabbi Yochanan who thinks that the law of “לא תתגודדו” applies only when within the same court, the minority does not accept the majority opinion – therefore the dispute between Beit Hillel and Beit Shammai is not considered a transgression of “לא תתגודדו” as they constitute two separate courts. 

Before the dispute between Abayei and Rava regarding the extent of the law  לא תתגודדו, the gemara clarifies the approaches of Rabbi Yochanan and Reish Lakish. The gemara asks about both of these approaches:

תלמוד בבלי מסכת יבמות דף יד עמוד א

(אמר אביי) 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. אימת? אילימא קודם בת קול, מ”ט דמ”ד לא עשו? ואלא לאחר בת קול, מ”ט דמ”ד עשו? אי בעית אימא: קודם בת קול, ואי בעית אימא: לאחר בת קול. אי בעית אימא קודם בת קול, וכגון דב”ה רובא, למ”ד לא עשו, דהא ב”ה רובא; ומ”ד עשו, כי אזלינן בתר רובא – היכא דכי הדדי נינהו, הכא בית שמאי מחדדי טפי. ואי בעית אימא לאחר בת קול, מ”ד לא עשו, דהא נפקא בת קול; ומ”ד עשו, רבי יהושע היא, דאמר: אין משגיחין בבת קול. 

According to Reish Lakish, Beit Shammai didn’t act according to their own opinion, and the gemara asks why? It answers that if this is referring to a time before the bat kol, then they refrained from acting according to their own opinion because Beit Hillel was the majority. If it was after the bat kol, they refrained because the bat kol said that we go according to Beit Hillel. 

According to Rabbi Yochanan who says that Beit Shammai acted according to their own opinion, why did they do this? If it was before the bat kol, why did they not go according to Beit Hillel who was the majority? The gemara answers that according to Rabbi Yochanan, the majority doesn’t determine the law if there is a qualitative difference between the two groups – Beit Shammai was sharper than Beit Hillel and therefore did not need to go according to the majority. If it was after the bat kol, why did they not go according to Beit Hillel, if the bat kol said that that is what we need to do? The gemara answers that Beit Shammai acted in accordance with the opinion of Rabbi Yehoshua, that we do not listen to the bat kol. 

The Tosfot ask a question on this sugiya which is connected to two famous sugiyot:

רבי יהושע היא דאמר אין משגיחין בבת קול – וא”ת ומ”ש דלא קי”ל כבת קול דר”א אלא אמרינן בכל דוכתי דשמותי הוא ואין הלכה כמותו וכבת קול דב”ה קי”ל דהלכה כב”ה

Tosfot send us to a sugiya in Bava Metzia and in Eruvin. In Bava Metzia, in the story of “תנורו של עכנאי”, it describes how the rabbis argued with Rabbi Eliezer regarding the status of the oven. The rabbis held that it is impure while Rabbi Eliezer held that it is pure. There, Rabbi Eliezer was the minority against the rabbis who were the majority, yet Rabbi Eliezer fought with them and brought proofs from logic and also used miracles to prove that he was right. One of the peak moments of the story occurs when Rabbi Yehoshua rejects Rabbi Eliezer’s proof from the bat kol:

תלמוד בבלי מסכת בבא מציעא דף נט ע”ב

חזר (רבי אליעזר) ואמר להם: אם הלכה כמותי – מן השמים יוכיחו. יצאתה בת קול ואמרה: מה לכם אצל רבי אליעזר שהלכה כמותו בכל מקום! עמד רבי יהושע על רגליו ואמר: לא בשמים היא. – מאי לא בשמים היא? – אמר רבי ירמיה: שכבר נתנה תורה מהר סיני, אין אנו משגיחין בבת קול, שכבר כתבת בהר סיני בתורה אחרי רבים להטת. 

The second sugiya mentioned by Tosfot is in Eruvin 13b, regarding arguments of Beit Hillel:

אמר רבי אבא אמר שמואל: שלש שנים נחלקו בית שמאי ובית הלל, הללו אומרים הלכה כמותנו והללו אומרים הלכה כמותנו. יצאה בת קול ואמרה: אלו ואלו דברי אלהים חיים הן, והלכה כבית הלל. וכי מאחר שאלו ואלו דברי אלהים חיים מפני מה זכו בית הלל לקבוע הלכה כמותן – מפני שנוחין ועלובין היו, ושונין דבריהן ודברי בית שמאי. ולא עוד אלא שמקדימין דברי בית שמאי לדבריהן 

Seemingly, the bat kol is the reason that we go according to Beit Hilel. But here we see that there is a contradiction between Eruvin and Bava Metzia regarding the question of whether we go according to the bat kol. In Eruvin, we go according to the bat kol to strengthen Beit Hillel. In the gemara in Bava Metzia, it is specifically Rabbi Eliezer from Beit Shammai who enlists the bat kol, while Rabbi Yehoshua, who opposes Beit Shammai rejects this proof. Our gemara challenges this reading and poses questions regarding the way we relate to the bat kol and the rule of going according to the majority. Tosfot point out this contradiction and suggest two answers:

  • וי”ל משום דבת קול דר”א לא יצאה אלא לכבודו שאמר מן השמים יוכיחו כדאמר התם 
  • א”נ בההיא בת קול שהיתה כנגד רבים דרבנן הוו רובא דודאי אין הלכה אבל כבת קול דב”ה קי”ל משום דהוו ב”ה רובא אלא דב”ש מחדדי טפי

At the end of their words, Tosfot bring a difficulty and solution, through which they go back and give basis to what they said:

 וא”ת ודלמא רבי יהושע נמי דוקא התם קאמר דאין משגיחין כדפירשנו אבל בעלמא לא וי”ל מדנקט ר’ יהושע האי לישנא ואמר לא בשמים היא ש”מ דבכל דוכתא אית ליה דאין משגיחין.

We will summarize their words:

  1. Tosfot bring the contradiction between Eruvin, where it seems that we go according to the bat kol, and Bava Metzia where it seems that we do not.
  2. Tosfot bring two answers: a. the bat kol in the story of “תנורו של עכנאי” was not a real bat kol but rather a bat kol for the honor of Rabbi Yehoshua, and this is different from the bat kol in Eruvin which was real. b. There is an overarching rule of an individual against the majority, and the bat kol doesn’t have the power to change this. However, when it is two groups against each other, one is the majority while the other is sharper in their learning, we are at an impasse, and there, it is possible for the bat kol to determine how we rule. 
  3. Tosfot raise the possibility of understanding that specifically the story of “תנורו של עכנאי” is what stands out, and only there do we not go according to the bat kol, however in general, we do. Tosfot reject this possibility using a diyyuk in the words of Rabbi Yehoshua who says: “לא בשמיים היא”, meaning that we have an overarching rule – we generally do not go according to the bat kol. 


ב.     תוספות  ד”ה פסוק זה שר העולם אמרו

At the conclusion of the perek, the gemara brings a story about Rabbi Dosa ben Hirkanus, about whom the rabbis heard that he allows the tzara of the daughter, like Beit Shammai, in opposition to the psak of Beit Hillel. The rabbis go to visit him to clarify the matter and discover that it was not he who allowed this, but rather his younger brother. During their visit, Rabbi Dosa quotes the passuk “נער הייתי וגם זקנתי ולא ראיתי צדיק נעזב” . The gemara in the continuation comes to clarify the meaning of this passuk. This passuk is very famous as we say it at the end of Birkat Hamazon, and has been put to many tunes. However, this passuk always makes us feel uncomfortable – do we really never see in our lives righteous people who are abandoned? The question of why bad things happen to good people is one of the most famous questions –  how do we reconcile this with this challenging passuk? Our gemara makes an important claim – this passuk was not said from the perspective of human beings. Rather it was said by the angel called Sar Ha’olam. Meaning, the perspective from which it is possible to say that the righteous people merit full reward and they and their offspring are not abandoned – is the perspective of someone who sees the world from its very beginning and to the end of days. This is what Rabbi Yonatan says on daf 16b:

אמר רבי שמואל בר נחמני אמר רבי יונתן, פסוק זה שר העולם אמרו: נער הייתי גם זקנתי – מאן אמריה? אילימא קודשא בריך הוא, מי איכא זקנה קמיה? ואלא דוד אמריה, מי קשיש כולי האי? אלא ש”מ: שר העולם אמרו.

Rabbi Yonatan explains that in essence we need to find a unique speaker who said this passuk. David only lived for seventy years, and so his perspective is not wide enough to say such a sentence! Hashem has the fitting perspective, however He does not experience old age. The Sar Ha’olam is a third figure who has the fitting perspective as well as old age! It is interesting to note here that the figure of Sar Ha’olam experiences old age, and of course we wonder what exactly is the meaning of this old age – are we dealing with an angel or with a person? On the one hand, angels don’t really experience old age, but on the other hand, what human can have such a wide perspective? 

Tosfot pose an interesting difficulty on this gemara, which deals entirely with aggada, piyut, and learning methodology. It is a question that touches on the way to understand the pshat that we just raised:

פסוק זה שר העולם אמרו – קשיא לר”ת דעשה הפייט השר המשרת נער נקרא הוא מטטרון הנכבד והנורא אלמא מטטרון הוא שר העולם שנקרא נער ובפיוט אחר יסד תוקף מטטרון שר הנהפך לאש מבשר משמע דחנוך הוא מטטרון ואי אפשר שיהיה חנוך שר העולם דבפרק אלו טרפות (חולין ס. ושם) אמר דבששת ימי בראשית פתח שר העולם ואמר ישמח ה’ במעשיו וחנוך לא היה במעשה בראשית

Tosfot find a contradiction between two piyutim: one piyut determines that Sar Ha’olam is the Metatron, which essentially is an angel, while another piyut claims that Sar Ha’olam is Chanoch from Sefer Breishit. Seemingly, it would be possible to claim that Chanoch is the Metatron, and solve the contradiction that way, however, immediately, the Tosfot continue and emphasize that the gemara in Chullin does not allow for this interpretation as it says that Sar Ha’olam began to sing during the six days of creation, but Chanoch was not alive at that time. After presenting the difficulty, Tosfot offer two solutions:

וי”ל דמטטרון אין זה שר העולם והא דנקרא נער לא משום דכתיב נער הייתי וגם זקנתי אלא נער שכן היה שמו ובפסיקתא בח’ שמות של מטטרון מונה נמי נער

ועוד דאגדות חולקות זו על זו דבבראשית רבה י”א דחנוך מת כדמתרגמי’ כי לקח אותו (בראשית ה) המית יתיה ובריש מסכת דרך ארץ משמע דנכנס לג”ע בחייו.

Tosfot’s first solution is to distinguish between Metatron and Sar Ha’olam. Sar Ha’olam is a different angel, and is possibly the world itself which undergoes a process of birth and old age, and this is the world itself testifying that the righteous are not abandoned. Metatron is indeed Chanoch, and he holds the name “נער”, with no connection to the passuk “נער הייתי וגם זקנתי.”

An alternative solution that Tosfot suggest is particularly interesting in light of the methodology employed to arrive at this solution – Tosfot say that aggadot tend to contradict each other. Did Chanoch die or become an angel? This is the point of argument between Bereishit Rabba and Masechet Derech Eretz. The Tosfot here do not attempt to synthesize the aggadot, in contrast to their goal of synthesizing all of the halachic sugiyot in Shas with one another. 

We will summarize the points that came up in Tosfot:

  1. Tosfot, true to their methodology, bring a range of sources which discuss the figure of the Sar Ha’olam, from which a contradiction arises as to his identity. Is the Sar Ha’olam identical to Metatron, and is Metatron Chanoch? 
  2. In their solution to the contradiction, Tosfot suggest either splitting the figure of Sar Ha’olam from the figure of Metatron, or splitting the world of aggada from the world of halacha and showing that aggadot can contradict, and we do not need to synthesize them. 

To conclude the first perek

What is similar between the two Tosfots that we saw is the way they relate to extra-halachic worlds in a limited, reserved, way.

The first Tosfot emphasizes that the bat kol cannot be used to paskin halacha, and that we need to limit places where they seem to do this using various ukimtot. 

The second Tosfot ends with a statement that aggadot can contradict each other, and in contrast to the halachic world, constitute a different world with its own rules.

Both the bat kol and aggada accompany and shadow the halachic discussion, but open up a parallel space. The words of the Tosfot encourage us to think about the meaning of this parallel world, and about the nature of the relationship between halacha and aggada here, and in every daf of Shas. 

Rabbanit Yael Shimoni

Rabbanit Yael Shimoni is the Ramit and Deputy Rosh Yeshiva at Yeshivat Drisha in Kfar Etzion. Rabbanit Shimoni has learned at Migdal Oz, Matan, and the Susi Bradfield Women’s Institute for Halakhic Leadership at Midreshet Lindenbaum. She holds a BFA from Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design and a BEd in Torah Shebe’al Peh and Jewish Thought from Herzog College. She is currently studying towards an MA in Jewish Thought Education at Herzog College. Rabbanit Shimoni taught gemara and halakha at Pelech High School and served as a ramit for shana bet at Migdal Oz. She directs Meshivat Nefesh, the online responsa program of the rabbaniyot of Beit Hillel. She is also a plastic artist and member of “A Studio of Her Own.
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