Wednesday, Sep 28, 2022

Yevamos 14: These and Those

On this daf, we find various halachic opinions that were followed in different regions and the disputes between Bais Shamai and Bais Hillel.

Rav Nosson Gestetner gave an exposition of a puzzling Talmudic principle: “The Maharshal, in his introduction to Yam Shel Shlomo, explains the concept of ‘eilu v’eilu divrei Elokim chaim,’ that two distinct views are both the words of the Living G-d. If both opinions are not mutually exclusive, we understand. But when one side holds a particular case is impure or prohibited and the other is lenient in that same instance, this seems difficult. How can both mutually exclusive views be correct?

“He explains in the name of the Kabbalists as follows. At the great moment that every Jewish soul experienced Sinai, Hashem gave the Torah to us through forty-nine channels. When the verse tells us that the entire nation saw the voices, this means varying views in halacha questions and approaches to different issues. Each neshomah received his own unique view in accordance with his spiritual source. One person is naturally prone to prohibit, while another type of individual leans more to leniency. Yet another personality type tends to remain centered towards the middle, neither too strict nor overly lenient. All these types and various shades of them are genuine and come directly from On High.

“To understand this deep Maharshal, we must examine their disputes. Our sages record that Bais Shamai and Bais Hillel argued for three years, each insisting that their view is correct l’halacha. After three years, they heard a heavenly voice that proclaimed, ‘Eilu v’eilu divrei Elokim chaim.’ The Ritva there writes, ‘The French rabbonim asked: How could both be ‘the words of the Living G-d’? Is not a particular situation or circumstance either pure or defiled? They answered that when Moshe ascended On High to receive the Torah, they showed him each case with forty-nine ways to permit and forty-nine ways to prohibit. Moshe asked Hashem how this could be and He said, ‘I give the power to the chachomim to determine the halacha in each of these situations. The law will follow their determination.’

“This is similar to the Maharshal we quoted earlier. Hashem left a lot open in Torah for the chachomim to resolve and each rule according to his spiritual source and what is good for the people under his charge. This is why we find that chochomim often disagree. Each one rules according to his spiritual source, yet all are correct, even when one permits and his friend forbids the exact same circumstance” (Chodesh B’chodsho, Kislev 5767, p. 2).

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