Sunday, August 03, 2008

bas kol and "bais shamai aina mishna"

Tosfos (Yevamos 14) asks how to square the Chachamim’s rejection of the bas kol siding with R’ Eliezer with gemara that tells us that a bas kol was accepted as proof that the halacha follows Beis Hillel and not Bais Shamai. Tosfos explains (in one of the two answers given) that the bas kol in favor of R’ Eliezer was rejected because it contradicted the majority view. The bas kol which supported Beis Hillel’s view was accepted because Hillel’s view was held by the majority. The only debate was whether the view of Shamai should perhaps be given more weight because Shamai was known to be sharper that Hillel.

Apparently, according to Tosfos, all things being equal, we do accept the evidence of a bas kol to establish halacha. It’s only in the context of having a rov that a bas kol is rejected. Contrast that with the Rambam’s statement in Hil Yesodei haTorah ch 9 with respect to a Navi:
או שאמר בדין מדיני תורה שה' ציווה לו שהדין כך הוא והלכה כדברי פלוני--הרי זה נביא שקר
According to the Rambam, it’s not just that a bas kol has no weight relative to rov – a bas kol is completely invalid as proof of what halacha should be.

The question raised in the previous post – why a bas kol outweighs the probabilistic evidence of rov with respect to whether a person touched a frog or sheretz, but does not outweigh the opinion of rov with respect to establishing halachic precedent – is valid only within Tosfos’ model that accepts at least theoretically, all things being equal, the evidence of a bas kol to determine halacha. However, according to the Rambam, the question is moot. Nevuah or bas kol is simply an unacceptable form of proof when it comes to psak.

What remains unclear according to the Rambam (which R’ Elchanan, who suggests this approach, and others struggle with) is why the bas kol which declared the halacha in accordance with Beis Hillel was accepted. Be that as it may, R’ Elchanan has a cute point with respect to the gemara’s statement that “Beis Shamai b’makom Beis Hillel aino mishna”, Beis Shamai’s view is unworthy of consideration. Why don't we find a similar sentiment recorded with respect to any other rejected view of Tanaim? Perhaps the reason is because no other Tannaitic view other than Shamai's was rejected by no less than a bas kol.


  1. Enyclopedia Talmudit "bas qol" discusses this question and lists shitos. Or, you could see my summary on avodah.

  2. See MN 2:42 at the end where Rambam says that Bas Kol is not nevuah Velo Kashya Midi.

  3. What is a Bas Kol? Is it a physical voice heard by all or is it nevuah like?

  4. For a fuller discussion of what a bas kol is, see the Tosfos Yom Tov in Yevamos 15:6.

    I'm not sure what Moreh you are referring to - all I see is that bas kol is not a full prophetic experience. To say that the ideas of "ain navi rashei l'chadesh davar" and other such statements is limited only to nevuah/navi and not to a bas kol would be a chiddush gadol. The point seems to be that limud and revelation are different experiences not to be mixed.

  5. >To say that the ideas of "ain navi rashei l'chadesh davar" and other such statements is limited only to nevuah/navi and not to a bas kol would be a chiddush gadol.

    Why? If it is an inspiration rather than a revelation, why would it be a problem? Please note that I just farenfert Rambam's problem.

  6. 1) Where in the Rambam do you see bas kol being defined as a human-initiated inspiration as opposed to some lower-level prophetic idea?
    2) I am uncomfotable with the term "inspired" here, but since you used it, I would say this: A poet is likely to say his/her work is "inspired" - it came from a feeling, a subjective experience. If a scientist says the same thing and cannot point to research, facts, equations to support his/her work, that work would be rejected. In a nutshell, science and halacha fall into the same category. I don't see anything in the Rambam that suggests otherwise. What in II:42 are you referring to?

  7. here is Rav Kafih's edition
    וממה שהקדמנו 20 מהכרחיות ההתכוננות לנבואה, וממה שהזכרנו בשיתוף שם מלאך, תדע כי הגר המצרית אינה נביאה 21, ולא מנוח ואשתו נביאים 22, לפי שאותם הדברים אשר שמעו או עלה ברעיונם הוא כעין בת קול שמזכירים חכמים תמיד, והוא מצב מסוים שיארע לאדם שאינו מעותד, אבל מטעה בזה שיתוף השם.

    Clearly Bas Kol is not Nevuah especially when he says
    מטעה בזה שיתוף השם

    Also please note that he does not say Hagar had bas kol only כעין בת קול . It is clear to me when he says מצב מסוים שיארע לאדם שאינו מעותד that it is not revelation. I don't think we can apply lo bashamayim hi.

    Re your second comment - inspiration in art is different than inspiration e.g. physics. Einstein was inspired when he developed his theory. I believe he writes that he "saw" the answer before he had the proofs worked out. So inspiration does have a place here too.

  8. I don't think your reading is correct - everyone agrees bas kol is not nevuah, but it is not the same as logical deducation. There are madreigos to nevuah, and this is simply a lower level than true prophecy. I don't think the Rambam means more than that. To assume he does presents difficulties with many gemaras (inspiration precedes a conclusion - most Chazals that refer to a bas kol describe it as a confirmation after the fact - see Makos 23b, and also the Chachamim in BM 59 employ the sevara of lo bashamayim hi in their rejection of RE's bas kol).