A similar question was closed, but I'm going to elaborate on it:

  1. It is universally accepted that after the principle was accepted (B"M 59b) in times of R' Eliezer, the Rabbis have the power to rule Halachah against the Heavenly truth.

  2. As we also know that they have the power to kill even when the Torah doesn't require capital punishment (עונשים שלא מן הדין, Sanhedrin 81b).

  3. My other question, ("why-did-sanhedrin-deal-with-who-has-a-share-in-olam-habah", showed that Rabbies did deal with areas other than Halachah Lemaaseh and openly argued with Heavens. And many Poskim rely on this Gemmorah to prove, for example, that setting a person's share in the WTC can be done by a Beis Din (thanks to @IsraelReader's answer and see the discussion there) obligating Heavens to follow.

What, then, are the limits of the Rabbinical power, based on this principle:

  • can they free a person from Hell, by deciding he's a Tzadik? Can they decide on reincarnation or resurrection?
  • can they rewrite history, denying or altering the historical events from the Torah?
  • can they change Kabbalistic concepts, like swapping Tifferes and Yesod, adding or subtracting Sfiros?
  • can they change the flow of the Geulah, deciding on how it will occur and when?

I searched for information on this principle but I didn't see anybody clearly defining the limits. I understand the information is scarce, but I'm looking for sources that might speculate on extrapolating the principles on areas I mentioned or explicitly denying it.

1 Answer 1


The following passage from R. Joseph B. Soloveitchik's "And Joseph Dreamt a Dream" limits the applicability of "not in heaven" to matters pertaining to law:

We all know the story of the "oven of Achnai". When in the course of a Talmudic dispute, a legal discussion over a question of ritual impurity, R. Eliezer ben Hyrcanus tried to adduce miraculous proofs for his view, to the extent that a Heavenly voice proclaimed him to be in the right, the other Sages refused to accept his opinion and ignored those signs. When he then refused to accept the majority view, they banned contact with him – and he remained in that bitter state until his death. Subsequently, the death and suffering of colleagues were attributed to their treatment of him. We still remember the days when we had learned, trembling and with tears in our eyes, about R. Joshua b. Hanania (colleague and opponent of R. Eliezer) standing up and proclaiming: "The Torah is no longer in Heaven!!"

God handed over technical legal matters to the authority of the Sages, to rule on what is clean and what unclean, to decide between obligation and exemption, forbidden and permitted. But in historical questions, not those relating to the legal status of ovens, food, or determination of fixed monetary obligations, but those relating to the eternity of the Eternal People, God Himself decides as to whose interpretation shall become the "law" (the historical development). Nor can anyone dispute the ruling of God in this domain.

(Rabinowitz translation, Al Berko’s emphasis)


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