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The Wikipedia on Tannaim says this

Until the days of Hillel and Shammai (the last generation of the Zugot), there were few disagreements among Rabbinic scholars. After this period, though, the "House of Hillel" and the "House of Shammai" came to represent two distinct perspectives on Jewish law, and disagreements between the two schools of thought are found throughout the Mishnah.

  1. But how did these initial disagreements arise? If we accept that there were few disagreements before then, then presumably for any issue they later disagreed on there was already a (single) currently established practice on the ground - one way or another. How could one side suddenly introduce a viewpoint that differed with that practice?

  2. Why did these disagreements arise at that particular point in history and not earlier?

  • Why are you bothered by these arguments and not the ones during the time of the Zuggot? – Double AA Jun 28 at 22:08
  • @DoubleAA as the OP says in his question, “there were few disagreements among rabbinic scholars” at that time. – Lo ani Jun 29 at 21:20
  • possibly a duplicate of judaism.stackexchange.com/q/18735/170 – msh210 Jun 29 at 22:16
  • @msh210 : It's a similar question, but there doesn't seem to be a satisfactory answer there. Taking the example there (tefillin type) - if there were no disagreements about it until the time of the Mishna, then everyone would have been wearing the same type of tefillin until then. How can a disagreement possibly arise in that situation? Even if ALL people forgot (exceedingly unlikely), all one would need to do is examine a few pairs of existing tefillin. – user9806 Jun 30 at 3:21
  • @Loani And how did those few crop up if there was a single practice on the ground? – Double AA Jun 30 at 16:27
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Sotah 47b says:

משרבו תלמידי שמאי והילל שלא שימשו כל צורכן רבו מחלוקת בישראל ונעשית תורה כשתי תורות
When the students of Shamai and Hillel didn't serve their teachers properly, arguments arose and the Torah became like two Torahs

Rambam explains introduction to Mishnayos 11:

כאשר רפתה שקידת התלמידים על החכמה ונחלשה סברתם נגד סברת הלל ושמאי ובם נפלה מחלוקת ביניהם בעיון על דברים רבים שסברת כל אחד ואחד מהם היתה לפי שכלו ומה שיש בידו מן העיקרים
When the students weren't as engrossed in learning wisdom from their teachers, they fell behind and ended up quarreling amongst themselves what Hillel and Shamai meant through the ground principals which they understood and used to expound according their own abillities what the Halacha would be, which ended in different conclusions.

It seems this was the first generation where laziness prevailed over the yearning of understanding the whole Torah in its fullness, and so the result is that we have to be aware of different Halachic conclusions nowadays not discounting any since we don't have the tools to make a foregone conclusion which logical conclussion is correct without a great enough Rebbe like Hillel and Shammai themselves.

Note that there was a dispute about Semichas shelamim on Yomtov (Chagiga 16b) for some generations befoe Beis Hillel and Beis Shammai, but this was an iscolated incident rather than a track of logic resulting in many different conclusions in diverse Halachos, like in the Time of the students of Hillel and Shammai.

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While I have no source, I think the reason that the dissension multiplied is that the Sanhedrin lost its place in the Temple.

The Romans conquered Eretz Yisrael in the time of Shemaiah and Avtalyon, so those two may well have been the last heads of the Sanhedrin to have sat in the Chamber of Hewn Stone. Hillel and Shammai learned from Shemaiah and Avtalyon, so they would have been in contact with the unified halacha (as decided by a unified Sanhedrin).

But their students grew up in an era without a unified Sanhedrin with full powers, so dissensions multiplied and no one could enforce a single halacha. This is probably just stupid speculation, but it's the best thing I could think of.

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