Many Talmudic sources themselves, interpreters and commentators seek to reconcile contradicting opinions by steering each opinion off to a different scope/topic.

Someone gave an example of a cylinder, that one can see it as a circle from above or as a square from the side. But then factually they are both wrong, failing to see its depth and likening it to a two-dimensional form.

A good example for such a Machlokes is in Gittin 6b:

"א"ל ח"ו ומי איכא ספיקא קמי שמיא א"ל אלו ואלו דברי אלהים חיים הן זבוב מצא ולא הקפיד נימא מצא והקפיד: אמר רב יהודה זבוב בקערה ונימא באותו מקום זבוב מאיסותא ונימא סכנתא איכא דאמרי אידי ואידי בקערה זבוב אונסא ונימא פשיעותא

So the "absolute truth" that G-d gives is that in reality there were two reasons for the incident, however, R Yonatan saw only one and so R' Evyatar. Evidently they both didn't know/consider the other option.

Why seeing only one aspect of a problem can be considered "truth"?

NB: this question is only for Machlokos that are explained in such a way, and not for those where two opinions clash with no resolution.

  • 2
    Who said anything about truth in that discussion?
    – Joel K
    Sep 22 '19 at 15:06
  • @JoelK Please continue. So it's not truth but what?
    – Al Berko
    Sep 22 '19 at 15:13
  • 1
    I believe the Maharal, for example, both dramatically limits the application of the rule of "elu v'elu..." to the disputes of beith hillel and beith shammai (your example, I suppose, being an aggadic exception - notably, I believe it has also been said that disputes in aggadeta are seldom actual disputes as by [binary] halacha, but rather, differences in emphasis) and further does not interpret it to mean that both opinions are true.
    – Loewian
    Sep 22 '19 at 15:26
  • @Loewian Nice move, can you find a source, please?
    – Al Berko
    Sep 22 '19 at 15:27
  • e.g. in Derech Chaim chapter 5 p.259 in old version - I cited here: judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/61980/malbim-on-eilu-v-eilu
    – Loewian
    Sep 22 '19 at 15:34

A square really is a shadow a cube makes when you shine a light on a side of it. The same cube, with the light pointing at a corner will really cast a hexagonal shadow.

The Truth of "Divrei E-lokim Chaim" (the Words of the Living G-d / of the G-d of Life) is richer than reality can hold. Converting that Truth into a rule of behavior, a halachic ruling, is much like casting a shadow. So, you could have multiple correct rulings.

The need to "cast a shadow" isn't because of halakhah, but because of the gap between Divrei E-lokim Chaim and the world we're trying to apply it to. Like the 3D cube and the 2D wall. But, like the shadow, we are fully using the entire cube to know which shadow is appropriate for this light and this wall. Or, without the metaphor, we are fully using the Torah to decide which pesaq to use given this person's perspective and the realia he is facing.

Another situation is like the wall being at a different angle relative to the light and the cube. Another person or minhag or derekh would be like the light being placed differently.

All of which is my metaphor, but the position I am illustrating is that of the Maharal. (Derekh haChaim on Avos 5:17)

  • Oh, this sounds nice, thank you. I like your way, or, at least, what I understood from your examples. Let me rephrase it: "There's an absolutely true blackbox we can not get hold of, but all we can judge are some aspects (shadows)". I genuinely accept that. But then all we can say about Rabbis' statements that they are always true relatively to their understanding. This is not different from science: first, they imagined the Earth flat, then round, then spherical, then heliocentric and so on. All those views are relatively true. But as we advance, we find a better truth. Souns right?
    – Al Berko
    Sep 24 '19 at 18:03

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .