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In Masechet Ketubot, 60b there is a discussion of how long a nursing woman has to wait before being remarried. There are 2 opinions:

  • R. Meir says 24 months (or 21 months as the problem with the milk won't develop until she is pregnant for 3 months)
  • R. Yehuda says 18 months (or 15 months following that same logic)

R. Natan Bar Yosef connects these to opinions of Beit Hillel and Shammai saying that R. Meir's opinion is also that of Beis Shammai and that R. Yehuda's opinion is that of Beit Hillel.

Ulla is then quoted as saying that the halacha accords with the position of R. Yehuda, and Mar Ukva cites an actual case in which R. Chanina allowed him to marry a nursing widow at the 15 month mark.

An incident is related in which Abaye is asked the halacha and he cites that the 15 month mark is the law based on 3 things:

  • When R. Meir and R. Yehuda argue, the law goes according to R. Yehuda
  • When Beit Hillel and Beit Shammai disagree, the halacha follows Beit Hillel
  • Ulla pointed to an actual case in which R. Chanina ruled in this way

Then the gemara shows an situation which proves that Abaye is wrong and, based on the joined opinion of Rav and Shmuel, the 24 month limit is the halacha.

The Artscroll notes (60b1, note 7) says that "though in general we follow R. Yehudah over R. Meir, where the issue is Rabbinic in nature and R. Meir espouses the stricter view, we follow R. Meir." And it cites the gemara later on the page.

But this begs a couple of questions:

  1. Even if we can find a reason to discard the general rule regarding R. Meir and R. Yehuda in deference to some other rule, how can we discard both the rule regarding Beit Hillel and Beit Shammai, and the proven precedent attested to by the ruling of R. Chanina and Ulla?
  2. Is the gemara saying that Ulla, and by extension, Mar Ukva and R. Chanina don't know the rule about Rabbinic laws and stringencies, because they blithely all rule according to R. Yehuda based on the standard dictum?
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    Is R. Natan's statement connecting R. Yehuda / R. Meir to Beit Hillel and Beit Shammai obvious? Is it possible that the debate hinges on this very point? Ulla and R. Chanina believe R. Meir is like Beit Shammai and so do not rule like him, but Rav and Shmuel (and ultimately Abaye) did not think that R. Meir is following Beit Shammai, and were therefore free to rule like R. Meir, in deference to the rule you cite? – Joel K Jan 18 at 15:18
  • No one disagrees with R. Natan's statement (but I don't see it corroborated with a citation to another place where B. Shammai and B. Hillel make these statements independently). I would think that if there was disagreement about Hillel and Shammai's position, someone would say it. – rosends Jan 18 at 15:55

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