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The more I study the Sugyah of Tanuro Shel Achnai, the more I get confused:

At the culmination of the argument "Rabbi Yehoshua (c. 100 CE) stood on his feet and said: It is written: “It is not in heaven” (Deut. 30:12). Bava Metzia.59b And that's how the original story ends. He does not mention the majority rule and this causes very bad things happening to R' Eliezer and R' Gamliel, etc. Had the majority rule been evoked the story could end peacefully.

Only two centuries later the Gemara asks: "What is the meaning of the phrase “It is not in heaven”?" and quotes Rabbi Yirmeya (c. 350CE): "Since the Torah was already given at Mount Sinai, we do not regard a Divine Voice, as You already wrote at Mount Sinai, in the Torah: “After a majority to incline” (Ex 23:2) ibid, which is a complete misinterpretation of the original verse:

"you shall not give perverse testimony so as to pervert it in favor of the majority" (Rashi in place).

So, what is happening here? Why, if this was the original tradition from Moses, R' Yehoshua doesn't mention the majority rule?

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  • Why should he have? Rabbi Yehoshua's point was that a heavenly voice does not overrule the decree of the majority. – Maurice Mizrahi Mar 10 at 17:17
  • I always thought that the heavenly voice was said during the actual give and take of the disagreement and the cherem/nidui took place afterwards when R' Elazar refused to back down once the majority ruled – Chatzkel Jul 21 at 18:22
  • @Chatzkel IMHO, the majority rule does not necessitate everybody agreeing, it just sets the mechanism for ruling Halachah. There's no obligation to back down in case of disagreement. – Al Berko 1 hour ago
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According to note 13 in this essay, it is more likely that what Rabbi Yirmiyah said "Since the Torah was already given at Mount Sinai, we do not regard a Divine Voice" is kind of like a Talmudic footnote, and the next part "as You already wrote at Mount Sinai, in the Torah: “After a majority to incline”" is a continuation of what Rabbi Yehoshua said, i.e., that latter part was actually said by Rabbi Yehoshua and not by Rabbi Yirmiyah.

For more information on the story, I recommend reading the whole essay, together with this one and this one.

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  • Thank you for the sources, I'll have a look. I just remind you that the Halacha of following Hillel over Shammai was accepted by following the Divine voice, only a couple of decades earlier. – Al Berko 1 hour ago
  • @AlBerko If I remember correctly, that point is discussed as well. – Harel13 52 mins ago

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