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?

  • 1
    Why should he have? Rabbi Yehoshua's point was that a heavenly voice does not overrule the decree of the majority. Commented Mar 10, 2021 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
    Commented Jul 21, 2021 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
    Commented Jul 27, 2021 at 6:23
  • @Alberko A Zaken Mamre is punished for not backing down. He doesn't have to agree, but he needs to follow the majority rule.
    – Chatzkel
    Commented Jul 27, 2021 at 11:51
  • @Chatzkel First you don't have to mention me because I'm the OP. Second, you contradict yourself. A ZM is punished for acting, not thinking. R"E was banned for merely holding a different opinion, just for fun.
    – Al Berko
    Commented Jul 27, 2021 at 16:01

2 Answers 2


The whole argument is that Hillel (represented by Rabbi Yehoshua) goes after the qualified majority for halacha, & Shamai (R' Eliezer) goes after who is correct/sharper. (See into of Ktzot that to decide sofek/doubts we do not go with the emet/seemingly correct.)

So the conversation is R' Eliezer saying although the majority is against me I'm right and Ill prove it with heavenly miracles. And Rabbi Yehoshua replies I don't care that you are correct, the majority is against you.

As mentioned in Mesiliat Yesharim R Eliezer was put into cherem since there was no way to reconcile this issue between R Yehoshua & R Eliezer. So the end of the story is the only end possible, had nothing to do with R Yehoshua telling R Eliezer or not about majority rule, and was peaceful.


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.

  • 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
    Commented Jul 27, 2021 at 7:07
  • @AlBerko If I remember correctly, that point is discussed as well.
    – Harel13
    Commented Jul 27, 2021 at 7:20

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