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The Talmud teaches us that on numerous occasions various rabbis gathered at a shul or someone's place (usually a penthouse) and ruled/decided certain Halochos (see "נמנו וגמרו").

Was there a standard way of publicizing those rulings to the public, to other rabbis, to other communities, or they were shelved and only surfaced later in the Talmud?

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  • Not necessarily for this type of ruling, but see Menachot 40a for two possible methods of publicization.
    – Alex
    Jun 13 at 19:17
  • The Rabbis regularly gave halachic derashos to the public, esp. on Shabbos.
    – N.T.
    Jun 14 at 7:01

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The Rambam describes the basic procedure for when the Sanhedrin was operating in Jerusalem. The same basic procedure was presumably observed even after the Sanhedrin moved to Yavneh.

H. Mamrim 1:4

כשהיה בית דין הגדול קיים, לא הייתה שם מחלוקת בישראל; אלא כל דין שנולד בו ספק לאחד מישראל, שואל לבית דין שבעירו. אם ידעו, אמרו לו; ואם לאו, הרי השואל עם אותו בית דין או עם שלוחו עולין לירושלים, ושואלין לבית דין שבהר הבית. אם ידעו, אמרו להם; ואם לאו, הכול באין לבית דין שעל פתח העזרה. אם ידעו, אמרו להם; ואם לאו, הכול באים ללשכת הגזית לבית דין הגדול, ושואלין. אם היה הדבר שנולד בו הספק לכול ידוע אצל בית דין הגדול, בין מפי הקבלה בין מן המידה שדנו בה--אומרין להם מיד; ואם לא היה הדבר ברור אצל בית דין הגדול--דנין בו בשעתן ונושאין ונותנין בדבר עד שיסכימו כולן, או יעמדו למניין וילכו אחר הרוב, ויאמרו לכל השואלין כך הלכה, וילכו להם.

When the Supreme Sanhedrin was in session, there was never any prolonged differences of opinion among the Jewish people. Instead, if a doubt arose in a Jew's mind over any law, he would inquire of the court in his city. If not, the questioner and that court - or its agents - ascend to Jerusalem and ask the court which holds sessions on the Temple Mount. If they know, they will reply to him, if they do not know, everyone comes to the court that holds sessions at the entrance to the Temple Courtyard. If they know, they will reply to him, if they do not know, everyone comes to the Chamber of Hewn Stone, to the Supreme Sanhedrin, and presents the question. If the matter that was unresolved by all the others was known to the Supreme Sanhedrin - either as part of the Oral Tradition or because of its derivation through the principles of exegesis - they relate the decision immediately. If, however, the decision was unclear to the Supreme Sanhedrin, they deliberate about the matter at that time and debate it back and forth until they reach a uniform decision, or until a vote is taken. In such a situation, they follow the majority and then tell all the questioners: "This is the halakhah." The questioners then all depart.

Basically if a local court did not know what the law was, the questioners and the local court would travel to the Great Court (Sanhedrin) and pose the question to them. If the Great Court did not have a ready answer, it would deliberate and come to a conclusion, and then inform the questioners and the local court (or its agents) that "such and such is the law!" They would then all leave and return to their local jurisdictions and knowledge of the law would spread from there and thence.

The Gemara in Sanhedrin 88b also makes it clear that on such occasions where a local court did not know the law, they did not go straight to the Great Court but rather they would first inquire of the courts in the surrounding cities:

הוצרך הדבר לשאול שואלין מבית דין שבעירן אם שמעו אמרו להן ואם לאו באין לזה שסמוך לעירן אם שמעו אמרו להם ואם לאו באין לזה שעל פתח הר הבית אם שמעו אמרו להם ואם לאו באין לזה שעל פתח העזרה

If the matter was unclear and it was necessary to ask and clarify it, those uncertain of the halakha would ask the court that is in their city. If the members of the court heard a clear halakhic ruling with regard to that matter, they said it to them, and if not, they would come to a court that is adjacent to their city. If the members of the court heard a clear halakhic ruling with regard to that matter, they said it to them, and if not, they would come to the court at the entrance to the Temple Mount. If the members of the court heard a clear halakhic ruling with regard to that matter, they said it to them, and if not, they would come to the court at the entrance to the Temple courtyard.

It is reasonable to assume that after the law was determined by the Great Court, the local court which petitioned it would also inform the courts of those other cities which it had first inquired of as well. In this way knowledge of the law would spread throughout the nation.

It was the duty of the court to first determine whether the law would take root and properly spread throughout the nation before instituting it (H. Mamrim 2:5). There were times where the law would fail to take root and fail to spread throughout the nation, and on such occasion, the law was nullified in and of itself (H. Mamrim 2:6).

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  • I admire your proficiency in the sources. However, what you cited makes things worse - it proves that not only there was no mechanism, there wasn't even a question of publicizing a Halacha: "tell all the questioners: "This is the Halakhah." The questioners then all depart." That proves in my eyes, the practice of every-one/shul/rabbi having his own codex, practiced to these days. If you have a question you come to a rabbi, but no rabbi has a traditional mechanism of informing the whole community about a Halachah he just Paskened to you.
    – Al Berko
    Jun 15 at 11:56
  • @AlBerko I'm not sure what you mean by "makes things worse", worse than what? Was there an issue or problem you presented in the OP that I failed to address? That aside, I don't see what is so bad about having a centralized authority in a geographic territory smaller than NJ issue a ruling and then knowledge of the ruling spreading out from the originating court of question to surrounding cities/courts. And no, this is not at all the same as the contemporary scenario wherein there isn't a singular centralized authority to whom recourse is made. Jun 15 at 12:44
  • Isn’t Hilkhot Mamrim 2:5 and 2:6 specifically talking about gezeirot and takanot?
    – Alex
    Jun 15 at 12:50
  • @Deuteronomy the size of Israel in temple times, was significantly larger than it is today and probably bigger than NJ. just saying…
    – Chatzkel
    Jun 15 at 14:26
  • @Chatzkel in my estimation the geographic territory we had control over during the Second Temple era was actually smaller in square miles than the modern State of Israel. How did you come to your conclusion? Jun 15 at 16:54

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