The Rambam states in his introduction to Mishna Torah that the Talmud Bavli is binding because;

כל אותם הדברים שבתלמוד הסכימו עליהם כל ישראל.

What is the definition of the word "ישראל" in the Rambam? Seemingly, the definition would have to exclude people in other sects who didn't accept the Talmud as binding.

(I don't know the history of which sects existed at that exact point in history who didn't accept the authority of the Talmud, so could someone please help me out? That would be very helpful for changing this from a simple appeal to people's imagination regarding the existence of such sects at that era of history into an actual question)

If that definition of "ישראל" excludes those Jews, then why does it have the strength to bind later generations?

Related question here

  • Maybe Kol Yisrael means the majority of the people who accepted the Talmud as binding? So no, it does not include the Sadducees for example, as they did not accept the Talmud as binding.
    – Shmuel
    Dec 9, 2022 at 9:57
  • 1
    I'd say "ישראל", in this context, means those Jews who accepted the authority of the successive courts (from Moshe Rabbeinu and his court, to Rav Ashi and Ravina and their court) mentioned earlier in the introduction.
    – Tamir Evan
    Dec 9, 2022 at 10:32
  • @Shmuel there is no evidence (to my knowledge) that the Sadducees (a Second Temple era sect) existed at the time of the sealing of the Talmud (5th-7th c. CE). Dec 9, 2022 at 15:02
  • @TzviK there isn't much documentary evidence of other Jewish sects during the 5th-7th c. CE. Even the famed Karaites didn't arise until the Geonic era (most arguments attempting to tie them to earlier 2nd Temple era sects are fairly tenuous). I would take the statement at face value, that the Rambam intends that a vast majority of rabbinic Jews (with rabbinic Jews themselves comprising the vast majority of Jews altogether) accepted the binding authority of the Talmud. Dec 9, 2022 at 15:14
  • "קשר רשעים אינו מן המנין" (Sanhedrin 26a, or "קשר בוגדים" in the language of the Rambam). If heterodox individuals or groups, such as the Sadducees, create a schism by rejecting the authority of the chain of batei din that stretched back through the ages, those groups are effectively relinquishing their role in the national Judaic consensus. Josephus, for instance, implies that the Jewish masses of his era recognized that the Tannaitic Pharisees represented the continuation of the essential religious tradition of Judaism, with the Sadducees representing a minority breakaway ideology.
    – Fred
    Dec 9, 2022 at 18:27

1 Answer 1


I can't answer what percentage of Jews accepted the binding of Talmud, at the time, but it is binding on all. See the next part, 37 where he writes:

הוֹאִיל וְכָל אוֹתָן הַדְּבָרִים שֶׁבַּתַּלְמוּד הִסְכִּימוּ עֲלֵיהֶם כָּל יִשְׂרָאֵל, וְאוֹתָן הַחֲכָמִים שֶׁהִתְקִינוּ אוֹ שֶׁגָּזְרוּ אוֹ שֶׁהִנְהִיגוּ אוֹ שֶׁדָּנוּ דִּין וְלִמְּדוּ שֶׁהַמִּשְׁפָּט כָּךְ הוּא הֶם כָּל חַכְמֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל אוֹ רֻבָּן, וְהֶם שֶׁשָּׁמְעוּ הַקַּבָּלָה בְּעִיקְרֵי הַתּוֹרָה כֻּלָּהּ, אִישׁ מִפִּי אִישׁ עַד מֹשֶׁה רַבֵּנוּ.

The [Talmudic] Sages who established ordinances and decrees, put customs into practice, arrived at legal decisions, and taught [the people] concerning certain judgments represented the totality of the Sages of Israel or, at least, the majority of them. They received the tradition regarding the fundamental aspects of the Torah in its entirety, generation after generation, [in a chain beginning with] Moses, our teacher.

Meaning, the Talmud represents the unbroken total chain since Moshe at Sinai. Practically the whole point of this introduction to the Mishna Torah is to demonstrate this - the Torah and it's explanation were given over to Moshe, and passed down through the authority of every generation to the next authority (which is exactly what Hashem commanded us to do), and we have all the names (big names) and courts, and who learned from whom, right up until the Talmud, which was the last step until the real exile began and the period of the Geonim. There was nothing else representing the authority of Torah, that was it.

The point of this introduction is to prove to you that the Talmud is what we have left of Moshe Rabbeinu's teaching, and the Rabbis even to this day are faithfully transmitting his teachings on his authority, and there is none other.

  • I'm not sure this really addresses the point of the original question. The Rambam is saying something more than just, This is part of the chain of mesorah. He is giving the Talmud the authority of a Sanhedrin, so that its decisions are binding - for exactly the reason that he gave. He then says that the decisions of the Gaonim afterwards, who were also part of the chain, are not binding in the same way, because they did not represent all of Israel but only a sub-part. The result is that later sages may not disagree with the Talmud; they are allowed to argue on the Gaonim or other Rishonim.
    – MichoelR
    Dec 14, 2022 at 13:53
  • R' Yosef Kara created a somewhat similar cut-off in his introduction to the Beis Yosef: He was not going to argue on Rishonim, just compare them and weigh them. Others like the Maharshal argued fiercely against him on that, but since then his position has been more-or-less accepted. We draw lines at certain points in our mesorah.
    – MichoelR
    Dec 14, 2022 at 13:57

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