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We all know that only a Sanhedrin can vote conclusively on a halakha for the entire nation. Since the Sanhedrin was dismantled, the next best option was to listening to the hachamim of your locale. There were two main locales: Eretz Yisrael and Bavel. The hachamim in Eretz Yisrael had semikha and the ones in Bavel didn't, but they continued to transmit the oral tradition as they were located in one place. Neither center had jurisdiction over the other.

Historically speaking, the Bavli school survived way past the school of Eretz Yisrael and thus all of its disciples (geonim, rishonim) were educated in the Bavli methodology. They obviously knew the Yerushalmi (at least the earlier Geonim and Rishonim), but the tradition of studying the Yerushalmi wasn't on the same level as it was not regarded as "their Talmud" (I don't think they had full manuscripts of the Yerushalmi, so that combined with it not being the the Talmud of the Geonim, Yerushalmi disappeared towards middle ages).

So naturally, the Bavli mode of thinking was what survived through the centuries. However, today we have access to the Yerushalmi like never before and there is growing scholarship in it.

How can we ignore this important part of our mesorah, a mesorah that the hachamim of Bavel said they were subordinate to when both existed at the same time?

How can we claim that the rulings of the Bavli are binding on the whole nation if there was no Sanhedrin to rule conclusively? How are we to build a new Sanhedrin without access to a key part of our mesorah?

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  • That's an oxymoron? Our mesorah is the Bavli?
    – The GRAPKE
    Dec 4, 2023 at 10:11
  • 2
    At least one rabbi that I've seen has stated that rulings go according to the Bavli because of הלכה כבתראי. Since the Bavli was composed later than the Yerushalmi, it is our main source for rulings. It also makes sense in a way, because it dealt with more later historical developments. You wouldn't argue, I presume, that we should rule only based on the Tannaitic sources, would you? Arguably, more authoritative than either the Bavli or the Yerushalmi. It's the same rationale.
    – Harel13
    Dec 4, 2023 at 10:21
  • @Harel13 The Rif at the end of Eruvin says this
    – Joel K
    Dec 4, 2023 at 11:03
  • @JoelK thanks. 15
    – Harel13
    Dec 4, 2023 at 12:09
  • relevant (but not duplicate): Why is Talmud Bavli studied more than Yerushalmi?
    – mbloch
    Dec 4, 2023 at 12:21

1 Answer 1

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The following is one approach as to why our practice (for the most part) follows the Bavli over the Yerushalmi.

Those practicing current, normative Judaism today are, in general, the inheritors and followers of the Babylonian tradition, as their communities were (ultimately) founded or heavily influenced by the bearers of the Babylonian tradition.

So the question becomes: Why should our Babylonian tradition forever be subject to the Babylonian Talmud, and not be able to make changes due to other traditions subsequently coming to light?

[A]ll the matters mentioned by the Babylonian Talmud are incumbent on the entire Jewish people to follow. We must compel each and every city and each country to accept all the customs that were put into practice by the Sages of the Talmud, to pass decrees parallelling their decrees, and to observe their ordinances, since all the matters in the Babylonian Talmud were accepted by the entire Jewish people.

(Maimonides, Introduction to Mishneh Torah, my emphases)

It's possible that Maimonides is engaging in a little hyperbole here, but his point is clear. The Judaism of today is the Judaism of the Bavli, because that is the Judaism that we accepted upon ourselves.

See also Kesef Mishneh to Hilchot Mamrim 2:1 who suggests that:

מיום חתימת המשנה קיימו וקבלו שדורות האחרונים לא יחלקו על הראשונים וכן עשו גם בחתימת הגמ' שמיום שנחתמה לא ניתן רשות לשום אדם לחלוק עליה:‏

From the day that the Mishnah was completed, they decided and accepted that future generations would not argue against the earlier ones [i.e. the rabbis of the Mishnah]. They acted similarly with the completion of the Talmud: from the day it was completed no one is granted permission to argue against it.

Although Kesef Mishneh doesn't explicitly discuss Bavli over Yerushalmi, I would argue that he is specifically referring to the communal acceptance of the Bavli. Firstly, because the Yerushalmi was never completed or "sealed" in the same way that the Bavli was. And secondly, because again, our community descends from those in Babylon, whose acceptance would have been of the Bavli rather than the Yerushalmi.

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