Throughout the Talmud we find occurrences such as these:

The halacha is xyz because the verse in a certain chapter of Tanach says something similar to it; Rabbi Y disagrees and says the halacha is zyx because another verse says otherwise.

Rabbi X says we learn from this geziera shava; Rabbi Y says we learn from that gezeira shava.

There's an extra verse in a certain verse, therefore the halacha is X; Rabbi Y says the verse is not extra and is "the way people speak" so halcha is Y.

My question is how did these "opinions" come about. Was this a personal opinion? Did each of the rabbis have a tradition going back to sinai?

  • Are you asking what is the fundamental cause of the disagreement between Rabbi X and Rabbi Y? Or, given that both of these positions exist, how does normative halachic practice choose between them?
    – Joel K
    Commented Feb 28 at 14:02
  • @JoelK the fundamental cause (what is the source of their opinion?).
    – Ani Yodea
    Commented Feb 28 at 14:04
  • sefaria.org/… Commented Feb 28 at 14:56
  • "The yud gimmel middos" is the four-word answer to this question, right?
    – Yehuda
    Commented Feb 28 at 14:58
  • 1
    Best English book on the subject: amazon.com/Dynamics-Dispute-Makings-Machlokess-Talmudic/dp/…
    – N.T.
    Commented Feb 28 at 18:50

1 Answer 1


May I strongly recommend learning the Rambam's Hakdama to Mishneh Torah, which gives you a detailed explanation of the process of the Oral Transmission over time, and covers how the errors accumulated.

In brief, the transmission was made verbally, and with written notes. The leaders in charge of the transmission would keep their own notes, taken in class from their predecessors, and individuals would also make notes of their own in class.

רבינו הקדוש חיבר המשנה. ומימות משה רבינו ועד רבינו הקדוש לא חיברו חבור שמלמדין אותו ברבים בתורה שבעל פה. אלא בכל דור ודור ראש בית דין או נביא שהיה באותו הדור כותב לעצמו זכרון השמועות ששמע מרבותיו והוא מלמד על פה ברבים. וכן כל אחד ואחד כותב לעצמו כפי כחו מביאור התורה ומהלכותיה כמו ששמע. ומדברים שנתחדשו בכל דור ודור בדינים שלא למדום מפי השמועה אלא במדה משלש עשרה מדות והסכימו עליהם בית דין הגדול.

Rabbenu Hakadosh composed the Mishnah. From the days of Moses, our teacher, until Rabbenu Hakadosh, no one had composed a text for the purpose of teaching the Oral Law in public. Instead, in each generation, the head of the court or the prophet of that generation would take notes of the teachings which he received from his masters for himself, and teach them verbally in public. Similarly, according to his own potential, each individual would write notes for himself of what he heard regarding the explanation of the Torah, its laws, and the new concepts that were deduced in each generation concerning laws that were not communicated by the oral tradition, but rather deduced using one of the thirteen principles of Biblical exegesis and accepted by the high court.

The notes would be quite similar to the way Mishna and Gemara look today. They would record the laws, and trace back who said them as best they could at the time. The Oral element of transmission in combination with the note making arrived at the days of Hillel and Shammai with accumulating ambiguities, leading eventually to lack of clarity, and even contradictions.

The most common example would be that the teaching arrived in the Beit Midrash with two opinions on record, and they would contradict. One would say mutar in the name of so-andso, one would say assur in the name of so-and-so.

The process to resolve these ambiguities and contradictions - well that's what we know well from studying gemara. They used logical reasoning, limited exegetical rules, and other standards to correct the issues.

tl;dr: the opinions were not personal opinions in general, but notes of notes of notes, teachings of teachings of teachings, that trace back to their origin (either Sinai, or the date of the innovation by the sages of the law in question), with degraded quality. The reason they are recorded by the name of who said it was (in part) part of the process of keeping good records.

  • 1
    I would first recommend the Rambam's intro to the Mishnah which goes into greater detail on the questions OP asked about. Commented Feb 28 at 15:39
  • I would recommend following @Deuteronomy's recommendation
    – Rabbi Kaii
    Commented Feb 28 at 17:01
  • I would recommend following @RabbiKaii's recommendation
    – Yehuda
    Commented Feb 29 at 0:30
  • I said that Yehuda said that Kaii said that Deuteronomy said you should learn the introduction to Mishna, and my wife said that Yehuda said that Kaii said to learn the introduction to Mishneh Torah.
    – Rabbi Kaii
    Commented Feb 29 at 17:26

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