The Shut Min Hashamayim was written by a Rishon in the time of Tosfos. He used to ask questions from Shamayim (Heaven) in a Sheilas Chalom (Dream Question) and write the answers down. Many of those questions are practical Halachic questions (for example, is the correct Tfillin Rashi or Rabbeinu Tam, etc).

How is this not a violation of Lo Bashamayim Hi (Torah is not in Heaven)? (Devarim 30:12, Bava Metzia 49b)

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    Who said he paskined like it?
    – Double AA
    Commented Mar 2, 2012 at 19:21
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    Your question would be much improved if it would explain what "lo bashamayim hi" means and is.
    – msh210
    Commented Mar 2, 2012 at 19:25
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    @DoubleAA If there is no disclaimer in the book to not pasken like it, then you can assume that the book will be used by people who read it to come to a halachic conclusion. In which case the question is on the book, for not having a disclaimer.
    – avi
    Commented Mar 4, 2012 at 6:56
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    @avi Disclaimer? I think you are thinking too modern for this. It is an old book and for all we know it was clear to the original intended audience what its function was. Not to mention that a "disclaimer" may have been lost in editing and copying over the years and potential issues with manuscripts... Things aren't always as straightforward as they seem.
    – Double AA
    Commented Mar 4, 2012 at 7:02
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    @DoubleAA A Disclaimer doesn't have to be a real disclaimer, just some hint in the text that it's not to be taken seriously. Given the time and place it was written, there is no reason to think it wasn't serious.
    – avi
    Commented Mar 4, 2012 at 7:06

3 Answers 3


This question is the subject of a teshuva of Rav Ovadia Yosef in Yabia Omer 1:41-42, and he returns to this subject in many later teshuvos as well. He writes regarding this question that דבר זה הוא מקצוע גדול בתורה (so imagine this question upvoted by R. Ovadia Yosef).

First of all, it isn't so clear that we actually do 'pasken' like the Shut min Hashamayim, though the Chida seemed to have insisted upon it. Second, isn't a bas kol or prophecy - it's a dream. Rav Ovadia writes

יש חילוק גדול בין מתנבא בשם ה' דרך נבואה, דבהא הוא דאמרינן שאין נביא רשאי לחדש דבר מעתה, לחולם חלום, שאינו אלא אחד מששים בנבואה (ברכות נז:), ומש"ה אין איסור זה נוהג בחלום, שאינו תוקע עצמו לדבר הלכה, להכריח להאמין בו כנבואה, אלא כגילוי מילתא בעלמא, וכל מי שאינו רוצה לסמוך עליו הרשות בידו, ולא הוי כמוותר על דברי נביא

A dream is only 'one sixtieth of prophecy', and so one is not forced to believe that they are true. He continues to quote from the Shita Mekubetzes to Bava Metzia: ברי חלומות הם, שהם קרובים לנבואה, אבל [לא] יסמכו בזה הענין, והחלומות שוא ידברו - dreams can be semi-prophetic, but they can also just be nonsense, and so a person makes a decision whether or not to follow the directive/halakha of the dream or not. Therefore, the teshuvos in Min Hashamayim aren't meant as clear revelations from Heaven, but as decisions made by the author to believe that his dreams were correct. This is also why other poskim felt perfectly comfortable arguing with the Shut Min Hashamayim if they felt that he was wrong.

  • The question seemed to be about the Mechaber of the seffer and how he was able to pasken from his dreams. This answer seems more to address how we should look at such a seffer as far as psak goes. Another point, the less 'prophetic' the message is, the more you should listen to it? A bas kol, no. A dream, yes? Isn't that counter intuitive?
    – user6591
    Commented Nov 28, 2014 at 2:43
  • @user6591 I see your point about the question's phraseology, but I don't see the issue with prophecy vs. bas kol. First of all, how do you know which one is more prophetic? Second, the more prophetic something is, the more reason to suspect that it should be subject to 'lo bashamayim hi', at least in theory. Commented Nov 28, 2014 at 2:46
  • Well his whole logic is the problem of lav bashomayim doesn't apply because this is ONLY a dream. Am i wrong? Your right in saying that if its not so bashomayim than the lav bashomayim shouldn't be a problem, but that whats weird. Its like saying well throwing dice isn't like a bas kol so we can paskin by throwing dice because there's no problem of lav bashomayim.
    – user6591
    Commented Nov 28, 2014 at 3:15
  • @user6591 I'm sorry but I'm having trouble understanding your comment. Because it's 'only' a dream, it isn't really prophecy, and is therefore subject to human determination. He thought that his dreams made halakhic sense Commented Nov 28, 2014 at 4:11
  • Matt and had he heard a bas kol that made sense he would have ignored it?
    – user6591
    Commented Nov 28, 2014 at 4:32

I do not know what it says in the introduction of that book, however I would imagine that his explanation would go something like this.

The story of "Lo Bashamyim hi", exists in a very specific context. That context is a Beit Din arguing with one of the members of that Beit Din. That is, we have a situation, where a beit din is gathered, and they are making a ruling. In those contexts, the Shechinah is said to have descended upon the group. The Majority of that Beit Din are then given the authority to make a ruling, and Bat Kols are not a valid form of testimony to the beit Din.

However, the concept of "Lo Bashamayim hi", does not necessarily apply in a situation where there is no beit din, or there is no sanctioned method of testimony.

There are numerous examples in the Talmud, where a halacha is learned or passed down by eliyahu to a single individual, or through other form of knowledge gained from "the heavens". Never in any of those situations, do we argue "lo Bashamayim hi". The only time that argument is really made, or has any valdity is in a situation of a beit din, or a gathering and a strict vote, which is gathered from numerous talmid chachamim "sitting together" to discuss and come to a conclusion.

  • This seems like a big chiddush to me. Do you have a source? The rishonim all (as far as I know) say that Eliyahu is only listened to because of his statues as a 'chacham gadol', not as a prophet/Heavenly being (these rishonim are in Bava Metzia 89b). Even if it isn't strictly a case of "lo bashamayim", Heavenly knowledge might still be invalid as a Torah source because of the prohibition for a prophet to pasken (Rambam intro to Mishna and Yesodei Hatorah 9:1) Commented Nov 28, 2014 at 0:46
  • @Matt not all Rishonim go that way - some say that Eliyahu is listend to when the question is a informational-fact clarification question, on which the halacha depends, but not the halacha itself (such as the tefillin on fish skin question). Not that this makes the chiddush of this answer any better off. Commented Nov 28, 2014 at 1:01
  • @YeZ right, I really just meant that none of them justify using Eliyahu as a prophet/semi-angel as a way to pasken. Agav, I find that opinion really hard to fit in to certain places (Bava Metzia 114, Menachos 45, for example). Do you know of anyone who says that outright? Someone once told me it was Rashi's opinion (Shabbos 108) but I don't think that's what he means Commented Nov 28, 2014 at 2:25

There are several Rishonim (collected in Encycolpedia Talmudis, but for example see the Raavid's comment on the Rambam Shofar Lulav V'Sukka 8:5 where he explicitly argues for his position because of Ruach HaKodesh - although he justifies it intellectually - see at the link the argument if the Raavid means it literally) that hold that the final Halacha is not like Rabbi Yehoshua, and in fact you can pasken from a Bas Kol.

After all, we see the argument between Beis Shammai and Beis Hillel was settled by a Bas Kol. (Not that there aren't other answers to that, but it is certainly a straight forward explanation). The Talmud itself suggests this as a possibility in Eruvin 6b-7a.

  • First of all, I really don't think that the raavad is referring to anything mystical at all, it's just a melitza. Second, see tosfos Yevamos 16a regarding bas kols- we never pasken like them under normal circumstances Commented Nov 27, 2014 at 21:50
  • @Matt, if the Raavad were the only one arguing for the position, perhaps. But he isn't unique. Kind of an odd Melitza anyway. The fact that Tosfos in Yevamos has a different position changes what?
    – Yishai
    Commented Nov 27, 2014 at 22:00
  • @Matt, I changed the link in the answer to opinions on both sides of the question of whether or not the Raavid meant it literally.
    – Yishai
    Commented Nov 27, 2014 at 22:08
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    Nice find re:"Hameir Laaretz"; I do know that several Chassidic and Kabbalistic sources like to note this Raavad as stating that he had ruach hakodesh but I find it hard to believe that it's what he meant. And I noted Tosfos because as far as I know none of the other rishonim held that we pasken like bas kols in normal situation (though I accept that one might read R. Nissim Gaon on Brachos 19a that way) so until you show me a rishon who argues I'm going to assume that Tosfos is correct Commented Nov 28, 2014 at 0:39
  • @Matt, here footnote 38, it quotes the ר"ש to Negoim chapter 4 as being "משמע" that way. I don't have it with me to check the source. BTW, I'm not sure what you mean by a "normal" situation.
    – Yishai
    Commented Nov 28, 2014 at 3:52

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