I'm wondering whether traditional sources have a name or an approach to dealing with what is known more generally as an "argument ad hominem". That is, are there sources in which some variation of the following happens:

  1. Rabbi A makes a claim (either halachic or aggadic)
  2. Rabbi B rejects Rabbi A's claim not on its substantive merits but because Rabbi A is a disreputable source
  3. Rabbi B is rebuked by Rabbi C for engaging in an ad hominem argument rather than addressing the substance of Rabbi A's argument.

Any instances of this kind of exchange?

  • 2
    Hi Michael! You tagged this talmud-gemara. Are you looking for examples specifically from the Talmud (or some other specific time period or genre of literature)? If so, please edit your post to clarify.
    – Double AA
    Sep 30, 2013 at 3:46
  • 1
    Are you seeking examples of argumenta ad hominem, or users of such arguments being reprimanded for using such an informal fallacy?
    – Double AA
    Sep 30, 2013 at 3:50
  • 2
    מקבל את האמת ממי שאמרו - orot.ac.il/publications/educational-articles/DocLib/… Sep 30, 2013 at 4:24
  • @DoubleAA, doesn't Part 3 of the type of exchange the question's looking for indicate the latter?
    – Isaac Moses
    Sep 30, 2013 at 5:42
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    Thanks for clarifying the title. I am sure there are many examples of ad hominem arguments in the tradition; I am wondering if the concept of ad hominem, as a n identified hermeneutical principle and/or fallacy, exists, and if so what it is called. Either repudiation or endorsement would be of interest. Regarding the tag, I wanted to tag this with "hermeneutics" but the system wouldn't let me create a new tag, so I went with talmud-gemara as the closest approximation I could find (admittedly not a very good one).
    – mweiss
    Sep 30, 2013 at 14:21

2 Answers 2


Not really an answer, but ...

  • Rabbi Hershel Schachter observes that there was legitimate debate regarding the kashrut of sturgeon. One rabbi who had permitted it, Aaron Chorin, later went on to affiliate with what we'd now call the Reform movement. Some took this as proof that sturgeon was prohibited; Rabbi Schachter said it was unrelated.

  • Legend has it that Elazar ben-Yehuda, the father of Modern Hebrew, asked Rabbi Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld of Jerusalem why he wasn't picking up Modern Hebrew. "If a heretic touches wine, it becomes prohibited as yayin nesech. A heretic touches a language ... well, you get the idea."

  • If the story is true, then it's simply that Rav Sonnenfeld was engaging in polemics. In any case, Rav Sonnenfeld did speak Hebrew- and in a SfardiC accent! See here: jta.org/1928/11/23/archive/…
    – Ephraim
    Oct 31, 2013 at 15:44
  • @Ephraim, legend has it that ben-Yehuda replied: "adoni, ata omer li shtutim." And Rabbi Sonnenfeld corrected him: "the word is shtuyot." (I think this is on a Rabbi Wein tape.) Yes, this was polemics, regardless.
    – Shalom
    Oct 31, 2013 at 16:31

In Berachos 38b, the opinion of R' Binyomin Bar Yefes is rejected as a valid source because he was not a diligent enough student:

אמר ר' חייא בר אבא א"ר יוחנן שלקות מברכין עליהם בפה"א ור' בנימין בר יפת א"ר יוחנן שלקות מברכין עליהם שהכל נהיה בדברו א"ר נחמן בר יצחק קבע עולא לשבשתיה כר' בנימין בר יפת תהי בה ר' זירא וכי מה ענין ר' בנימין בר יפת אצל ר' חייא בר אבא ר' חייא בר אבא דייק וגמיר שמעתא מרבי יוחנן רביה ורבי בנימין בר יפת לא דייק ועוד רבי חייא בר אבא כל תלתין יומין מהדר תלמודיה קמיה דר' יוחנן רביה ור' בנימין בר יפת לא מהדר

In Kuntress Hasfekos, the author questions the Shach for bringing a proof from the Migdal Oz, who the Shach famously constantly had belittled - he does not address the argument, but only the source of the argument.

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