Breira is the concept that a choice can be made in the future that will retroactively determine the state of something in the the present (assuming I understood and articulated it correctly). There is a Talmudic argument as to whether such a thing is possible.

The Jewish Encyclopedia entry on Breira claims that Breira is a concept that was only known to the later Babylonian Amara'im, but was unknown to the Tana'im.

However, further on the article says that there are certain arguments in the Mishna that are explained as being arguments whether or not we say "Breira".

If Breira is an Amora'ic innovation, how can they say that the Tana'im were arguing about it?

  • help with tags, please
    – Menachem
    Oct 14, 2013 at 6:22
  • 1
    Is this a question on the Jewish Encyclopedia?
    – Double AA
    Oct 14, 2013 at 15:15
  • @DoubleAA: Yup. And I don't mind an answer that shows they are wrong. If I understood them correctly, they are basing their theory on the fact that Roman law didn't develop Breira till later, and the rabbis took it from Roman law. -- Although they also say that the Talmud Yerushalmi doesn't mention it, which might be a stronger proof.
    – Menachem
    Oct 14, 2013 at 15:19
  • Though the epistemology seems to argue on the Gemara, since the Gemara frequently says that figures in Taach use legal arguments that never appear directly there. For example, the Michal sugya is explained as to the machlokes whether the orla of plishtim is worth a Shava prutah. Oct 15, 2013 at 0:29

1 Answer 1


There's an mp3 from -- I believe Rabbi Charlop where he quotes someone who said that you don't find the phrase breira per se in the Talmud Yerushalmi, only the Bavli. He then mentions that someone challenged this from several places in the Yerushalmi that seem to be doing something to that effect. If I understand, the takeaway was that reducing it to the named abstract concept was only done in the Bavli, but it's certainly possible that there were various intuitive halachic rulings that were recorded earlier.

(I'm not saying that's necessarily what the Encyclopedia was saying.)

This is actually not that different from something funny you'd observe in Intro to Calculus, if I understood it correctly -- first they teach Riemann Integrals, which actually prove what happens when you break something into tiny pieces and add them all up; and later they teach the fundamental theorem of calculus, which states conceptually what it looks like. In fact, the fundamental theorem was developed -- and people could solve equations and build things using it -- hundreds of years before Riemann would go and actually formally prove it.

Another possibility that could be used to answer questions of this sort (I'm not saying this necessarily works here) is that the Amoraim did not feel they could introduce concepts that went explicitly against a recorded Mishna, but as long as it could be read into the mishna (even if that was not the original intent), that was okay. The example I'd heard of this (from a "black-hat" rosh yeshiva) involved making a "borei nefashos" after drinking water. (I think Brachos 44b, but I'd have to look into it more b'n.)

  • So who developed the Bracha? On whose sholders? Oct 15, 2013 at 0:25
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    – Double AA
    Oct 15, 2013 at 19:18
  • @DoubleAA Thank you. That mishna had a shorter version as a pre-bracha, which we don't follow. I think the example was pointing to 44b, and implying that the enactment of "say borei nefashos after water" came post-Mishnaically. Bli neder I'd have to track this down some more.
    – Shalom
    Oct 15, 2013 at 19:55
  • Shekalim in the end of 1st chapter Nov 1, 2013 at 0:14

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