What was the law before a drasha (a law derived from the 13 middos) was made?

Were all the laws given at Sinai, and only their sources derived from the Torah by Chazal, or did Chazal learn new laws from the Torah using the system of the 13 middos, and before they made those drashos the law was, in fact, different?

I have been told that there is a dispute about this. I would like to know all sources from Chazal, Rishonim, and Acharonim which discuss this.


2 Answers 2


I can't give you all sources, but a brief summary of the Rambam:

The Rambam discusses two types of derashos.

In his Introduction to the Talmud, the Rambam discusses derashos in which the halacha is not in dispute, just the scriptural source is - the drasha is merely an attempt to identify the source, and the halacha preceded the source. An example is the פרי עץ הדר being a citron. In Sefer Hamitzvos Shoresh Sheni, the Rambam explains that this was in order to "להראות חכמת הכתוב" to demonstrate the wisdom of Scripture.

The second is discussed in the Introduction to the Yad Hachazaka. Here he discusses derashos which are "דברים שנתחדשו בכל דור ודור ... שלא למדו מפי השמועה" - newly discovered in each generation, and were not learned by transmission. In Shoresh Sheni, he qualifies that these derashos are limited to branching off of existing Mosaic laws - "הם ענפים מן השרשים שמאמרו לו למשה"

Ohr HaChaim to Vayikra 13:34 implies all derashos are only conclusive with an independent tradition:

ואין הכרח לדרשות הלל עד שעלה לא"י וידע שכן באה ההלכה

Hillel's derashos were inconclusive until he went up to Eretz Yisrael and knew that the tradition confirmed his conclusion (translation mine)

Rashi in Pesachim 61a could be understood to mean that Chazal did not have the right to apply the rules of exegesis without a pre-existing tradition from their teachers, with the exception of Kal V'chomer:

דאין אדם דן גזירה שוה מעצמו אלא אם כן למדה מרבו, אלא קל וחומר

Rashi contrasts Kal V'Chomer with Gzeira Shava as being allowed. This could be understood to mean that this is the only one which is allowed (otherwise, why should it be singled out?)

Doros HaRishonim (a relatively recent work on Talmudic methodology by Rav Yitzchak Isaac Rabinowitz) Chelek 4 ch 7 goes even further, and maintains that the first type of derasha is the only type of derasha, according to all opinions, and all halachos were known through mesora and they were only finding hints in the Torah.

  • Also see the Ben Ish Chai in his sefer Imrei Binah here.
    – user4523
    Commented May 14, 2014 at 20:53
  • What is the Rambam's introduction to the Talmud?
    – robev
    Commented May 22, 2020 at 19:23

Ralbag says that all derashos are really preexisting traditions with the 13 middos asmachtaos as one can easily use them to come to a different conclusion

רלב"ג ביאור הפרשה בראשית – הקדמות:א' והנה בבָאֲרֵנוּ המצוות והשורשים אשר מהם יצאו כל דיניהם אשר התבארו בחכמה התלמודיית, לא יהיה מנהגנו בכל המקומות לסמוך אותם השורשים אל המקומות אשר סמכו אותם חכמי התלמוד באחת משלש עשרה מידות לפי מנהגם. וזה, שהם סמכו אלו הדברים האמיתיים המקובלים להם במצוות התורה לַפּסוקים ההם, להיותם כדמות רמז ואסמכתא לדברים ההם, לא שיהיה דעתם שיהיה מוצא אלו הדינין מאלו המקומות. כי כבר יוכל האדם להפך כל דיני התורה בכמו אלו ההיקשים, עד שאפשר בהם לטהר את השרץ כמו שזכרו ז"ל (ערובין יג, ב). אבל נסמוך אותם אל פשוטי הפסוקים אשר אפשר שיצאו הדינין האלו מהם, כי בזה תתישב הנפש יותר.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .