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This question and particularly my comment on the question got me thinking. Assuming those who became the Ethiopian Jews received the oral law exactly the same as the rest of Israel, could we potentially use Ethiopian oral traditions to resolve machlokot that arose later in the Tannaic and Amoraic periods and were recorded in the Talmud? If this is theoretically possible, has it ever been done? If this does not work for some reason, why not?

My reasoning, if it's unclear, is as follows. If some point about a Torah law is undisputed in the Talmud, it seems to me that we would have a high degree of certainty that that point was successfully transmitted through the generations without ambiguity. If Ethiopians had a machloket about that point, we would be relatively confident telling them which side is correct. Is this logic reasonable, and does it work the other way around?

I originally neglected to mention that this question only applies to deoraita commandments, and not derabanans. Obviously machloket in derabanans is not a result of ambiguous transmission from Sinai that Ethiopian Jews could plausibly have more clarity on than the rest of us.

  • By resolve machlokes, you mean make a halacha or? – rosenjcb Dec 24 '14 at 20:05
  • @rosenjcb I don't understand your question – Daniel Dec 24 '14 at 20:06
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    Why assume they transmitted the law more perfectly than we did? – Double AA Dec 24 '14 at 20:57
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    @Daniel So...their lack of dispute indicates that they transmitted the law better? I don't see why. All it indicates to me is that they paskined differently than we did. – Double AA Dec 24 '14 at 21:47
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    How about including your reasoning explicitly in the question? I'm still not sure why you think "on undisputed points in Talmud, we assume that they are correctly transmitted". We just assume that's how we should paskin. – Double AA Dec 24 '14 at 21:51
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Note, I'm assuming that Ethiopean Jews are real and kept up their Torah knowledge throughout their exile.

  1. The Rambam (he quotes the Introduction to the Mishna) famously said that if there's an argument about something, it's a clear sign it's not a Halacha LeMoshe MiSinai.

    It could be an argument in interpretation or whatnot, but it's not a clear cut Halacha LeMoshe MiSinai. Therefore, their Stam doesn't show anything. It's just that they never saw the other side of the Machlokes.

  2. Even if one argues on the above mentioned premise of the Rambam, he also writes (which is something pretty much everyone agrees with, even if there are a few caveats thrown in)

    These [principles apply regarding] the judgments, decrees, ordinances, and customs which were established after the conclusion of the Talmud. However, all the matters mentioned by the Babylonian Talmud are incumbent on the entire Jewish people to follow. We must compel each and every city and each country to accept all the customs that were put into practice by the Sages of the Talmud, to pass decrees parallelling their decrees, and to observe their ordinances, since all the matters in the Babylonian Talmud were accepted by the entire Jewish people.

    So even if the Gemara was wrong, we still have to follow it. Which is why we don't find the Rashba explicitly arguing on Raba, for example.

  3. Even among the Tanayim, there were times when the Mishna had a machlokes and the Tosefta was "Stam". The Halacha doesn't follow the Stam.

    חלוקת במתני' וסתמא בברייתא מאי א"ל וכי רבי לא שנאה ר' חייא מנין לו

In other words, we assume it was R' Chiya's personal decision, and was not binding on his contemporaries. As we don't know what's the source of the "Stam Ethiopeans" (was it an alternate Mishna or was it a much later decision), we may not be able to follow it.

  • "since all the matters in the Babylonian Talmud were accepted by the entire Jewish people." Apparently not. Isn't that the whole premise of the question? – Double AA Dec 24 '14 at 22:42
  • @shmuel halocho ha lamosha misinai is darabbonon and has been passed by the sanhadreen without a a proper masoro on it. therefore it is say in sarcasm that the law has equal state with other halochoth which do have a masoro. its a halocho as good as if it was given by mosha rabbeinu 3alow ha sholom at sinai. but it is not reall from sinai. – MoriDowidhYa3aqov Dec 24 '14 at 22:56
  • @DoubleAA Maybe it was that they couldn't accept it. After all, if they had the chance to deny it, then you'd expect references to Bavli and Yerushalmi arguments in their halachic writings. – rosenjcb Dec 24 '14 at 23:41
  • @MoriDoweedhYaa3qob it would be helpful if you could find me an online source of this statement of the Rambam. But can a Sanhedrin unrule (so theoretically if we re-did a Sanhedrin the way the Rambam allows we can decide that a Pri Etz Hadar is an apple?) – Shmuel Brin Dec 24 '14 at 23:53
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    @ShmuelBrin the sanhadreen can do whatever they wish as long as the sanhadreen as sufficient evidence to do so. plus they must be wiser(which in many cases they will be due to new scientific facts and such) and greater in number – MoriDowidhYa3aqov Dec 25 '14 at 2:25

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