Can an Amora argue with a Tanna?

From the Talmud it would seem that an Amora cannot argue with a Tanna and that is why it tries to fit in all Amoraic statements into the words of the Tannaim.


No. This is a commonly stated rule post-Talmud, but it is also simply accepted without debate in the Talmud. One example is Gitten 49b-50a where Mar Zutra makes a statement that when the Mishna says that when land is foreclosed on to collect a Kesuba the land taken from the least valuable-per-acre land (Ziburis) it is only referring to if the husband dies and she is collecting from the heirs. If, however, he divorced her and she is collecting from his property, she gets the mid-valuable land (Beinonis).

The Talmud goes back and forth on various potential Braisos which potentially contradict this, and finally Ravina concludes with a Briasa which unambigiously does, thus Mar Zutra's opinion is rejected.

This is one of many examples where when a Tanna is found to have said something in contradiction, the Amora's opinion becomes inoperative.

Rabbi Steinzaltz discusses this rule - and parenthetically gives the reason that Tannaim had access to reliable Mesorah that the Amoraim didn't - and notes a quazi in-between exception, that of Rav, who was the first generation Amora. He can be found to argue and be quoted in non-codified Tannaic statements (Briasa), but the Geonim explain that he could not even potentially argue with a Mishna.

  • "inoperative" Is there any indication that he didn't continue to rule this way himself, even if the "halacha" was decided against him (like a yachid v rabbim case)?
    – Double AA
    Feb 6 '15 at 0:13
  • Some of these "discussions" happen over generations. A case where an Amora became aware of a Braisa, considered it valid and then having a description of how he continued to rule, doesn't come to mind now, but perhaps others know of such a case.
    – Yishai
    Feb 6 '15 at 3:26
  • I can't think of such a case either, but it may indicate that there is no rule on arguing, just a rule for how others should choose who to follow (like yachid v rabbim).
    – Double AA
    Feb 6 '15 at 5:20
  • @DoubleAA, It is conceivable that an Amora may not hold that you are not allowed to argue with a Tanna, but otherwise, if everybody agrees to the rule (for whatever reason) why would they continue to recoginize their own opinion? And I am not aware of any Amora that explicitly argues that they would be allowed to.
    – Yishai
    Feb 6 '15 at 15:43
  • "if everybody agrees to the rule" Yes, but is there any evidence that anyone agrees to it? The fact that we reject those positions lehalacha and that the gemara tries to find support for sole Amoraic positions is NOT evidence.
    – Double AA
    Feb 6 '15 at 17:13

The Meiri writes in his introduction to Avot that actually Amoraim sometimes do (rarely) argue on Tannaim:

ונמצא מכל מקום שהמשנה היא סידור רבינו הקדוש והברייתא עיקרה מר"ח ... ועם כל זה נתמעטו הלבבות מרוב הצרות והוצרכו האחרונים לחבר אחריו דרך ביאור והרחבה ולפעמים דרך סתירה ותיקון כשהיו חכמי הדור מסכימים לכך ממה שרואים בו קושיא חזקה

Thus, the Mishna is the arrangement of Rabbenu HaKadosh, and the Berayta is mostly from R. Hiyya...Nevertheless mental acuity decreased on account of the travails, and the later [generations] (i.e. the Amoraim) needed to subsequently compose [works] as explanations and elaborations, and sometimes in contradiction and as corrections, when the elders of the authorities of the generations agreed to this, on the basis of strong questions that they found.

You must log in to answer this question.

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