I think that I remember hearing that during the times of the Men of the Great Assembly, it was decided that prophecy would no longer be used to determine halachic rulings, i.e that before then it was acceptable.

Does anyone have a source for that?

This link (without a source) says that " The Great Assembly included the last of the prophets. One couldn’t “feel for” the right answer as reliably, and halachic reasoning came to the fore."

Update: It seems like the Rambam spoke on this in Yesodei HaTorah 9:4, namely that a prophet cannot change the oral law or decide based upon his prophecy. It seems as though he is including the period before the Great Assembly. This link also discusses similar ideas. I'm leaving the question open in case someone can provide specific information.

  • Presumably, @michaberger would... It's his blog, after all! Commented Feb 29, 2016 at 19:36
  • There may be a bit of "hyperbole" here. Moses, himself was a prophet, and he also decided halacha. See parshat Yitro, as one example. Are you sure the phrasing of your question is correct?
    – DanF
    Commented Feb 29, 2016 at 20:24
  • @DanF What's the problem?
    – Double AA
    Commented Feb 29, 2016 at 22:17
  • 1
    I believe that this is stated by the Meiri in his introduction to Avot, and by the Sefer HaIkkarim.
    – mevaqesh
    Commented Feb 29, 2016 at 23:21
  • As the author of that blog post, I feel I should point out that the thesis of the post is that from the moment died, halakhah was decided by courts and via pilpul and halachic process, not prophecy. That's the whole point of invoking Osniel ben Qenaz / Yaavetz and his beis din. Anyway, @msh210 is citing one line as though it justified the opposite of my conclusion. Commented Mar 1, 2016 at 22:44

3 Answers 3


" Although the Jewish people demanded of the prophets and priests that followed - Yehoshua, Shmu'el, Pinhas and Elazar - that they ask for Heavenly direction with regard to the questions that arose, each of them replies lo ba-shamyim he - "The Torah is not in Heaven" (see Devarim 30:12). Once the Torah was given at Mount Sinai it is incumbent on the Sages of every generation to establish the meaning of the Torah; whose meaning cannot be established by prophetic communication with God." (Temurah 16)


  • I don't understand what is the reponse to question
    – kouty
    Commented Mar 6, 2016 at 12:16
  • It shows that prophecy was not accepted as a means to halahca before the Men of the Great Assembly, e.g Yehoushua, Shmuel, Pinchas, Elazar couldn't use prophecy to decide law
    – jj2
    Commented Mar 6, 2016 at 13:26
  • you mean that the great assembly was not a new area?
    – kouty
    Commented Mar 6, 2016 at 13:29

The Meiri in his Seder ha-Kabbalah (which is the introduction to his commentary on Avot, Ofeq ed. pp. 45-47) says that:

ולפעמים היתה הנבואה מבררת להם כל תעלומה, כמו שידעת מדברי קצת חכמינו השלימים שהנבואה תגיד השגות עיוניות לא יוכל העיון להשיגם כ״ש הסברא וכו' אבל מ״מ הם היו נושאים ונותנים בדרכי ההקש והמדות והסברא להוציא לאור תעלומותיהם, וכל זה באין מחלוקת ביניהם כלל, כי היו אז נמסרים לנביאים וסרים אל משמעתם ונשמעים אליהם

Sometimes, prophecy would clarify hidden things, as you know from the words of our Sages that prophecy can reveal intellectual attainments which the intellect [alone] cannot, but nevertheless they would debate and discuss using the methods of comparison and logic. This is when there was no [irresolvable] dispute between them, for then they would in the hands of the prophets and turn to their words and listen to them.

Although the Meiri's intent in this passage is somewhat unclear, it seems that he takes the view that prophecy has a role in the halakhic process for those things which cannot be solved by ordinary means of halakhic reasoning. This is also the view of R. Chaim Yosef David Azulai (Chida) who in his Shem ha-Gedolim (under R. Yaakov he-Chasid) maintains that in a place where the Chachamim are unable to reach a consensus, the prophet can decide. Thus, according to some, there is a role for prophets within the halakhic process. (See also R. Reuven Margaliot's introduction to She'eilot u-Teshuvot Min ha-Shamayim.)

R. Tzadok ha-Kohen mi-Lublin, in many places in his writings, explains that there was a shift with the cessation of prophecy in the method of transmission of the oral Torah. Whereas during the era of prophets, the prophetic element was dominant, subsequently it was the intellectual attainment of the Sages which was the sole factor in determining halakha. See Yaakov Elman, "R. Tzadok Ha-Kohen on the History of Halakha." One source often cited by R. Tzadok is Seder Olam Rabbah 30: עד כאן היו נביאים מתנבאים ברוח הקדש, מכאן ואילך הט אזנך ושמע דברי חכמים, "until that point, prophets prophesied with divine spirit; from then on 'tilt your ear and heed the words of the sages' (Mishlei 27:17)" (also cited here).

  • Your traduction of the Meiri is very interesting. I think that he makes reference to the first Machloketh (Yossi Ben Yoezer and Yossi Ben Yochanan). When he says Neviim, it is about Massoreth. See Rambam Sefer Hamitsvoth Shorech II. So I am not sure that it is the case in each Machloketh. There are, if I understand, Sugioth without Massoreth, especially details on mitsvoth.
    – kouty
    Commented Mar 7, 2016 at 4:35
  • See mishna Chagiga 2, 2. There are a difference between two cases. First case: The beith din has a Majority. The ruach Hakodesh does not intervent. Second case: there is not Hachraa. The ruah Hakodesh may intervent. So, I imagine that in the case of the machloketh of Zugoth in Chagiga (when Massoreth is forgot), the Navi can intervent.
    – kouty
    Commented Mar 7, 2016 at 4:52
  1. First I will to try what you intend by prophethy. Prophety is generaly linked to the anticipation of the future. But you mean a divine knowledge.
  2. Second, the Halacha. There is two categories: the judgment in a trial between two people, and there is a decision about what is permitted and forbidden by statute (Horayoth).
  3. The great assembly, what is so particular in this assembly? it seems you do reference to the Mishnah (Avot, 1, 1)
    ונביאים מסרוה לאנשי כנסת הגדולה The prophets have transmitted the Torah to the people of the Great Meeting.
    It seems as you understand, that at this step, a new status is born concerning the rules of the Halacha[1]. The use of the word "prophet" was awake your question. Before the great assembly, the transmission is not the exclusivity due to the prophets. Know that the days of David, although anterior to the great assembly, and Achithophel Mefibosheth surpassed David who was prophet. It does not prophesied throughout halacha. In the great assembly was also prohets.
  4. In conclusion: There is no down draft between Neviim and Great Assembly. See the Magen Avoht on the Mishna
  5. About prophecy and law.
    • If a prophet ordered us to do something in a definitive way, and the order is against what is written in the Torah, we did not listen.
    • But if he specifies that it is exceptionally and provisory he can annulate. See Chinuch
  6. If you ask about prophets when we do not know the halacha. Moses sometimes addressed the issue to God and gets a response, as in the inheritance of the daughters of Tselofchad. Moses has asked G_d and got answer. There are many expressions for example about the construction of the temple "הכל בכתב מאת ה'". If a prophet explain a law of the torah, according to the Ramban (arround Rambam Shoresh II from Sefer Hamitsvoth), his teaching is DeOraytah.
  7. If you ask about a controverse inside the Beith Din (Beith Din is legal concept as court, not the same meaning as great assembly) between the majority of the Beith Din and an explanation from "רוח הקודש", the Gemoro Baba Metsya 59B cited aproximately by david contains a response.
    וזה הוא תנור של עכנאי (A discussion about Tum'ath kelim)ואמר להם אם הלכה כמותי מן השמים יוכיחו יצאתה בת קול ואמרה מה לכם אצל ר"א שהלכה כמותו בכ"מ עמד רבי יהושע על רגליו ואמר לא בשמים היא מאי (דברים ל) לא בשמים היא אמר רבי ירמיה שכבר נתנה תורה מהר סיני אין אנו משגיחין בבת קול שכבר כתבת בהר סיני בתורה (שמות כג) אחרי רבים להטות אשכחיה רבי נתן לאליהו א"ל מאי עביד קוב"ה בההיא שעתא א"ל קא חייך ואמר נצחוני בני נצחוני בני Again he said to them: 'If the halachah agrees with me, let it be proved from Heaven!' Whereupon a Heavenly Voice cried out: 'Why do ye dispute with R`Eliezer, seeing that in all matters the halachah agrees with him!' But R`Joshua arose and exclaimed: 'It is not in heaven.' What did he mean by this? - Said R`Jeremiah: That the Torah had already been given at Mount Sinai; we pay no attention to a Heavenly Voice[2], because Thou hast long since written in the Torah at Mount Sinai, After the majority must one incline. (Soncino's traduction.) R`Nathan met Elijah and asked him: What did the Holy One, Blessed be He, do in that hour? - He laughed [with joy], he replied, saying, 'My sons have defeated Me, My sons have defeated Me.'
    This passage is cited in the disputation of Rabbi Yehiel MiParis) (The Catholic priest accused the Talmud to be heretical, as one could see that the sages refused to bow to god. Following the majority, when one generation decides that it is pure, Hakadosh Baruch Hu agrees, and when in the next generation the majority decide that it is not pure, Hakadosh Baruch Hu agrees too.

    So what you call "prophecy", that is to say the absolute knowledge, does not compete at the Beth Din because the absolute knowledge is already given in Sinai
    After the decision of the majority, nothing and nobody can change the Halacha.

I hope to have time to complete this answer and add references

[1] There is a notion sealed in Halacha, Hatimath HaTalmud (see letter of Rav Shrira Gaon), later we see that there is a notion of Har Sinai. Even the novelties of Rabbi Akiva that Moses did not understand shall be deemed transferred to Sinai. But the way to impose them is different. It's quite confusing I must admit. [2] There is a particular controversy if we do take into account the Bath Kol. We should explain accurately what it mean.

  • Part of the reason why the Great Assembly is significant, is because it contained the last of the prophets in it, therefore if prophecy could have been used as a means to decide the law, it would have had to have been up until then.
    – jj2
    Commented Mar 6, 2016 at 8:56
  • on the last part, the dispute with Rabbi Eliezer, that is occurring after the Great Assembly, i.e after it was decided/announced that halacha would be determined only through the principles
    – jj2
    Commented Mar 6, 2016 at 8:56
  • @jj2Yes it is obvious
    – kouty
    Commented Mar 6, 2016 at 8:57

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