I've heard that the sages speak in generalities (i.e that exceptions may exist for their statements)? Could that be a mistaken interpretation of the halacha being stated in the normative/usual case?

An example would be in various omens given (e.g being mezalzel netillas yedayim leads to poverty etc.), is that simply a general/typical case and there are exceptions, or is it a blanket statement (that without any other specific occurrence will come to pass)?

  • practically, Those two versions of dibru hakhamim seem nearly identical. Either way the phenomenon won't always occur, whether this is due to random variation, or to specific, but unknown variables, seems only trivially different.
    – mevaqesh
    Dec 25, 2017 at 12:08
  • 1
    There is a gemara in kiddushin 34a that says we can't learn from general rules, even if the statement includes a 'except for' clause. This is said in the context of halachic statements, but it may apply to non halachic statements too. Dec 25, 2017 at 23:39

1 Answer 1


R. Natan Slifkin sometimes uses this approach in explaining statements of the Sages that impact on scientific observations.

For example, see here regarding the claim in Chullin 59a that the four animals listed in the Torah with only one kosher sign are the only four that exist.

R. Slifkin claims that

The Talmud is only giving a rule for the general region surrounding the Land of Israel, but there may indeed be other such animals in remote regions of the world.


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