Throughout my life I've heard that the Talmud is sealed and rabbinic enactment can't be repealed. But from where do we know this? Why was it done? HOW was it done? A gzeirah? A minhag?

  • "rabbinic enactment can't be repealed" - no such rule, instead their rulings are accepted and trusted, but many times, because most of them are contradicting in nature, the Poskim decide on their own sometimes against the Talmud, just the same way the Sages of the Talmud decided against the explicit Torah. Also, you forget the power of a Beis Din to propose regulations as needed.
    – Al Berko
    Aug 1, 2018 at 15:41
  • @Al berko what about Drabbununs like not swimming in a lake/natural body of water on shabbos because you might end up making a raft out of reeds? Or not taking medicine on Shabbos because you might end up grinding? These have lost their reasoning and yet we still do the Drabbununs.
    – Orion
    Aug 2, 2018 at 2:59
  • See, when G-d gave us the commandment to follow our sages, He didn't set fixed rules on how to do that (sort of Meta-Torah), He gave the sages the freedom to decide on their own. Therefore the "rules" you mention are mere guidelines - we DO usually follow them but nobody's confined to those rules. In general, there are always unpredictable exceptions to those guidelines that make the whole Halocho [a bit] arbitrary.
    – Al Berko
    Aug 2, 2018 at 7:39
  • We see countless examples of Amorayim overriding Tannoyim, Geoynim overriding Bavli, Rambam deciding on his own and Raayvad yelling at him etc. Cheer up - that's what makes Judaism real fun!
    – Al Berko
    Aug 2, 2018 at 7:41

2 Answers 2


The Rosh שבת פרק ב' סימן ט"ו asks, "How can the Geonim make a Gezeira after the sealing of the Talmud?"

The Kesef Mishneh (Mamrim 2:1) writes that just as we find throughout the Talmud that Amoraim cannot argue on Tannoim because at the time of the sealing of the Mishneh we accepted the Mishneh's authority, so too when the Talmud was sealed we accepted its authority and cannot argue on it.

  • 2
    How does "accepting the authority" work? Is it like some kind of minhag? And why was it done?
    – Orion
    Jun 15, 2018 at 23:58
  • @Orion - We do find this concept by Purim, where קימו וקיבלו היהודים עליהם Jews accepted upon themselves and their descendants. There it has the power of an obligation, a mitzvah. Jun 17, 2018 at 3:06
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    so you're saying it's basically a minhag Yisrael? Also that doesn't explain WHY it was done.
    – Orion
    Jun 17, 2018 at 4:33

Rambam more or less addreses this in his introduction to Mishneh Torah:

נמצא רבינא ורב אשי וחבריהם סוף גדולי חכמי ישראל המעתיקים תורה שבעל פה ושגזרו גזירות והתקינו התקנות והנהיגו מנהגות ופשטה גזירתם ותקנתם ומנהגותם בכל ישראל בכל מקומות מושבותם ואחר בית דין של רב אשי שחבר הגמרא וגמרו בימי בנו נתפזרו ישראל בכל הארצות פיזור יתר והגיעו לקצוות ואיים הרחוקים ורבתה קטטה בעולם ונשתבשו הדרכים בגייסות ונתמעט תלמוד תורה ולא נכנסו ישראל ללמוד בישיבותיהם אלפים ורבבות כמו שהיו מקודם אלא מתקבצים יחידים השרידים אשר ה' קורא בכל עיר ועיר ובכל מדינה ומדינה ועוסקין בתורה ומבינים בחיבורי החכמים כולם ויודעים מהם דרך המשפט היאך הוא

Thus, Ravina, Rav Ashi, and their colleagues represent the final era of the great Sages of Israel who transmitted the Oral Law. They passed decrees, ordained practices, and put into effect customs. These decrees, ordinances, and customs spread out among the entire Jewish people in all the places where they lived.

After the court of Rav Ashi composed the Talmud and completed it in the time of his son, the Jewish people became further dispersed throughout all the lands, reaching the distant extremes and the far removed islands. Strife sprung up throughout the world, and the paths of travel became endangered by troops. Torah study decreased and the Jews ceased entering their yeshivot in the thousands and myriads, as was customary previously.

Instead, individuals, the remnants whom God called, would gather in each city and country, occupy themselves in Torah study, and [devote themselves] to understanding the texts of the Sages and learning the path of judgment from them.

וכל בית דין שעמד אחר הגמרא בכל מדינה ומדינה וגזר או התקין או הנהיג לבני מדינתו או לבני מדינות רבות לא פשטו מעשיו בכל ישראל מפני רחוק מושבותיהם ושבוש הדרכים והיות בית דין של אותה המדינה יחידים ובית דין הגדול של שבעים ואחד בטל מכמה שנים קודם חיבור הגמרא לפיכך אין כופין אנשי מדינה זו לנהוג כמנהג מדינה האחרת ואין אומרים לבית דין זה לגזור גזירה שגזרה בית דין אחר במדינתו וכן אם למד אחד מהגאונים שדרך המשפט כך הוא ונתבאר לבית דין אחר שעמד אחריו שאין זה דרך המשפט הכתוב בגמרא אין שומעין לראשון אלא למי שהדעת נוטה לדבריו בין ראשון בין אחרון

Every court that was established after the conclusion of the Talmud, regardless of the country in which it was established, issued decrees, enacted ordinances, and established customs for the people of that country - or those of several countries. These practices, however, were not accepted throughout the Jewish people, because of the distance between [their different] settlements and the disruption of communication [between them].

Since each of these courts were considered to be individuals - and the High Court of 71 judges had been defunct for many years before the composition of the Talmud - people in one country could not be compelled to follow the practices of another country, nor is one court required to sanction decrees which another court had declared in its locale. Similarly, if one of the Geonim interpreted the path of judgment in a certain way, while the court which arose afterward interpreted the proper approach to the matter in a different way, the [opinion of the] first [need] not be adhered to [absolutely]. Rather, whichever [position] appears to be correct - whether the first or the last - is accepted.

ודברים הללו בדינים גזירות ותקנות ומנהגות שנתחדשו אחר חיבור הגמרא אבל כל הדברים שבגמרא הבבלי חייבין כל ישראל ללכת בהם וכופין כל עיר ועיר וכל מדינה ומדינה לנהוג בכל המנהגות שנהגו חכמי הגמרא ולגזור גזירותם וללכת בתקנותם הואיל וכל אותם הדברים שבגמרא הסכימו עליהם כל ישראל

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 Babylonian31 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.

ואותם החכמים שהתקינו או שגזרו או שהנהיגו או שדנו דין ולמדו שהמשפט כך הוא הם כל חכמי ישראל או רובם והם ששמעו הקבלה בעקרי התורה כולה דור אחר דור עד משה רבינו עליו השלום

The [Talmudic] Sages who established ordinances and decrees, put customs into practice, arrived at legal decisions, and taught [the people] concerning certain judgments represented the totality of the Sages of Israel or, at least, the majority of them. They received the tradition regarding the fundamental aspects of the Torah in its entirety, generation after generation, [in a chain beginning with] Moses, our teacher. (Chabad.org)

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    1- that explains where we know about it from but not how it works or why it was done. 2- the sages couldn't have recieved the entire torah in a direct chain because if they had there wouldnt be any arguments
    – Orion
    Jun 17, 2018 at 4:37
  • @Orion It explains how: all of Israel accepted it. Why: the main centers of Torah study were lost. As for your second point, Rambam addresses that as well. It's too long for a comment, but basically there are only arguments about details.
    – Alex
    Jun 17, 2018 at 4:39
  • 1- how does Jk of Yisrael accepting it work? Is it minhag Yisrael? 2- where in Rambam can I find it?
    – Orion
    Jun 17, 2018 at 4:42
  • @Orion If you ask a separate question, I (or someone else) can perhaps give more detail. But see his introduction to his Commentary on the Mishnah.
    – Alex
    Jun 17, 2018 at 4:59

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