This is a serious question about our understanding of the development of the current Halachah.

When I started my Teshuvah some 30 years ago, I was told that the Sages knew the Whole Torah and their disputes represent different approaches. After studying the Gemmorah every day for 20 years I arrive at a different conclusion - there was no הלכה פסוקה that obligated all the Jews at least from the times of Hillel and Shammai, but the opposite is true - every Rabbi had his own community that he managed Halachicly with little dependence on others.

The sources are too numerous to bring, in general, all the Machlokot show that there was no clear Halachah before that Machloket and in most cases ever after for long long time (until RiFF or Rambam's conclusion etc).

The Machlokot in Rosh Hashanah about Kiddush Hachodesh, for example, clearly show that such a serious Halachah that all the festivals depended on, was not unanimously accepted for generations of Tanaim and Amoraim.

Therefore I conclude, that despite the fact that thousands of "single-phrased" Mishnayot existed in the times of the Tanayim, their interpretations varied so much from Beis Midrash to Beis Midrash that there was no הלכה פסוקה in almost all areas.

Are there Halachic sources that conform to this conclusion?

NB: As @Alex noted, I can not overlook the fact that there were some הלכות פסוקות as listed in Brochos, but still the vast majority of the Talmud is dedicated to the disputes and not such הלכות.

  • The question is not clear to me. There are many "Stam" mishnayos, which have no controversy surrounding them. The Gemara also lays down rules for navigating practical halacha, regarding a machlokes between Rabbi X and Rabbi Y etc. Jul 15, 2018 at 12:07
  • @IsraelReader 1. G. lays no rules, the rules of G. are derived long after post factum. 2. Most of the Mishnayot are debatable, which gives me an impression that there was not much clear Halachah at their times.
    – Al Berko
    Jul 15, 2018 at 12:24
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    Some of this is actually selection bias. There isn't much discussion of halakhos that were settled. The book will naturally spend more space on open questions. For example, the mishnah already assumes Shema is said twice daily and doesn't discuss it at all. Barely mentions start times, and leaps into the debate about end time. You could leave the discussion forgetting that all the big questions were settled. ... Jul 16, 2018 at 13:35
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    ... The end times aren't as easy to measure. And the nighttime end time isn't even a common problem; people would say Shema before going to sleep, which was rarely more than a little oil after all light left the sky. They were therefore littler questions -- how much is mandatory, how much avoidance was simply people playing safe. Jul 16, 2018 at 13:37
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    @AlBerko: Which "they"? By the time churban bayit rolled around, the parshiyot of Shema were codified. All three of them. Weirder -- even in the days of the rishonim there is a dispute whether the mizvah deOraita is Shema itself, or whether Birkhat Ge'ulah (plus learning some Tanakh) would cover it. Rashi actually said the latter. (I tried to consistently transliterate Sepharadi, to be polite. If I messed up somewhere that I didn't notice; at least know I tried.) Jul 24, 2018 at 16:16

4 Answers 4


I think the truth is in the middle. It is fair to say that the presence of a machlokes shows there was no halacha l'Moshe miSinai, or else there could not be an argument. And in cases of argument, every Rabbi's ruling is binding on his community. However, the cases of arguments generally were in specific details, while the basic halacha was accepted. The arguments take up a disproportionate space in the Talmud because they have to be discussed to be understood, whereas most basic halachos just need to be stated, e.g. don't eat pork.

A good reference here is the Rambam's Introduction to Mishnayos.

A very thorough explanation of all the ins and outs of how disputes developed is found in Rabbi Z. Lampel's book The Dynamics of Dispute: The Makings of Machlokess in Talmudic Times. I highly recommend it.


The Talmud gives several examples of a "halacha pesukah".

Berachot 31a

ת"ר אין עומדין להתפלל לא מתוך דין ולא מתוך דבר הלכה אלא מתוך הלכה פסוקה והיכי דמי הלכה פסוקה אמר אביי כי הא דר' זירא דאמר ר' זירא בנות ישראל החמירו על עצמן שאפילו רואות טיפת דם כחרדל יושבת עליה שבעה נקיים רבא אמר כי הא דרב הושעיא דאמר רב הושעיא מערים אדם על תבואתו ומכניסה במוץ שלה כדי שתהא בהמתו אוכלת ופטורה מן המעשר ואב"א כי הא דרב הונא דא"ר הונא א"ר זעירא המקיז דם בבהמת קדשים אסור בהנאה ומועלין בו רבנן עבדי כמתניתין רב אשי עביד כברייתא

Our Rabbis taught: A man should not stand up to say Tefillah either immediately after trying a case or immediately after a [discussion on a point of] halachah; but he may do so after a halachic decision which admits of no discussion. What is an example of a halachic decision which admits of no discussion? — Abaye said: Such a one as the following of R. Zera; for R. Zera said: The daughters of Israel have undertaken to be so strict with themselves that if they see a drop of blood no bigger than a mustard seed they wait seven [clean] days after it. Raba said: A man may resort to a device with his produce and bring it into the house while still in its chaff so that his animal may eat of it without its being liable to tithe. Or, if you like, I can say, such as the following of R. Huna. For R. Huna said in the name of R. Zeiri: If a man lets blood in a consecrated animal, no benefit may he derived from it [the blood] and such benefit constitutes a trespass. The Rabbis followed the rule laid down in the Mishnah, R. Ashi that of the Baraitha. (Soncino translation)

While this does not mean that every (or even most) halacha was a halacha pesukah, it does indicate that some were.

  • Yes, I agree, but still, the vast majority of the Talmud is the disputes and not those הלכות. I think you should put your answer in comments as it does not deal with the question, only brings some counterexamples I didn't deny. I added your comment in my question. Thanks
    – Al Berko
    Jul 15, 2018 at 9:36

The Gemarah in Shabbos 138b-139a quotes the famous saying of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai how Torah will never be forgotten, but that we won't find;

הֲלָכָה בְּרוּרָה וּמִשְׁנָה בְּרוּרָה בִּמְקוֹם אֶחָד.

clear halakha and clear teaching together, but rather there will be disputes among the Sages.

Rashi explains

הלכה ברורה - בטעמים שלא יהא בה מחלוקת:

The Maharsha says even further:

במקום א' כו'. ר"ל אפי' במקום א' מכל המקומות שזכר לא ימצאו הלכה ברורה כדמשמע קרא דגם אחר שישוטטו בכל המקומות לא ימצאו וק"ל:

So there is an explicit prophecy that there will come a time when every single thing will be a subject of a machlokes. It seems that it would evolve slowly and that's why originally things were universal and then started to splinter


The gemara in Rosh Hashanah 25 actually provides quite a strong statement in favor of ruled halachah, wherein Rabbi Yehoshua was forced to abide by the ruling of the nasi even though he disagreed.

  • Sorry I don't follow.
    – Al Berko
    Jul 27, 2021 at 7:10

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