Frequently, when the Gemara tries to disprove Rav from a Mishna, it answers that he's considered a Tanna and can argue on a Mishna.

But there's this case in Berachos 37a, where Rav and Shmuel both say that one doesn't say a Mezonos on rice, and the Gemara concludes with a "תיובתא" (a conclusive refutation) against them.

Why doesn't the Gemara answer here that Rav is a Tanna?

  • You phrased it right - he's considered by some by not by others. THe rule is that we don't ask such things from one Masechet to another, you can only be Makshe if he's treated differently in the same dispute, but in different disputes it is quite natural.
    – Al Berko
    Aug 14, 2018 at 20:46
  • Wait, I remember it to be a general rule everywhere. THe rule says "לא ילפינן ממסת למסכת" "we don't ask..." I think, it's maybe Rashi or other Rishon. Your assumption that there should be a consistency in treating different figures through the Gemmorah is probably misleading.
    – Al Berko
    Aug 14, 2018 at 21:38
  • Who says תיובתא means an Amora can't argue with a Tanna. there are occasions where "mativ" is posed as a question by an Amora against a Tanna maybe it means a strong question that one may choose to answer.
    – yosefkorn
    Aug 15, 2018 at 0:03
  • 6
    @AlBerko Google has no results for that rule. If there is such a rule, Tosafot break it at least about once every page
    – b a
    Aug 15, 2018 at 10:06

4 Answers 4


I thought to answer as follows:

When the Gemara answers that Rav is a tanna, that is when the question is on Rav alone. In this case the question is on a joint statement of Rav and Shmuel. (Whether there is also a concept of "Shmuel is a tanna" as well is subject to debate, but for the sake of this answer let's assume that there isn't.) Thus even if the Gemara were to answer here that Rav is a tanna, it wouldn't help for Shmuel, who would still be refuted.

Now one could retort that if Shmuel is agreeing with Rav and Rav is a tanna then Shmuel should be on safe ground. However, in Ketubot 8a there is a statement that is cited first in the name of Rav and then in the name of R. Yochanan. When the Gemara challenges the statement of Rav it answers that Rav is a tanna, but when it challenges the statement of R. Yochanan it gives a different answer. Tosafot there asks why R. Yochanan couldn't defend himself by saying that he agrees with Rav who is a tanna. Tosafot answers that R. Yochanan frequently argues with Rav, which shows that even if Rav considers himself a tanna R. Yochanan does not consider Rav to be a tanna. If that is the case then R. Yochanan cannot now hide behind Rav, saying that he is a tanna.

Tosafot Ketubot 8a s.v. Rav

ואין להקשות דאמאי לא משני רבי יוחנן אנא דאמרי כרב דתנא הוא דרבי יוחנן לא היה מחזיק רב כתנא דפליג עליו בכל דוכתא

Here, too, then, Shmuel would not be able to defend himself by saying that Rav is a tanna, because Shmuel frequently argues with Rav. Thus, in this case the concept of "Rav is a tanna" wouldn't help because Shmuel would still be refuted.

I subsequently found that R. Chizkiya Medini says that R. Yisrael Dushwitzky wrote to him giving this exact explanation to answer your question:

Sedei Chemed (entry for "Rav Tanna Hu U'Palig")

ועל זה כתב לי הרב המאוה"ג מוהר"ר ישראל דישאוויצקי מעיר מאהליב דינפער יצ"ו וזה לשונו במכתב לחזקיהו דף ט"ז ע"ד העיר כת"ר שליט"א בהא דברכות ל"ז א' דאמרינן תיובתא דרב ושמואל תיובתא האיך מסיק הש"ס בתיובתא ולא משנינן כבעלמא רב תנא הוא ופליג ולפי עניות דעתי פשוט דבודאי על רב לא הוה סלקינן בתיובתא דמצינן לשנויי רב תנא הוא ופליג רק בשביל שמואל סלקינן בתיובתא ולא הוה מצינן לשנויי ושמואל אמר לך אנא דאמרי כרב דתנא הוא דהא שמואל לא היה מחזיק את רב לתנא מדפליג עליה בכל דוכתא וחזון כזה נמצא ממש בתוספות כתובות ח' ע"א גבי ר' יוחנן והרבה הארכתי בכל זה בספרי חמדת ישראל עד כאן לשונו יצ"ו

  • This does not answer why Rav Yochanan argues with Rebbi in Kiddushin 9b and if it weren't for the great Rabbi that is quoted I would say Shmuel agreeing with Rav does not make Ravs opinion worst off if he is a Tanna, rather if he argued that would make Rav into an Amora
    – yosefkorn
    Aug 14, 2018 at 23:53
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    @yosefkorn In my comment to the other answer I pointed out that Kiddushin 9b is not a halachic dispute. Either way, the question here didn't ask about R. Yochanan so there is no need for me to address that in an answer. And if anything it would be a question on Tosafos.
    – Alex
    Aug 15, 2018 at 0:12
  • @yosefkorn And the answer here is not that Shmuel makes Rav's opinion worse off; it's that "Rav tanna hu u'palig" doesn't help Shmuel. In fact, the Sedei Chemed quoting R. Dushwitzky explicitly says that it is not a tiyuvta to Rav.
    – Alex
    Aug 15, 2018 at 0:14
  • 1
    @Alex. This is a great answer (and I was going to post along these lines myself until you beat me to it - ברוך שכיווני to the opinion of the S'dei Chemed (and to yours!)). However, it doesn't generalize to other instances of the same problem. My answer attempts to do just that.
    – Joel K
    Aug 15, 2018 at 12:03

There is another gemara where Rav is refuted from a beraita, and the gemara does not answer that Rav is a tanna who can argue.

Take a look at Menachot 5a (today's page in the Daf Yomi cycle!). Rav is of the opinion that an asham metzora (a leper's guilt offering) which has been slaughtered shelo lishmo (with the intent that it not be an asham metzora but something else) is not offered up.

The gemara asks:

מיתיבי אשם מצורע שנשחט שלא לשמו או שלא ניתן מדמו ע"ג בהונות ה"ז עולה לגבי מזבח וטעון נסכים וצריך אשם אחר להכשירו תיובתא דרב

The Gemara raises an objection from a baraita: With regard to the guilt offering of a leper that was slaughtered not for its own sake, or if none of its blood was placed on the leper’s right thumb and big toe, this guilt offering is offered up upon the altar and it requires libations, in accordance with the halakha of the guilt offering of a leper. But the leper must nevertheless bring another guilt offering to render him fit to partake of offerings. This baraita is a conclusive refutation of the statement of Rav, who said that the guilt offering of a leper that was slaughtered not for its own sake is entirely disqualified because it did not render the leper fit.

(Translation and elucidation from Sefaria)

Tosafot ad loc. picks up on the fact that the gemara could have explained that Rav is arguing in his capacity as a tanna, but chooses not to.

הוה מצי למימר רב תנא הוא ופליג כדקאמר בכמה דוכתי

It could have answered that Rav is a tanna who argues, as it does in other places.

Tosafot does not explain why the gemara did not in fact do so.

Unfortunately, Alex's fantastic answer won't help us in this case, as it is only Rav's opinion here which is at stake, not Rav and Shmuel together as in Berachot 37a (the focus of the question).

An explanation is offered by Yad Malachi 150 (basing himself on Kesef Mishneh to Hilchot Ma'asei HaKorbanot 5:6):

אי הוה שמיע ליה לרב ההיא ברייתא לא הוה פליג אתנא

Had Rav heard of that beraita he would not have argued on the tanna.

Thus, the gemara will only invoke the principle of רב תנא הוא ופליג, that Rav may argue on a tanna, when it knows that Rav was aware of the tanna's statement, and chose to argue regardless.

However, if Rav did not know of the opinion of the tanna, as is presumed to be the case here, then we say that Rav would presumably have backed down were he to have become aware of it. Thus, the tanna's statment is an effective refutation of Rav's position.

  • This is indeed more generalizable than my answer. A couple of points: 1) It's not clear that the Kessef Mishneh is using this as an explanation for "Rav tanna hu u'palig" or lack thereof; he seems to be using it to explain why we would pasken for/against Rav. 2) It's somewhat arbitrary, without any real methodology to apply it. How do we know in which cases Rav was aware of the tannaic statement and in which cases he wasn't? For that matter, how does the Gemara know?
    – Alex
    Aug 15, 2018 at 15:08
  • 3) Other sources (some even quoted in the Yad Malachi) use such an explanation for amoraim in general, not for Rav as a quasi-tanna.
    – Alex
    Aug 15, 2018 at 15:08
  • This is not to repudiate your answer; just some thoughts.
    – Alex
    Aug 15, 2018 at 15:08
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    My instinct is that although we sometimes say רב תנא הוא ופליג, it's infrequent and we do often ask on רב from Tannaitic sources. As in many cases in the גמרא, there are answers that we would prefer not to give unless there is no other option. רב could argue, but he usually wouldn't. Aug 21, 2018 at 20:02
  • i think your answer is similar to mine that Rav can choose to accept a Braisa rather than argue, just that mine is saying even other Amoraim can also do the same in exceptional need
    – user15464
    Feb 11, 2019 at 21:45

In that specific case of Berachot 37a, Chazal rejected the reasoning of Rav and Shmuel, so there was no need for the Gemara to support their statement by saying he/they were a Tana. This is in accordance with the rule of "going with the majority".

In the case where Rav is considered a Tana, it's because he can argue on another Tana since he was among the later Tanaim(last Tana, first Amora; he lived 400 years). However, Chazal can reject the ruling of any Tana or Amora(according to their times) should they see the emet being contrary to their ruling and the subsequent ruling would be binding on the disagreeing parties, as in the case of rice/mezonot mentioned above. So even if he/they are a Tana, Chazal rejected their reasoning in favor of their collective ruling.

  • @ShmuelBrin Have you heard of Tanna Kama? It's usually the teaching of one tanna that Chazal accepted; which is why they mention them first in a mishna. If there is a dissenting tanna, they mention them towards the end of the mishna to teach that the halacha is not like them; unless there are many dissenters by which there are rules according to who we go like. Almost every other mishna, Chazal argue with Rabi Yehuda(not Rebbi Yehuda hanasi) and reject his opinion. Oct 1, 2018 at 18:48
  • Just a note, the case mentioned above is one where Chazal argue on them. Oct 1, 2018 at 18:49
  • @ShmuelBrin Let me ask you this; who are your Chazal? If you don't know, why do you follow them? Ask that as a separate question, and I'll try to answer, bli neder; because it's not a one line answer...it's a chain. Oct 1, 2018 at 18:59

Rav Elchonon Vasserman says in the name of Rav Chaim Soloveichik(Rav Yoshe Ber's grandfather) in Kovetz Shiurim on Bava Basra (# 633) that really an Amora could argue with a Tanna if he has the confidence to, but they simply wouldn't since they were so sure that whatever the Tanna says is correct, they would automatically rescind their opinion in face of the Tanna who was much greater than them. But since Rav was so old and in the time of the Tanaim (see Gittin 58b-59a, where Rav discusses his time in Rebbi’s court) he more often than other Amoraim argued with Tanaim since he understood them personally. So if an Amora could argue with a Tanna he could argue with an Amora especially if he lived at the same time.

The example given is where the Amorah argues with a Mishna in many places including Rav Nachman Ketubot 81b:

אמר להו הכי אמר רב יוסף בר מניומי אמר רב נחמן זו אינה משנה
which means that he can contest the opinion of the Mishna.

Examples of other Ammoraim who argue with Tanaim:

Rabbi Yochanan Kiddushin 9b who argues with Rebbi about wedlock through consumation:

ובביאה: מנא לן אמר ר' אבהו א"ר יוחנן דאמר קרא (דברים כב, כב) בעולת בעל מלמד שנעשה לה בעל על ידי בעילה א"ל ר' זירא לר' אבהו ואמרי לה ר"ל לרבי יוחנן כעורה זו ששנה רבי (דברים כד, א) ובעלה מלמד שנקנית בביאה

Shmuel in Megilla 7a who argues where we know the Megilat Ester was written with Ruach Hakodesh (Divine inspiration)

תניא ר' אליעזר אומר אסתר ברוח הקודש נאמרה שנאמר (אסתר ו, ו) ויאמר המן בלבו ר' עקיבא אומר אסתר ברוח הקודש נאמרה שנאמר (אסתר ב, טו) ותהי אסתר נשאת חן בעיני כל רואיה ר"מ אומר אסתר ברוח הקודש נאמרה שנאמר (אסתר ב, כב) ויודע הדבר למרדכי רבי יוסי בן דורמסקית אומר אסתר ברוח הקודש נאמרה שנאמר (אסתר ט, י) ובבזה לא שלחו את ידם אמר שמואל אי הואי התם הוה אמינא מלתא דעדיפא מכולהו שנאמר קימו וקבלו קימו למעלה מה שקיבלו למטה אמר רבא לכולהו אית להו פירכא לבר מדשמואל דלית ליה פירכא

Conclusion: Tyuvta on Rav meant Rav was subordinate to the Tannas opinion in that particular instance and chose not to defend his own opinion.

  • @shmuelbrin Rav himself would only say he was a Tanna if he felt he had to argue with a Tanna and he was confident in his opinion. That does not mean he wouldn't concede in deference to a Tanna if he was happier with what the Tanna said. In Eidius there are cases where Beis Hillel defer to Beis Shamai.this is not a Chiddush and it is not right that this answer should be blotted out.
    – yosefkorn
    Aug 14, 2018 at 23:46
  • @yosefkorn The downvote is because it doesn't answer the question. The answer doesn't even provide a source for this statement of R. Elchanan, but it might be referring to Kovetz Shiurim on Bava Basra (# 633) which doesn't really say this anyway. There R. Elchanan, quoting R. Chaim Soloveitchik, explains that the reason we generally make a tiyuvta from a tanna to an amora is that we assume that had the amora known what the tanna said he would have retracted. But if the amora explicitly disagrees then he's entitled to disagree. <cont.>
    – Alex
    Aug 15, 2018 at 0:08
  • <cont.> @yosefkorn This doesn't even necessarily relate to Rav, if we assume that Rav is in fact a tanna, nor does it say anything about sometimes amoraim being less sure of themselves, nor does it explain any difference between the case in Berachos and the rest of Shas. (If you want it to not be blotted out, all you have to do is upvote it.)
    – Alex
    Aug 15, 2018 at 0:08
  • @alex if you don't mind I added your source to the answer. I think the answer is saying Rav Tanna Upalig of course he was in the time of the Tannaim but he could still be questioned from a Braita since he didn't defend himself against the opinion of the Braita as he wasn't confident enough on such an occasion. But when he does argue he is not swayed by the Tannas ruling. This is clearly what Rav Elchanan is saying and would explain why Rav Yochanan who also does gets תיובתא sometimes, on Kiddushin 9b he decides to argue. But since he is not in the Time of Tannaim we don't say "Tanna Upalig"
    – yosefkorn
    Aug 15, 2018 at 0:30
  • I don’t think the Gemara in Megillah is a valid example. Shmuel uses the same language in Yoma 85b and Chagigah 10a, and even the later Rav Yosef (Nazir 32b), Ulla (Erchin 29a) and Rava miBarnish (RH 26b) argued on previous generations. I understand the phrase “If I were there” to mitigate the attack - “but since I’m not there I’m not going to contradict them.”
    – DonielF
    Aug 15, 2018 at 12:07

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