Machlokes on Halacha LeMoshe MiSinai

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    In daf yomi, the Gemara records various machloksim between R’ Yochanan and Reish Lakish regarding various halachos of Nazir woth R’ Yochanan claiming the source as a Halacha LeMoshe MiSinai while Reish Lakish has a different mekor (either a derashah or a sevara). Considering that the Rambam seems to hold that there was never a machlokes regarding a Halacha LeMoshe MiSinai, how would the Rambam understand these Gemaras?

    And even without the Rambam, how are we supposed to understand the machlokes? Clearly R’ Yochanan had a mesorah for these halachos. Even if Reish Lakish never heard of it until then, why would he argue? Is he doubting R’ Yochanan’s reliability? How do we understand why Reish Lakish is challenging a Halacha LeMoshe MiSinai as reported and transmitted by R’ Yochanan?


    In the 1980s, an elderly [retired] Torah scholar told me that “Halacha LeMoshe MiSinai” is not [always] meant literally, and sometimes means “a very old law”.


    Interesting that one would go to the coffeeroom on this one and not to a Bais Medrash. Harbeh dyo nishpach al zeh.

    Yabia Omer

    What’s the exact lashon of the Rambam?


    “Halacha LeMoshe MiSinai” is not [always] meant literally, and sometimes means “a very old law”

    Thats wonderful news. Should be do a poll where all the CR poskim are asked to identify the their choices for the three “very old” halachas that they would like to see nullifed or at least observed in accordance with a kulah that would not require a literal interpretation??

    Reb Eliezer

    Some explanation is in the Sefer Meseches Halacha Lemoshe Mesinai at It was given in a general fashion and the arguments are on what specifically it was given. The Rambam sometimes uses the expression מדברי סופרים on
    הלכה למשה מסיני.


    Is it often that Resh Lakish would argue with R Yohanan on the basis of mesorah?

    Seemingly, R Lakish has his mesorah _from_ R Yohanan, so he might argue based on his knowledge of how swords are made. Of course, one might read his story as he was a TC before becoming a gangster.

    Also, note that R Yohanan “seduced” RL with the offer of his sister as a wife – and RL took him on the offer. Presumably, they waited for the chasaneh until RL showed that he is serious in his learning, so his learning did not diminish his interest in RY’s sister …


    Dear Mid,

    Which beis medrash is able to answer these kinds of questions? It’s off the beaten path..

    ploni doe

    R sruli bornstein discussed this in his daf shiur. Many were forgotten during aveilus for moshe rabbeinu and were brought back by asniel ben kinaz. There can be a machlokes in these but but not the ones received from moshe rabbeinu.

    Jewish Thoughtflow

    The Rambam never states that there can be no Machlokis if something is a Halacha L’Moshe M’Sinai, or not. What he states is that there cannot be a Machlokis on something that is a Halacha L’Moshe M’Sinai (or Divrei Kabbala). Here, we are discussing a law that is not subject of disagreement, only its source is. What this tells us, is that clearly in the time of Reish Lakosh and Reb Yochanon the source of the Halacha was not known. (This is not a problem as it was an unargued upon law either because it was a unique Halacha L’Moshe M’Sinai, or because it was already part of an established law of Chinuch Banim, therefore the source of the law is not integral. In either case, the Rambam holds there can be no arguments on it.) Reish Lakosh held this unaccounted and in his opinion unsourced law must have been a Halacha L’Moshe M’Sinai. Reb Yochonan held that this law is sourced as a general extension from Chinuch Banim. As a side, the overall point of the Rambam was more to explain the different parts of Torah Sh’Bal Peh. What he was explaining was that the categories of HL”M and D”K are both categories of law that was not given to the Chachamim to extrapolate subjectively using Svara or 13 Middos. It was not necessarily a historic rule that there never was a disagreement about something that was originally a HL”M or D”K. But, in any case, this Gemara in Nazir is not a contradiction.

    Zvi Lampel

    “Jewish Thoughtful” hit the nail on the head. See
    Understanding Machlokes

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