- Bat Kol
- Moshe Ben-Chaim
- I recently wrote an article entitled 2
Systems of Reality. The article dealt in part defining a Bat Kol
as a heavenly "voice" which informs man of God's Will. We
had stated there that although a heavenly voice affirmed Rabbi
Eliezer's opinion as reflecting objective truth, man however must not
follow heavenly inspiration when it comes to Jewish law. Man is
actually commanded to utilize his mind as far as possible to arrive at
his conclusions, regardless of whether his conclusions concur or
oppose objective truth. So although a Bat Kol affirmed Rabbi Eliezer's
opinion, Rabbi Joshua was shown to be correct as he was making a
conclusion in law based on halachik methodology, not heavenly
inspiration as was Rabbi Eliezer.
- To this interpretation of the Talmud, a reader responded with a the
- Reader: While I appreciate your reading of B.M. 59a, (above)
I would just like to point out that the broader topic is somewhat more
complicated. Specifically, Erubin (13b) contains the following
statement attributed to Shemuel:
- "[For] 3 years Beit Shammai and Beit Hillel
argued...[until] a bat kol went out and said 'These and these are
the words of the Living God, and the halakha is in accordance with
Beit Hillel'.....(the Talmud continues) since both Beit Shammai and
Beit Hillel are the words of the Living God, by what merit is the
law in accordance Beit Hillel? (the Talmud answers) Because they
(Beit Hillel) are of ease in spirit and are humble'...."
- This statement raises the following issue, so far as I can tell:
- 1) Does "Bat Kol" mean the same thing in both cases? If it
does, why do we follow the bat kol only in the case of Beit Hillel?
Following your analysis, are there some cases where
"objective" knowledge is preferable to the halachik process?
- My answer follows:
- The question is a good one, but with clarification the question will
- Bat Kol conveys absolute truth, it is God's Will. It cannot be
wrong. But what it is teaching us here in Erubin is not whose opinion
in Jewish law we are to follow. It is not up to a Bat Kol to determine
whether a piece of meat is kosher or non kosher, or whether a certain
act is permitted or prohibited. This is solely up to man's
understanding of the halachik system.
- The Talmud in Erubin is dealing with a loftier topic, that of how
God directs the world, specifically, who is raised to be the
teachers of the Jewish people. This area is not determined by man.
(See Daniel Chap. 2) It is God's Will, and is so indicated by
introducing the Bat Kol to indicate so. Although Bat Kol is never
followed in areas of determining law, it conveys God's Will. which is
- But there is more to this piece of Talmud,........the Talmud is
teaching us here that due to two character traits found in Beit
Hillel, God determined that Beit Hillel will be recognized as the
superior voice in law. These traits are easiness, and humility. How
did these traits entitle Beit Hillel to such a role?
- I believe it is that since a ruling party must have their rulings
adhered to by definition, they therefore must have dispositions which
are well received by the masses.We would certainly have a problem with
an overbearing leader. Such a personality would repel others. The same
applies to leaders in law. Had Beit Hillel been haughty at all, they
and here rulings would not be followed.
- The Talmud teaches us that God's Will was is that the Jewish leaders
are followed. He therefore raises those to leadership whose
personalities will be well received.
- The reason why there are two traits, is due to man's condition.
He is an individual as well as a member of society. Man therefore has
two areas which lend themselves to humility; his behavior when alone,
and when in the company of others. Humility is the primary trait which
invites others to befriend him. As all men partake of a sense of ego,
they will be attracted to another who does not oppose their own sense
of self worth. Someone who is humble poses no threat to another' ego,
and therefore the humble individual will attract more friends than the
one who his more egotistical.
- God's Will is that men of wisdom be followed. He therefore raised up
those individuals who will indeed be followed, and will not repel