י״ד בתשרי ה׳תשע״ח (October 4, 2017)

Sanhedrin 83a-b: An Argument Between an Amora and a Tanna

One of the rules upon which Talmudic discussion is based is that the words of the amora’im of the Gemara – must always be in agreement with the teachings of the tanna’im – the Sages of the Mishna – who were seen as having reliable oral traditions. Thus, one of the most common questions found in the Gemara is “meitivei” – which brings a tanna’itic source like a Mishna, baraita or tosefta that seems to contradict the words of the amora. In his defense, the amora will have to explain how the statement of the tanna can be understood as being in agreement with his own, or else show that there is another tanna with whom the amora agrees. If the amora cannot reconcile his statement with the teaching of the tanna’im, the Gemara will conclude “teyuvta” – the statement is disproved.

Can an amora ever argue with the tanna’im?

Our Gemara brings a baraita where we find that among the list of transgressions for which a person is liable to receive a death penalty is someone who is not a kohen who eats teruma – the tithe set aside for the kohanim. In this case, the discussion is not about capital punishment but about mitah bi-yedei Shamayim – a Heavenly death sentence.

Rav rules that in such a case the penalty is malkot – lashes.

When the Gemara asks “meitivei” that the baraita contradicts Rav’s ruling, the Gemara responds that a baraita cannot be brought to contradict Rav, since “Rav – tanna hu u’palig” – Rav, who is a first generation amora, has the status of a tanna and can argue with the baraita‘s teaching.

According to the Ge’onim, there are three times in the Talmud where we find Rav’s opinion included in the baraita itself. In each of these places he is referred to by his actual name, Rabbi Abba. The Ge’onim point out that as one of the Sages of the baraita, Rav can argue with baraitot, although he could not argue with statements of the Mishna. In any case, this answer is given only if no other explanation can be found.

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