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 following question:
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 be answered.
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 undeniably true.
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 others.

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