Klalei HaTalmud

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The Talmud is laden with extrapolations of the Torah and controversies between Tannaim and Amoraim. In order to understand the mechanisms at play and the means of deciding a Machaloket, it's incumbent to study the rules. Some are explicit in the Gemara, but their applications can get tricky, especially when competing with other rules and considerations. Over the centuries, various works, such as Mevo HaTalmud, Halichot Olam, and their commentaries were compiled summarizing the rules and weighing them against one another. Often, their discussions consist of a deluge of citations proving or disproving a point by referencing sugyot spanning the entire corpus of Talmudic literature. Though adding all of those citations to this page would be heplful, thanks to the Sefaria plugin, due to the tediousness of the endeavor, as a minimum, we will suffice by quoting the Klalim Sefer at hand and leave it to the reader to do the rest of the groundwork. Most of these Sefarim are readily available and portions of many of them are printed in the back of the standard Masechet Berachot.[1]

Talmudic Praseology

  1. Sometimes, the Gemara will use the same phrase in different places but refer to totally different concepts, while, other times, it will use different phrases in different places to refer to the same concept.[2]

Deciding Machloket

The Gemara provides a few examples and general guidelines about how to decide debates between individuals mentioned in Shas.


Talmidei Rabbi Akiva (R' Meir, R' Yehudah, R' Shimon, and R' Yose)

  1. Rabbi Meir vs. Rabbi Yehuda, the Halacha follows Rabbi Yehuda. [3]

Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel

  1. The Rif does not accept the rule of following Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel's positions mentioned in Mishnayot unless it's very logical, but the Rosh does regardless.[4]

Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi

  1. The Halacha follows Rabbi Yehuda HaNassi, colloquially known as "Rebbi," against another Tanna, but not against a group of them.[5]
  2. The Rif and Rosh point out that this is not true when Rebbi disagrees with his father, Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel.[6]

Rabbi Shimon ben Elazar

  1. Yerushalmi that states that the Halacha follows Rabbi Shimon ben Elazar in "Shabbat," "Avodah Zarah," and "Avel," and there are different levels of specificity given when listing them - the general categories, specific sections of those categories, or a particular case in each of them.[7] The Ramban[8] questions why the Geonim would cite this klal when they generally don't follow the rulings of the Yerushalmi and concludes they must have had a tradition regarding the matter (they don't quote the source outright). Yad Malachi[9] points out that the Rif, Rambam, Rosh, and Samag also seem to accept it, while Tosafot and the Baal HaMaor do not.


  1. Amoraim often elucidate the shitot of Tannaim in Mishnayot even if the Halacha doesn't follow them, so there's no proof to be brought from the fact that the view of a certain Tanna in a Mishnah is elucidated to prove which the Halacha should follow. However, proof may be brought from such an instance with respect to a Tanna in a Baraita or another Amora.[10]
  2. It's usually assumed that Amoraim cannot argue on Tannaim,[11] but some say it's merely an honorary non Halachic distinction.[12]

Rav and Shmuel

  1. When Rav and Shmuel debate, the Halacha follows Rav in ritual law (Issur veHetter) and Shmuel in monetary matters (Dinei Mammonot).[13]
  2. According to the Rosh, this is true only if the majority of Amoraim don't side with either Rav or Shmuel, in which case, we would just follow the majority, while Tosafot believe it to be true in any case.[14]
  3. If Shmuel himself elucidates the Mishnah according to Rav's position in a case of monetary matters, then the Halacha follows Rav even in that case.[15]
  4. If a later Amora elucidates Shmuel's opinion in a matter of Issur veHetter, the Rif takes it to mean we pasken like Shmuel, while the Rosh argues that there's no proof. It's normal for later Amoraim to elucidate the words of earlier ones, so it's not a test for whose position is accepted.[16]

Rav and Rabbi Yochanan

  1. Rav vs. Rabbi Yochanan, the Halacha follows Rabbi Yochanan.[17]
  2. According to the Rif, this rule only applies with Rabbi Yochanan only disputes Rav's position, but if he's disputing both Rav and Shmuel, then the Halacha follows Rav and Shmuel, whereas the Rosh rules that the rule is true in any case.[18]

Rav Yochanan and Other Amoraim

  1. Rav Yochanan vs. R' Yose bar Chanina is a Machaloket, the Rosh[19] and many others claim one should follow Rav Yochanan, as he was the latter's rebbe, while the Rambam[20] follows R' Yose bar Chanina, because he was "lan be'umka dedina" (very deeply engrossed in Din).[21]

Double Machaloket

  1. When Rav Yochanan and Resh Lakish dispute Rami Bar Chammah and Rav Yirmiyah, the Halacha follows the former group.[22]

Maaseh Rav

  1. The Rif follows a Stam Mishnah over a Maaseh Rav, while the Rosh argues the Halacha follows a Maaseh Rav over Klalim like Stam Mishnah, R' Yochanan vs. Rav, and Halacha keRabban Shimon Ben Gamliel BeMishnatenu.[23]

Hilcheta KeVatrai

  1. The Rambam rules like the later Amora even if the earlier one's are the majority.[24]

Further Reading

  1. Mevo HaTalmud attributed to Rav Shmuel HaNaggid with the Kitzur Klalei HaTalmud commentary
  2. Halichot Olam with commentaries Klalei HaGemara by Rav Yosef Karo and Yavin Shmua by Rav Shlomo Algazi
  3. Kenesset HaGedolah (Klalei HaTalmud)
  4. Yad Malachi (Klalei HaTalmud)
  5. Sefer HaKeritut
  6. Shem HaGedolim vol. 2 Seder Tannaim veAmoraim
  7. Mevo HaTalmud by Maharitz Chayus
  8. Ein Yitzchak vol. 1, by Rav Yitzchak Yosef


  1. As an aside, Rav Hershel Schachter (Sanhedrin 5775 #73) is of the opinion that Klalim are postscriptive, not prescriptive, meaning the later generations voted on each issue and the results indicated that in certain situations a specific Tanna's position was usually followed. Thus they established the Klal as a Siman, not a Sibah, for deciding a Machaloket, but, of course, there are exceptions. This is just the general rule. This position is based on the writings of Rav Elazar Meir Preil in HaMaor (vol. 1 Shu"t Siman 78:6)
  2. Numerous Rishonim cited in Halichot Olam 3:8, Yad Malachi Klalei HaTalmud 374
  3. Eruvin 45a
  4. Korban Netanel (Klalim 12)
  5. Eruvin 46b
  6. Korban Netanel (Klalim 11)
  7. Ba'al Halachot Gedolot (Siman 21 s.v. Amar Rav Menashya) specifies the Perakim "Klal Gadol" and "Lifnei Eideihem" in Shabbat and Avodah Zarah, respectively. With respect to Shabbat, the Yad Malachi (Klalei HaTalmud 88) finds many difficulties with accepting this Bahag's limitation, as a number of Stam Mishnayot are opposed to R' Shimon ben Elazar in that Perek. He suggests, therefore, that it really should read perek "HaMotzi Yayin," but it can't be correct, because the Ramban and Nimukei Yosef in Moed Kattan weren't bothered by this when they quoted the Bahag. He and Rav David Pardo (Chasdei David, Avodah Zarah 1:2) identify Avodah Zarah to refer to the specific Tosefta Avodah Zarah 1:2.
  8. Milchemet Hashem, Moed Kattan 16a s.v. u'mah
  9. Klalei HaTalmud 88
  10. Korban Netanel (Klalim 13). See Yad Malachi (Klalei HaTalmud 23, 355) who seems to disagree about elucidating against one's own position.
  11. Kessef Mishneh (Hilchot Mamrim 2:1), Klalei HaGemara on Halichot Olam (2:2:10), Chazon Ish (Kovetz Iggerot vol. 2 Iggeret 24, Orchot Ish page 186)
  12. Biur HaGra (Choshen Mishpat 25:6), See Tosafot (Ketubot 8a s.v. Rav Tanna Hu uPalig) and Kovetz Shiurim (Bava Batra 633) who says similarly in the name of Reb Chaim Soloveitchik. Rav Hershel Schachter (Nefesh HaRav page 36) takes this stance, as well. Rav Elchanan Wasserman also engaged the Chazon Ish in correspondence on this issue, after he wrote in Kuntress Divrei Sofrim (Siman 2, see Da'at Sofrim ad loc) that Chatimat HaMishnah and HaTalmud were enabled by the gathering of all the Chachmei HaDor (Kibutz Chachamim), which gave them the status of Beit Din HaGadol. The latter took an opposing view, as it discounted the inherent loftiness of the individual Chachamim and implied there was little different between them and later generations. (Kovetz Iggerot ibid). Rav Asher Weiss finds grounding for Reb Chaim in the Meiri, but he believes that given the Rambam says one cannot disagree without confidently understanding the difficult opinion at hand, there are just some generations that were so far from the previous one that a line must be drawn. See also Rav Asher Weiss's (I, II, III and Rav Aryeh Lebowitz's shiurim on the topic.
  13. Menachot 41b
  14. Korban Netanel (Klalim 16)
  15. Korban Netanel (Klalim 14)
  16. Korban Netanel (Klalim 17)
  17. Yad Malachi (Klalei HaTalmud 556)
  18. Korban Netanel (Klalim 15), Yad Malachi (Klalei HaTalmud 556)
  19. Rosh Bava Kamma 4:4. The Yad Malachi (Klalei HaTalmud 570) discusses the contradiction in the Rosh: in Bava Kamma he considers R' Yose bar Chanina to be Rav Yochanan's student, while elsewhere he considers R' Yose bar Chanina to be older than Rav Yochanan. Some suggest there were two R' Yose bar Chanina's, but he's not convinced. See Maharitz Chayut Bava Kamma 39a.
  20. Rambam (Hilchot Nizkei Mammon 6:3)
  21. Bava Kamma 39a
  22. Yad Malachi (Klalei HaTalmud 301)
  23. Korban Netanel (Klalim 8)
  24. Yad Malachi (Klalei HaTalmud 169)