Cheat sheet for rabbinic periods

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I've noticed that some people are very sloppy in their references to earlier rabbis, lumping Rishonim either with Acharonim or with Chazal. Now while Chazal does simply translate into "our sages of blessed memory, it also refers to a very specific period of rabbinic Mesorah, which ended with the canonization of the Gemara [Talmud]. The rabbis quoted in the Mishna and Gemara are included, so that would take you through the following:
the Sofrim around the year 2448 (1312 BCE)
the Zugoth 3590 (170 BCE)
the Tannaim 3790 (30 CE)
the Amoraim: (using Rav Ashi's lifespan  as the cutoff) 4190 (430 CE)
 Some include the period of
the Savoraim 4260 (500 CE) within Chazal, though others mark the break there.

However, clearly a new era is marked by the time of the Gaonim  4360 (600 CE). We then get to:
the Rishonim 4800 (1040 CE)
the  Achronim 5200 (1440 CE)

The heritage of the Oral Traditions depends on respecting the earlier Sages. That was discussed at

One of the rules upon which Talmudic discussion is based is that the words of the amora'im must always be in agreement with the teachings of the tanna'im. Thus, one of the most common questions found in the Gemara is "meisivei" - which brings a tanna'itic source like a Mishnah, baraisa 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.
The Mechaber in Kesef Mishna, Hilchos Mamrim 2:1 writes:
Amorim can't dispute Tannaim, and later generations can't dispute Amorim because the Amorim accepted the authority of the Tannaim, and the later generations accepted the authority of the Tannaim.
The Chazon Ish says that such acceptance is an acknowledgement that the earlier generations are more correct since they are wiser and closer to Sinai. (Chazon Ish, Letters 2:24) And the Maharal (Beer Hagolah 6) says that the Amoraim recognized their inferior state in relationship to the Tannaim and therefore didn't argue with them.

What the Chazon Ish pointed out fit perfectly with what we reassert at the recitation of Pirkei Avos: Moshe kibel Torah miSinai umasra l'Yeshosuah ... Moshe was the original recipient of the oral tradition, which passed on to his disciple, Yeshoshua, who in turn passed it on to the wise people of his generation, and so on throughout the generations.

Of related interest:

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Micha Berger said…
Ecept that in reality
(1) the lines are blurry. Savoraim are both geonim and (except possibly according to the Rambam) amoraim.
(2) the lines are very different when speaking of historical eras and eras of halachic authority. (Whether that authority is legally binding or not, aside.)

The SA and Rama (that in itself presents a blurry line) end the era that we consider as authoritative as a rishon. But from a historical point of view, both were written by acharonim.

There is no authority gap between geonim and rishonim altogether. Rishonim have no qualms (legal or just out of respect) with arguing with geonim as equals.
Ariella Brown said…
Hi, Micha. As I mentioned in the post, some include the Savoraim as before the dividing line and some after. And I know that some will assign different years to the endpoints.

My main point was to show that it is not just one big blur of rabbis, as some people imply by just calling everyone "Chazal."

I take it, Micha, that you agree that anyone with any sense of the rabbinic tradition would not identify Rambam, great as he was, as one of the members of "Chazal." He lived much later, in the period assigned to Rishonim. And while we do have to respect Rishonim, they still don't rank at the same level as Chazal, the rabbis whose teachings make up the Mishna and Gemara.
Micha Berger said…
I didn't focus on this particular point. FWIW, I have no problem with someone using "Chazal" to refer to any ba'al mesorah. It's useful to have more specific terms, but not mandatory.

So, either you have the long (in syllable count) "ba'alei mesorah" and the short "Chazal"; or the short "Chazal" and the long "tannaim and amoraim". As long as both sides are from the same subculture, there is no confusion.

But I was thinking more about your conflating the CI's position that the gap between tannaim and amora'im is legal and the Maharal's that it was one of kavod -- but technically they were allowed to argue. The CI isn't the best source, BTW, because his explanation is unique to the end of the tannaim, whereas the Shakh also makes the end of the amoraim and rishonim also drops in legal authority.
Ariella Brown said…
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Ariella Brown said…
Duly noted, Micha. But I do believe you will agree that the record we have that is ascribed to the period of Chazal (ending with the composition of the Gemara) has a higher place in our halachic hierarchy than that of Gaonim, Rishonim, etc. I find it not only sloppy, but actually bordering on intellectual dishonesty to assert "Chazal are wrong" by pointing to interpretations offered by Rishonim that appear out of sync with science and not really trying to understand the primary texts of Chazal in their own terms.

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