teach that upon the death of the latter prophets, Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi,
"the Holy Spirit departed from Israel"; the prophets continued to
be informed of God's will, choice or judgment to humankind by means of a heavenly
or divine voice a bat kol.
Bat kol literally means "daughter of a voice," the word "bat"
(daughter) suggesting that this was not a direct voice from heaven, but a derivative
sound issuing from that voice, a sort of echo. The rabbinic statement implies
that the classic prophetic experience of ruach hakodesh (the holy spirit)
or gilui shekhinah (manifestation of God's presence) could no longer
be experienced in rabbinic times and that the experience of a bat kol
was an entirely different phenomenon. As the sole means of communication between
God and man after the cessation of prophecy, the bat kol was sometimes
perceived as an external voice and at other times only in dreams.
Max Kedushin reads another implication in the rabbi's pronouncement: While ruach
hakodesh or gilui shekhinah gave authority and authenticity to the
prophet's words, the bat kol apparently lacked that authority. This is
evidenced by the fact that, on a number of occasions, it is rejected as a supporting
factor in discussions of religious law (halakah).
This restricted authority is discussed in two well-known talmudic passages.
In the first, after three years of controversy
between the academic schools of first-century rabbinic leaders Hillel and
Shammai, the sages accept a bat kol's pronouncement that "the words
of both are the words of the living God, but the halakhah is in agreement with
the rulings of Bet Hillel".
However, in another dispute, when a bat kol rules in favor of R. Eliezer
in his dispute with the sages regarding the ritual
purity of an oven, R. Joshua refuses to abide by its pronouncement, explaining
that the Torah "is not in heaven" (Deut. 30:12).
It is the majority of the ages and not the "heavenly voice" who determine
In his study
of bat kol prophecies, Talmud scholar Saul Lieberman notes that almost
all of them were unequivocally and explicitly expressed with no need of special
interpretation or device for their interpretation. That several rabbinic passages
stress this point was perhaps the rabbis' way of ridiculing the ambiguous heathen
oracles such as those given to Croesus and Pyrrhus.
has described the means used when the Bat Kol was relied upon as
an authority. Despite its association with the cessation of prophecy,
rabbinic tradition also maintains that the bat kol was already
heard during the biblical period.
proclaimed Tamar's innocence; declared that the prophet Samuel had not
materially benefited from his public position; and validated Solomon's
judgment in awarding the child to the true mother.
the death of Moses, a heavenly voice proclaimed that God Himself would
attend to his burial (Deut. R. 11:10), and after his death a bat kol
heard over an area 12 miles square announced his demise. 
bat kol informed David that Rehoboam and Jeroboam would divide
Solomon sought to emulate Moses a heavenly voice rebuked him.
to the Talmud a bat kol was often heard at the death of martyrs.
the death of the mother and her seven sons (see Hannah and Her Seven Sons),
a voice proclaimed: "A joyful mother of children".
Hanina b. Teradyon was cruelly executed, a bat kol called out:
"R. Hanina b. Teradyon and the Roman who hastened his death have
been assigned to the world to come".
R. Akiva's execution, a "heavenly voice" resounded: "Happy
art thou, R. Akiva, that thou art destined for the life of the world to
a Roman officer sacrificed his life so that R. Gamaliel II would be spared,
a bat kol declared: "This high officer is destined to enter
into the world to come".
TB Yoma 9b. Back
 Hag. 14b, BB 58a, BB73b-74a. Back
 This lack of authority, according to Kedushin's understanding,
is a sure indication that the hearing of a bat kol was not associated
with any experience of God. Back
 TB Er. 13b. Back
 BM 59b. Back
 Later commentaries accept R. Joshua's viewpoint, explaining
that the bat kol was only effective in determining the ruling in
the Bet Shammai and Bet Hillel controversies since the sages were themselves
in doubt whether to rule in accordance with the larger school of Bet Hillel
or the more profound thinkers of Bet Shammai (Tosefta to BT Eruvin
BT Makot 23b. Back
 BT Sotah 13b. Back
 BT Shab. 56b. Back
 BT Rosh Hashanah 21b. Back
 Ps. 113:9; BT Gittin 57b. Back
 Av. Zar. 18a. Back
 BT Berakhot 61b. Back
Kadushin, The Rabbinic Mind (New York: Bloch Publishing Company,
1972), pp. 261-2.
Judaica, (Jerusalem: Keter Publishing House, 1972) Vol 2 .
Lieberman, Hellenism in Jewish Palestine (New York: Jewish
Theological Seminary of America, 1962), pp. 198-199.