Instability caused by Roman Emperor Domitian’s temporary breakup of the Yavneh assembly resulted in a number of disputes that created dissension among the Torah scholars. While such disharmony was both real and strong, the sages disagreed with one another only because each felt that hisEach felt his course of action was best for the nation as a whole course of action was best for the nation as a whole. Personal animosity, or desire for honor, played no role in the opposing viewpoints, as the various episodes clearly indicate. Among these disputes are three famous incidents, two between Rabban Gamliel and Rabbi Joshua, and one involving Rabban Gamliel and Rabbi Elazar.

As Nasi, Rabban Gamliel felt that even the greatest scholars must scrupulously adhere to decisions reached at Yavneh; otherwise, a disastrous fragmentation of the Jewish people would take place. Further, he felt that at such a traumatic time the Jewish people needed especially strong leadership. Despite Rabban Gamliel’s thoughts, the other sages felt that laws promulgated during the dispersion of the Yavneh academy were not binding. In addition, they thought that the Jewish people would be better served by rulings achieved through a consensus of opinions, rather than imposed from above. Finally, these sages felt that it was forbidden for any rabbinic authority to follow what he knew to be incorrect if the matter had not been voted on by a full Sanhedrin.

The first episode concerned Rabban Gamliel and other sages who disagreed with Rabbi Elazar regarding the ritual purity of a certain type of oven. In fact, Rabbi Elazar was so convinced that he was correct that he invoked supernatural phenomena to prove his point. A stream outside the yeshiva began flowing backwards, and the walls of the study hall began to move inward. Unimpressed, the other sages told him that miracles do not decide halachic issues. Not giving up, Rabbi Elazar asked G‑d Himself to concur with his view, and a voice came from heaven stating that Rabbi Elazar's opinion should be followed, as he was the greatest of the rabbis. Despite this impressive evidence for Rabbi Elazar, the sages refused to relent, taking the entire incident as a Divine test to see whether they would back down from a decision reached by majority vote. Sadly, the sages also excommunicated Rabbi Elazar. Despite feeling he was correct, Rabbi Elazar observed the ban, demonstrating his great humility.

One year, Rabban Gamliel, the Nasi, and Rabbi Joshua, the Av Beit Din, disputed the proper day for Rosh HaShanah. Accordingly, Yom Kippur came out on a different day in each sage’s calculation. While not openly rejecting Rabban Gamliel's Yom Kippur, Rabbi Joshua planned to observe his own date quietly. However, Rabban Gamliel commanded Rabbi Joshua to appear in court on Rabbi Joshua’s supposed Yom Kippur, carrying his wallet and walking stick in violation of Rabbi Joshua's own calculations. Upon being told by his colleagues that Rabban Gamliel has jurisdiction over the calendar, Rabbi Joshua complied with the order. In a great display of respect for Rabbi Joshua, Rabban Gamliel rose to greet him, embraced him, and called him "my teacher, who is greater than I in Torah wisdom."

There was a disagreement between Rabban Gamliel and Rabbi Joshua as to whether or not reciting the evening prayer (Maariv) is obligatory. Rabban Gamliel held the former view, while Rabbi Joshua followed the latter. (Currently, Jewish practice mandates Maariv as an obligation.) When a student asked Rabbi Joshua for a private ruling on the matter, Rabbi Joshua told him Maariv was optional. Upon hearing that Rabbi Joshua told others to follow his opinion, Rabban Gamliel confronted Rabbi Joshua, who, in order to preserve the peace, denied his involvement in the matter.

Sensing that Rabbi Joshua was trying to evade the issue, Rabban Gamliel forced him to stand during the Nasi’s lecture at the yeshiva. Stung by Rabban Gamliel's continuing humiliation of Rabbi Joshua, the people — not the sages — decided to depose RabbanThe people decided to depose Rabban Gamliel Gamliel as Nasi. However, a suitable candidate was needed to replace him, and this was not a simple matter. Obviously, Rabbi Joshua could not assume Rabban Gamliel's position, as such a move would indicate the greatest disrespect to Rabban Gamliel. Others were unacceptable for other reasons. Due to his undistinguished lineage, for example, and the fact that the people would not sufficiently respect him, Rabbi Akiva could not fill the spot.

Eventually, Rabbi Elazar ben Azariah, but 18 years old, was tapped for the job. Would the Jewish people follow such a young man? As an answer, G‑d made a miracle and turned Rabbi Elazar’s hair white like someone aged 70. Eventually, Rabban Gamliel asked forgiveness of Rabbi Joshua, and was reinstated as Nasi, sharing the position with Rabbi Elazar ben Azariah. Here, the Talmud notes Rabban Gamliel's great integrity, for during the entire time he was deposed, Rabban Gamliel took part in all the halachic discussions at the yeshiva, sitting among the disciples and accepting Rabbi Elazar ben Azariah's authority.

Bo BaYom

On the day that Rabbi Elazar ben Azariah was appointed Nasi, many students were admitted to the yeshiva. As a result of the ensuing discussions, all undecided halachic issues were resolved. Laws clarified on that day are prefaced in the Mishnah with the phrase Bo Bayom. The Mishnayos of Tractate Eduyos were also taught that day. Among the subjects discussed in Eduyos are six disputes of Beit Shammai and Beit Hillel that had not been incorporated into the body of the oral Mishnah; cases in which, contrary to usual practice, Beit Shammai takes the lenient approach while Beit Hillel is strict; and instances in which Beit Hillel retracted their opinion in favor of that of Beit Shammai.