When Is Just A Rabbi Not Enough?

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Not all scholars in any discipline have equal expertise and not all rabbis have equal authority. Complex or consequential questions must be taken to rabbis with sufficient expertise and experience to answer them properly. This idea is so self-evident that one who ignores it faces potential halakhic ramifications.

R. Meir (Maharam) of Rothenburg, in a responsum published in standard editions of the Mishneh Torah (after Nashim, no. 11), answers the following question. A woman’s husband drowned in a body of water that qualifies as “endless” (mayim she-ein lahem sof). What happens if she remarries?

The law is that since the husband may have survived and resurfaced far away, she may not remarry due to a rabbinic decree. However, if she remarries she need not get divorced (see Shulchan Arukh, Even Ha-Ezer 17:34). In other words, lechatchilah she may not remarry but bedi’eved, after the fact, she may.

Maharam qualifies this. If the rule was really that any such woman who marries may remain married, then this rabbinic decree would be ineffective and meaningless. Rather, the rule must be that if such a woman receives mistaken permission from a rabbi to remarry, she need not divorce her husband. Because they did the right thing by asking a rabbi, they are in a state of bedi’eved. If, however, they failed to ask a rabbi, their intentional disregard places them in a state of lechatchilah and they must divorce. They are not considered accidental sinners in the category of shogeg but intentional sinners in the category of meizid.

Maharam writes that they need to ask a “חכם מורה הוראות בעינן כי רב נחמן ורב שילא בדורם – a scholar who issues rulings like Rav Nachman and Rav Shila in their generations.” In other words, they must ask a rabbi who is sufficiently expert to rule on such a complex question. Anything less renders them negligent, for which they must suffer halakhic consequences.

R. Menachem Mendel Krochmal (Responsa Tzemach Tzedek , no. 44) addresses a similar question. During a time of war and displacement, a widower married his former father-in-law’s widow. Because of the turbulent situation, they could not ask a rabbi but found a learned man who permitted the marriage. R. Krochmal, however, held that such a marriage is lechatchilah forbidden but bedi’eved permitted (see Shulchan Arukh, Even Ha-Ezer 15:24 and commentaries).

Presumably, this couple should be allowed to remain married because they had already entered into their union accidentally, under the category of shogeg. They had even asked a Torah scholar! However, R Krochmal ruled that since they asked a scholar who was not qualified to answer this difficult question, they are considered intentional (meizid) rather than accidental initiators of this situation. If not for the other mitigating factors in this situation, R. Krochmal would have insisted that this couple dissolve their marriage.

The implication of these responsa (quoted in Pischei Teshuvah, Yoreh De’ah 99:5) is both obvious and significant. The title “rabbi” is substantive but does not confer onto its holder unlimited legal authority. Only proficient scholars may rule on any given area. Not only must a rabbi turn away or redirect a question he cannot answer, a questioner must carefully consider whether the rabbi he is asking is sufficiently experienced and expert to respond to his inquiry. Not all rabbis are created equal.

About Gil Student

Rabbi Gil Student is the founder, publisher and editor-in-chief of Torah Musings.

56 comments

  1. How many Menachem Mendels who wrote tshuvos called Tzemach Tzedek are there? Is it a gematria or something?

  2. From here:
    ‘”Tzemach” (צמח) has the same gematria as “Menachem” (מנחם), and “Tzedek” (צדק) has the same as “Mendel” (מענדל). The original responsa Tzemach Tzedek were those of Menachem Mendel Krochmal. Schneersohn’s responsa are known as Shu”t Tzemach Tzedek Hachadashot, “the new Tzemach Tzedek responsa”. Rabbi Menachem Mendil Hager, the first Viznhitzer Rebbe, called his commentary on the Torah Tzemach Tzadik (צמח צדיק), because he spelled his name with an extra yod (מענדיל).’

  3. Complex or consequential questions must be taken to rabbis with sufficient expertise and experience to answer them properly.

    I don’t think that anyone could argue with this, but the question, of course, is how one defines “expertise.”

    Furthermore, many people overlook the fact that differences in worldview and epistemology can be very relevant. On my blog, I discussed a case where Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach – an expert by everyone’s definition – admitted that his reason for not accepting brain death was a mistake; and it was the sort of mistake that would not have been made by someone with a more rationalist outlook.

  4. and the consumer looks for what qualification credential standard?
    KT

  5. 1) As has been mentioned, this teshuva is irrelevant to current events, because each side is sure they are relying on sufficiently qualified rabbis.

    2) On a more technical note, the situation of the teshuva is interesting because of the difficulty in applying the terms “shogeg” and “mezid” to such a marriage situation. The original act of getting married would seem to be “beshogeg” no matter which prohibition was involved, since the couple seemed to act in good faith by asking the most qualified person around, whom they assumed was sufficiently qualified. On the other hand, now the couple has been informed that their marriage is inappropriate, every day they remain married indicates a choice to disregard the halacha’s attitude towards their marriage. Thus, the line “They are not considered accidental sinners in the category of shogeg but intentional sinners in the category of meizid.” is something of a non sequitur even if the idea in practice is correct.

  6. > they could not ask a rabbi but found a learned man who permitted the marriage

    >R Krochmal ruled that since they asked a rabbi who was not qualified

    Which one is it? Either he was a rabbi or not. If he was not a rabbi, then the whole post is pointless since he was simply not a part of the rabbinate. If he was a rabbi, then the first sentence is false and should be changed.

    All in all, the main point of this post is obvious – not everyone is an expert on every topic. However, while I feel you meant to aim this factoid towards the left, I would argue that it is much more relevant to aim it towards the right whose leaders lack the minimum expertise in science, history, textual studies, philosophy, and psychology to be able to make many of the rulings they routinely make with great imagined authority. (something I came to realize yet again as I came to discuss the whole ridiculous zecher zeicher spectacle with some local halachic authorities and was shocked by their total ignorance of the history and importance of the massoretic text)

  7. Shalom Rosenfeld

    Related note: RMF ruled (regarding this new place called Monsey) that if there’s no mikva in a town (or anywhere reasonably nearby), a minority can demand that the entire town fund one. If there is a mikva but it’s too lenient for some people that’s insufficient cause to demand a town collection, so long as the mikva is under the auspices of a rabbi with semicha (I think he means semicha in mikvaot, don’t recall his exact wording).

  8. to be more precise- is it a rule based on the askers reasonable presumption or the actual state of the rabbi’s knowledge?
    KT

  9. Michael Rogovin

    Who decides that a rabbi is sufficiently expert in a particular area? What if there are disagreements among scholars or different sub-communities? How does one judge the expertise in secular matters that impact on the factual elements of a halachic decision? Is it better to have specialized expertise or a broad world view – which produces better results, or is it best to have a combination (cf to medicine)?

    One should certainly find a qualified person to answer one’s questions, one who knows his (or her) limits and who to go to for an expert opinion. Where we disagree (if we do) it may be who gets to decide who the experts are.

  10. It all depends on Yiras Shamaim. Just as one who had a medical condition makes sure to go the “best” doctor and not just anyone with an MD after his name, someone who seeks to follow halachah, will make sure to ask his difficult questions only of a Moreh Horaah whom he knows can be trusted to give a responsible answer. Can one find find many people who’ll give an answer even if they’re not intimately familiar with the halachah? Sure. A Yarei Shamaim, however, won’t go to that person.

  11. >Not all scholars in any discipline have equal expertise and not all rabbis have equal authority.

    “Authority” is largely political. Is anyone going to tell me that, eg, R. Menachem Kasher didn’t have as much expertise and Torah knowledge as many, maybe any, contemporary of his? Yet he was not regarded as a great Torah authority.

  12. Yi’yasher kochakhem to R. Slifkin, R’ Shlomo and R’ Michael Rogovin for correctly associating this discussion with the debate over the halakhic definition of life, I would point out that Encyclopedia Talmudit, Vol. 9, p. 267 interprets the gemara “safek nefashot lihakel” (Shabbat 129a) to mean that on any unresolved dispute among the poskim regarding piku’ach nefesh, we desecrate Shabbat to save the patient. Thus, it would seem that according to Encyclopedia Talmudit, all Jews are halakhically obligated to desecrate Shabbat to heroically prolong the life of the BSD patient, out of doubt.

    In terms of R. Daniel Reifman’s excellent recent posting on the Text and Texture website, once it is recognized that Chatam Sofer cites the gemara in Niddah 69b that decomposition is proof of death, we see a talmudic basis for considering circulation a sign of life. The Talmud recognizes that a limb (or a whole organism for that matter) decomposes when it is bereft of circulation; this is essentially RHS’s thesis in Bi’ikvei Hatzon no. 36. RSZA appearance on the scene in 1991 gave stature to RHS’s claim, and counterbalanced RMF & RYBS (whose contrary readings of Chatam Sofer is beautifully elucidated by R. Reifman). As R. Shabtai Rappaport explains in his HODS interview, the Chatam Sofer means [according to RSZA] that breathing has only completely finished when the last bit of circulation that benefits from that last breath has also finished. Thus, the BSD patient is doubtfully stuck on his last breath.

  13. Is the Maharam’s view on what the lechatchila/bediavad distinction means in the agunah case universally accepted?
    I ask because, at least as presented here, I am not sure I understand it:
    “If the rule was really that any such woman who marries may remain married, then this rabbinic decree would be ineffective and meaningless. Rather, the rule must be that if such a woman receives mistaken permission from a rabbi to remarry, she need not divorce her husband”
    What does “ineffective” mean here? A person who cares (“yarei shamayim”) will follow it anyway, lechatchila. How is this any less effective than any rabbinic decree that does not require post-facto correction? That’s just the nature of a lechatchila/bediavad distinction!

  14. Actually, R. Spira is making the exact same type of mistake that Rav Shlomo Zalman admitted to making. You can’t extrapolate from the Gemara to determine whether it is circulation, respiration or brain activity that determines life, since Chazal had neither the circumstances nor the knowledge to ever deal with distinguishing between these three functions. Any alleged “relevant sugyos” are discussing other questions.

  15. Rav Yuval Sherlow defines a “gadol be-yisrael” as the following:

    1. When you have a question in halakhah or avodat Hashem that you don’t feel confident to answer on your own, *you* choose to consult the rabbi of *your* choice, in whose judgement you feel confident.

    2. When rabbis and Torah scholars themselves don’t feel confident to answer a question on their own (perhaps as Rav Gil suggests because it has major public repercussions, but also for other more prosaic reasons like lack of expertise in the specific topic), then *they* can choose to consult rabbis of *their* choice.

    3. These “rabbis of the rabbis” are whom we call “gedolei ha-dor”. But the questions of when to consult them, and whom exactly to consult, are *completely* in the hands of the person or rabbi who wants to consult with someone. No one can mandate rules for whom you can consult, and certainly no one can mandate certain names to consult. Anyone that you feel has the necessary expertise, experience, and sense of judgement to answer the question is a legitimate person to ask.

    Quite frankly, I think Rav Gil has beaten this poor question to death already. The blogger and the people writing comments will never agree on whom they see fit to consult, and that is as it should be. Let it rest, and give honor to Torah scholars, even they are not “your” gadol ha-dor. I respect that Rav Herschel Schachter is your rav, please respect those who have a different one.

  16. Shachar Ha'amim

    there is an old yiddish expression which says “9 rabbis can’t make a minyan; but 10 shoemakers can” – too many rabbis today forget this.

    Yuval Cherlow’s definition doesn’t work – b/c today every tom, dick and harry who has semicha asks some rabbi somewhere something. there are many young rabbis who ask Yuval Cherlow questions – is he a gadol hador? me thinks not….

  17. Solely subjective criteria, no objective criteria. Beyond smicha, no certifications, no specializations. No hierarchy. No appeal structures. No review mechanisms. No disbarment process. No sanctioning board. In other words by contemporary standards, rabbis are not professionals. They are akin to celebrity idols; social chieftains who exert influence by popularity, reputation and charisma.

  18. “Yuval Cherlow’s definition doesn’t work – b/c today every tom, dick and harry who has semicha asks some rabbi somewhere something. there are many young rabbis who ask Yuval Cherlow questions – is he a gadol hador? me thinks not….”

    *Rabbi* Yuval Cherlow is by any account an extraordinary Torah scholar, the equal of nearly any current Rosh Yeshiva in North America, and a great many religious Israelis (including people who are Torah scholars themselves), have deep respect for his knowledge and his responsible sense of judgement. (And yes, many people who don’t like him have the opposite reaction too.)

    So why shouldn’t those rabbis who want to, consult with him? “Me thinks” that those who cast aspersions on him do so mostly on the basis of the fact that he and others like him don’t cultivate masses of chasidim who worship the ground he walks on and call him the Gadol Hador. But that is exactly the point (and a factor that makes on more of a gadol, not less)!!

  19. Perfect present-day example of this in Israel: Rav Sherlow’s arch nemesis today in the Israeli Zionist Torah world is Rav Shmuel Eliyahu of Tsfat. The latter very much does cultivate chasidim by the thousands, and they openly promote him as a gadol hador.

    Now, why is it that people naturally cast aspersions on the idea of someone of Rav Sherlow’s outlook being a “gadol”, but when the same thing is declared about someone like Rav Eliyahu no one even blinks? Methinks it has to do more with what a gadol’s views “should” be rather than with who is a Torah scholar with a balanced sense of judgement.

    Equivalent example from the previous generation: Rav Yehuda Amital zt”l versus Rav Mordecai Eliyahu zt”l. *Exactly* the same kinds of public rabbinic statements about which of them could possibly be called a “gadol hador”.

    Whoever thinks this issue has anything to do with objective Torah scholarship or experience with public hora’ah is living in a dream world.

  20. yossi Melman
    Or perhaps it’s because of who his supporters are:e.g.jpost

  21. The Jerusalem Post supports Rav Yuval Sherlow? Even if so, what possible relevance could that have for the masses of religious Israelis and their rabbis who never read it?

  22. Natan Slifkin wrote: Furthermore, many people overlook the fact that differences in worldview and epistemology can be very relevant.

    I agree. I don’t think an Israeli soldier should ask an army question to a Satmar rabbi who does not value army service.

    joel rich: and the consumer looks for what qualification credential standard?

    I appreciate your actuarial desire to quantify everything but that isn’t always possible.

    Shlomo: 1) As has been mentioned, this teshuva is irrelevant to current events, because each side is sure they are relying on sufficiently qualified rabbis.

    I’m not sure what recent events you have in mind, but this issue is very relevant to people who ask halakhic questions to anyone with the title “rabbi” no matter how little he knows. You need to ask someone with training and expertise is paskening — like a shul rabbi and not a yeshiva rebbe (albeit with some exceptions).

    Chardal: Which one is it? Either he was a rabbi or not.

    You are correct that he was not a rabbi. However, the Maharam goes farther and requires an expert rabbi like Rav Nachman and Rav Shila.

    All in all, the main point of this post is obvious – not everyone is an expert on every topic. However, while I feel you meant to aim this factoid towards the left, I would argue that it is much more relevant to aim it towards the right…

    I agree that it is obvious, in fact I wrote it at the beginning. This is not a right/left issue. It’s a self-pesak problem.

    Michael Rogovin: Who decides that a rabbi is sufficiently expert in a particular area?

    It isn’t always clear but sometimes it is obvious.

    Anonymous: “Authority” is largely political.

    No, it is a halakhic concept. Can he create a chalos of a pesak.

  23. Simchah: I agree with R. Yuval Cherlow’s definition, although this post has nothing to do with Rav Schachter.

  24. can i ask my questions again since i see they didn’t make it into your latest round of responses?

    (1) Is the Maharam’s view on what the lechatchila/bediavad distinction means in the agunah case universally accepted?

    (2) What does it mean to say that “If the rule was really that any such woman who marries may remain married, then this rabbinic decree would be ineffective and meaningless.”? How is this any less effective than any rabbinic decree that does not require post-facto correction? Isn’t that just the nature of a lechatchila/bediavad distinction?

  25. Anonymous: “Authority” is largely political.

    Hirhurim: No, it is a halakhic concept. Can he create a chalos of a pesak.

    I do not understand your response – can you please explain this in plain English?

  26. Anonymous wrote:

    “Authority” is largely political. Is anyone going to tell me that, eg, R. Menachem Kasher didn’t have as much expertise and Torah knowledge as many, maybe any, contemporary of his? Yet he was not regarded as a great Torah authority.”

    R Kasher’s Torah Shelemah, especially the volumes that show his active involvement, is a great work. Haggadah Shelemah and R Kasher’s sefer on Zionism and Israel ( the name of which I don’t have at my fingertips) are superb works. R Kasher’s efforts on behalf on the Torah of the Rogatchover ZL preserved the very original Torah contributions of a Gaon Olam.

    I might be mistaken but wasn’t R Kasher ZL the Posek for the original Manhattan eruv, which as RHS pointed out, lacked a Tikun for the North side of the island of Manhattan, and which was never accepted outside of the KJ, Jewish Center and LSS milieu?

  27. >You are correct that he was not a rabbi. However, the Maharam goes farther and requires an expert rabbi like Rav Nachman and Rav Shila.

    Even if he does go farther, then surely a layperson does not always have the tools to decide if Rav X is an expert for Question Y. Isn’t part of the basic ne’emanut of the Rav being asked that if he does not know, then he will consult with greater experts? In other words, isn’t the minimal qualification for smicha the ability to know when you are out of your depth, and if my shul Rabbi is an upstanding honest person, why can’t I ask him any question trusting that in the end, it will be addressed by a competent authority?

  28. Michael Rogovin wrote:

    “Who decides that a rabbi is sufficiently expert in a particular area? What if there are disagreements among scholars or different sub-communities? How does one judge the expertise in secular matters that impact on the factual elements of a halachic decision? Is it better to have specialized expertise or a broad world view – which produces better results, or is it best to have a combination (cf to medicine)?”

    One simple answer would be RMF’s famous comment on how he became viewed as the central address for Psak in the US. The wonderful sefarim HaTorah Msmachas and Oro Shel Olam illustrate the same principle about RSZA.

  29. Thank you, R. Slifkin, for your insightful response. Yes, RSZA initially erred in assuming that it is impossible for a dead creature to give birth to living offspring in our era – as was demonstrated by the decapitated sheep experiment. Where a posek is empirically disproven, he is torpedoed; “teyuvta” is certainly part of our lexicon. RSZA was intellectually honest and he acknowledged that the rug was pulled from under his feet by the sheep experiment. But no experiment has been performed to disprove RSZA’s reading of the Chatam Sofer that breathing has not yet definitely finished until the last circulation that benefits from the last breath has finished. Thus, I maintain that RSZA’s final position stands as a credible possibility, and serves to counterweigh RMF & RYBS.

  30. MiMedinat HaYam

    if you have a kashrut question, you can go to any rav (or any tom dick or harry).

    but if you have an “ishus” issue, it regards all of “klal yisrael”, so you must go to an appropriate person, who is accepted by many / all / other criteria. but not any tom dick or harry.

    (thus, the rca’s practice of writing gittin before any formal settlement is reached is inappropriate, as it was never such a practice. (even RYBS never had such a practice.)

    2. on a separate question, but alluded to in the original post — what is to prevent a woman (or a husband) to bring a friend (or ther) to a bet din and claim its my spouse, and lets write a get? the rca claims they ask for a driver’s license. well, if you live with someone, its no problem to get a drivers license (let alone the ease of forging a driver’s license.) this can easily happen if you write gitten on demand, which is the rca policy.

  31. Reader: “I do not understand your response – can you please explain this in plain English?”

    You know, it’s epes ahn inyan.

  32. Gil,
    Can you give some sources regarding the existence of a cheftza of p’sak, specifically a p’sak l’heter. I understand how a p’sak that says you must do something or may not do something can have halachic reality in the sense you seem to be implying. Violating it could have the status of lo sasur or something of that nature. But where do we see that a p’sak l’heter has any halachic status as such. If the act is assur, it is still assur. (Though in the case of a sanhedrin the korban may be on them, depending on the cirucmstances). If it was mutar, it was mutar anyway. In short, where do we see that a p’sak _makes_ soemthing mutar, which is what it would seem to me that a p’sak from some people has a chalos shem, but one from others (who are not qualified, who do not have authority) does not.

  33. “Not only must a rabbi turn away or redirect a question he cannot answer, a questioner must carefully consider whether the rabbi he is asking is sufficiently experienced and expert to respond to his inquiry. ”

    I disagree. When my rabbi can’t answer a question I ask him, he consults with HIS rabbi. By asking all shilahs to the same rabbi, I avoid the danger of picking and choosing poskim based on their known halachic positions.

    “we see a talmudic basis for considering circulation a sign of life”

    Difficult, given that blood circulation was not understood until the 16th century.

    “was never accepted outside of the KJ, Jewish Center and LSS milieu”

    It was also accepted by Park East, Fifth Avenue Synagogue, Shearith Israel, and Civic Center Synagogue. There may be others.

  34. Yes, RSZA initially erred in assuming that it is impossible for a dead creature to give birth to living offspring in our era – as was demonstrated by the decapitated sheep experiment.

    R. Spira, you’re missing the point. His error was in extrapolating from the case in the Gemara to brain death – i.e. in assuming that the Gemara was differentiating between cardiac, respiratory and brain function. It wasn’t; it was just making a perfectly valid observation for the 6th century, that a dead female cannot give birth.
    The same goes for any alleged source, from the Gemara through to Chasam Sofer, that people use to pasken either for or against brain death. None of these sources can be used to determine the issue.

    RSZA’s reading of the Chatam Sofer that breathing has not yet definitely finished until the last circulation that benefits from the last breath has finished.

    I don’t know what you’re talking about. RSZA says that Chatam Sofer was wrong. RSZA also accepts brain death, provided it is “sufficient” brain death.

  35. I do not agree with R. Sherlo’s definition. I think that in our generation there is a profusion of various circles in which even the rabbi of the rabbi of the rabbi is not such a big talmid chacham and or does not have a particularly admirable character or level of yiras shamayim. That is just my opinion.

  36. Yossi Melman

    Mor, you have the reality backwards: In our generation we have so many amazing talmidei hakhamim at extraordinary levels that we have lost all sense of proportion. Nowadays even an excellent talmid hakham who once (a generation or two ago) would have been a highly respected dayan or considered an important Torah leader is denigrated by saying that he isn’t enough of a “gadol” to express an opinion or pasken a question even on relatively modest matters.

    And as for admirable character or yiras shamayim, that is exactly the point: YOU need to be able to choose your “gadol” by YOURSELF precisely because those who are publicly declared to be the “gedolim” that everyone needs to obey are themselves often lacking in these two areas.

  37. “(a generation or two ago)”

    Trying to be objective by looking at writings rather than personal impressions, I see nobody living today whose output is remotely comparable to that of, say RYBS or RM Feinstein.

    Perhaps in those days the Orthodox community was less fragmented, so gedolim were denigrated *for political/hashkafa reasons* less often than today. But perhaps that impression comes from unwarranted nostalgia.

  38. “Perhaps in those days the Orthodox community was less fragmented, so gedolim were denigrated *for political/hashkafa reasons* less often than today. But perhaps that impression comes from unwarranted nostalgia”

    It is absolute romantic nostalgia-to give just one example RYBS was not treated as a legitimate gadol by the Yeshiva world-exception RMF-but they were related! See JO “obituary” for snideness even after death about the Rav.

  39. ““Not only must a rabbi turn away or redirect a question he cannot answer, a questioner must carefully consider whether the rabbi he is asking is sufficiently experienced and expert to respond to his inquiry. ”

    I disagree. When my rabbi can’t answer a question I ask him, he consults with HIS rabbi. By asking all shilahs to the same rabbi, I avoid the danger of picking and choosing poskim based on their known halachic positions.”

    Agree with Charlie Hall

    “but if you have an “ishus” issue, it regards all of “klal yisrael”, so you must go to an appropriate person, who is accepted by many / all / other criteria. but not any tom dick or harry”

    One goes to ones Rav to ask the sheila probably over 99% will not deal with an ishus problem and either forward the question or tell the questionner where to go. But it is not the consumers obligastion to do anything but ask his Rav. I note the examples in Gils writing is ishus.
    Ishus is an entirely different area where a Rav if he believes RMF was wrong can’t rely on RMF. True story a local Rav somewhere was faced with an ishus problem-according to RMF there wouold be no problem-local Rav was troubled by RMFs heter. Rav went to his Rebbe RYBS who didn’t like the heter either. But relevant is the reasoning of local Rabbi-if it were a Shabbos issue and RMF were wrong I wouldn’t be worried when I get to shamayim they ask me why did I do x and I’ll answer I relied on Rav Moshe I am confident that will be an OK answer-but if ishus if Rav Moshe were wrong and I relied on him we would still have a mamzer-good faith is not an excuse in ishus.
    Ishus is unique.

  40. “One simple answer would be RMF’s famous comment on how he became viewed as the central address for Psak in the US.”
    His piskei halacha were followed to the extent that they were persausive-see my above post for example where the Rav, R henkin, RAK among many others rejected RMFs psak.

  41. Gil, in theory you are right, but this just boils down to each Rabbi having to know his own limitations and what he can and cannot answer.

    But the honest questioner of his Rabbi cannot be culpable if (either objectively or in your humble opinion) his Rabbi should have sent the question up the chain so to speak.

  42. His piskei halacha were followed to the extent that they were persausive
    =========================================
    or were machshir where amcha wanted to go? This question in itself would make for a fascinating study.
    KT

  43. steve brizel 5:38
    mycroft 8:02
    joel rich 9:00
    A bit simplistic
    RCOG passed the word that the Chazon Ish was posek of the next generation.
    The S’redei Esh is reported to have told others RMF was not from that generation.

  44. MiMedinat HaYam

    mycroft: Ishus is unique

    exactly my point. there must be consensus in ishus, while in kashrut, one may eat quinoa, and another doesnt. which you cant do in ishut. (note — many ppl erronoeusly think bait shamai married bait hillel heterot. not true. they (nicely) advised each other, so that they wouldnt marry those issues. (marrying for love was not “universal” till more current times.) )

    but procedures like writing a get without settling all issues (rca poicy) was never done, was never accepted by halacha.

  45. Shalom Spira

    R. Slifkin,

    Thank you for your kind response. There is a lot of truth in what you say, but I would reformulate it as follows, with your kind permission: There are two pathways to diagnose death according to RSZA. One pathway is the respiratory way, the other pathway is the decapitational way.

    Regarding the respiratory pathway, RSZA interprets Chatam Sofer to mean that respiratory activity is legally interlinked with cardiac activity. In RSZA’s opinion, a person has not legally stopped breathing until he stops circulating blood, as well. In this matter, RSZA is disputing RMF & RYBS, who both interpret Chatam Sofer to mean that it is enough for a person to stop breathing irreversibly (as confirmed by the total destruction of the brain-stem) and we can say “Barukh Dayan Emet” even if the circulation continues. Regarding the decapitational pathway, RSZA interprets decapitation to mean that either the cranial unit has literally been removed from the body, or alternatively – even if the cranial unit remains in place – every brain cell has died, based on the story of Eli Hakohen.

  46. Shalom Spira

    R’ MiMedinat HaYam,
    Yi’yasher kochakha for raising the important issue of avoiding imposition of financial duress in the writing of a sefer keritut. For this reason, if I should merit to fulfill the mitzvah of Kiddushin – Bichasdei HKB”H, Yishtabach Shemo – I will use the pre-nuptial agreement of RJDB, which avoids all problems of financial duress, as described in his Benetivot Hahalakhah, Vol. 1. Okay, perhaps one will counter that RJDB is a “karov etzel atzmo” and is hence biased in favour of his own pre-nuptial agreement. However, RJDB told me that he specifically asked R. Yaakov Kamenetzky, R. Shlomo Zalman Auerbach and R. Yosef Shalom Eliashiv, and they all gave their glowing endorsement to his pre-nuptial agreement. [RJDB was unable to consult RMF because access to RMF was limited (-rightfully so, I might add, to protect the health and prolong the life of RMF) in the years before RMF ascended to the Heavenly Academy.]

  47. Shalom Spira

    R’ Charlie Hall,
    Thank you for raising the important question of whether Chazal knew about circulation of blood. Here is the information I have from “Medicine’s 10 Greatest Discoveries” co-authored by Meyer Friedman, MD, and Gerald W. Friedland, MD (Yale University Press, 1998). In the second chapter, entitled “William Harvey and the Circulation of Blood”, Friedman and Friedland write as follows (commencing on p. 18):

    “Thousands of years before the Englishman William Harvey was born, Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans not only were aware of their beating heart but attributed it to the dominant role in their spiritual and emotional activities. They believed that if humans possessed a soul, it resided in the reddish mass that pounded perpetually in one’s chest. But they never troubled to find out what the beating was all about, even though they recognized that once the beating stopped, life would stop – and the soul residing in that beating heart would vanish.

    “Further, no Egyptian, Greek or Roman understood what relation if any a person’s blood had to this pulsating organ the size of a hand. Their essential ignorance of the functions of both the heart and the blood sprang from their failure to dissect a still-living animal [sic – and with good reason, to avoid tza’ar ba’alei chaim (S. Spira’s comment)]. They had never directly observed the contractile and sequential movements of a living heart and the course of the blood in both veins and arteries. Their only knowledge of the heart and blood vessels derived from inspection of the dissected organs and tissues of human corpses. Unfortunately, the arteries of a corpse never contain blood, because when the heart ceases to beat and eject blood into the arteries, the latter contract and push all their blood into the veins.

    “Thus, the Egyptian, Greek and Roman ancients, seeing no blood in the arteries of their dissected corpses, assumed that such vessels during life contained only air. Since the veins of these corpses always bulged with blood, particularly the veins entering and leaving the liver, early physicians concluded that all blood was made by this organ, which then furnished its blood, via the veins, to the other organs of the body. Recognizing that the heart must play some role in the body’s economy, they postulated that it imparted a “vital spirit” to the blood entering and leaving the two chambers, or ventricles. They did not know exactly how blood entered the heart, how it traveled from the right to the left ventricle, or where it went after leaving the heart.

    In the middle of the second century of our era [sic – Jews do not count time this way (S. Spira’s comment)], the Greek physician Galen made a revolutionary discovery. He observed that the right side (or right auricle) of the heart received blood from the large veins emptying into it, and that this blood was then ejected by the right ventricle into the lungs via the pulmonary artery. He further observed that the lungs drained this blood into the left side of the heart, which in turn pumped it into the aorta, the major blood vessel leaving the left ventricle.

    “Galen made two other cardiovascular discoveries of transcendent importance. He recognized that the heart was essentially a mass of muscles whose contraction pumped blood to and through the lungs to the left side of the heart, which in turn pumped into the aorta. In short, he recognized what the heart was: a pump.

    “His second great discovery was that, contrary to the belief of his ancient Greek and Roman forebears, arteries did not carry air; they carried blood…

    …Physicians for more than a thousand years [after Galen] believed that his descriptions depicted the cardiovascular functions of an animal, not of a person. As a consequence, these most important observations of all the hundreds of medical phenomena described by Galen in his voluminous writings were not accepted as applicable to the human heart or its blood vessels. Galen erred, moreover, in continuing to believe, as had his Greek predecessors, that the liver not only formed the body’s blood, it also pumped it to the rest of the body.

    So, for fourteen centuries after his death, although Eurpoean physicians scrupulously accepted every one of Galen’s other observations and concepts, the structure and functions of the heart, arteries, and veins continued to be matters of fantasy – precisely as they had been prior to Galen’s discoveries. His observations were not lost; they remained securely, if obscurely, entrenched in his surviving writings.

    They were rediscovered in the middle of the sixteenth century by the Michael Servetus, a Spanish physician…[whose information was later elaborated upon by William Harvey.]”

    According to the above text, in the time of Chazal, there appears to have been a vague appreciation of the fact that blood moves in the human body. The function of the arteries was totally misunderstood by all scientists other than Galen, but the function of veins as transporting blood was known (albeit in a flawed manner).

  48. “exactly my point. there must be consensus in ishus,”

    Not necessarily-many accept RMFs heterim on no get needed if non Orthodox wedding-despite the fact that probably the majority of poskim did NOT accept his heter.

  49. “RCOG passed the word that the Chazon Ish was posek of the next generation.”
    RCOGs authority was from where he was appointed by that community the CI was not appointed-it is not a position that one can pass on to whom they wish-it is the choice of the community.

  50. Shachar Ha'amim

    Yossi Melman – you see, you just proved my point about the Rabbis and the shoemakers. I never checked Yuval Cherlow’s semicha – I don;t even know if he is a “rabbi”. I never heard a shiur from him. I have none of his seforim, nor have I read any of them. I only know him from his newspaper columns – mostly his general op-ed pieces. As far as I am concerned I relate to him as an op-ed journalist. It has nothing to do with what I think about his views on things. I view Haim Navon the same way. If my shul would hire one of them as a rabbi, or I would go study in their yeshiva for semicha, perhaps I would relate differently to them

  51. Mycroft wrote:
    “RCOG passed the word that the Chazon Ish was posek of the next generation.”
    RCOGs authority was from where he was appointed by that community the CI was not appointed-it is not a position that one can pass on to whom they wish-it is the choice of the community”

    WADR, RCOG was also viewed as the Posek HaDor of his and preceding generations. RCOG was hardly elevated to such a role by the choice of the community. I think it is fair to state that RCOG viewed the CI even in the 1930s as his natural successor-and so was the CI treated on many Halachic inquiries in Europe pre WW2.

  52. >RCOG was also viewed as the Posek HaDor of his and preceding generations.

    Come on, that’s nonsense. Eat any gelatin lately?

  53. >WADR, RCOG was also viewed as the Posek HaDor of his and preceding generations. RCOG was hardly elevated to such a role by the choice of the community

    You are right, he was elevated to such a role by Agudas Yisroel. Of course, non-Agudas Yisroel communities are under no obligation to follow his authority. Futher, any Agudas Yisroel community pretty much chose to be one – so in a way, they are the ones lending him his authority.

  54. Anonymous & Chardal-AFAIK, RCOG’s Gadlus was challenged by Mizrachi activists in Vilna,but RCOG was viewed as the RMF of his generation. Yet, that does not mean that all of his Psakim, such as on gelatin, were accepted

  55. “WADR, RCOG was also viewed as the Posek HaDor of his and preceding generations. RCOG was hardly elevated to such a role by the choice of the community. I think it is fair to state that RCOG viewed the CI even in the 1930s as his natural successor-and so was the CI treated on many Halachic inquiries in Europe pre WW2.”

    The reason why the Rav had his Daas Torah like Hesped for RCOG in 1940 was not his gadlus btorah but his acceptance by the community-thus the CI did not have the acceptance by the community he did not have the formal Rabbinic positio0n thus no requirement to listen to the CI.
    This had nothing to do with who was a bigger Gadol Batorah. One might have been a fool not to listen to the CI but no requirement to. In Vilna and surrounding areas it was probably a requirement to listen to RCOG.

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