Interfaith Dialogue III

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R. Mayer Twersky enters the printed debate in this week’s devar Torah from Torah Web:

In general, psak halacha is exclusively reserved for talmidim shehigiu lhora’a, great torah sages. Chazal unequivocally condemn those who are not qualified to pasken, and yet do so. He is a wicked, delusionary, and arrogant person.(such people) increase divisiveness, destroy the world, extinguish the lamp of Torah, and violate the vineyard of Hashem (Ramabm Hil. Talmud Torah, Perek 5). Psak halacha in this context denotes adjudicating a new or unresolved question, or applying halacha in new situations. A rav need not consider himself a great Torah sage, however, to guide his baalei batim or talmidim regarding explicit halachos in Shulchan Aruch or matters and situations about which he has a tradition in psak halacha.

Certain questions, due either to the gravity of the issurim involved or their implications for Klal Yisroel or both, are reserved for gedolei Yisroel. Outstanding though they are, even talmidim shehigiu lhoraa refer such questions to the gedolim. For instance, questions of aguna due to the gravity of issur eishes ish and yuchsin, have always been referred to gedolim, and even they traditionally seek the approval of their colleagues in issuing a heter

I believe and I write without pretensions or delusions, as a talmid shelo higia lhoraa that we urgently need to engage in introspection regarding these matters of psak halacha. Too often we do not defer and refer to the appropriate halachic authorities. Case in point: the recent renewed interest and debate concerning interfaith relations and dialogue. What needs to be emphasized is the absolute indispensability of referring such questions to our gedolim. Such questions involve potentially grave issurim and also have profound implications for Klal Yisroel. We can debate the appropriateness of the highly publicized visit by a group of cardinals to Yeshiva, but only gedolim are entitled to decide the issue. The failure to refer the question to our gedolim reminds us of the vital need for introspection regarding psak halacha.

Granted, we can debate who is a gadol but I certainly am not and neither are most local synagogue rabbis.

About Gil Student

Rabbi Gil Student is the Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of, a leading website on Orthodox Jewish scholarly subjects, and the Book Editor of the Orthodox Union’s Jewish Action magazine. He writes a popular column on issues of Jewish law and thought featured in newspapers and magazines, including The Jewish Link, The Jewish Echo and The Vues. In the past, he has served as the President of the small Jewish publisher Yashar Books and as the Managing Editor of OU Press. Rabbi Student serves on the Executive Committee of the Rabbinical Council of America. He also serves on the Editorial Boards of Jewish Action magazine, the Journal of Halacha and Contemporary Society and the Achieve Journal of Behavioral Health, Religion & Community, as well as the Board of OU Press. He has published five English books, the most recent titled Search Engine volume 2: Finding Meaning in Jewish Texts -- Jewish Leadership, and served as the American editor for Morasha Kehillat Yaakov: Essays in Honour of Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks.

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