The Decline and Fall of Local Rabbinic Authority

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

From my article included in The Next Generation of Modern Orthodoxy (The Orthodox Forum), ed. R. Shmuel Hain (link):

The issue of rabbinic authority in the Modern Orthodox community is not a matter of how wide a rabbi’s authority spreads—whether his opinion is decisive on issues of aesthetics, politics, and so forth, or just on ritual. Those were the subject of discussions held at previous Orthodox Forums and generally contrasted our (centrist) limited views with the more expansive conceptions on the religious right.

Today’s debate is whether rabbis have any authority at all. A rabbi who has shown himself to be wise will be consulted on issues ranging from the religious to the personal. His advice will be taken seriously because of his insight—but is it binding? When the issue is not halakhic, it is assumed in our community that his advice is nothing more than helpful suggestions. The question before us deals with halakhic issues. In the following three sections, I argue that there is a need for a personal halakhic decisor, that this guide should be your synagogue rabbi, and that today people often do not turn to their synagogue rabbi for halakhic guidance due to a variety of reasons. I then offer practical suggestions for changing the situation by establishing a partnership among rabbis, communal leaders, and roshei yeshivah.

The idea of asking a personal she’eilah on halakhic matters seems to be rooted in an explicit biblical passage… (Deut. 17:8–10).

The context of this passage and the initial words ki yippalei led the Sages to see this passage as obligating religious judges to take their unresolved questions to a higher authority. Despite the sensible kal va-ḥomer, I have not found any midrash or commentary that derives from this verse an obligation on a layman to present his halakhic difficulties to a religious authority. The reason for this, I believe, is that this need is so fundamental and obvious that it requires no compulsion. Of course, anyone interested in following the word of God who is unsure of the proper route will ask an expert for clarification of the law. We will otherwise be paralyzed by uncertainty or forced into stringency…

Continued here: here.

About Gil Student

Rabbi Gil Student is the Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of TorahMusings.com, 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 and as Director of the Halacha Commission of the Rabbinical Alliance 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.

171 comments

  1. And what if the shul rabbis are regularly (and consistently) giving incorrect rulings? And what if the only competent rabbis in a community are ideologically/hashkafically out of touch with the questioner?

  2. Keep reading…

  3. Modern Orthodoxy is going down the road towards oblivion.

  4. While I agree with the sentiments that

    a) “Pulpit” or communal Rabbis have better life experience to issue Psak Halacha than academic Roshei Yeshiva

    and

    b) a Shule Rabbi has dominion in his synagogue. (And should act as such.)

    I am troubled by the idea that attending a synagogue places me (automatically) under his dominion. There are circumstances where I have lived in communities where the shule I attended was merely a convenience (either the only shule in town or the closest shule). The hashkfa (and the ensuing halachic positions) of the Rabbi of the shule does not match my own, but not attending that shule would result in me being unable to attend shule at all.

    Imagine a town where there was only a Chabad House to attend. Based on this analysis, when the Chabad Rabbi says no Gebrocks on Pesach, I cannot rely on my own knowledge and family tradition otherwise. Or how about shaving. Chabad Rabbis are notorious for promoting nusach switch to Ari. Again based on your analysis I would have to comply, since this is the Morah ‘Deatra. Is this what you meant when you said by joining a synagogue we implicitly or explicitly subject ourselves to that Rabbis Authority.

    (Where ever there is a Chabad Rabbi, we may no longer use the towns Eruv?)

    Secondly, with regard to the Army; you have a lot of faith that the soldiers own community Rabbi (or Rosh Yeshiva) is able to dispassionately decide that they can not rule on question where they politically object to the psak.

  5. Yossi, you would not be required to eat gobrochs in your chabad example because you don’t really have a question about what is allowed to be eaten on pesach. It’s only when you are in doubt as to the correct answer, that you MIGHT have to listen to the chabad rabbi.

  6. Keep reading…I did keep reading. But you did not address either of the points I raised. You offered a solution for the case where you think the rabbi is wrong in a psak; what if you think he is *consistently* wrong? Over and over again? As are the other shul rabbis in an “out of town” community?

  7. I am not sure the pulpit rabbi ever had the authority Gil wants him to have. Instead, cities had chief rabbis, a beis din, and a bunch of morei tzedek (Rav, Av Beit Din, Doma”tz and Ma”tz), and they, who were appointed or elected on a citiwaide basis, were the ones who held authority.

    If we want to repair the authority of the pulpit rabbinate, the pulpit rav needs to be integrated into a superstructure, which doesn’t really exist in the US, save for very few exceptions, like Elisabeth, NJ, Breuer’s, the chassidishe communities, etc. In Europe, it’s alive and well (though we do live in an anti-authority age everywhere).

  8. Also it would seem to ignore an awful lot of history of development of normative Judaism that began with popular practice that only later found rabbinic sanction. Three examples from 3 different eras: the stringency that women took upon themselves [the Talmud’s phrasing] to count seven clean days on “a drop of blood the size of a mustard seed”, the Ashkenazic practice of avoiding kitniot on Pesach and Chassidus. The last two certainly began over rabbinic objections; since the first one involves abandoning the distinction, which would have been important in Temple times, between nidah and zivah, I would not be surprised to learn that the rabbis opposed that at first too.

  9. Gill – The entire volume is available as a PDF online, not just your chapter… Perhaps someone put something on the web they didn’t mean to?

  10. Also, sorry for misspelling your name..!

  11. Josh: YU publishes them and puts them all up on their website as well.

  12. The interesting article below is a good case study of the waning authority of the local rabbi in the US, during the crucial transition period in the 1950s, and touches upon some of the ideas that R’ Gil presents in his article –

    http://www.jewishideas.org/articles/use-municipal-city-water-mikveh-and-case-study-seat

  13. As a voluntary community, we get the leadership we want (and deserve). One might also posit that the winds of autonomy in the general population have impoacted our khilla kadosha, but that might be bad for grandchildren’s shidduchim.

    KT

  14. Gil–

    a question for you (I hope it’s not too personal): do you personally get your psak halacha from the Rav of the shul where you daven?

  15. Shmuel: Yes

  16. Joseph Kaplan

    There is an important threshold question that must also be dealt with: when one must ask for psak. Obviously, we don’t ask for a psak all the time; I know I’m not allowed to cook on Shabbat or eat milk and meat together, so I don’t ask for a psak when these issues arise. But what about more complex issues? To take two examples we have discussed here at great length — organ transplant/brain death and non-Israelis observing second day yom tov in Israel. I’m no great talmid chacham and I probably (I’m being nice to myself) couldn’t discuss all the nuances of the halachic debate with respect to these issues. But I know that there is such a debate and I know that respected poskim are on each side of the debate and have reached opposing conclusions. So why should I be bound by the position on these issues by who happens to be the rabbi of my shul (or, indeed, who happens to be the rebbee in the shiur I attend)? (In my case, I happen to agree with the position taken by my shul rabbi on these two issues, but the issue extends beyond these specific ones.)

  17. Your conclusions are based on your hypothesis, which you write about, that only Rabbis are experts in halacha, and laymen, however educated and intelligent, are not.

    I disagree. The reality is, when they are asked a question, most Rabbis simply look up the same sources that an educated layman would. As we all know, psak is based on an instinct which is then justified by sources. If you can read shulchan aruch and (take your pick) mishna beruruah, kitzur SA, Arucha hachulcha, kaf hachayim – you can paskin.

    In the (rare) cases where you find the matter too difficult, you should ask a number of rabbis to get a feel for the basic viewpoints, and act as your common sense tells you. But to do what Gil Student suggests, which is to outsource your common sense by blindly obeying someone else, is, in my opinion, foolish.

  18. Joseph Kaplan-in response to your query, if you have a rebbe/rav who one turns to for halachic and hashkafic gudiance, or even more than one such rebbe/rav, why would you not be bound by his POV on the more complicated halachic issues, as opposed to the not so complicated issues?

  19. I was going to say something similar to Chaim Zev: Perhaps I missed it, but I don’t see you mention the increasingly educated laity as a reason for the trend away from “local rabbinic authority.”
    This is related to Joseph Kaplan’s point too, in that the threshold for what is a “shailah-worthy” question is raised. My not-very-educated great aunt might ask a shailah about her plates hwen she accidentally dries a milk plate with a meat towel. I would not ask that question because I know the answer. There could be other examples where the answer is less obvious, but it would still not rise to a “shailah” level for a relatively educated person. If I know that 99% of authorities say X, do I always have to call my shul rabbi to deterine whether he is in the 1% of dissenters?
    When it comes to “big” questions, like organ donation, do you contend that people must follow the psak of their shul rabbi? So when I davened at a shul where the rabbi was a HODS member I should have joined HODS, and when I moved I should have withdrawn? (Not to mention complicated hypos like different decisionmakers having different rabbis…)

  20. R Gil-excellent article-however, I think that there is a corollary to your conclusion-not every LOR is intellectually equipped to render Psak on difficult halachic issues, and should have a rebbe /talmid relationship with a Posek with whom he can consult and discuss the same.

  21. R’JK and Emma,
    IMHO the missing piece in your equation is the mesorah of what the accepted psak is (there are 3 choices everyone knows, does that mean everyone gets to pick the one they like/want?)
    KT

  22. R’ Joel — I think you answered your own question in your phrasing “the mesorah of what the accepted psak”.

    I think this issue ends up being primarily sociological: some people want to be told what to do; many don’t.

    Finally, having now read the chapter in its entirety, I think Gil’s logic rests on debatable assumptions. E.g.

    I have not found any midrash or commentary that derives from this verse an obligation on a layman to present his halakhic difficulties to a religious authority. The reason for this, I believe, is that this need is so fundamental and obvious that it requires no compulsion.

    The undiscussed other reason is that the concept Gil is defending is a modern chiddush (with some Talmudic textual hooks).

  23. Two other factors worth considering:

    1. Living in societies in which Jews are treated fairly and equitably, many of the types of psak that Jews historically sought are no longer primarily in the religious sphere (e.g. torts and family issues).

    2. Much of what is considered halachic praxis is already understood sociologically, without needing to ask an individual psak. E.g. if the communal norm is X and someone wants to fit in, they will tend to do X.

  24. IH wrote in part:

    “Finally, having now read the chapter in its entirety, I think Gil’s logic rests on debatable assumptions. E.g.

    I have not found any midrash or commentary that derives from this verse an obligation on a layman to present his halakhic difficulties to a religious authority. The reason for this, I believe, is that this need is so fundamental and obvious that it requires no compulsion.

    The undiscussed other reason is that the concept Gil is defending is a modern chiddush (with some Talmudic textual hooks).”

    The Mishnah in Avos tells us “Aseh Lcha Rav uKoneh Lcha Kover Lhistalek min HaSafek.” Please provide one commentary that understands that Mishnah as being limited to rabbis in need of halachic guidance. How about the passage in the Talmud in Shabbos as to Shoal Avicha Vayedcha and Lo Sasur in the sugya of Chanukah as the bases of rabbinical authority ( which we all know is a Machlokes Rambam, RaN, Chinuch and Ritva as to its scope) and the fact that the Chachmei HaMesorah from the days of the Tanaim until the present have been formulating how we properly fulfil Mitzvos of a Torah and Rabbinic nature? The same do not strike me at least as being a “modern chiddush”.

  25. IH wrote :

    ” Living in societies in which Jews are treated fairly and equitably, many of the types of psak that Jews historically sought are no longer primarily in the religious sphere (e.g. torts and family issues).

    2. Much of what is considered halachic praxis is already understood sociologically, without needing to ask an individual psak. E.g. if the communal norm is X and someone wants to fit in, they will tend to do X”

    RMF used to bemoan the fact that he was asked very few halachic queries re CM as opposed to OC and YD related issues. OTOH, one can still evidence that family related issues still are a major part of any set of ShuT.

    As far as sociological concerns, think of the two following Halachic rules-Puk Chazi Mah Ama Davar and Batlah Daato Etzek Rov Bnei Adam.

  26. I’m looking at the title of this post again, and I have to ask the question… When did the authority of the local Rabbi rise?

    In the Talmud, we see example after example, of the institutions in Bavel mandating that it must be there way, and “we don’t pasken” like so and so.
    I have seen quotes from books which says that anyone who has a slight variation on the hagadah from Israel, is the not allowed in their community and they have very harsh things to say about them.

    The Marashal gives a list of halachot or customs that were kept in Israel vs the ones that were kept in Bavel. Today, most of those practices are only done one way or another, and it’s even hard to find opinions in the Rishonim which aren’t standardized on these practices. This means to me, that at some point, what might have been localized customs to either Israel or Bavel became standardized by some adherence to the authority of a “Non-local” rabbi.

    So… when did the local rabbi have the authority that we are witnessing their decline?

    I imagine the truth is that there is a balance between the local and the non-local based on need and urgency. If it’s a long term question affecting your practice year in and year out, the non-local rabbi will hold more sway. If it’s a local question for a local situation, or a one time question, the local rabbi will be followed. But that’s just a hunch.

  27. Yossi: I am troubled by the idea that attending a synagogue places me (automatically) under his dominion…

    Are you OK with the idea that moving to a city in Medieval times, whether out of convenience or otherwise, places you under the city rabbi’s dominion?

    Imagine a town where there was only a Chabad House to attend. Based on this analysis, when the Chabad Rabbi says no Gebrocks on Pesach…

    What Chabad rabbi would tell a non-Chabad chasid that halakhically he must refrain from eating gebrockts? Very few, I believe, and any who do would be subject to being overturned.

    Mike S: Also it would seem to ignore an awful lot of history of development of normative Judaism that began with popular practice that only later found rabbinic sanction…

    You gave examples of people being stricter than halakhah. Even if a rabbi rules something is permissible, he can’t force people to do it.

    Joseph Kaplan: There is an important threshold question that must also be dealt with: when one must ask for psak

    As someone later responded, my writing implies the following: When you have a doubt, you must ask. If you don’t, you don’t have to ask. The truth is I believe that self-psak is wrong and people do not have the right to choose between positions in major halakhic debates. But, for better or for worse, that is not represented in my article.

    Chaim Zev: I think you greatly simplify the halakhic process and underestimate the training required to render a psak. A rabbi who looks up a source for the first time to answer a question, isn’t particularly qualified for his job. A rabbi who knows the sources and has learned the topic in depth, but looks up a source to make absolutely sure that he is answering you with the proper nuance, is much more qualified than a layman.

    emma: I am not impressed with the increasingly educated laymen. The vast, vast majority are still amharatzim who would be embarrased by their ignorance if they knew enough to realize how ignorant they are (for the record, I include myself among those who know enough to be embarrased by their ignorance).

    When it comes to “big” questions, like organ donation, do you contend that people must follow the psak of their shul rabbi?

    Yes

    So when I davened at a shul where the rabbi was a HODS member I should have joined HODS, and when I moved I should have withdrawn?

    That raises two questions: 1) Does your (former) rabbi require you to be a HODS member? I’m not aware of any who do, although some encourage it. Especially since HODS does not officially take a position on the brain death issue and you can check either box. 2) Do you have to change your practice when you move?

    I’m not sure on #2 so whenever I ask a she’eilah on which I have a prior ruling, I let the rabbi know that as part of the question.

  28. Joseph Kaplan

    ” if you have a rebbe/rav who one turns to for halachic and hashkafic gudiance, or even more than one such rebbe/rav, why would you not be bound by his POV on the more complicated halachic issues, as opposed to the not so complicated issues?”

    The operative word here is, IMO, “guidance.” When I ask for, and receive, “guidance” I am not asking for, nor am I receiving a POV to which I am bound. The POV person from whom I am seeking guidance, as opposed to his halachic decision, may be different form my own.

    To use a specific example: organ donation. I may feel very strongly that organ donation after death is of an extremely high value. Nonetheless, if it is assur, I would feel bound by the halacha. But if I know that great poskim believe it is muttar (although others believe it is assur), why should I not let my values concerning the importance of organ donation be the deciding factor rather than the halachic position of the rabbi from whom I am seeking guidance. Or, if I have already thought the issue through carefully and read a great deal of literature on the subject, why do I need to ask guidance from a rabbi at all?

    “there are 3 choices everyone knows, does that mean everyone gets to pick the one they like/want?”

    I don’t know if this question was meant to be rhetorical, but my answer is “it depends.” If the reason they want/like a particular choice is because it is easier or cheaper or something like that, I guess it would be better if they listened to the rabbi and didn’t choose themselves. But if the reason they want/like a particular choice is because it matches an important value they hold dear, then why shouldn’t they have that choice as long as there is a valid halachic opinion supporting it?

  29. Re educated laymen = this issue is cropping up everywhere. In the medical profession, for example, there are big fights between the Opthamologists and the Optometrists over who can perform LASIK. The former say you need to be trained, the latter say its a technical matter of using the laser properly. In the law, there are all sorts of areas where the Bar Associations are fighting entrepeneurs who are doing basic estate, corporate, and workman’s compensation work without a degree. They say its cheaper, the Bar says only lawyers can do it. Same with journalism v. blogs, the former saying you need to go to journalism school, the latter scoffing at that idea. Same with a lot of things.

    Basically its a question of attitidue towards the concept of “credentialed.” Libertarians dont really go for that notion, and look at the person rather than his title or degree. I include myself in that category, while, I am guessing, R. Student does not.

  30. R Gil wrote in part:

    “Chaim Zev: I think you greatly simplify the halakhic process and underestimate the training required to render a psak. A rabbi who looks up a source for the first time to answer a question, isn’t particularly qualified for his job. A rabbi who knows the sources and has learned the topic in depth, but looks up a source to make absolutely sure that he is answering you with the proper nuance, is much more qualified than a layman.”

    Last Friday’s NYT profiled a young man whose hobby is checking on the ingredients of various products manufactured and sold by Starbucks. It struck me as a fascinating article, but the attitude conveyed by the subject of the article was that he knew more than the Star K or the CRC who were only interested in rendering a machmir Psak. I found that POV indicative of what R Gil was describing as the problem with Psak rendered by laymen.

  31. Steve: He asks she’eilos about halakhah. He was referring to knowing the reality better.

  32. I am not sure the pulpit rabbi ever had the authority Gil wants him to have. Instead, cities had chief rabbis, a beis din, and a bunch of morei tzedek (Rav, Av Beit Din, Doma”tz and Ma”tz), and they, who were appointed or elected on a citiwaide basis, were the ones who held authority.

    Was there ever a concept of a “pulpit” in those cities? People had shuls where they chose to pray and learn, but did each such shul have a rabbi?

    In the (rare) cases where you find the matter too difficult, you should ask a number of rabbis to get a feel for the basic viewpoints, and act as your common sense tells you. But to do what Gil Student suggests, which is to outsource your common sense by blindly obeying someone else, is, in my opinion, foolish.

    There is also the issue that individuals are biased towards their own interests, or else obsessive about avoiding the feeling that their decisions are tainted by bias. These tendencies lead to unwarranted kula and chumra respectively. Asking a third party, even if no more competent than yourself, avoids this issue.

    What Chabad rabbi would tell a non-Chabad chasid that halakhically he must refrain from eating gebrockts? Very few, I believe, and any who do would be subject to being overturned.

    From what I have seen Chabad rabbis pretty much universally believe that everyone should be following Chabad practice. Remember that everyone with Chabad customs originally acquired those customs when they or a recent ancestor rejected a preexisting custom for Chabad’s version.

  33. “What Chabad rabbi would tell a non-Chabad chasid that halakhically he must refrain from eating gebrockts? Very few, I believe, and any who do would be subject to being overturned.”

    I still can’t shake the image from the time I saw a clearly non-religious kid with newly-purchased Rashi *and* Rabbenu Tam tefillin in a 770-adorned bag. To be fair, I sometimes sense that the average Chabadnik really has no idea that much of the halakha-practicing world simply doesn’t act as they do.

  34. R’ Gil, you wrote (in response to comments):

    “As someone later responded, my writing implies the following: When you have a doubt, you must ask. If you don’t, you don’t have to ask. The truth is I believe that self-psak is wrong and people do not have the right to choose between positions in major halakhic debates. But, for better or for worse, that is not represented in my article.”

    What is your definition of self-psak? According to your view, can a person follow, for example, the Mishna Brura when it answers his question, whether or not he knows that one or more acharonim disagree (I chose Mishna Brura because it’s written in a way that almost anyone can read)? For example, if a person doesn’t have a mesora on which direction to light ner Chanuka in, can he just follow what the Mechaber and Mishna Brura present as the ikar psak, or does he have to acknowledge that there are other opinions and ask his Rav what to do?

    I ask for a psak from my rav quite frequently (I strongly prefer not to have to decide whether to follow, e.g., the Mishna Brura or Rav Moshe Feinstein, unlike some commenters), but I believe that sometimes even a layman knows what to do without asking. In your view where should the line be drawn?

  35. Are you OK with the idea that moving to a city in Medieval times, whether out of convenience or otherwise, places you under the city rabbi’s dominion?

    Yes, but in medieval times I couldn’t get on the phone or email and call my rav if I had a pressing question. Secondly, in medieval times, as someone mentioned above, when the community faced external pressures and discrimination, community cohesion and unified leadership was politically crucial. They also held an civiic authority that our Rabbis lack today. Finally, in medieval times it is likely that the Rav was the most educated and literate person in the community. Today, sadly, that is unlikely.

  36. What Chabad rabbi would tell a non-Chabad chasid that halakhically he must refrain from eating gebrockts? Very few, I believe, and any who do would be subject to being overturned.

    Sorry, but it is not an exaggeration to say that Chabad wants every Jew to be Chabad.

  37. “I am not impressed with the increasingly educated laymen.”

    Impressed or not, your article is partly descriptive and this is a trend that I think should have been described as relevant to the larger issue of local rabbinic authority.

    I do know rabbis who think that you “should” be a donor after brain death, though I’m not sure they would say you “must.” The rabbi I was thinking of is an advocate for brain-death donation. But seriously, if I needed to consider a DNR for a parent (R”L), whom should I call? Their shul rabbi (with whom I know they have a bad relationship and/or whose general intelligence and wisdom i don’t trust as much as he trusts himself)? My shul rabbi? What if my siblings have their own shul rabbis? Or is it OK to turn instead to a decisor with whom the whole family has a relationship and whom we all do/would trust?

    Re: moving, I get that if a new question comes up you would inform the rav of the prior decision. But is there any affirmative obligation to find out whether the new rav agrees with the old? Let’s say my old rabbi always mattered X color bedikah and I laerned to recognize it, so stopped asking. If I move do I have to start asking again?

  38. Moshe Shoshan

    Gil
    I dont understand, There are often cases in which very prominent Talmidie Chachamim do not hold pulpits and daven in some one elses shul. They may well be bigger talmidei chahcamim than the rabbi. Are such people really bound to follow the rav’s psak?

    I can give a lot of examples, but I dont think that it is approriate to name names.

  39. Moshe Shoshan

    IH
    As I have argued repeatedly in my academic work, the concept of asking shailos and that the rabbis hold the power to interpret the halakhah underlies the very structure of the Mishnah.

    This doesnt mean that there are not other possibilites in the masorah or that the implimentation of this concept is self evident, but you cant attack Gil for advocating rabbinic authority in halakhic matters.

  40. Lawrence Kaplan

    Moshe: You mean your academic work support the “frum” position. Shocking.

  41. Moshe —

    Alas, your recent book remains in the to-read pile. And I now also see Michael Berger’s book (apparently based on his PhD dissertation) who according to R. Kanarfogel’s review in Shofar claims “The authority of the Rabbis of the Talmudic period derives less from the status of the sages themselves, and more from the life of the community that looked (and looks) to the Talmud as a focal point of interpretation and practice.”

    That said, I was not attacking Gil. What specifically in my 2 comments did you find objectionable?

  42. Prof. Kaplan,

    Moshe’s conclusions are no less legitimate than the many scholars who form part of the אלעס איז סוציולוגיע school.

  43. Gil – Do you really believe that one is not allowed to follow a contemporary halacha sefer that presents a synopsis of opinions on the topic and is machria one way or the other (say Shmiras Shabbos Kehilchasah) without consulting one’s rav first? I can sympathize with your argument that one should not decide between the opinions of poskim alone, but I can’t see the problem with following an accepted halacha sefer. Learning the Piskei Teshuvos and going with what he says is not the same as assuming that one is capable of paskening independently.

    Is it really reasonable to expect people to synchronize their behavior in every aspect of halacha with the personal practices of the rav of one’s shul? Let’s say the shul gets a new rav – do we now have to go through the whole Shulchan Aruch to find out every instance where the current rav has a different hachra’ah from the previous one?

  44. r’ gil – ” The truth is I believe that self-psak is wrong and people do not have the right to choose between positions in major halakhic debates.”
    one of issues raised by others (j. kaplan , emma and others) needs be more emphasize – the fact the religious laity today is the most knowledgeable (with regards to halacha) and learned than any time in jewish history has effected the value proposition of the local rav. this leads to many complexities beside self paskening. this especially effects certain laity not deferring to their local rav on meta issues like organ donation as well as brain death and when to pull the plug. also, the sociological effect of what is acceptable by other religious jews in the community (as well as other rabbis) vs what their rav says (one day yom tov which i would say the majority of mo observes in israel vs the number of rabbis in the mo community that pasken this way- hardly any). this issue is much more complicated than just self paskening. many people have no issue in asking their rav for marei mekamots on an issue without asking a shailia (or at least i did on the one day yom tov issue)

    i think you miss the point is that the people decide who to go to and rely on – the rav’s power comes only from the people that are willing to listen to him.

    add to that the rebbe/student equation where the student thinks the rebbe represents his values while maybe questioning the local rav but importantly this is the surviving connection between the two which the student clings on to – therefore he will contact his rebbi first and use this time as an opportunity to stay connected to his rebbe/mentor which his rav never was. on top of that, in many mo communities many rabbis do not know how to effectively deal with a yoetzet halacha (viewed by some as a threat to either them or their wives).

  45. R’ J.,
    Ye’yasher kochakha for your excellent question about the synagogue receiving a new spiritual leader. This precise question is addressed in Shu”t Be-Mar’eh Ha-Bazak VII, no. 24, available here:
    http://www.eretzhemdah.org/data/uploadedfiles/ebooks/36-sfile.pdf

  46. Interestingly with the title of the book – “The Next Generation of Modern Orthodoxy ” – why would the subsection of loss of authority include book banning which was a chareidi issue – at least i thought it had nothing with the mo or centrist community? i fail to understand your analysis there.

  47. Shlomo: Was there ever a concept of a “pulpit” in those cities?

    As I discuss in the article, a city had a mara de-asra. I extend that to a synagogue pulpit.

    From what I have seen Chabad rabbis pretty much universally believe that everyone should be following Chabad practice

    I don’t believe this is true but if taken to an extreme it renders the rabbi incompetent (which I discuss in the article).

    Shmuel: I think most people are incapable of knowing what issues are debated among poskim and what aren’t. So you should ask until you reach the point you can tell.

    Yossi: Yes, but in medieval times I couldn’t get on the phone or email and call my rav if I had a pressing question

    What do you mean? We have teshuvos about people going to the next town and asking the rabbi there.

    Secondly, in medieval times, as someone mentioned above, when the community faced external pressures and discrimination, community cohesion and unified leadership was politically crucial

    And today it is sociologically crucial.

    Finally, in medieval times it is likely that the Rav was the most educated and literate person in the community. Today, sadly, that is unlikely

    People like to say that but it is usually incorrect.

  48. emma: I do know rabbis who think that you “should” be a donor after brain death, though I’m not sure they would say you “must.”

    “Must” is what we are discussing. “Should” is irrelevant.

    But seriously, if I needed to consider a DNR for a parent (R”L), whom should I call?

    Your shul rabbi, of course, and not a distant rabbi who doesn’t know your family situation. Whoever has to make the decision, has to ask his own rabbi.

    Re moving: good questions but these are just details. We’ve already discussed the bigger concept.

    Moshe: There are often cases in which very prominent Talmidie Chachamim do not hold pulpits and daven in some one elses shul

    They may very well be exceptions who need not defer to their rabbi in private. But that is not really the topic of conversation. Most people have not reached the level of hora’ah, even if once upon a time they obtained semikhah.

    J: Do you really believe that one is not allowed to follow a contemporary halacha sefer that presents a synopsis of opinions on the topic and is machria one way or the other (say Shmiras Shabbos Kehilchasah) without consulting one’s rav first?

    Yes and no. You have to be able to function without hounding your rabbi. But if you come across an issue you think merits discussion or someone brings it to your attention, ask your rabbi.

    Is it really reasonable to expect people to synchronize their behavior in every aspect of halacha with the personal practices of the rav of one’s shul?

    No, and a rabbi should not insist on it.

  49. Ruvie: the fact the religious laity today is the most knowledgeable (with regards to halacha) and learned than any time in jewish history has effected the value proposition of the local rav

    I tend to find this claim overstated. The vast majority of people I meet, in most kinds of communities, are much less knowledgeable than they think.

    i think you miss the point is that the people decide who to go to and rely on – the rav’s power comes only from the people that are willing to listen to him

    Um, no, that’s the subject of the article.

    add to that the rebbe/student equation where the student thinks the rebbe represents his values while maybe questioning the local rav but importantly this is the surviving connection between the two which the student clings on to – therefore he will contact his rebbi first and use this time as an opportunity to stay connected to his rebbe/mentor which his rav never was

    I argue in the article that this is damaging and the rebbe should tell the student to ask his rabbi.

  50. Ruvie: What’s so hard to understand. I introduce the section with the sentence: “A few examples of the diminished respect for rabbinic authority are in order”

    Do you think MO people do not lose respect for rabbinic authority when books are banned, even by Charedi rabbis? I certainly don’t think so.

  51. R. Shalom Spira – Thanks for the interesting mareh makom. See also halacha 10 here for an interesting quote from Rav Sheinberg:
    http://www.hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=20287&st=&pgnum=293

  52. It seems to me the primary point of Gil’s chapter is a reaction to the critical questioning of traditional authority (an issue for all religions in America ref: Putnam & Campbell’s American Grace). Gil’s final section is titled Regaining Authority and he concludes by stating:

    We have discussed how the local rabbi’s authority is currently being challenged from many different sides. In multiple ways, the local rabbi’s authority has diminished, to the detriment of responsible halakhic decision-making. It behooves us to consider the consequences of this continuing decline and to actively protect this embattled, age old institution. Through a partnership of rabbis and communal leaders, we can, in some measure, increase awareness of the need for local halakhah.

    This is fascinating at multiple levels, not least of which is that one of the primary challenges to the local rabbi’s authority was the Centrist hashkafa that Alan Brill summarized in 2005:

    […] the shift from Modern Orthodoxy to Centrist Orthodoxy that has occurred over the last thirty years. This transformation involved the transfer of authority to roshei yeshivah from pulpit rabbis, the adoption of a pan-halakhic approach to Judaism, an effacing of a self-conscious need to deal with modernity, an increased emphasis on Torah study, especially in the fashionable conceptual manner, and a shifting of the focus of Judaism to the life of a yeshiva student. As an ideology, Centrist Orthodoxy is a clearly defined separate philosophy from Modern Orthodoxy, with clear lines of demarcation delineating who is in the mesorah.

    Is the pendulum swinging back?

  53. “People like to say that but it is usually incorrect.”

    Oh? I would argue that it is usually correct, until the modern period.

  54. My Rav (a shul Rav) feels comfortable answering my sheilos, and that means more to me that a “pesak” from a blogger (who I do respect) about how we should apply classic precedent to the current social reality.

  55. my dnr example was trying to get at the following: we no longer live in one place.
    in my personal example my own shul rabbi never met my parent. my parents’ shul rabbi had, but was unfamiliar with certain complexities and not someone I really wanted to go into that degree of personal detail with. plus there was more than one decisionmaker/family member with potential rabbis involved. And I had a personal relationship with a known expert in medical halacha. You still say my shul rabbi, “of course”?

    I guess I just can’t accept the idea that there is a simple rule that can tell you who decides what in all cases. Especially when that basically means forcing people to share intimate details with someone they may not have a good relationship with.
    I actually agree that the default adress for halachic questions should be the shul rabbi, for mostly pragmatic reasons. (for starters, my dues and donations pay his salary with, so why should i be bugging my high school rebbe to pasken for free.) But there are hard cases that do not lend themselves to hard and fast rules.

  56. I would argue that the ‘pamphlet’ phenomenon that R. Gil criticizes in his article (in the context of the Flatbush eruv mailing) is actually how the halachic process operates in Charedi communities in Israel, and that its recent spread to the US is an Israel-inspired development.

  57. also, as i wrote before, even granting that many people are not as educated as they think, the fact is they think so, and not without reasons (many many are more educated than their parents or grandparents, eg). this is a phenomenon that can and i think should have been described and listed as a contributing factor, whether or not the self-perception is correct.

  58. R’ gil – “Do you think MO people do not lose respect for rabbinic authority when books are banned, even by Charedi rabbis? I certainly don’t think so.”

    I guess. You are right on rabbis in general but not mo rabbis. You might as well add rabbis involved in financial scams/laundering – reported and unreported- and sexual abuse cover ups – it would seem the list is much bigger than banning.

  59. Gil — what do you mean by “communal leaders” in your proposed partnership among rabbis, communal leaders, and roshei yeshivah?

  60. R’ gil- “I tend to find this claim overstated. The vast majority of people I meet, in most kinds of communities, are much less knowledgeable than they think.”
    It doesn’t matter what you and I think. It only matters what they think and create their own reality which is multiplied by the most educated and learned laity in history. This mentality also effects the student that goes to his rebbe for the next 10 plus years.

  61. R’ gil – why would the roshi yeshiva give up his power? What incentive does he have? Especially if he is in israel and looks for his students to be his fundraisers in the future? Do you think he would tell his student to go to his local Rav every time he called?

  62. With regard to the right of the town’s rabbi to pasken for the town versus going to another authority, wasn’t that question basically what led to the Hirsch-Bamberger feud?

  63. For info: the chapter before Gil’s frames much of the discussion thread here rather well: download.yutorah.org/2012/1053/777841.pdf

  64. Merely being able to navigate one’s way thru seforim such as SSK is nowhere the same as being able to recognize the issues of nuance, and many other between the lines factors that are the subject of Psak.

  65. R Gil-it would be nice if the gentleman profiled re his research re Starbucks publicized any Piskei Halacha that he received as a result of his investigation into the Metzius of the products manufactured, and sold under Starbuck’s name.

  66. R Gil-I think that oit would be an important public service if the gentleman profiled re his research re Starbucks publicized any Piskei Halacha that he received as a result of his investigation into the Metzius of the products manufactured, and sold under Starbuck’s name.

  67. In the article – “in contemporary application, a rabbi is the sole halakhic authority for members of his synagogue, and no other rabbi has the right to rule on halakhic matters for them. …divergent rulings on many issues can and do lead to disuniform practice and often communal maḥloket.”

    I would say this is not the sociological reality but the rabbi is the halachik authority for just the shul and the matters that effect it. As to the members that is wishful thinking. Most of the analysis seems to be a middle ages paradigm forced onto a contemporary reality which is totally different. There is no mora d’atra nor communal hegemony- . There are communities not a community with homogenous practices and sometimes in the same shul. The rabbi has little control over any community and is not even his own boss in his shul- he reports to a board and sometimes he is fired.
    A new model is needed to account for today’s autonomy in the equation and not simply the rabbi rules we follow ( on a personal level obviously the Rav of the shul is its only halachik decider- see tully Harcsztark ‘s article -authority and autonomy that IH reference above -http://download.yutorah.org/2012/1053/777841.pdf.

  68. You’re convinced by an article that does not contain a single halakhic source?

  69. Last Friday’s NYT profiled a young man whose hobby is checking on the ingredients of various products manufactured and sold by Starbucks. It struck me as a fascinating article, but the attitude conveyed by the subject of the article was that he knew more than the Star K or the CRC who were only interested in rendering a machmir Psak. I found that POV indicative of what R Gil was describing as the problem with Psak rendered by laymen.

    Steve:

    I have a particular problem with the way the CRC handled the whole Starbucks issue, and, for the reason I explain below, is different than what R’ Gil was talking about. It does however, demonstrate the need for a posek to be measured in the way in which his psak is tendered. To recap: up until the past year or so, Starbucks was treated no differently than any other treif restaurant at which one is just purchasing kosher coffee – the official and unofficial positions of kashrut organizations (including the OU) has been that it is permitted. (see http://www.oukosher.org/index.php/common/article/drinking_coffee_on_the_roadv)

    Then R’ Fishbane from the CRC came out with a statement that all beverages from full service Starbucks are not kosher, while pledging that, in due time, he would write up his rationale for this psak. A couple months later he did publish his reason, which turned out to be based on a chumra of the Hazon Ish (that the treif blius in a kli can still be an oser when heated up at a higher temperature than originally. Incidentally, R’ Fishbane chose to bury the whole crux of his chumra into a footnote of his article.) To their credit, the OU did not go along with the CRC’s pronouncement, but instead pointed out that if one feels bound by the chumrot of the HI, then he should not drink coffee at a full service Starbucks, but that wouldn’t be proper to foist such a chumra upon the hamon am.

    R’ Gil’s point about psak of a layman is certainly valid but it needs to be weighed against responsible psak of legitimate posekim.

  70. No – but I think the old model is problematic and does not account for our reality. Autonomy exist and we have to deal with it. It’s just more complex than depicted and the major underlining common denominator is the educated laity and people’s mobility(today’s rav is not tomorrow’s). In the past, the halachik intuition of the common folk also had an effect on Halacha – or do we want to ignore that too -which we do in the halachik framework( e.g. Davening maariv during the daylight in Poland was kashered after the fact, dealing with non Jews etc).

  71. Autonomy exists but that does not make it legitimate. You have to choose to do what is right.

  72. So if one’s shul Rabbi is a YCT musmach, you would also assert that his p’sak is halacha for any member of that shul?

  73. Are you saying you have an halachik right to choose?

  74. IH: Yes, unless he acts incompetently.

    Ruvie: Autonomy is a fact, not necessarily a halakhic right.

  75. The perspectives offered above ate overwhelmingly diaspora based and remnants of shtetlhood and worlds long gone, with good riddance. Here amongst the majority of Jews, the local pulpit Rav is municipal appointed and his domain is the shul and tefilot alone. For most, it is a part time position.The pulpit rabbi has been consciously diminished in Israel as an authority while it has been built up in the States.

    I note that the British/French model conforms closely with the Israeli model. The sociological inquiry is why did American Judaism veer so significantly different path than both Israel and all other mainstream diaspora communities. The answer likely lies in the decentralization from a Chief Rabbi and Big Tent Judaism (largely imposed by government over Jews who otherwise would not have grouped themselves together), and the unique American communal experience of
    איש על מינינו ואיש על דגלו

  76. One of the first comments consistently confronted post Aliya about Rabbis in former diaspora communities, particularly in the US, is that the vast majority of them could not get hired to teach 7th grade girls Navi class were they to come to Israel, let alone lead 500 families on a Torah true path. There is a need for local Rabbinate everywhere, but it mostly relates to whether the chicken in kosher and Eruv is functioning.

    As communities become better integrated worldwide due to travel and communication, these self evident realities are impossible to hide or ignore. That forces an attendant shift of loyalty and authority towards the few true poskim or leaders in the diaspora, rather than the concept that a local suburban pulpit Rabbi possesses any credibility to claim a title of Mora d’atra, which does appear preposterous when visiting the diaspora with eyes now Israeli.

  77. איש על מחניהו ואיש על דגלו
    Autocorrect is just as imperious and inaccurate in Hebrew as it is in English
    🙁

  78. “Ruvie: Autonomy is a fact, not necessarily a halakhic right.”

    But maybe an halachik value worth considering. When there is competing values a posek needs to weigh them carefully.

  79. To be fair, though, the Israeli amcha is segmented like the US. There are some who have re-created neo-medieval society, there are some who have created the neo-Volozhin Centrist RY society and there are some (old-style DL) who make autonomous selective decisions about what, when and who to ask.

  80. And, palms up, I am dubious that Gil really intends for these pulpit Rabbis to be independent agents. His written context is “partnership among rabbis, communal leaders, and roshei yeshivah.” In my corporate commercial lingo, we might crassly call them “bag carriers” for the decision makers.

  81. Didn’t RHS contend many years ago that pulpit rabbis should always defer to ry like him because pulpit rabbis do not know all of shas and should not be posek in major issues and areas?

  82. R. Gil,

    If all matters should be presented to a rabbi, why publish halacha journals in English and why do you write about halachic matters on your blog?

    Why can’t a person who has spent just about as many years in yeshiva as his rabbi not pasken for himself on certain issues? Since paskening is soemtimes a matter of attitude, like you wrote, it’s not clear why I should ask my rabbi a question if I know his attitude and way of thinking is different from mine.

    All that said, I agree with you that ideally, it is nice for congregants to ask their own shul rabbi their questions. This is especially true of communal issues.

  83. “and there are some (old-style DL) who make autonomous selective decisions about what, when and who to ask”

    Try very selective. Old-style DL Jews were and are notorious for being well…quite lax on many things (not just the issues y’all fight about like women’s singing and the like).

  84. According to Rabbi Schachter, community rabbis may rightly function as pastors and policemen; the gedolim or great one’s, are the decisors and authentic Torah authorities. These rabbis may issue rulings based on their intuitions and on that basis command compliance. On his tape, The P’sak Process, R. Schachter authorizes the rabbi with the nisu’in relationship with Torah to rule “from the gut,” with intuitive, Torah informed and inspired instinct. Other rabbis, the teachers in day schools and the pastors in the pulpit, must defer to the nesu’in rabbis blessed with right intuition because, their ordination certificate notwithstanding, they do not have a right to issue an opinion.

    http://www.utj.org/viewpoints/?p=122

  85. “the gedolim or great one’s, are the decisors and authentic Torah authorities”

    Translation:

    Reb Nachum is the ultimate posek for the Jewish world (http://aiwac.blogspot.co.il/2009/12/answer-to-hirhurim.html).

  86. R. Schachter has previously argued for a restrictive model of halakhic discourse in which only certain individuals are entitled to an opinion.

    If one is a then he is entitled and indeed obligated to research each and every halakhic issue and to follow his own personal view on any matter. But, if one is not higia lehoraah (as the overwhelming majority of people who learned in yeshiva would be classified) then one may not pick and chose arbitrarily from amongst the various opinions of the poskim.

    However, R. Schachter does not define exactly who is higi’ah l’hora’ah or how one achieves this status.3 From Kuntres, it is possible he is distinguishing higi’ah l’hora’ah with ba’al mesorah, where one can decide for himself but cannot speak for others, or if the two are in fact synonymous. In either case, pesak must only be made by approved people, but only those with the requisite experience may speak on behalf of the gedolim. I would suggest that for R. Schachter the two must work in tandem, since otherwise anyone who was in the Rav’s shiur 40 years ago would have equal standing for interpreting R. Soloveitchik – a common perception considering how many people claim to speak for R. Soloveitchik.
    Practically speaking, R. Schachter’s suggestion further restricts the possibility of personal autonomy in following halakha. Only certain people allowed to go back to the original sources, and everyone else must ask them for halakhic decisions. However, even though one may have a pesak for one case, or observes how someone paskened in another case, one still should not repeat the pesak in other instances, but ostensibly should once again ask for another pesak. In other words, the solution to people not being able to follow the gadol system correctly, is to have an intermediary to explain and apply the gadol’s pesak for us.

    source
    http://joshyuter.com/2006/07/25/judaism/jewish-law-halakha/review-of-r-schachters-recent-kuntres/

    Most rabbanim who have semichah are not qualified to issue an original pesak – not just on a new she’eilah that comes up, but even an old one where there are different opinions. If a person does not have the tradition of how to navigate and decide, he is simply not eligible to do so. The Gemara in Avodah Zarah (5a) says that you have to be 40 years old to paskn a halachic question, unless there is no other talmid chacham over the age of forty who is available. I once taught this in public, and Dr. Lamm got very upset with me, saying that we are not going to withhold every musmach‘s semichah until he is forty. I responded, though, that if a musmach is going to lead a community where there is no one else over the age of forty who is qualified to paskn, you have no bereirah (choice) and should grant him semichah. Otherwise, if he is going to live in New York, there are plenty of other talmidei chachamim over 40 available by telephone. In such a case, it is inappropriate for such a young musmach to paskn.

    http://www.kolhamevaser.com/2010/07/an-interview-with-rabbi-hershel-schachter/

  87. I know this is off-topic, but I think this might be the best place to ask this question: Does anyone know where in Petach Tikva I can hear the haftara read from a klaf? I’m going to be there this Shabbat, and that is a hakpada of mine.

  88. The Gemara in Avodah Zarah (5a) says that you have to be 40 years old to paskn a halachic question, unless there is no other talmid chacham over the age of forty who is available. I once taught this in public, and Dr. Lamm got very upset with me, saying that we are not going to withhold every musmach‘s semichah until he is forty.

    Actually, I think this is an excellent idea. Let every man go out and join the work force, and experience life as a Ba’al HaBeit, perhaps even struggle with the financial and social difficulties associated with being Jewish before he tries to give advice to people on how to live, and pasken halacha for people.

  89. Prof. Kaplan
    I would not go so far as to say that I support the “frum” position. I argue that personal authority of the rabbi is one of several models found in chazal that are in tension with each other.
    I think Chazal were well aware of the fact that it is not a simple matter to define “who is a rabbi” or “Who is the more authoritative rabbi”. The Mishnah at least leaves these questions open. There is always room for chachamim to be challenged.

    IH
    I got the sense that you were challenging the entire notion of rabbinic authority. Perhaps I misread you.

  90. The reason I don’t accept the “married to the Torah and therefore I know what the Torah wants” argument is because

    1) some couples are married for decades and still do not understand one another at all, and

    2) which Torah are these gedolim married to? Won’t someone married to the writings of Rav Schach have a different intuition of what Torah wants than someone who is married to the writings of the Rambam?

  91. How much of the “value” of autonomy is grounded in the mesorah and how much in “the spirit of the times”? How much should halacha take into account “the spirit of the times”? IMHO the spectrum articulated in these comments is quite informative – ranging from the “roll your own” school to the “always ask the poseik sschool”. I suppose history will paskin on where the cut off in the spectrum is for orthodoxy.
    KT

  92. “Didn’t RHS contend many years ago that pulpit rabbis should always defer to ry like him because pulpit rabbis do not know all of shas and should not be posek in major issues and areas?”

    It appears in this issue RHS may be different than the Rav-the Rav would at times refuse to pasken for local Rabbonim who were his talmidim on issues-his answer would be to them when asked a sheilah what do you expect me to say YOU’RE THERE. The Rav would offer to go through the sugya with the student etc but at the end often he would say you must pasken and make your own decision I’m not there.

  93. I got the sense that you were challenging the entire notion of rabbinic authority.

    Moshe – To the contrary, I’m with Moshe Halbertal: http://msatlow.blogspot.com/2011/03/were-rabbis-revolutionary.html

  94. “) which Torah are these gedolim married to? Won’t someone married to the writings of Rav Schach have a different intuition of what Torah wants than someone who is married to the writings of the Rambam?”

    Pleas compare relevant comparibles. I think your statement would be stronger if you said Rambam and Ramban.

    “How much of the “value” of autonomy is grounded in the mesorah and how much in “the spirit of the times”?”

    IMO the question really isn’t about autonomy. The Talmud and other literature is full of rabbis who make autonomous decisions for the community they live in without asking others first if it’s ok. The question is which people are allowed to make these autonomous decisions. What is the exact criteria. Is it a piece of paper, or an amount of knowledge.

  95. Baruch: If all matters should be presented to a rabbi, why publish halacha journals in English and why do you write about halachic matters on your blog?

    Because learning Torah is a mitzvah.

    Why can’t a person who has spent just about as many years in yeshiva as his rabbi not pasken for himself on certain issues?

    Because pesak is a skill that must be learned. One sugya is not enough. You need breadth as well as depth, in addition to the training of decision-making (also known as shimush talmidei chakhamim).

    GG: According to Rabbi Schachter, community rabbis may rightly function as pastors and policemen; the gedolim or great one’s, are the decisors and authentic Torah authorities

    I don’t believe this is accurate. He allows for community rabbis to pasken on small issues. But complex issues that require broad knowledge need to be taken to bigger experts. This is really the way it works in every field.

  96. IH-would you agree with Professor Moshe Halbertal that “Halacha was an invention of the rabbis” as opposed to being the process and decisions by which a Divinely Given TSBP was transmitted orally? I think that one can argue that such a claim is well beyond any traditional definition or understanding of what Halacha means and implies. I don’t have the ET in front of me, so I will reserve the right to comment further expand and comment on this issue.

  97. Steve — I know nuance is not your thing, but you should listen to the video of the session with Prof. Halbertal before you jump to conclusions. He is making a distinction between Mitzvot (pre-Mishna) and Halacha (starting with the Mishna).

  98. R Gil-could you provide a link to this article(http://download.yutorah.org/2012/1053/777841.pdf ? The YU Torah site is not cooperating.

  99. I was able to access the above referenced and discussed article. I have a simple question for the author-what does he view as the purpose of a Torah education in the MO world-does he view the same as merely the Jewish studies component of the equivalent of an excellent private school education or the transmission of a Mesorah of Torah, Avodah and Gmilus Chasadim? I agree with R Gil-an article that discusses autonomy without discussing, and recgnizing the primary goals of a Torah education in the MO world really did not add to the discussion, except as to suggest, as opposed to CJ’s Holmes’infamous comment with respect to challenged children, that MO can tolerate another generation of marginally educated and committed youth and adults.

  100. G Pickholz raises the issue of differences between Israel and the US to which I responded. This morning, though, Ari Enkin made a comment in his post that reminded me of one difference in the “mesorah” that is becoming increasingly relevant. For context, he wrote “ Sefardim who find themselves living among Ashkenazim”.

    This raises an interesting question about both process and “mesorah”. Unlike in galus, mixed Sephardi/Ashkenazi marriages are increasingly common, which e.g. has led many – even among the RW — to believe that the kitniyot ban is unsustainable in Israel for more than another generation, at most.

    The halachic process has largely been stovepiped to historic Diaspora communities. The re-uniting of historic Jewish communities into one nation, with an ever increasing familial admixture has ramifications for Rabbinic authority in regard to p’sak.

  101. Lets emphasize the fact that this history of pre mishnaic halakha is highly speculative. What is clear is that the Mishnah is very different from bayit sheni sources available to us. However, these sources represent what scholars call “priestly halacha” (roughly speaking zedukim and beitusim) as opposed to rabbinic halakha. We know very little about the history of rabbinic halacha before hillel and shammai and nothing about how it was formulated and transmited. So its hard to speak with any certainty about a rabbinic revolution.

  102. R’ J.,
    Thank you for your kind words, and – moreover – ye’yasher kochakha for illuminating my eyes with the source from Shu”t Divrei Chakhamim (quoting R. Scheinberg). Fascinating…

  103. mixed Sephardi/Ashkenazi marriages are increasingly common, which e.g. has led many – even among the RW — to believe that the kitniyot ban is unsustainable in Israel for more than another generation, at most.

    Or maybe the custom to permit kitniyot is unsustainable for more than another generation at most? That sounds more realistic to me – “datiim” will not eat kitniyot, and “hilonim”/”mesoratiim” who eat kitniyot along with anything else that doesn’t LOOK like chametz. This will be a result of the general tendency to chumra, along with the fact that many Sefardi communities do already reject certain forms of kitniyot.

  104. IH: What’s the difficulty? My brother-in-law married a Sephardi girl and they have no problem refraining from kitniyos. His in-laws don’t serve it when he’s there for Pesach. My sister married a Sephardi boy and now eats kitniyos.

    I’ve never seen anyone claim that Gebrokts is unsustainable because Chasidim and non-Chasidim intermarry.

  105. I think that the notion that Kitniyos or Gebrokts are unsustainable Mimhagim requires more than merely claiming that they are casualties of kibutz Galiyos, especially with a strong Sefardic community both in Israel and the Diaspora that value adhering to communal customs.

  106. Ruvie wrote in part, paraphrasing an article that we have been discussing:

    “The rabbi has little control over any community and is not even his own boss in his shul- he reports to a board and sometimes he is fired”

    Once a rav is voted a lifetime contract, the above stated factors would seem to be irrelevant.

  107. IH-
    “Steve — I know nuance is not your thing but you should listen to the video of the session with Prof. Halbertal before you jump to conclusions. He is making a distinction between Mitzvot (pre-Mishna) and Halacha (starting with the Mishna).”

    I don’t have time. Do you mind summing up?

    “The extensive and systematic treatment of academic halakhic problems (grabbing on to a halakhic issue “like the proverbial dog with a bone,” in Cohen’s memorable analogy); its conceptualization; and the inclusion of rabbinic disagreements all set it apart from previous literature. Even more so, Halbertal especially emphasized the novelty of the entire halakhic process – halakhah itself was an invention of the Rabbis, he argued.”

    From my un-nuanced reading, it would seem that this kind of approach comletely legitimates Coservative Judaism and possibly delegitimates O Judaism. Does it?

  108. G Pickholz wrote:

    “As communities become better integrated worldwide due to travel and communication, these self evident realities are impossible to hide or ignore. That forces an attendant shift of loyalty and authority towards the few true poskim or leaders in the diaspora, rather than the concept that a local suburban pulpit Rabbi possesses any credibility to claim a title of Mora d’atra, which does appear preposterous when visiting the diaspora with eyes now Israeli”

    I think that one can argue that communal needs in the Diaspora are quite different than in Israel, and that, regardless of how one views Jewish life in Israel versus the US, both communities could learn a lot from each other.

  109. IH wrote:

    “Steve — I know nuance is not your thing, but you should listen to the video of the session with Prof. Halbertal before you jump to conclusions. He is making a distinction between Mitzvot (pre-Mishna) and Halacha (starting with the Mishna”

    Just curious-what role, if any, does Prof. Halbertal assign to David HaMelech, Shlomoh HaMelech, the Neviim and the Anshei Kneses HaGedolah who are viewed as the proponents of many Halachos way before the time of the Mishnah?

  110. R’SS,
    I must have missed it-where is the video?
    KT

  111. steve b.- “Once a rav is voted a lifetime contract, the above stated factors would seem to be irrelevant.”

    i know of no shuls that have given their rabbi lifetime contracts in the last 20 years. even though the rabbi of my shul has been there close to 25 years his contract never exceeded 10 years.
    lifetime contracts do not exist in the mo community anymore in general (of course r’ lookstein and some others are very rare exceptions)

  112. 3:16 was ruvie

  113. “The extensive and systematic treatment of academic halakhic problems (grabbing on to a halakhic issue “like the proverbial dog with a bone,” in Cohen’s memorable analogy); its conceptualization; and the inclusion of rabbinic disagreements all set it apart from previous literature. Even more so, Halbertal especially emphasized the novelty of the entire halakhic process – halakhah itself was an invention of the Rabbis, he argued.”

    From my un-nuanced reading, it would seem that this kind of approach comletely legitimates Coservative Judaism and possibly delegitimates O Judaism. Does it?

    Why? So the tannaim were more talkative about their religious obligations than were their predecessors. Does anyone think their predecessors did not feel religious obligations? What is the evidence that the predecessors perceived their obligations to be different from those of the tannaim? Did the predecessors really reject the idea of obligation by communal decision, which we find with the tannaim, and which is a major lacking in Conservative Judaism?

  114. Ruvie-I can’t believe that lifetime contracts in the MO world, and in YIs, are a thing of the past.

  115. Shlomo quoted this as part of a quoted excerpt:

    “Even more so, Halbertal especially emphasized the novelty of the entire halakhic process – halakhah itself was an invention of the Rabbis, he argued”

    A simple yet admittedly unapologetically unuanced question-Is that the same or the equivalent as denying that the elastic clause that R Gil quoted ( Devarim 17:8-10) which is a source for the development of a Divinely Given TSBP was R”L solely ” an invention of the Rabbbis”? If so, one can argue that the same is nothing more than CJ boiled over, and a denial of the Mesorah of TSBP?

  116. IH-One should always speak with nuance. Yet, those who live in glass houses should not cast stones. Professor Halbertal’s POV, as illustrated by the above posted excerpt, raises questions how he understands the origin of such Halachos as Eruvin, Netilas Yadayim, Yichud, some aspects of Muktzeh and other Gzeros associated with Hilcos Shabbos that the Tanaim understood were developed centuries before Churban Bayis Rishon.

  117. What’s the difficulty?

    Gil — the more general point has not been addressed: The halachic process has largely been stovepiped to historic Diaspora communities. The re-uniting of historic Jewish communities into one nation, with an ever increasing familial admixture has ramifications for Rabbinic authority in regard to p’sak.

    Is your solution simply that the “mesorah” of the male wins and we continue to have stovepipes? E.g. psak for your sister and her kids is from the Sephardim; and psak for your sister-in-law and her kids is from the Ashkenazim?

  118. IH-Look at it this way. Your thesis re Kitniyos, Gebrochts, Ashkenazim and Sefardim would make sense if Kibutz Galiyos meant that all differences in halacha and minhag would be eradicated. Can you point to any sources that support such a contention?Except for the unified Nusach HaTefillah in the IDF, why should Ashkenazim and Sefardim depart from Minhagim of ancient vintage?

  119. If you move into a community which has a unified minhag then you follow it. Otherwise you follow the minhag from where you came.

    This applies whether you are moving within Israel (e.g. from the Galil to Yehudah), outside Israel or from one to the other. It is not a Diaspora attitude but from the Mishnah.

    If you are not moving but just visiting, you follow the stringencies of where you came from and where you are visiting, as per the Mishnah.

    And yes, family minhag follow the husband.

    This solves all problems. There is no need to solve a problem that has already been solved.

  120. Steve — I am not the first person to observe this, nor will I be the last. Here’s a source from 2009: http://forward.com/articles/104483/pesach-kitniyot-rebels-roil-rabbis-as-some-ashkena/

  121. Nu, some people aren’t so frum. Nothing new under the sun.

  122. shaul s. – “From my un-nuanced reading, it would seem that this kind of approach comletely legitimates Coservative Judaism and possibly delegitimates O Judaism. Does it?”

    why would you think that? unfortunately, we have very little knowledge of pre-churban halachik process with any primary sources – outside of neviim and ketuvim which is not that helpful in this area (although daniel is quite novel (with hints of rabbinic ideas) especially if its dated around 168 bce)

  123. I think that’s sticking one’s head in the sand, but I won’t argue the point. Time will tell.

  124. Shaul — The book you want is Prof. Schiffman’s From Text to Tradition. It’s getting a bit old (1991) but has the advantage of being considered kosher by many in YU.

    http://www.amazon.com/gp/offer-listing/0881253723/ref=sr_1_1_olp

  125. We also are very friendly with a family whose father is Sefardic and whose mother is Ashkenazic. Their sons and their families follow Sefardic customs. Their daughters, who married Ashkemazic young men, follow their husbands’ customs. I am positive that this is hardly a sociological rarety.

  126. Steve: It’s only a reason for change if you want change and are looking for a hook on which to hang your hat.

  127. Ruvie-see my post of 5:23 PM. The Talmud clearly assumes that the mitzvos, gzeros and issurim that I mentioned originated with the Neviim, regardless of whether there was “discussion” or not.

  128. Ruvie-the fact that the Talmud states that a particular Halacha can be traced to Anshei Kneses HaGdedolah , a Navi or David HaMelech or Shlomoh HaMelech does not imply that in the absence of verifiable proof that the same was invented later by the Tanaim and merely latched onto a Passuk ala an Asmachta. Even with respect to an Asmachta, one must remember that there is what is called an Asmachta Chashuvah and an Asmachta Balma , just as there is a Shvus Rchokah, Shvus Krovah or Chamur or Shvus Balma. Viewing all such Halachos as purely a rabbinic invention IMO raises questions as to nuance.

  129. Ruvie – i said very simply we do not have rabbinic sources pre churban as a primary source to judge the halachik process.
    we have traditions like takanot yehoshua bin nun, david, shlomo and ezra etc. but we really do not know what the jews did and how they lived on a day to day basis (even post churban until much later – primary source data just doesn’t exists). nothing wrong with tradition – its just not history as we know it today.

  130. Ruvie-Aside from Halachos whose origin the Talmud traces to the Neviim and Dovid HaMelech, Shlomoh HaMelech, we also have many halachos that fall within the rubric of Halacha LMoshe MiSinai-I am curious how Professor Halbertal views this area in Halacha.

  131. R Gil-I agree with your post of 6:22 PM

  132. Ruvie wrote in part:

    “we have traditions like takanot yehoshua bin nun, david, shlomo and ezra etc.”

    I think that the Talmud views the above as more than merely “traditions” , but in many cases the actual personae who formulated and instituted such halachos as Eruvin, Yichud, Netilas Yadayim, many aspects of Hilcos Shabbos, etc.

  133. steve b. – tradition is a very important concept in ancient jewish history – like halacha moshe m’sinai. the word tradition may mean something different to you than me.
    on another note is the reliability of who made these takaknot (or halachot) less, equal or greater to the the reliability that our sages attributed to who wrote sefrei neviim and ketuvim?

  134. “Once a rav is voted a lifetime contract, the above stated factors would seem to be irrelevant.”

    Except that no lifetime contract that I know of includes the salary which must be voted on by the Board, and which can therefore be reduced. The main purposes of the lifetime contract are (a) to show kavod to the rabbi and (b) to preclude the need for a congregational vote when the contract is up. But if the board wants to get rid of him (maybe one day I can add or her), all they have to do is cut his salary in half.

  135. Thank you for a very stimulating essay. I’ve been thinking a lot about it in the two days it has been posted. I have one response to a comment:

    “Do you really believe that one is not allowed to follow a contemporary halacha sefer that presents a synopsis of opinions on the topic and is machria one way or the other (say Shmiras Shabbos Kehilchasah) without consulting one’s rav first? ”

    When I was first becoming frum I was warned about halachah sefers — that they often take excessively machmir positions, sometimes take non-normative positions unique to the author of the sefer, sometimes reflect only the customs of a single time and place. I am grateful that my teachers were adamant that one must have a rav for shilahs. Since then I’ve been surprised at how many frum Jews I’ve met who don’t have a rav, often self-paskening and frequently being machmir out of ignorance.

  136. Speaking of contemporary halacha seforim, I noticed something pretty recently in the 4 volume (English) 39 melachos sefer (Rabbi Ribiat).

    I looked something up in the sefer and it said about a certain act something along the lines of “should be avoided.”

    I looked in the reference section of the sefer at the footnote, and the Mishna Berurah (I believe) said “one who refrains, tavo alav bracha.” To me, that is a very incorrect translation.

    So I would suggest that if you use English halacha seforim (particularly that one), you look up the sources as much as possible.

    (If editors find this to be loshon hora, they can remove it. I think it’s not but I could be wrong.)

  137. Rabbi Ribiat’s books are definitely on the list of books to be avoided. There is not doubt that he has elevated machmir posotions to “normative” and that he has suppressed normative mekil positions.

  138. Tlaking about Halacha Mi’Moshe mi’Sinai, I reminded of a story, the origins of which I do not know.

    Moshe Rabenu was given the opportunity to see what Judaism was like in the times of Hillel. Moshe sat at the back of the auditorium to listen to a shuir by Hillel. Throughout the course of the shiur Moshe got increasingly confused and distressed, since the Halachot that Hillel was paskening where completely foreign to him. Hillel, in the tradition of the Talmud was trying to source the halachot to the TANACH, and ultimately couldn’t. Ultimately Hillel was forced to conclude that the Halacha was halach mi’Moshe mi’Sinai. (The story ends with “to Moshe’s satisfaction.)

    Again with out knowing the source of the story, the lesson of the story is that the debates of the Talmud reflect a codification of the practices of the people at or around the time of Ta’nim and Amori’im, and to justify/rationalize them in the context of the TANACH. They do tells us very little about how Moshe, or David HaMelech or Mordechai practised their Judaism.

  139. Yossi, that story is a quite famous midrash 🙂 I believe it’s in the Talmud but I don’t know where.

  140. Since then I’ve been surprised at how many frum Jews I’ve met who don’t have a rav, often self-paskening and frequently being machmir out of ignorance.
    =====================================
    seemingly worse is to be lenient out of ignorance.
    KT

  141. Yossi/Avi — Bavli Menachot 29b. It’s R. Akiva (not Hillel).

    —–

    R’ Joel — it doesn’t take a Talmid Chacham to be machmir 🙂

  142. So I just compared Yossi’s story to Menachot, and the differences are quite striking.

    I won’t go through them, but this blog has a nice (though controversial) reading of it.

    http://adderabbi.blogspot.co.il/2005/01/talmudic-reading-of-menachot-29b-zoo.html

  143. Lawrence Kaplan

    Yossi: You do not know the source of one of the most famous stories in the Talmud (alongside the oven of Akhnai), get it wrong in many ways–starting with the protaganist!–and are unfamiliar with the extensive literature on it. I do not understand, then, how you can presume to “enlighten ” us as to its point and use it to pronounce on complex issues of halakhic development.

  144. Perhaps Tal can tell us “the correct way” to read that story.

    Incidentally, the issue of chopping a Rabbinic authority has a modern analogue in the fate of R. Horowitz of Bolechow on 28 October 1941 as recounted in The Lost: http://tinyurl.com/7wmvfj3

  145. Prof. Kaplan — not everyone is as learned as Steve Brizel.

  146. Lawrence Kaplan

    IH: My point was NOT that Yossi was not learned. It was that he presumed to pronounce regarding a complex issue concerning which he knew he was not learned.

    Regarding the Haredi reading of the story, I believe that generally they follow the reading of Rashi. I forget offhand how Art Scroll reads it. There is an interesting article on the story by Shlmo Havlin in the Rackman Jubilee Volume.There is, obviously. much more to say.

  147. Prof. Kaplan — You missed my point, but I will not belabor it.

  148. Lawrence Kaplan

    IH: I did NOT miss it. I deliberately ignored it.

  149. MiMedinat HaYam

    r gil — “I’ve never seen anyone claim that Gebrokts is unsustainable because Chasidim and non-Chasidim intermarry”

    those advocating “gebrokts” are more “powerful” than those advocating “no kitniyot”. for various (sociological) reasons.

    and by the way, gebrokts or not is not necessarily a chassidic / non chassidic thing. (though it may have become that, due to various sociological rwasons.)

    2. there is a simple solution i know of, that was used in several cases, including one playing out right now in suburban new jersey — buy out the (supposed) rabbi’s lifetime contract.

    and r lookstein and such cases involve mosdot that are (essentialy) the private property of the rabbi family involved.

  150. Thank you Lawrence for putting me back in my place.

    A good teacher, rather than embarrass and denigrate the student who errs would explain how this midrash does not address the issue under discussion and perhaps provide an explaination.

  151. Lawrence Kaplan

    Yossi: I aplogize if I was overly sharp. But my objection was NOT that you got the story wrong. It was that you wrote “Without knowing the aource, the lesson is.” It was that note of unearned definiteness which upset me.

  152. Lawrence Kaplan

    Yossi: To elaborate, had you written something along the lines of “It seems to me the lesson is…. Am I correct?” I would not have responded as I did.

  153. Ruvie wrote:

    “tradition is a very important concept in ancient jewish history – like halacha moshe m’sinai. the word tradition may mean something different to you than me.
    on another note is the reliability of who made these takaknot (or halachot) less, equal or greater to the the reliability that our sages attributed to who wrote sefrei neviim and ketuvim”

    If I understand your comment correctly, you are not just raisng questions as to Chazal’s views on the authors of Nach, but also as to how Chazal understood as the recipients of TSBP as the fact that the Neviim instituted many Halachos as well.

    WADR, the issue of who wrote what sefer in Tanach is a fascinating historical issue, but has no effect on the Kedushah of the sefer as part of Tanach. It is and remains a subject for historians and Bible critics to explore.

    AFAIK, when Chazal state very categorically which Takanos were instituted by a Navi or by David HaMelech, that means the Takanah or Halacha in question is a very old Halacha, as opposed to a relatively recent Gzerah or Takanah of the Tanaim. WADR, merely viewing a Halacha LMoshe MiSinai as a tradition cannot be reconciled with how the same is understood-a Halacha of a Torah level that has no explicit source but has been understood as being such through every generation.

  154. IH wrote:

    “Prof. Kaplan — not everyone is as learned as Steve Brizel”

    There is nothing worse than a LW MO who bemoans the fact that his POV is rejected and then hides behind the false mantle of freedom of speech and castigates his opponents as engaging in intellectual McCarthyism as if the rejected POV is alluded to in Isisah 53.

    I never claimed to be as learned as IH would imply. OTOH, I don’t engage in linking articles of a predicatable POV as evidence of a particular fact or in viewing anything that purports to be scholarly academic Jewish studies as infinitely superior to anthing from Chazal, Rishonim and Acharonim or in substituting my POV for what Halacha demands from an observant Jew in observance and attitude. I also don’t consider individuals , no matter how learned, who substitute their own POV for what Halacha or Ikarei Emunah demand, as individuals whose works constitute a Cheftzah Shel Torah or within the ballpark of traditional Jewish thought-no matter how observant the person is in his or her own life.

  155. Steve b.- i commented to your post:
    “more than merely “traditions” , but in many cases the actual personae who formulated and instituted such halachos as Eruvin, Yichud, Netilas Yadayim, many aspects of Hilcos Shabbos, etc.”

    You stated the “actual personae” and WADR – are we back to THAT already- I question the accuracy of your statement which is IMHO not accurate at all. It’s pretty simple.
    I am not sure you understand the concept of what Halacha moshe m’sinai means in how complicated it is and the changes of its meaning from Mishnah to post Talmudic times.

  156. Steve b. – “when Chazal state very categorically which Takanos were instituted by a Navi or by David HaMelech, that means the Takanah or Halacha in question is a very old Halacha, as opposed to a relatively recent Gzerah or Takanah of the Tanaim”

    Nice to see we agree on something and that was my point when you said they were instituted by so and so. My question originally was if chazal can err on who wrote parts of tanach so too can we question when certain takanot came into being ( assuming we have a reason for that question). And we both are true wouldn’t you agree that historical references in the Talmud are also questionable at times when we have other evidence? That goes back to the original argument of the historical accuracy of aggadot. Now we are full circle. Thank you.
    Shabbat shalom

  157. Steve b. – “but also as to how Chazal understood as the recipients of TSBP as the fact that the Neviim instituted many Halachos as well.”

    Not at all. I think everyone assumes that every generation instituted something for whatever reasons – k’ yiftach bedoro…and we have a tradition that x instated this and y instituted that.

  158. Ruvie wrote:

    “I am not sure you understand the concept of what Halacha moshe m’sinai means in how complicated it is and the changes of its meaning from Mishnah to post Talmudic times.”

    Please see how Rambam in Perush HaMishnayos defines Halacha LMoshe MiSinai-a Mitzvah Min Torah without an explicit Torah source. Please show how the meaning changed in terms of any Halacha so defined from the Mishna to post Talmudic times in terms of how Halacha LMoshe Sinai was defined.

  159. Ruvie wrote:

    “Not at all. I think everyone assumes that every generation instituted something for whatever reasons – k’ yiftach bedoro…and we have a tradition that x instated this and y instituted that”

    Please prove that when Chazal stated that Dovid HaMelech, Shlomoh HaMelech or any of the Neviim instituted any of the Halachos so attributed by Chazal, it was not for the specific reason of further explicating a Mitzvah Min HaTorah or as a necessary Gzerah or Takanah. For instance, see how Rambam in Hilcos Shabbos 30 :1 explains Kavod VOneg Shabbos, and Hilcos Eruvin 1:2 explains the origins of Eruvin.

  160. Steve b. – on the rambam – are you saying he is the only definition of what it means? Does everyone accepts is definition….is part of his definition contradictory ( like Arafat where there is a machlokrt?)?
    All I am saying its that the concept is complicated and one can see the difference between mishna and the Talmud rio the rambam.
    Do you know how many times Halacha moshe m’sinai is mentioned in the mishna ?

  161. Sorry – auto correct… Aravah not arafat…

  162. Steve b.- do not understand your second point – what does have to do with the simple point I was trying to make with the accuracy of the authors of takanot with author of books

  163. Ruvie-take a look at the Encylcopedia Talmnudis entry on Halacha LMoshe MiSinai. Then we can discuss the normative versus the “scholarly” view on the issue.

  164. Steve b. – I did plus the rambam. All I am saying that it’s complicated and there is a difference between Mishnah to yerushalmi to bavli and whethere it’s early yerushalmi and late. I don’t think we disagree as much as you think. Just ithat it may not mean it literally – but some times it does. I am sure we will revisit this discussion some other time.

  165. Steve b. – you have avoided my question above. Some other time I guess.

  166. Ruvie-The Maharatz Chayos has a wonderful sefer ( The Student’s Guide Through the Talmud) which R Gil republished, which explains in very cogent and logical fashion the differences between Halacha and Aggadah, and why we follow Chazal in Halacha and why Aggados Chazal( at least prior to the the writings of Maharal) were nowhere viewed as having the same weight in terms of Parshanut, etc,

  167. Ruvie wrote in part:

    “All I am saying that it’s complicated and there is a difference between Mishnah to yerushalmi to bavli and whethere it’s early yerushalmi and late. I don’t think we disagree as much as you think. Just ithat it may not mean it literally – but some times it does.”

    Let’s be intellectually honest. The above quoted post is merely indicative of the fact that you prefer to use methodology associated with Academic Talmud to approach the question. RYBS once commented with respect to the Halacha LMoshe MiSinai of Lavod that the absence of trees and wood may have been a historical fact, but has no relevance to the fact that there is such a Halacha LMoshe MiSinai. Obviously, if one, who to paraphrase the Ramban , is Ragil Blashonos HaTalmud, it is easy to distinguish when the Talmud is stating that the source of a Mitzvah Min HaTorah is a Halacha LMoshe MiSinai as opposed to when the Talmud is using the phrase as a Guzma.

  168. Ruvie wrote in part:

    “Do you know how many times Halacha moshe m’sinai is mentioned in the mishna ”

    See Rabbeinu Chananel on Pesachim 38b.

  169. “, it is easy to distinguish when the Talmud is stating that the source of a Mitzvah Min HaTorah is a Halacha LMoshe MiSinai as opposed to when the Talmud is using the phrase as a Guzma”

    so presumably no talmidei chachamim ever disagree on which is which?

Leave a Reply

Subscribe to our Weekly Newsletter


The latest weekly digest is also available by clicking here.

Subscribe to our Daily Newsletter

Archives

Categories

%d bloggers like this: