Thursday, 8 September 2011

Results of Poll on: Drawing the Line in Halachah

In our last poll, we inquired

New Poll: Drawing the Line in Halachah

Where do we draw the line in Halachah?
We would clearly define anyone who says "Tanach
is Holy, but Talmud does not count" as a "Karaite"
and outside the pale but where would you actually
draw the line

Here are some possible models to choose from.
Pick the one that matches your preference
A. I accept all Normative Halachah as currently
defined by my rebbe, by my mara d'atra, or by
my community.
B. I accept the Mishna Brurah as poseik acharon.
C. I accept the National Consensus of Shulchan
Aruch and Rema with nosei keilim. No more,
no less.
D The Rambam's Mishneh Torah is a perfect
restatement of all of TSBP. I embrace that w/o
E. I accept the National Consensus of Talmud Bavli
as Poseik Acharon. Everything else is mere opinion,
interpretation or custom, but not legally binding

What is Your View?

Your Responses (total 10)
Choice A - 30% (3)
Choice B -
00% (0)
Choice C - 20% (2)
Choice D - 30% (3) 
Choice E - 20% (2)

Rabbi Hecht

The first thing that hits me about this overall response is that Choice B did not receive any votes. When I was in yeshiva, the generally accepted view was that the Mishneh Brurah was the poseik acharon and was the definitive view that had to be followed. With these responses, we seem to have moved to the right and to the left. With Choice A, by saying that one is bound to the psak of a rebbi or even a community, one's personal view -- even one's personal reading of a statement in the Mishneh Brura -- is overridden. In contrast, with Choices C and D, one is extending one's realm of personal decision making, with E obviously more extensive that C. 
E is actually an interesting choice that could be challenged, by many, as even a legitimate choice. While there may be some debate and disagreement over choices A, B, and C, I don't think many would contend that any of these three choices are outside the pale. In the case of Choice E, I think many would say that it is.  It may be interesting to run the same poll in the future but, rather than asking which view you prefer, asking which views you believe to be outside the parameters of Orthodoxy.
One may have noticed that I haven't commented on Choice D. I find the results regarding this choice to be most interesting. What does it mean? Of course, Teimanim would clearly make this choice but I doubt that all the respondents who chose Choice D were Teimanim. One could contend that many Sefardim could also have made such a choice and that is a possibility, but only because they would find this choice to be the closest to their real choice, that is that they follow the Beit Yosef. In that Choice C includess references to the Rema and the nosei keilim of the Shulchan Aruch, they may have not liked that choice and concluded that they would rather choose D over C. In the end, though, this choice may just simply show the extent of the influence of the Rambam in our learning world, either because of the influence of Brisk or perhaps the influence of the academic world. I find it interesting, though, that whatever the influence, it has affected the world of psak to the extent that there are some who would even place the Rambam ahead of the Shulchan Aruch.


micha said...

I didn't vote because I didn't see my own position represented. I would need to add in

B'. I accept the Arukh haShulchan as poseik acharon.

and then mix in some A, to get something like:

I believe my rebbe or poseiq defines halakhah, and on questions where I couldn't / haven't yet gotten his opinion, the AhS.

micha said...

Another reason for the popularity of voting for the Yad -- it's simple and clearcut and easy to use. People want the ease of clarity rather than grappling with "gray matters".

Bob Miller said...


Do you use multiple poskim depending on subject matter, familiarity with parties to a dispute, or other criteria?

micha said...

I use multiple poseqim depending on the year the question came up and whether it is taharas hamishpachah (for which asking a rebbe-chaver is embarassing).

I haven't needed pesaq in a dispute, ba"h.

Nishma said...


It is interesting that you mention the Aruch HaShulchan as, when RRW and I discussed this poll, the name came up as a possible other option. In a certain way, I felt that option C actually represented this opinion for those who use the AH generally, I would say, want his general overview of the issue as part of the psak process. It is the methodology of the AH that draws people to his voice in psak and we thought C represented that idea. Not exactly the same but that was our reasoning.
I find it interesting what you said about taharas hamishpachah. Of course, what you generally hear out there is that one should not handle personal taharas hamishpacha questions as one could be biased. You are presenting the other side -- that there is a reason to handle personal questions of this nature because of their private nature (in line with a concept of tzniut.) It is my belief, and this is just but one example, that the call upon the Jew is pasken for oneself. This, of course, means that the call -- as far as one can -- is to develop the skills to do so to the extent that you are able. In a certain way, the idea of a poseik acharon is somewhat of a cop out in that it allows people to not accept the challenge that is placed upon them to strive to reach the skills.

Rabbi Ben Hecht

micha said...

The Arukh haShulchan has two things that commend it that placed it in the role in my life that I described:

1- In general, a ruling of the AhS is an exercise in finding the textual strength for practice as close to Litvisher common practice as possible.

For someone whose ancestry runs through Litta, this means the AhS allows a richer mix of cultural tradition and textual argument than (e.g.) the Mishnah Berurah.

2- Because of the above, my rebbe told me this is the role the AhS ought to have in my then-new home.

Thus my poseiq of the time pasqened the AhS should be my fallback assumption.

As for taharas hamishpachah... I think you misunderstood. My usual poseiq is a rebbe chaver. I go to a more dry analytical Brisker poseiq for ThM questions because he is more clinical about it. Asking a friend, no matter how much more knowledgable than I, can get weird.

BTW, WRT ThM, often one is even teased by the difficulty of being objective about not only the question, but whether the question should even be asked.