Monday, October 12, 2009

Arguing with the Gadol HaDor

Rabbi Leib Tropper, of kanno'us and EJF fame, has a blog in which he recently wrote that it is forbidden to challenge the halachic ruling of a Posek HaDor who is alive. He quotes the Yaavetz as his source, presumably referring to Teshuvos Yaavetz 1:5. It's a very long teshuvah but I can't see where the Yaavetz says such a thing (in fact, the Yaavetz very much stresses the importance of not honoring people over the perceived truth of Torah), nor do I find it easy to imagine that he could say such a thing. Rav Moshe Feinstein certainly did not believe this; his teshuvah on this topic is a must-read and you can download it here.


  1. Here is a google link to a famous comment from the Ruach Chaim(1:4 )about being "misaveik b'afar ragleihem".

    A few comments:

    1)The linked translation might be a paraphrase, as I think the original is " it's forbidden for a student to accept the teaching of his rebbe if he has a question"

    2) The caveats are :

    A) the Ruach Chaim adds that it must be with humility

    B) he is talking when the talmid understands the rebbe's argument as is thus a "bar plugta" in a sense(eg, not everyone can choose to dispute their rebbe just because they don't understand !)

    C) he might be discussing a private situation

    Neverthless, this is a source for rationalism within Judaism and Mesorah.

  2. The link was cut off( pg 54):

  3. "Arguing with the Gadol HaDor"
    Of course, your title would imply there is such a thing as THE Gadol HaDor.

  4. I don't know if Tropper or others are talking about Rav Elyashiv, shlit"a, who is called "Posek Hador" by his followers, but I do know from much direct experience that absolutely no one among even the most "frum" really feel obligated to pasken like him in every area, even when his psak is well known. Anyone who looks around, even in the Litvishe Yeshiva community which pays lip-service to the "Posek Hador" title, can see this easily.

  5. I posted what I thought was a politely worded question on Rav Tropper's blog (essentially asking if it weren't better to ask the question while the Posek HaDor was still alive and in a position to respond rather than wait for him to be niftar). The question was deleted without a response.

  6. Just to follow up I received a short polite private email from Rabbi Tropper responding to my comment, but the comment itself is still awaiting moderation on his blog.

  7. I think it's important to keep in mind the difference between psak din of halocha and horoah/takona. In case of horoah/takona which I thinks means a law of general application enacted by the leadership and accepted by the community at large, the individual members must follow it despite it being wrong. As the posuk in Dvorim states that even if they tell you that your left hand is really your right one, you should follow it. But it's unlikely that anything said by even the most respectable and knowledgable Rabbonim would qualify as horoah or takona. In case of an ordinary psak din, I don't think one must follow the opinion of the Gdolim. Espesially in case they don't provide any reasoning to back up their at times odd psakim.

  8. see yesterdays daf yomi. look there at the Rasbam where he writes about that Rabbi Yochanan was mackmir on himself. What do you think that means?

  9. The gemara in Horayos, 2b, clearly states that if a Talmid Chacham knows that a psak of the Sanhedrin is incorrect, he is forbidden to follow it. It certainly goes without saying that the same applies to any other Rav, as great as he may be.

  10. The Mishna in Horayos 2b states that if Beis Din mistakenly permitted something that the Torah forbids (the Gemara later will establish the criteria the prohibition to which these laws apply), and a student who knew that Beis Din was mistaken acted in accordance with the ruling of Beis Din, the student must bring his own individual Korban to atone for his sin. The Gemara concludes that the Mishnah does not refer to a student who was certain that Beis Din was wrong, because such a person would be considered one who sinned intentionally, who cannot attain atonement with a Korban. Rather, the Mishnah must refer to a student who mistakenly assumed that it was a Mitzvah to do as the Chachamim say, even when they say that one should commit a sin.


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