Volume 10 Number 30
                       Produced: Mon Nov 29 12:25:23 1993

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Rabbinic Authority (4)
         [Jonathan Goldstein, Hayim Hendeles, Anthony Fiorino, L. Joseph


From: <Jonathan.Goldstein@...> (Jonathan Goldstein)
Date: Mon, 29 Nov 93 00:47:20 -0500
Subject: Re: Rabbinic Authority

In Volume 10 Number 28 Freda Birnbaum <FBBIRNBA@...> writes:

> I must also conclude that if the person used his own judgment in a NON-
> HALAKHIC matter, limiting his following of Torah sages to TORAH matters,
> not to practical ones where the Torah sage may have no better knowledge
> of the matter than he ...
> It has not been demonstrated ... that one is obligated to consult halachic
> authorities on non-halachic matters.

I have yet to meet anyone subscribing to Halacha who would suggest that
there are decisions to be made that do not fall within the authority of
Halacha. In my experience the best illustration of this idea is Rav
Soloveitchik's _Halachic_Man_.

I have always been taught that if a rabbi/posek is not well-versed in
the "practical" concerns of a particular case, then it is his duty to
become familiar with such concerns to the extent required in order to
reach a halachically responsible decision.

Of course, if the individual *knows* the halacha already, then no
consultation should be required.

If this is correct then there is no such thing as Freda's "NON-HALAKHIC

If this is incorrect then I am sure someone will let me know ...

Jonathan Goldstein       <Jonathan.Goldstein@...>       +61 2 339 3683

From: Hayim Hendeles <hayim@...>
Date: Sun, 28 Nov 93 18:31:39 -0800
Subject: Re: Rabbinic Authority

I made a comment in a previous post, asserting that those Rabbis who
advised their followers to remain behind were not wrong, which naturally
drew some very sharp answers. Unfortunately, I failed to heed the words
of our wise mediator :-) and did not elucidate my position as clearly as
I should have. I would like to respond to some well-deserved comments I

Anthony Fiorino mentioned in an earlier post, that there are 2 notions
of Daas Torah. There are those who claim Daas Torah is only applicable
to a psak halcha, and there are those who maintain that it is applicable
to nearly everything. Right or wrong, I don't think anyone will disagree
with Anthony's comments that there are indeed 2 schools of thought.

Personally, I don't know how correct these 2 opinions are, but I suspect
they may both be correct. I do know that Reb Yaakov Kaminetzky zt"l has
a fascinating dvar Torah, based on a Ramban, where he asserts that G-d
will deal with people at the level they are at. For those who have more
bitachon in G-d, then they can get away with doing less work on their
part; and those who have less bitachon must do more on their own.

With this basis he explains G-d's commandment "shalch lecha" - send out
spies to search out the Land of Israel. Originally, this would not have
been necessary. They could have walked into the country and taken it all
over with no problem. However, the instant the Jews asked to send out
spies, the question itself was indiciative of their spiritual level, and
showed that they were not at the spiritual level of receiving everything
miraculously. At this point, then, since they had showed that they were
only at the level of doing things b'derech hateva (naturally), it became
mandatory to send out spies for them to do things naturally.

Perhaps, the same concept applies in relation to Daas Torah - I do not
know for sure.

In any event, back to my point. My comments are only directed towards
those who believe that Daas Torah is an all encompassing. For indeed,
these are the only ones who would ask their Rabbi if they should remain
behind or leave. The others would have consulted their local congressman
or politicians - not their Rabbi.

With this preface, I can now respond.

	>From: Freda Birnbaum <FBBIRNBA@...>

	I must take issue with the notion that whatever a Torah sage
	says on any subject whatsoever is of equal weight with his
	Torah material, and with

Obviously, Ms. Birnbaum is of the first school of thought outlined
above. However, my comments were only directed towards those of the
second school of thought.

	>From: Anthony Fiorino <fiorino@...>
	Subject: Does learning chulin make one a navi?

	Hayim Hendeles commented on my posting:

	> There is a strong undercurrent in this article, as in others,
	> implying that those Rabbis who advised to remain in pre-WW2
	> Europe, were in fact wrong. I strongly disagree with this
	> notion.

	I'm sorry if there was such an undercurrent -- I thought I had
	stated it rather explicitely :-).  My statement was, and I
	repeat it, "those rabbis who maintained that the Jews would be
	safe were tragically mistaken."  I don't see any way to argue
	with this statement (note that this is *not* the same as saying
	that "the rabbis who advised to remain" were wrong.  I am
	merely stating that their opinion was incorrect; I am not
	evaluating the rabbis themselves in any way).

Once again, I think we are talking apples and oranges here. I do not
assert that the statement "The NAzis will never reach ..." is correct.
Rabbis can certainly make mistakes; even Moses erred, how much more so
the rest of us.

Furthermore, I do not assert that this is part of Daas Torah either.
What will/will not happen is not Daas Torah - nor is it even of any
interest to us! What is of interest to us, is what does G-d want me to
do? What must I do to fulfill my mission in life?

Thus, I claim the Rabbi's who advised their followers to remain behind -
for whatever reason - their psak to remain behind was Daas Torah.
Perhaps their psak was based on erroneous data. But for those on the
spiritual level, if the Hashgacha only provided the Rabbi with enough
information to give a psak to remain behind, then this is what the
Hashgacha has ordained. Perhaps the Rabbi made the decision based on
faulty data, but the decision still reflects G-d's will. Thus, whether
we like the consequences or not, whether we perceive the decision as
being the best one or not - is irrelevant. The psak Halacha still
reflects G-d's will.

Hayim Hendeles

From: Anthony Fiorino <fiorino@...>
Date: Sun, 28 Nov 93 23:36:18 -0500
Subject: Rabbinic Authority

I would just like to clarify some of my previous positions a bit.  I
have not been attempting to launch an attack on rabbinic authority, and
I am well aware of the mitzvah of "lo tasur" -- that one should not
deviate from the words of the sages, even if they say right is left,
etc.  (The applications and limitations of "lo tasur" are discussed in
an article in the current _Tradition_).  I also recognize that to
distinguish between what I have previously referred to as "pure psak"
and issues of "extra-halachic concern" may not always be so simple.
However, I do believe that any case of psak must be supported (or
supportable) by appropriate sources.  And while I certainly recognize
the extension of halachah into all areas of life, I also recognize areas
which are left in the realm of "reshut" -- there are areas of life in
which a multitude of behaviors are halachically permissible, and no set
of halachic sources could be mustered to favor one choice over another.
On a personal level, I might ask my rebbe about which woman to date or
marry, or which car to buy, or to which yeshiva to send my children.
Unless my rebbe could show me some halachic rationale for favoring one
choice over another (ie, you are a kohein and she is divorced; the car
dealer you are buying from supports avoda zara), I would consider his
statements "advice" -- expert advice, perhaps, but not psak.

However, the daas Torah approach differs.  In the current manifestation
of daas Torah, the pronouncements of a rabbinic elite are, when stated
in the context of a "daas Torah" view, intended as psak halachah and are
intended to be the definitive view to the exclusion of all other views.
These pronouncements need not be supported by one iota of halachic svara
or relevant sources.  I find this approach somewhat problematic even in
the realm of issues of psak halachah -- that is, issues about which one
can collect relevant halachic sources -- because it fails to take into
account the fact of "halachic pluralism" (See R. M. Rosenzweig's article
on "eilu v'eilu divrei elokim chaim" in _Rabbinic Authority and Personal
Autonomy_).  I find this approach quite problematic when the issue at
hand is one in which relevant halachic sources are minimal to
non-existent.  I learned very early on that one claiming to hold the
"one and only Torah view" of an issue is usually severely overstating
his or her case.

As I have said before, I am not attempting to knock daas Torah.  It
certainly is a safer road to travel in certain respects, since many of
the grey areas of life are clarified by the issuance of psak halachah.
As I have attempted to point out in previous postings, adherence to daas
Torah might come at the price of a certain amount of intellectual
honesty in the realm of historical analysis.  I am not prepared to go so
far as to say that it is an inauthentic approach.  However, I will say
that I do not believe that it is the only approach to rabbinic
authority, nor do I believe that I as a Jew am required to adhere to the
pronouncements made in communities not my own in the name of daas Torah.

Eitan Fiorino

From: <ag849@...> (L. Joseph Bachman)
Date: Fri, 26 Nov 93 12:49:26 -0700
Subject: Re: Rabbinic Authority

Here's a contribution from today's headlines which raises some questions
about how far rabbinic authority exetnds, what's a "halachic" and
"non-halachic" rabbinic opinion, and how one should handle bad rabbinic

In today's (Fri. Nov 26, 1993) _Baltimore Sun_, an article from the
Associated Press caught my eye:

FBI doesn't agree wiretap tip-off is OK

SUMMARY: The "victim" in this case, an Orthodox Jew from Jersey City,
NJ, got a job with the FBI translating wiretapped conversations from
Hebrew to English.  During the course of his job, he learned that a man
(presumably someone he knew) was about to become a courier in a money
laundering (about $15 million in cash) operation.  The "victim" was
thought that this person was unaware of the illegal nature of what he
was about to do, and could face a long prison term.  The victim then
went to his LOR and asked whether he had an obligation under halacha to
warn the other man, a fellow Jew.  The Rabbi said yes he did, so the
victim warned the man, but also warned one of the main targets of the
undercover investigation.

The victim had taken a document from work to prove to these men that the
FBI was investigating them, and he was thus charged with, and pleaded
guilty to taking government property without permission.  The
prosecution claimed that the tip-off may have jeapordized undercover
agents' lives by warning the targets of the investigation.  The victim
got an 18-month prison term.

The judge didn't think much of the "rabbi made me do it" defense:

JUDGE: What you did was incredibly dumb.
VICTIM'S LAWYER: "Perhaps it should be the rabbi who should be sitting
here" [instead of his client].
JUDGE:  Maybe he will be next.

The rabbi, to his credit, also accepted responsibility;

RABBI [in a letter to the judge]: I am sure that he is not a lawbreaker.
He was misguided by his conscience and misled by the poor or poorly
misunderstood advice I gave him.

[Just a short note, from the New Jersey papers, I think that the man
lived in Elizabeth, not Jersey City, and the LOR, identified in the
papers, is from Elizabeth. Mod]

A number of questions:

Was the rabbi giving halachic or non-halachic advice?  (It seems like it
was halachic)

Was he giving good _Halachic_ advice?  (I have always understood that a
major Talmudic principle is that, "The law of the land is the Law," so it
would seem that in a question like this, the rabbi should have advised
the victim to consult with a secular lawyer.)

Does halacha have anything to say about the rabbi's liability in the

At what point (if any) does an individual Jew disregard the opinion of a
rabbi, if he (or she) feels that the advice or ruling given is poor
advice or ruling?  (Did the victim have any obligation to think for
himself about the quality--halchic or practical--of the rabbi's advice?)

Joseph Bachman
Baltimore, Maryland


End of Volume 10 Issue 30