Volume 21 Number 05
                       Produced: Mon Aug 14 19:13:05 1995

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Authority of the Zohar
         [Mechy Frankel]
Meaning of L'chatchila
         [Kenneth Posy]
Psak Shopping
         [Carl Sherer]


From: Mechy Frankel <FRANKEL@...>
Date: Mon, 14 Aug 1995 22:25:15 -0500 (EST)
Subject: Authority of the Zohar

1.  Since I'm catching up on back issues, I'll offer a comment on the
now apparently quiescent zohar thread, from a somewhat different angle
than the authorship question which seemed to be the focus of a number of
previous submissions. (other than to note that I find Idel's position
more persuasive than either the predominant traditional one or
Scholem's, and not very dissimilar to R. Yaacov Emden's.)  It should
suffice to say that, since the authorship issue has been debated for
over seven hundred years, with chashuvim on both sides, we are unlikely
to settle matters here, and appeals to this or that predecessor's
impeccable reputation is not a persuasive line of argument.  Those who
subscribe to the view of R.S. Bar Yohai's personal authorship are
unlikely to be moved by historical, philological, or form analyses,
while scoffers are also unlikely to be moved by anything less than the
discovery of a copy of the Zohar in a Dead Sea cave, with R. Shimon Bar
Yohai's FBI authenticated thumbprint on it.

2.  In many ways, however, a more interesting question revolves around
the halachic weight of the Zohar and other kabbolistic sources, or more
generally, any "information" obtained al derech hasode.  It is
absolutely clear for instance that, contra some opinions expressed in
this forum, the Zohar in fact opposes many halachic pesakim, at least in
the sense that it disagrees with positions that were accepted lemaskana
in the Talmud Bavli and Yerushalmi, and then paskened lehalacha in the
Shulchan Aruch. (see e.g. the Bais Yosef's comments in Orach Chayim 25,
"shekasav R.S.B.Y, bisefer hazohar hephech memaskana detalmuda").  Thus
claims made in this forum that the zohar is always consistent with
halochoh are clearly incorrect in the usual sense, though there are no
end to pilpulim which may and have been used, since the moment of the
zohar's appearance until the present day, to "correct" these
discrepencies.  In this regard there seem to be three traditional, and
mutually inconsistent, perspectives.

a) Kabboloh, or more generally, information obtained through mystical
revelations, and the Zohar in particular, is halachically authoritative,
even when it seems to break with heretofore accepted halachic
positions. (even subscribers to the traditional view aknowledge that the
zohar's precepts were unknown to the halachic community prior to the
13th century). e.g. the 19th century sefer Bar Yohai by R. M. Kunitz
deals at great pilpulic length with each of the many criticisms's of R.
Emden and also provides an ingenious solution to the problem of the lack
of halachic weight accorded to R. Shimon Bar Yohai himself already in
Talmudic times. He suggests that the talmudic disregard of R. Shimon's
opinions only refer to the period of his life before he entered the
cave. After he got out, the halochoh was always like him. Another
attempt to deal with this lack of talmudic era authority of Bar Yohai
was R. Avraham Zacut's suggestion that the Zohar is actually an edited
version of Bar Yohai's original formulation, and thus later chachamim
had seen it and approved it (halochoh kebasrai).

Many chasidic sources in particular tend to hold this view. See for
example the intro to the Ohr Bahir by R. Shmuel Glasner, where
R. Glasner's chasidic interlocutor advanced the startling claim that one
was not permitted in principle to disagree halachically with a gadol who
had access to mystical sources of knowledge (the particular dispute
involved hilchos mikva, with a protest of R. Glasner's diagreement with
certain chumros advocated by R. C.  Halberstam (the Sanzer Rebbe), a
great chasidic talmid chacham).

b) The Zohar, and other kabbalistic sources, have no halachic authority
at all.  This is essentially a reformulation of the talmudic conclusion
of the story of the dispute with tanur achnai, where it is concluded
that "loh bashamayim hee" and if you want to make a halachic mark, its
got to be done the old fashioned way, with no room for heavenly
revelations, etc. (This is true even though some very famed halachists
were also kabbolists, e.g. the Mechaber, and, most likely, the Raivad)
The Maharshal (Responsa, siman 98) e.g. pointed out rather pungently
that "even were R. Shimon Bar Yochai himself stand before us and cry out
we would pay no attention to him since the halochoh had already been
decided (differently)."  For a particularly cogent and emphatic
formulation of this traditional rabbinic perspective, see R. Shmuel
Glasner in the reference cited above. R. Glasner was an iconoclastic
talmid chacham more generally known as the Dor Rivee'ie for his perush
of that name on Chulin and so titled since he was the great grandson of
the chasam sofer. I am indebted to, and lucky that, the dor shivi'ie,
David Glasner, sits behind me in shul and pointed me to this reference
of his great grandfather's. There are certain ironies here, since my own
great-great grandfather, the Yeitiv Leiv of Sighet, was one of the
leaders leading the charge who tried to get the Dor Rivee'ie ridden out
of town on a rail, but that is a story best left for another day.
Graciously, David seems to bear no grudge.)

c) Whenever the Zohar disagrees with a talmudic pesak, we follow the
talmud - but if the talmud has not conclusively decided one way or the
other, then we follow the Zohar. This may be the single most popular
position and formulations approximating this were offered, among many
others, by the Ridvaz, R. Yitzchak Karo, and R. Yosef Karo.  Even the
Maharshal, who had little use for kabbalistic and Zoharic inspirations
in halachic spheres, cited the Zohar as a source when bereft of
alternatives (Responsa, siman 73 in a discussion of the "turned around
nunes" in the torah). The Shulchan Aruch generally follows this
approach, though he stretched it a bit in connection with the question
of tifilin on chol hamoaid, which the Zohar very violently opposed. The
Mechaber decided here that it was sufficient to note that the Talmud
Bavli seemed inconclusive and then paskened from the Zohar that they
should not be worn, even though the talmud yerushalmi seems
unequivocally opposed.

4.  An excellent source for this entire issue, is Jacob Katz's ''
Halochoh VeKaboloh, Magnes Press, 1986 (2nd ed), see also David Tamar's
"Dinim Hamiyusadim al Hazohar Vi'al Hakbboloh Beshulchan Aruch U'vi'vais
Yosef" in Sinai 65, 1994.

Mechy Frankel                                     W: (703) 325-1277
<frankel@...>                               H: (301) 593-3949 


From: Kenneth Posy <kpposy@...>
Date: Mon, 14 Aug 1995 13:36:54 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: Meaning of L'chatchila

> that Lechat'hila (the ruling before the fact), even unmarried women should

     Disregarding the particular issue that the poster was discussing, I
am interested in the translation the writer gave the term l'chatchila.
     On a literal level, it is clearly true that the term "l'chatchila"
means "before the fact" or "at the inception"; and conversly, the term
b'diavad" means "after the fact" or "if already done". The application
would thus be that if asked beforehand, a posek would have to give the
l'chatchila position, but if asked to validate an action ex-post-facto,
he could do so on a b'diavad standard.
     However, my impression was that the conventional usage of the term
was more in terms of "optimal" and "sub-optimal". This distinction would
be important in a circumstance where there was advance knowledge that a
suboptimal fullfilment of a mitzva would be necessary. Would a rav take
this into account, and be able to give permission in advance to do
something sub- optimally (b'dieved); or would he be required to rule
that one follow the l'chatchila way in advance, and if at all possible
change the circumstances to meet those standards, although if one then
violates the psak, the mitzva would still be valid. If the first side is
possible, would a ruling in advance to behave sub-optimally change the
status of that action to "l'chatchila", optimal?
     Another distinction would appear involving the concept that
l'chatchila and b'dieved only apply by a mitzva, but not by a "matir"
(an required action to create a status- for example, a kinyan or
sh'chita, according to some opinions) See Tosphose, BavaBasra 76a at the
bottom. The reasoning for this is that so long as the status is
achieved, the means for doing so are not important. However, if the
literal understanding of the words is correct, then the concept *could*
apply: If considered beforehand, a l'chatchila approach should be taken;
but if the status is acheived without that, "bdiavad" the formal process
need not be executed.

Betzalel Posy


From: <adina@...> (Carl Sherer)
Date: Tue, 15 Aug 95 0:40:40 IDT
Subject: Psak Shopping

Kenneth Posy writes:

>       Mr. Sherer says " a gadol or your own personal posek". I do not
> know if those are the same, even in "pure" halachik issues. I would
> think that the opinion of your own posek would have more weight that the
> opinion of a "gadol".

I agree.  But does it matter whether or not you *asked* your posek the
question yourself or you heard it from someone else who did.  Is the
psak binding on you even if someone else asked the question? Are you 
required to ask your posek's opinion on each question of halacha that
occurs to you? Suppose, to take the issue that started all this, that
I am a soldier in the Israeli army and am called up for reserve duty.
Am I required to go ask my posek whether I have to follow the psak of
those nine Rabbis who said that one should disobey orders rather than
uproot army camps? (To make the issue less political, let us assume
that the question is answerable in purely halachic terms).  Can I
choose *not* to ask my own posek, and to follow the psak or not follow
the psak of those nine Rabbis as my own conscience dictates? If someone
else asked my posek, and reports my posek's answer to me, am I bound by
that answer even though I didn't ask the question? What if I ask my own
posek and he has no opinion on the question, if these nine Rabbis are
among the gedolei hador and are the only ones to have spoken out on
the issue am I required to follow their psak (I suspect at least the
answer to the last one should be yes, because that is da'as Torah)?
Are there criteria for determining when I am *required* to go ask
a question of my own posek?

> 	For most issues, there are different major authorities and
> published opinions [I am avoiding the subjective term "gedolim] on each
> side. On the other hand, when the person you have accepted as your
> personal posek rules, I think that this is more binding. (Asei l'cha
> rav). The alternative is "kula [leniency] shopping", or psak shopping--
> if you don't like what your posek says you can always call on the other
> opinion. This is an ethically troubling concept.

I agree that kula shopping is ethically troubling and that was not what
I was trying to advocate.  Let's posit a more common and less inflammatory
case.  I live in City X, my posek lives in City Y.  A question of Kashrus
arises in my house on Shabbos, so I go and ask the local Rabbi because
I have no way of reaching my posek on Shabbos.  Is the local Rabbi's
psak binding on me only for that particular Shabbos, for that particular
problem, or for another category of problems in the future? What if
I determine after Shabbos that my posek disagrees for whatever reason with the 
local Rabbi's psak (I am familiar with the famous story about the Gra
and the chicken but the reality of the 1990's is that many of us do not
live in the same city as our poskim).  Whom do I follow? What if I ask the
local Rabbi a question and agav (tangentially) he gives me a psak on a 
question which I didn't ask him and my own posek disagrees with that psak?
Am I bound? What if my posek goes away and tells me to ask questions
to someone else in his absence and that person gives me a psak in which he
tells me "I am paskening this way, although I know that your regular posek
would not agree"? Am I bound? And when and how am I allowed to change poskim?
When I move to a different city? When consulting my previous posek becomes
impractical? Obviously I can't go and re-ask the same questions to another
posek (that *would* be kula shopping), but can I choose a new posek
"mikan ulehaba" (from now going forward)? If so, when and under what 
circumstances? And how does someone "become" "my" posek? Do I have to
make a positive determination that I want that Rav to be my posek? Does
it happen automatically after I ask him a certain number of questions?

>       I am unfamiliar with sources on the issue, although there are many
> gemaras where the amoraim ask more than one authority if they don't like
> the answer. But I don't know if they would do this against their
> particular "personal posek".

To add one more twist - I have found that some poskim do not feel
comfortable paskening certain types of questions (Hilchos Nida being a
prime example of something that some poskim will pasken and others will
not).  Can I have one posek for one type of question and another for
another type, for example one posek I ask all my questions in Hilchos
Nida and another whom I ask all my questions in Hilchos Shabbos? I am
also unfamiliar with the sources on the issue and would appreciate any
insights anyone out there has on these issues.

-- Carl Sherer
	Adina and Carl Sherer
		You can reach us both at:


End of Volume 21 Issue 5