Why Would the Psak of the Chief Rabbinate be Binding?

In an attempt to synthesize the issues I dealt with in the last few weeks, I examined a few attempts at grounding the Halachic authority of the Rabbanut HaRashit, showing how the issues raised about Aseh Lecha Rav, the authority of Mara D’Atra, and the binding nature of psak all play out.  The shiur is available: here.

The first attempt I dealt with was R. Yisraeli. In Amud HaYemini 6, assumes that psak is binding because the process of psak creates a metaphysical status. He thinks this is based on assuming that there are multiple potential truths. Thus, psak determines which truth one must follow. He goes further and argues that the authority of poskim to create this status is derived from the people asking the questions. By asking, they transform the posek into their personal Rebbe. With this, one can easily understand where the authority of a Mara D’Atra comes from – he is the defacto posek of the area, and thus his psak automatically become binding. Based on this, he argues that the Rabbanut HaRashit has the status of the Mara D’Atra of Israel, thus making their psakim binding on everyone. However, as we noted previously, defining Mara D’Atra is often difficult, especially when we define ourselves ideologically rather than geographically. Additionally, he knows that there are people who don’t accept the authority of the Rabbanut. Thus, he asserts that most people did, and that rov forces all other people to accept them as well.

However, R. Lichtenstein notes, that the authority of psak (except perhaps for that of the Sanhedrin) is derived from the acceptance in reality. Thus, we cannot assert that this is true if it is not. The reality is that most people don’t accept the Rabbanut – either because they don’t care about Halacha at all, or because they have other poskim. One can bemoan this fact or celebrate it, but it is hard to deny.

R. Uri Dasberg, in an article in Techumin 11 take this whole issue much farther. Until now, we have assumes that the authority of poskim stems from the laity who give them their power. However, he offers several Halachic arguments that focus psak on the posek, with or without the request of he laity. He first notes that there is a mitzvah to poskan. Qualified poskim are responsible to poskan to prevent those less qualified from issuing bad psakim. Poskim also have a responsibility to rebuke people and prevent lifnei iver, prevent people from violating issurim. They also have an obligation to teach Torah Thus, he argues, they have to actively make their positions known. This is even more true in the case of the Chief Rabbinate, where by law, their job is to educate the public. He goes farther, arguing based on Halakhic Man, that there is nothing in life that is not Halacha. By combining all these arguments, he strongly pushes away from the model of psak I have suggested over the last few shiurim. While I argues that the fact that the power of poskim is derived from the laity, instrinsic to the halachic system is a balance of authority and autonomy. However, if one thinks that poskim have an obligation (and therefore right) to poskan even on non-Halachic issues, whether or not they are prompted, the halachic system becomes much more about authority and less a balance of authority and autonomy. It is this type of view that opens the doors to our discussion in coming weeks of Daas Torah.

For for more on the central topics, see the previous posts.  For more on the Rabbanut HaRashit, see here and here.



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