Monthly Archives: January 2015

Are You Too Biased to Poskan for Yourself?

It’s been a while since I summarized my psak shiur, but I’ll try to catch up. In the previous post on this topic, we began dealing with the issue of poskaning for one’s self – when is one qualified, are there different standards for ruling for one’s self than there are for others, etc. The second question is whether even an unquestionably qualified posek should or must refrain from ruling for himself due to bias. In the past, when dealing with the benefits of having a Rebbe (here), we noted that practically it is often good to have an outsiders perspective, both to ensure that you are not too lenient and to ensure you are not to stringent on yourself. Is that a Halachic requirement?   Continue reading Are You Too Biased to Poskan for Yourself?

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Is It Worse to Sin on Shabbat than During the Week?

Is it worse to do an averiah on Shabbat than during the week? The Chofetz Chaim (in the Hakdama) famously claims that doing an aveirah in the Mikdash or shul is worse because it is shows a lack of mora mikdash. Not to mention that there are numerous sources that suggest that mitzvot and aveirot are more serious when done in Eretz Yisrael (or only count there). Would the same be true of one violated the sanctity of time by sinning? This question arises in a discussion in a Yerushalmi in Demai (4:1, I discussed it in a shiur: here). Normally, when one has Demai, produce received from a Am HaAretz who we are not sure gave Maasrot, one cannot eat from it without separating Maaser again, and you cannot believe the Am HaAretz if he claims he already gave it. However, on Shabbat, the Mishna rules that you can ask the Am HaAretz and he will be believed. The Gemara suggests two rationales for this – either Kavod Shabbat or Eimat Shabbat. Kavod Shabbat means that as we want people to have food to enjoy Shabbat, we have leniencies that make it easier to have food. Eimat Shabbat means that we assume the Am HaAretz is afraid to lie on Shabbat, so we will believe him. Rashi in Ketubot 55b offers the first explanation (he calls it Oneg Shabbat). Tosafot offer the second. The Yerushalmi itself assumes that you need both, and the only question is which reason is primary (see there for how it plays itself out). At any rate, the issue I was wondering about is whether Eimat Shabbat indicates that it is actually worse to do aveirot on Shabbat? The Rambam and others assume not – the notion that it is worse to sin on Shabbat is just a helpful misconception that unlearned people have that allows us to be assured they are telling the truth. Other Rishonim assume that even unlearned people wouldn’t assume that. Rather, as there is a unique connection between Maasrot and Shabbat, as once Shabbat has passed one can no longer snack (eat arai) from produce without being mafrish Terumot and Maasrot, they think it is worse to lie about Maaser on Shabbat. Continue reading Is It Worse to Sin on Shabbat than During the Week?

A Beracha on a Bread Sandwich – Ironic or Serious?

Sometimes you read a line in the Gemara and you’re not sure whether it was meant to be serious, sarcastic, ironic, hyperbole etc. I’ve noted this in the past, as well as noting the complicated relationship of lines like this of psak (here, summarized: here). For example, when the Gemara says that “it would be better to throw yourself into a fiery furnace rather than embarrass someone publicly” – is that a Halachic statement telling you that this embarrassing people is yehareg ve-al yaavor (Tosafot and Rabbenu Yonah’s position), or an exaggeration that no one should take literally (Rivash and Meiri). So, I came across a line that I’m not sure about, so I’m throwing it out there for suggestions. Continue reading A Beracha on a Bread Sandwich – Ironic or Serious?

When Can You Poskan For Yourself?

Can you poskan for yourself? Does making decisions for yourself have the same limitations of general psak? I dealt with this issue in two parts.  The first shiur is available: here, and summary below. For now, I will ignore the questions of bias, and return to that in my next summary (the shiur is available: here).

In general, when ruling on a question, there are three factors that must be taken into account (we have discussed this previously: here):

  1. Are you qualified?
  2. Are there external reasons (such as Kavod HaRav) that prevent you from answering?
  3. Is what you are saying considered psak?

Continue reading When Can You Poskan For Yourself?

Daas Torah – Modern Discussions

In our exploration of the role of the laity in psak, and that the balance of authority and autonomy in the Halachic system, I spent a shiur (here) exploring modern positions on Daas Torah.

In many ways, the different positions that are offered as to what Daas Torah is and to what extent it exists and is binding map onto the positions presented with regards to Lo Tasur. Of course, as we noted, the very notion that Lo Tasur/Rabbinic power extends to mundane or political matters is not obvious. Thus, it is important to keep in mind the topic of Lo Tasur generally as we attempt to map out the positions about Daas Torah. Continue reading Daas Torah – Modern Discussions