Emotions affect the way humans solve problems and make decisions.

Leniency or stringency of Halachic Psakim might sometimes stem from the way Rabbis experience the reality emotionally - for example, relationship with gentiles or dangers of different situations.

Does any Rabbi admit this kind of influence for his Psakim?

Disclaimer: I don't imply in any way that emotions impair a Psak in any way, even though the general Rabbinical attitude is that it does. My only purpose is to learn about Rabbis' self-awareness and introspection.

  • 1
    In an interview with Rav Moshe Tendler ,he recalls asking his father in law (Rav Moshe) why he reads the newspaper,and Rav Moshe responded since its his "fenster" (window) to the world,he needed to know what's going on indorer to know where the people are holding
    – sam
    May 8, 2019 at 14:03
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    Don't all rabbis who rule on Shaot HaDechak admit a personal assessment of the distress caused by the situation? This doesn't seem unusual. Frankly, it's their job.
    – Double AA
    May 8, 2019 at 14:07
  • @DoubleAA I would like to see them saying that openly - "I was moved by...", "because I've experienced that and that...", not only "my heart tells me". I'm looking for their self-awareness when Paskening.
    – Al Berko
    May 8, 2019 at 14:12
  • Isn't justice supposed to be tempered by mercy in our tradition? Isn't mercy an emotion? May 8, 2019 at 14:45
  • You see in Kidushin 70 the interaction between Rav Yehuda and Rav Nachman,since one came from big city and other came from a smaller city they held diff views ,it's like Daas yehudis
    – sam
    May 8, 2019 at 16:20

2 Answers 2


There are plenty of instances in which poskim relate their personal feelings in a psak. The first that came to my mind is R. Ovadia's famous ruling (Yabia Omer vol. 6, Even Ha-Ezer #3) that widows of soldiers missing during the 1973 Yom Kippur War not be considered agunot, a ruling that would allow those widows to remarry.

The psak is quite weighty, in which he takes pains to explain this unprecedented ruling of looking for leniency. The story behind this ruling has been covered by various historians, but here is how R. Ovadia's daughter, Adina Bar Shalom, described his experience:

He questioned the soldiers who served with the men missing in action. With each testimony, he cried. He couldn’t eat during those days, didn’t drink, didn’t sleep, could not close his eyes, until he gave a heter to every one of the wives whose husbands were missing. There were nearly 960 widows resulting from the Yom Kippur War. For many, the bodies of their husbands were found and identified. But [in those cases] where the bodies could either not be found or identified, as a result of my father’s pesak and thorough investigation of each and every case, not one woman was left an agunah.

The lengthy psak itself begins with R. Ovadia clarifying the weight behind this undertaking, in which he discloses his emotions:

ונפשי יודעת מאד גודל האחריות שבדבר, וכבד עלי הדבר מאד מקוצר המשיג ועומק המושג, אולם נתתי אל לבי מ"ש הרב הפוסק בשו"ת הב"ח החדשות (ס"ס סד) בפס"ד להיתר עגונה, להתיר בחינה קטנה שבבחינת העגונה הגדולה, שעליה אמר שלמה: ראיתי דמעת העשוקים ואין להם מנחם וכל מי שמתיר עגונה אחת בזה"ז כאילו בנה אחת מחרבות ירושלים העליונה להציל בחינה אחת מאשת חיל

My soul knows the enormity of this responsibility, and it is very heavy for me with insufficient knowledge of the concept. But I gave my heart in this...to permit in this great matter of agunot. As Solomon said: I saw the tears of the oppressed, and they have no comfort (Eccl. 4:1). Anyone who permits one agunah in this time, it is as if he rebuilt one of Jerusalem's ruins (Brakhot 6b), to save a woman of valor.

  • Isn't it the general custom of Rabbonim to take great pains to mattir agunos? I've believe I saw the Nodah BeYehudah even write that explicitly. What do you mean unprecedented looking for leniency.
    – robev
    May 8, 2019 at 19:12
  • @robev Unprecedented in that R. Ovadia established a beit din to mattir the mass of soldiers, systemically evaluating every missing, married Israeli soldier and clearing them all through various, creative leniences (e.g., using the wedding date inscribed on the ring of an unknown body to identify a husband as dead). Also, although in theory all should take great pains to mattir agunot, l'maaseh, modern poskim are reluctant to issue such rulings, especially when the bodies are never found.
    – Aryeh
    May 8, 2019 at 20:06
  • R. Chaim Volozhin has something similar about agunot in Chut Hameshulash.
    – Alex
    May 8, 2019 at 21:02
  • There are at least topics where there is rule that one tries to find a leniency: agunah, mamzeirus, aveilus and eruv. (Although eruv may be framed as trying to find ways to implement unity.) The fact that there are aphorisims to this effect for these topics kind of implies that in general we do not. But in any case, it also implies that even if the rabbi were not of that emotional inclination in some case, he would still have to be lenient. It isn't about rabbinic emotion. May 9, 2019 at 17:14

Berachot 43a

אמר ליה רב חסדא לרב יצחק האי משחא דאפרסמון מאי מברכין עלויה א"ל הכי אמר רב יהודה בורא שמן ארצנו א"ל בר מיניה דר' יהודה דחביבא ליה ארץ ישראל לכולי עלמא מאי א"ל הכי אמר רבי יוחנן בורא שמן ערב

R. Hisda said to R. Isaac: What blessing is said over this balsam-oil? — He replied: Thus said Rab Judah: 'Who createst the oil of our land', He then said to him: Leaving out Rab Judah, who dotes on the Land of Israel, what do ordinary people say? — He replied: Thus said R. Johanan: 'Who createst pleasant oil'. (Soncino translation, my emphasis)

(Granted, this does not appear to be an admission, but an accusation by another rabbi.)

  • Though I suppose one could argue that the love didn't influence the ruling, but that the correct ruling is that it depends on how much you love Israel.
    – Alex
    May 8, 2019 at 15:25
  • A very interesting example, thank you.
    – Al Berko
    May 8, 2019 at 19:34

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