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Companion question to Questioner's liability for receiving a wrong psak.

Let's say that someone asks his Rav, for example, if a certain food is Kosher, and the Rav paskens that it is not, and that the food must be thrown out. Later on, the Rav realizes that he ruled incorrectly, and the questioner could, in fact, have eaten that food (or at least benefited from it).

Is the Rav responsible for damages, for having ruled incorrectly and causing the questioner to lose money as a result?

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There are a lot of details about this depending exactly what kind of mistake it was and who was harmed how and how easy it is to get the money back if possible. See Shulchan Arukh, Choshen Mishpat 25.

Broadly speaking, if the rabbi is an expert and the petitioner accepted him as their decisor in this matter then the rabbi is exempt since he unintentionally only indirectly caused the damage, but if only one of those two conditions applies (eg. the rabbi isn't such an expert) then the rabbi is obligated to pay back damages.

  • Can you Define what "expert" means? – Moshe May 31 at 6:00
  • @Moshe I can't but probably some commentators try. How do you ever define what things like "raui lehoraah" and "talmid chacham" mean? Not everyone in a semikha program is always on the same level obviously. – Double AA May 31 at 11:13
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I'll approach this theoretically. There are two views on a Rabbi's Psak in Issurim (but similar in other fields inc. Mamonos and Nefoshos):

  • The Rabbi reveals the existing truth: an object already possesses certain qualities (Kosher or Mutar) and the Rabbi tries to logically infer those qualities from his Torah knowledge. In the result, he might "guess" right or wrong (50/50) and if he's wrong we attribute it to his "lack" of the knowledge of Torah, like he was unable to reveal the truth.

    In such case, if it turns out he was wrong (by a greater(?) Rabbi or if he admits it himself) we can "accuse" him in this "wrongdoing" and "demand" repay. (I use "" extensively to stress that those words must be taken with caution).

  • The Rabbi sets the truth: an object's qualities are undetermined (even in Heaven, this the double slit experiment) until a Rabbi (an observer) examines it and SETS the quality.

    As a Rabbi possesses some Ruach Hakodesh (in addition to his Torah Knowledge) we presume (de-jure) that G-d agreed with him (נצחוני בניי, לא בשמים היא). In such a case, even if the Rabbi admitted that he was wrong, we consider it "G-d's will".

    In this case, of course, there could not be a "wrong Psak", any Psak is de-jure right.


The existing Halachos (from the Gemmorah till the Achronim) try to balance between those two approaches, some leaning toward the first, and some toward the second.

  • I think you confuse Rabbi with Sanhedrin – DonielF May 31 at 12:33
  • I know people have little understanding of the theory of Judaism. What I wrote applies to any Rabbinical judgment, be it the Sanhedrin or your shul Rabbi. I'm not good at names, but you can put a long list of prominent Rabbis supporting either approach. Rabbis in Masechet Sanhedrin argued exactly about this point - do we seek the Heavenly truth or the Earthy one. – Al Berko Jun 1 at 21:44

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