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The gemara 33b brachot says:

אֲמַר לֵיהּ לָאו הֲלָכָה אִתְּמַר אֵלָּא מַטִּין אִתְּמַר

Rabbi Zeira then said to him: It wasn't stated in public that the halachah follows Rabbi Eliezer, but that we lean to his opinion, [We advise individuals to follow his opinion if they ask, but we don't publicize the halachah.]

So then what do we do? What do we tell the public to do if the Gemara says that we shouldn't tell people the halacha?

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  • I don't quite understand the question- are you asking "Do we pasken like this Gamarra" or are you asking for practical advice?
    – Josh K
    May 27 at 9:49
  • I'm not sure why you're assuming this gemara has anything to do with publicizing? Is that an explanation given in the commentaries? Or are you asking about other passages in the Talmud that rule "הלכה ואין מורין כן" - "It's the law but we don't instruct it"?
    – Loewian
    May 27 at 17:21
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There are cases where a rabbi is forced to guide someone to the least of evils. If they announce the ruling, or even aren't careful as framing it situationally -- something that must be decided on a case-by-case manner -- they could be lowering the communal norms.

Here are two contemporary examples. I should point out that neither are necessarily popular rulings. (Or maybe they are, I didn't take statistics.) Just that they are actual rulings by Orthodox rabbis.

The rabbi quietly tells the single woman that given that you told me you will have premarital sex regardless, it is better you go to the miqvah after being a niddah. But he should not publish this as a responsum or newspaper Torah column. Because then women who would have otherwise abstained (or abstained more often) would now think that premarital sex after miqvah "isn't so bad" and there will be more sin overall.

Or, the outreach rabbi is told by his Rosh Yeshiva that it's okay to invite someone to come for Shabbos dinner or davening knowing they'll probably drive. In the situation that it's the only way they'll have Shabbos at all, they'll be driving somewhere anyway, and sometimes it's okay to violate one Shabbos if it's the only way to observe future Shabbasos. But not announce it as the movement's policy. (As did the Conservative movement in 1950.) Again, making a least-of-evils allowance can't be presented to the masses who will mistake it for the message that the lesser violation isn't so bad, or perhaps isn't really prohibited.

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  • "sometimes it's okay to violate one Shabbos if it's the only way to observe future Shabbasos." I don't think that's the proper framing. It's never "okay" to drive to shul on Shabbos, and I don't believe any Orthodox rabbi would say otherwise, even in private. It's more a question of whether a rabbi is obligated to raise the issue and effectively turn away a congregant who would not be observing Shabbos anyway or could look the other way in the hopes of bringing them closer to observance. At least that's my understanding.
    – shmosel
    May 27 at 22:13

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