There’s a wonderful, supposedly true story about a revered rabbi. A woman comes to him with a Halachic question. According to the story, the question was not a very sophisticated one. Indeed, the answer to it was very obvious. The rabbi told the woman he would research the question. He spent time going through tomes. He then turned to the woman and provided her the answer.

After she left, the rabbi’s students who had observed the interaction, asked the rabbi: “Rav, why did you spend to much time on that question? And why did you check the volumes? You obviously knew the answer. It was easy.”

The rav replied, “Yes, it was a simple matter that required no research, no thought. But if I did not accord the woman’s question respect and give her time and research, she might never return to me with another question. And the next question might be a problematic one that DID require time and research.”

Is anyone familiar with this story and, if so, do you know the particulars of it? Many thanks for any assistance.

2 Answers 2


I heard this story from Rav Zev Leff in the name of Rav Chaim Soloveitchik. A man came and said his wife every week makes challah with raisins, and this week she forgot to put in the raisins. He wanted to know if it was permissible to have this challah for shabbos.

Rav Chaim's intent was that these people don't know the difference between custom and halacha. If he makes it seem like this is obviously not an issue, the next week his wife might spill some lard in the soup. The husband will say why bother ask the Rav, it's presumably obviously fine after the fact.

  • Thanks so much, Robev. There are probably different versions of the story, different ravs. I appreciate it.
    – Sidney76
    Commented Jun 15, 2021 at 16:32

I've always heard the story as being about Rav Yisroel Salanter. A women came to him and asked him a RIDICULOUS question (allegedly the question was if a cat drinks milk does the cat become forbidden as Bosor V'Cholov -after all the research he told her to it is forbidden to eat it and make sure to find an expert very learned Shochet if she ever wants to eat a cat...)

He then said that because the question was so ridiculous he needed to pretend to be putting so much research so that she should come again with other questions that may be serious.

  • Thanks so much, Schmerel. That sounds pretty much like the story I had heard. I appreciate it.
    – Sidney76
    Commented Jun 15, 2021 at 17:30

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