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I am delving into the concept of the rabbinical authority based on the following pasuk "If a case is too baffling for you to decide, be it a controversy over homicide, civil law, or assault—matters of dispute in your courts—you shall promptly repair to the place that the LORD your G-d will have chosen" [...] You shall act in accordance with the instructions given you and the ruling handed down to you; you must not deviate from the verdict that they announce to you either to the right or to the left.

Based on this, I have the following questions:

  1. The Torah states "If a case is too baffling for you to decide", does this means that you'll need to take a decision by yourself first, and then, when you do not know how to handle, "go to the place that the LORD your G-d will have chosen"?
  2. I've read that "R' Moshe Feinstein discusses how he rules based on his own reasoning and sometimes will argue on major achronim, because that is the way of the Torah." (is there a link for a citation?). Does this means, according to what I wrote on point 1, that you will first need to come with your own decision according to your best knowledge?
  3. Rabbi Dov Linzer writes " What is the basis for Rabbinic authority to interpret Torah law? Ultimately, an explicit answer cannot be found in the Torah, as history makes clear. Going back to the time of the Second Temple, there were sects that rejected Rabbinic authority while fully accepting the authority of the Torah: the Essenes, the Sadducees, the Karaites. So much of what distinguished these groups lay in who they believed held the ultimate authority to interpret and apply Torah law. ". How can these sects reject the Rabbinic authority if the Torah states "If a case is too baffling for you to decide [...]. You shall act in accordance with the instructions given you and the ruling handed down to you"?

Many thanks!

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    It seems appropriate to break this question up into several individual questions in keeping with the guidelines. You are broaching a whole range of ideas here. Just glancing over Rabbi Linzer’s article, a few important details seem to be getting lost. The source of our laws and how we understand them comes to us via the Law Giver, Moshe Rabbeinu. We learn the concept of Rabbinic authority via his semichah of his student, Yehoshuah, who filled Moshe’s place. Court interpretation only comes when there is dispute between litigants. Otherwise, the is no Heavenly help to the Judges. Nov 22 at 22:49
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    Continued: Another critical idea to keep in mind is that according to Jewish tradition, at least as we understand it from Sherirah Gaon, is that prior to Hillel and Shammai (the individuals) there was almost no disagreement over halacha among all Israel. Individuals might have a dispute over what applied. But what the actual laws were, was in agreement. That’s something difficult to imagine today. Good group of questions though. Nov 22 at 22:56
  • @YaacovDeane Thank you. I am aware of the Igeret Rav Sherira Gaon, haven't read it completely though. Any other recommendations to read on this subject?
    – mvs
    Nov 23 at 9:39

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