I recently saw a teshuva by Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, Ohrach Chaim Volume 1 Teshuva 109, that quotes a letter from Rabbi Menashe Klein asking a question on Rabbi Moshe's psak but saying that he does not mean to argue with a Gadol! Rabbi Moshe replies with a long Hakdomo, saying how a person is allowed and must argue when he sees the truth somewhere else even if it means going more lenient. I wondered if this comes with any restrictions, as in how good do you have to be to able to confidently argue with a gadol?

Perhaps you have to been through the sugya yourself?

Perhaps you have to be a rov?

Perhaps you have to be Reb Menashe Klein?


5 Answers 5


I think the answer here is that it is always ok to challenge a gadol - if you do so directly. R' Klein disagreed with R' Moshe, so he wrote to R' Moshe asking about it. Do it respectfully, and from the perspective of someone trying to learn, not as someone who has something to prove.

The key is to realize that they are known as a gadol for a reason, and that you are not. So disagree, that's fine. But be sure that before you go telling everyone that Gadol Ploni is wrong, you give them a chance to show you their reasoning.

Also, not every gadol has the patience of Hillel, so before you challenge them, it's a good idea to know the subject well, and to do it l'shem shomayim, not l'shem kavod.

The above recommendations are also very applicable in general with your fellow human beings, both with regard to Torah matters, and things that aren't (obvious as) Torah matters.

(Keep in mind that gedolim may sometimes also hold each other to a higher standard than others.)

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    Your point of l'shem shomayim is so vital i dont know why i didnt state it in the question. Thanks
    – Yehuda
    Jan 2, 2012 at 18:15
  • A question asked to Rav BenSion Musafi Shelit"a "There is man who for hours deals with trying to disprove the words of Gedolim with crooked ways. Is it permissible to listen to his words? And he rules "G-d forbid, stay away my friend away from his words- they disgust the soul." He also brings many sources to this assertion. Jan 8, 2012 at 1:21
  • @Hacham. exactly my point. it must be l'shem shomayim.
    – HodofHod
    Jan 8, 2012 at 4:34
  • "They are known as a gadol and you are not" ... Isn't always true. I know very humble people that are not known by anyone but are greater in Torah than many "Gedolim" out there. Usually the greatest people are not known (just imagine the greatest "known" gadol out there, there are people even "bigger" that aren't known.
    – Yehoshua
    Apr 24, 2015 at 15:23
  • "Also, not every gadol has the patience of Hillel" ... Then they are not a "gadol". The gedolim now a days that won't talk to you only through a gabbai or speak badly about other gedolim are simply not worth the title. I don't care how great you are in Torah, you still need to have derech eretz and go in the ways of the greats of previous generations.
    – Yehoshua
    Apr 24, 2015 at 15:25

Rav Moshe gives no litmus test. But one must be honest with themselves, and learn as much as possible, and double check their understanding.

  • And you dont think you need smicha first?
    – Yehuda
    Jan 2, 2012 at 14:09
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    @Yehuda I would say not necessarily. Our "semicha" nowadays is kind of an arbitrary process. If someone knows enough Torah, then they know enough Torah even if they haven't learned through one specific sugya. It just so happens that most people who know enough Torah also have semicha...
    – Double AA
    Jan 2, 2012 at 14:54
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    @Yehuda Smicha from who? Your teachers? Maybe. A random yeshiva? Definitely not. The "insert famous posek here", never got smicha :)
    – avi
    Jan 2, 2012 at 16:35
  • @avi in your case effectively you are not arguing, just saying that the gadol's case no longers exists. However, I am refering to case where there is no way out to explain your reasoning other then a direct machlokes on a gadol like Reb Moshe's Teshuva
    – Yehuda
    Jan 2, 2012 at 17:52

There is no such thing as a gadol.

Pirke Avos exhorts us to "aseh l'cha rav", make for yourself a teacher.

Each and every Jew must choose his/her own trusted, knowledgeable, halachic poskim.

A great example of this is the "shabbos mode" in modern electric ovens. (a misnomer, since it is really for yom tov use.)

Rav Shmuel Heinemann worked with electric oven manufacturers to create a system by which one could raise and lower the oven temperature on yom tov.


A few years ago, right before shavuos, someone approached Rav Eliashiv (held by some to be a "gadol") and asked him if these ovens could be used on yom tov. It's never clear exactly how the question is asked to the "gadol", what information was and was not conveyed, etc. In any case, Rav Eliashiv ruled that it is forbidden to use these electric ovens on yom tov.

Rav Heinemann held to his original psak din.

We don't have an authoritative central Jewish court today. There is no hierarchy of poskim. Learn Torah, don't shop for the answer that you want, but pick poskim that you are comfortable with. Rest assured that by following their rulings, you are living a halachic life.

If you meant to ask, "Can I argue with my posek if I know that I'm right" - it depends on the relationship that you have with any given posek.

If you call up a she'elah hotline, the posek on-call is not going to give a shiur on your subject. He will likely say "mutar" or "assur", and then move on to the next caller. If you have a personal relationship with your posek, then you can bring in additional sources from shas and ask how they would apply to your case.

Finally, one can also understand aseh l'cha rav to mean, "Make unto yourself a teacher". If you have a thorough knowledge of shas + poskim on the specific topic of your question, it is legitimate to be your own posek.

However, many leading rabbanim and poskim try to avoid ruling on their own life questions, since they are de facto nogea b'davar, and may be misled in their conclusions. Rather, they will defer to a posek of their own choosing, other than themselves.

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    This seems like an answer to a different question. Namely, this one. judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/13000/…
    – avi
    Jan 5, 2012 at 20:29
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    In the context of this question, "a gadol" certainly exists, as a gadol is anyone who knows more torah, or is more respected than you in general.
    – avi
    Jan 5, 2012 at 20:30
  • I don't think this answers the question. Substitute "posek" for "gadol", and the question still stands. (Hypothetically), I've picked a posek who gives me a psak, that I know/think is wrong (for whatever reason). Can I argue with him?
    – HodofHod
    Jan 5, 2012 at 20:39
  • I agree with avi. You should move this answer to the question avi referenced.
    – Double AA
    Jan 5, 2012 at 21:00
  • @HodofHod your hypothetical question and the question here are not the same. Most Jews who receive psak din from a posek will sit there and say "well what about this, what if I did it that way" etc., whereas most Jews do not have direct access to and time with the rabbis who are singled out by others as gedolim.
    – user1095
    Jan 5, 2012 at 21:38

Judaism does not demand blind obedience to the authority of a rabbi. There is definitely no problem with asking a rabbi a question on his psak. If the rabbi cannot be consulted with, a posek can rule differently. However, one cannot pasken halacha unless he is actually fit to do so. There is a relevant gemara in Baba Basra 130b (cited in "A Study on Rava’s Halakhic Axiology and Jurisprudential Autonomy", by Alex Ozar):

כי אתי פסקא דדינא דידי לקמייכו וחזיתו ביה פירכא, לא תקרעוהו עד דאתיתו לקמאי, אי אית לי טעמא אמינא לכו, ואי לא - הדרנא בי; לאחר מיתה, לא מיקרע תקרעוהו ומגמר נמי לא תגמרו מיניה, לא מיקרע תקרעיניה - דאי הואי התם דלמא הוה אמינא לכו טעמא, מגמר נמי לא תגמרו מיניה - דאין לדיין אלא מה שעיניו רואות

Rava is addressing his students who are "ראוי להוראה". They obviously shouldn't just accept Rava's statements blindly, but they shouldn't reject anything without asking him first. Once Rava dies, he feels that his students should base everything on their own reason, and not rely on Rava's decisions to decide a case. However, he says they shouldn't overturn previous rulings of his, since he might have been able to explain them.

While other amora'im and rabbis may give some more deference to previous authority, they would agree that a posek can argue on a recent authority if he has strong arguments for his position (even if in most cases one is not "sure he is right").

See also Rabbi Nachum L. Rabinovitch, What is “Emunat Hakhamim”?

  • In which issue of Kol Hamevasser was R' Ozar's article published?
    – Double AA
    Jun 19, 2012 at 23:11
  • It was published in YU's Gesher, but I it doesn't appear to be available online.
    – Ariel K
    Jun 20, 2012 at 4:35

My feeling is that this is a complicated issue that relates to nature of paskening halachah. Obviously cogency of the argument is a prime factor but so too is the authority of the posek. If there is what I believe to be called “taus b’davar mishnah”, an outright error in the halachah (which we might expect to be somewhat seldom among leading poskim/gedolim), there would seem to be more room to hold to one’s position than if the issue is a judgement call (though many would have difficulty truly arbitrating between the two). In any event, the best approach would to respectfully present your opinion and correspond with the Rav in question, or another leading posek if necessary, and to the extent possible participate in the dialogue.


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