I read in:

The Vilna Gaon said one can make a berakhah without a kippah, since wearing a kippah is only a midos chassidus ("exemplary attribute"). In the 21st century, there has been an effort to suppress earlier sources that practiced this leniency, including erasing lenient responsa from newly published books.

Call me naive, but I never heard about censoring older halachic sources that disagree with the current view. We always show all minority opinions in halachic decisions. Does anybody know if this is correct?

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    there's a whole book about these extremists amazon.com/Changing-Immutable-Orthodox-Judaism-Rewrites/dp/…
    – Double AA
    Commented Feb 16, 2023 at 20:04
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    Your quote from wikipedia has a footnote with a link to this article hakirah.org/Vol%204%20Rabinowitz.pdf Did you read it? What did you find lacking that you are asking us to verify?
    – Double AA
    Commented Feb 16, 2023 at 20:07
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    The article is only about the issue of the kippah. My question was about the issue of hiding halachic opinions in general. Your book seems to address that. Have you read it? How widespread is the practice? Commented Feb 16, 2023 at 22:04
  • I guess the Rashbam controversy doesn't fall under halachic opinion?
    – shmosel
    Commented Feb 17, 2023 at 4:05
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    @MauriceMizrahi Haven't read it but you won't find anything of value here on Mi Yodeya that isn't already there.
    – Double AA
    Commented Feb 17, 2023 at 14:09

3 Answers 3


I can't speak of this one source you're quoting, but I myself have witnessed censorship on this topic. I've seen kippot photoshopped onto prior Rabbanim. I've quoted the article on kippot censorship topics on this answer elsewhere on Mi Yodeya. I've also had experiences of Rabbis trying to force me to censor my family's minhag regarding Kippot. Since you are an Egyptian Jew I'm sure it would not shock you that most Egyptian Jews did not wear a Kippah outside of the synagogue in Egypt. I have family pictures of Bar Mitzvot in which some people in the pictures aren't even wearing Kippot. And yet current Rabbis have no issue telling you to practice your minhag, but also tell you if you don't wear a kippah you are breaking the law and they expect you to censor your family minhag for the sake of current practice. Another topic that I see similar censorship practices concern women, prayer, tefillin, and tallits.

Rabbi Messas discusses women praying or holding study sessions wearing tefillin in Sephardic lands, it was not a controversial statement at the time because he was just reporting on what he had read from books discussing the topic. Fast forward to 2015 and when his book is republished, that section is removed in its entirety.

R. Joseph Messas has a passage, now famous among the Orthodox feminists, in which he refers to an unnamed book that mentions that in Spain there were places with women’s prayer groups at which each woman wore a tallit and some wore tefillin. It appears in his Nahalat Avot (Haifa, 1980), vol. 5:2, p. 268.

In 2015 the multi-volume set of Nahalat Avot was reprinted in Jerusalem. Take a look at the following page and you will see that the passage dealing with the women’s prayer groups has been deleted in its entirety.


Unlike Ashkenazic internal censorship of this sort, Sephardic censorship is a relatively new phenomenon (only a few decades old). Here is another example. R. Isaac Abraham Solomon’s book Akim et Yitzhak was published in Baghdad in 1910. On pages 112b-113a he rejects a position of the recently deceased R. Joseph Hayyim, the Ben Ish Hai.

R. Solomon appears to even cast doubt on R. Joseph Hayyim’s integrity when he writes:

וקי”ל ת”ח שאמר מילתא לאחר מעשה אין שומעים לו להחזיק דבריו

This book was reprinted in 1971, and here is how the pages look.

Source with pictures: https://seforimblog.com/2015/11/maimonides-and-prophecy-r-pinhas-lintop/

I'm not aware of this kind of mentality existing in diasporic Jews of the Middle East until relatively recently. The Cairo Genizah famously holds many fragments of things that are outright heretical today. Ketubot in which women could initiate divorce, Angelic letters, Hebrew copies of Ben Sirach and other documents. These documents show a tendency to preserve minority opinions, even after they aren't usable anymore. Whereas in our times a lot of orthodox institutions would throw such things in the trash.

For example, I remember when a local Chabad house I attend attempted to throw away my personal copy of the Soncino Chumash. I had stored it there for services because I found the other Chumashim from Chabad contained so much interpretation in their translation that I felt like I could never understand the text in the Peshat. Another congregant stopped the Rabbi and called me. When I went to pick it up I saw they were culling all books that did not contain "strictly orthodox commentary." This is also a form of censorship.

Update: Another answer here mentions censorship of certain halakhic opinions as almost like a safeguard for uneducated Jews. I think a good example of this, and something I've personally gotten push back for is the laws of baking matzah. If you open up the Mishneh Torah and the Shulchan Arukh it's clear and obvious the rule is you have ~18 minutes from the moment you stop kneading dough to bake it or else it's chameitz and should be burned. And yet most publications in our time obscure these opinions and state the halakha is that the entire process must be done within 18 minutes by Jews only. Imagine my surprise to read in Minhagei Misrayim that they would hire local non Jewish bakers to bake matzah for Pesah.

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    "in our times a lot of orthodox institutions would throw such things in the trash” The geniza was a trash. The Egyptian Jews did literally the same thing you are decrying!
    – Double AA
    Commented Feb 17, 2023 at 19:28
  • @DoubleAA The documents of the Cairo Genizah were put in a storeroom with many other religious documents that had outlived their use. The Chabad house I'm discussing was taking all those books to the trash can outside so it could go into a dump. Maybe those two things are equivalent to you, but they are not equivalent to me
    – Aaron
    Commented Feb 17, 2023 at 19:30
  • They are exactly the same qua censorship. The side question of can heresy be burned or must be buried since it has God's name is irrelevant. Anyway removing bad translations from a common shul shelf is not the same as editing out pages in reprints of historical documents. Not keeping the New Testament in my shuls aron kodesh is also a form of censorship for that matter. Is that what the OP sought?
    – Double AA
    Commented Feb 17, 2023 at 19:33
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    Why do I say the Cairo Genizah and a trash can are not the same? The people who operated the Genizah always knew that later people could find and see what was read. Putting things in the trash can are working with the assumption that sending stuff to the trash ensures no one would read it again.
    – Aaron
    Commented Feb 17, 2023 at 19:41
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    Sure but your holiness argument still falls right out the window. The rest of this is emotional pseuoarguing that misses the fundamental distinction between censorship and pedagogy.
    – Double AA
    Commented Feb 17, 2023 at 20:45

I dont think the idea of censoring minority, unaccepted, or nonmainstream opinions is at all a strange concept, especially in thelast few years (and Im not talking about in the Jewish world)

I dont know much about it but I suspect if it is done, its done in books for laymen or other regular Jews who would think that they can/should follow whatever it says inside, particularly if it's from a big name. Those seforim anyway are mainly to teach the halachos rather than the whole subject. Sefarim that go more in depth and or made for learning rather than halachic instruction

Then there's also the issue of people who love searching for and pulling out every obscure or unaccepted opinion to explain or justify their already set views and actions. Right or wrong, I could see trying to avoid those headaches. Again, depends who your market is.

Edited for grumpiness

  • I ran into the opposite problem: rebbeim in middle and high school told me things as flat out halacha that often contradicted things my family did. My family's minhagim are based on either old family mesoros from Europe and/or psakim my great grandparents received from rabbanim in NY in the 30s and 40s and are well supported by sources, but I didn't know enough at the time to question what I was told in school. I spent many sleepless nights upset that my family was doing the wrong thing.
    – Heshy
    Commented Feb 17, 2023 at 11:20
  • I'm Ashkenazi and went to a 90% Ashkenazi school. I'm sure this problem compounds even more when the student is Sefaradi or Teimani in an Ashkenazi school, or vice versa.
    – Heshy
    Commented Feb 17, 2023 at 11:22
  • Same @Heshy. This is one of those issues that has good arguments on both sides, similar to many other things like the clash between teaching science vs dispelling the myth that science has all the answers. It leads to extreme approaches on both ends and our kids (or we, when we were kids) get stuck in the middle and have to sort it all out when they grow older...
    – Rabbi Kaii
    Commented Feb 17, 2023 at 11:51
  • @Heshy I unfortunately saw the same thing in highschool. It was fairly frustrating. This one person would walk around davening as if he was the minhag police and only he knew what was correct.
    – Dude
    Commented Feb 17, 2023 at 17:04

In the 21st century, there has been an effort to suppress earlier sources that practiced this leniency, including erasing lenient responsa from newly published books.

This in itself is just a claim that's truth would need to be evaluated on a case by case basis. It certainly is not a common situation that a commonly used sefer would have different versions for its 20th century and 21st century edition. In fact I've seen this claim being made far more than I've seen actual instances of it being done (I've never seen any such instance without someone else bringing it to my attention)

That said the concept of doing so is correct. ALL societies that I'm familiar with suppress true information that they believe would be damaging to the public because it would be misapplied or misunderstood.

The source for it in Judaism is the posuk in Mishlei 25:2 which says כְּבוֹד אֱלֹהִים הַסְתֵּר דָּבָר. The Gemora Shabbos 153B uses that as the reason why Chazal did not say over a Halacha when there was concern that if commonly followed it would end up causing Chilul Shabbos by some.

Assuming it is true that the GRA was of the personal opinion that one may make a brocha with an uncovered head he himself wouldn't have told people who are in the situation where the universal minhag is to make a brocha with a covered head that they can do make a brocha with a uncovered head. Therefore it would be actually be INcorrect to present his opinion to the unlearned public who would think it is something that they can be relied on in all situations and times.

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    Teaching halacha without mentioning minority opinions is OK. The student can later become aware of them on his own. Reprinting halachic works with parts deleted or retouching portraits of rabbis by adding in a kippah is not OK. Commented Feb 19, 2023 at 15:38

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