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How does one phrase a request for a Rabbi's opinion on a halachic matter so as not to receive a psak? Are there multiple acceptable expressions?

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  • Great question and I'd like to know the answer too. What's wrong with "I am not looking for a psak"? Also, can you give an example as if one is asking for the halacha, then how is one intending to not fulfil what one is told?
    – Rabbi Kaii
    Mar 15, 2023 at 15:07
  • Hi there, saying "not for psak" would definitely work, I'm curious what the lower boundary is. Eg asking what they think, what they would do, etc
    – ak0000
    Mar 15, 2023 at 17:30
  • @RabbiKaii an example would be if one is curious for reasons of Talmud Torah about a person's shita, but this person is not one's posek
    – ak0000
    Mar 15, 2023 at 17:32
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    Are you assuming that if a Rabbi gives you a p'sak when you didn't want it (for example, they misunderstood your question), then you are obligated to heed the p'sak? It's not obvious to me why this should be so.
    – magicker72
    Mar 15, 2023 at 18:24
  • @magicker72 I'm assuming that might be possible, if the question was asked in an ambiguous way, although I'm open to the possibility that it isn't possible. According to Isaac Moses's answer below, you could get a psak without intending to
    – ak0000
    Mar 15, 2023 at 19:28

2 Answers 2

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It seems to me that communicating that desire in a way that's clear to both you and the rabbi should be necessary and sufficient. For example, "I'm interested in learning your opinion on this, but not looking for a Halachic ruling." should generally work.

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  • Interesting, inferring from your use of the word "necessary" that you think asking eg "what would you do," "what would you hold," etc is not sufficient? Is there anything less explicit than your example that you think would work?
    – ak0000
    Mar 15, 2023 at 17:31
  • I think that if you want the rabbi to respond in accordance with your intent, it's necessary to make your intent clear. If you expect that the rabbi you're talking to would reliably infer from the phrases you suggest that you're looking for a non-directive opinion, then they should work for you, for that rabbi.
    – Isaac Moses
    Mar 15, 2023 at 17:34
  • Is there a reason why the intent of the Rabbi matters, as opposed to the metziyus of the lashon used? Eg asking what they do personally?
    – ak0000
    Mar 15, 2023 at 17:44
  • @ak0000 My assumption here is that for this purpose, words don't have any independent metziyus outside of their use in communication. Maybe there's some special rule in hlichot nedarim that assigns special obligations to someone who phrases a question to a rabbi in a certain way, that applies across languages. If so, then my assumption is wrong. If not, then what matters is what you mean, in the context of the conversation. Also, as a purely practical matter, you should want the rabbi to understand the context of the question so that he can tailor his answer appropriately.
    – Isaac Moses
    Mar 15, 2023 at 18:08
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I agree with Isaac Moses' answer; clear and direct communication is your best bet.

An additional suggestion: say that you're seeking an "eitzah" (עצה, lit. "advice"). In some circles (e.g. yeshiva orthodox), this is usually understood as a request for advice or direction, without the weight of a formal psak.

But again, to reiterate that first point: clear and direct communication is your best bet. Using this phrasing will work best when you are sure that the message will be received in the way that you intended it. And it might not be a bad idea to confirm that the word "eitzah" means, to your rabbi, what you think it means.

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