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According to Halacha, is the prohibition of Marit Ayin biblical (D’oraita) or rabbinic (Derabbanan) in nature? Or is this question an undecided Machloket amongst the Poskim?

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  • Rav Moshe Feinstein holds its deorayta. The Rosh holds its derabanan Apr 17 at 5:36

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Want to clarify, change, and explain my answer a bit:

After speaking with two big Rabbanim about this topic I realized that everyone holds Marit Ayin is derabbanan except for Rav Moshe (Igrot Moshe 4:82) with whom both Rabbanim had many kashaya's on:

Sources that might seem that they are deoritah, but really are not:

  1. Mishnah in Shekalim 3:2- although its quoting a pasuk in Bamidbar 32:22, וִהְיִיתֶם נְקִיִּם מֵ’ה וּמִיִּשְׂרָאֵל, both Rabbanim said and also Rav Asher Weiss says (here) thats its a merely a טעמא דקרא.
  2. Gemera in Yevamot 24b is quoting a pasuk from ketuvim so it is derabbanan and also a טעמא דקרא.
  3. In Shu”t Mayim Amukim 2:41 he's discussing the Gemera in Gittin 60b that moving the house where the eiruv chatzerot causes a chashad and that maybe this din is from the Torah. However, I don't understand how chashad there is Medeoritah because the lashon of the Mishna that the Gemara is explaining is darkei shalom and that's obviously Derabbanan! Also, the Mishneh Berurah and Poskim in Siman 366 say that it is mutar for a very good reason and we don't matir isurei Deoritah for a very good reason. Therefore this understanding of chashad being Deoritah is not accepted.
  4. Igrot Moshe 4:82 is a major chidush and many argue on him (very lengthy argument on Rav Moshe from both Rabbi’s and that's for another time).
  5. The sources I listed including: Beitza 9a, Geonim, Rif, and Rosh Beitza 9:14, Shu”t Pnei Yehoshua 2:2 still all hold its derabanan.
  6. Yabia Omer Yoreah Deah 6:8 (and any teshuvot that Rav Ovadia has on Marit Ayin) has nothing to do with whether Marit Ayin is deorita or derabbanan, and was just talking about not applying Marit Ayin to Derabbanan’s like with the parve milk and chicken, but it doesn’t tell me if its midin deoritah or derabbanan. Both Rabbanim concluded that Rav Ovadia holds Marit Aiyn is mederabbanan.

Overall, besides Rav Moshe (according to my knowledge and the 2 big Rabbanim whom I spoke to) Marit Ayin is derabbanan. This is clear from the Gemara, Rambam, and Shulchan Aruch from all the cases mentioned there.

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    Of course it could be that the overarching concept is Deoraysa while the particular applications are derabanan, or the egregious cases are deoraysa while the looser cases are derabanan ... it doesn't have to be a strict either/or.
    – Shalom
    Apr 17 at 15:11
  • אין הכי נמי, I was just presenting the opinions Apr 17 at 16:26
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    Rav Ovadia Yosef ruled that one can invoke marit ayin only when one might appear to violate a law in the Torah. [Yabia Omer 6, YD 8] This may imply he believed it's a Torah law. Apr 17 at 23:35
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    I asked two very close Talmidim of Rav Ovadia and they said he holds it’s derabbanan, I will add more and edit my answer to explain myself a bit better Apr 18 at 13:16
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See Igros Moshe (OC vol II, siman 40 and 64) where he explains that there are two distinct concepts of maris ayin.

One concept is based on והייתם נקיים, that one may not do actions which make others suspect he is violating a torah prohibition.

The second that when one seems to violate a prohibition which does not seem so bad to the general public, he causes others to be lenient too; this issue is only a problem with prohibitions that others may treat leniently, not something which is publicly known to be a severe prohibition. (this second one seems to be drabanan)

(Incidentally, Rabbi J.B. Soloveitchik claimed that based on והייתם נקיים, one is forbidden to say lashon hara about himself. The Chafetz Chaim, however, writes that it is permitted to do so, so it is possible that he didn't consider it a prohibition at all, just good advice.)

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