Given the vast array of interpretations and customs in following Halacha, how does Judaism maintain its credibility and authority when one practice can be considered correct by one group but incorrect by another? In some cases, the contradiction can be about keeping Shabbos properly which has dire consequences if not followed properly.

  • 4
    When you look at the difference in halachot between different groups within Orthodox Judaism, they're pretty minor when compared to the schisms between denominations in other religions. Everyone agrees, for example, that cooking on Shabbat is forbidden.... from the point of view of an outsider, does it really make that much of a difference whether you make instant coffee in a kli sheni vs. a kli shlishi? Commented Jul 8 at 14:24
  • לא תתגודדו Commented Jul 9 at 1:18
  • In my understanding, contrary to other truth-seeking enterprises that focus on de facto truths, the Rabbinic tradition defines all Rabbinic statements as true de jure (by definition). A Kaii noted, two fundamental Talmudic principles establish that: "Not in Heaven" establishes the unlimited authority of Rabbis, and "Those and Those are God-spoken truths" establishes the utter validity of any of their statements. Therefore, in Judaism, rabbinic credibility is established as apriori regardless of the factual truthfulness of their statements.
    – Al Berko
    Commented Jul 10 at 20:22
  • Therefore, in rabbinic disputes where we see one side being factually wrong (see sefaria.org.il/Pesachim.94b.5?lang=bi&with=all&lang2=en) we are to believe that they did not aim at empirical truth, but allegorical. This approach turns Rabbis invincible and therefore makes Judaism so flexible and unbeatable.
    – Al Berko
    Commented Jul 10 at 20:28

1 Answer 1


Halacha is indeed filled with doubts and ambiguities due to how ancient it is and how much pressure there has been on it (and yet despite that, it is miraculously clear for the most part, as יהושע ק points out), but this does not affect its credibility.

Halacha is the part of Torah that is "lo bashamayim hi - not in heaven" (Bava Metzia 59b, based on Devarim 30:12), and is generally decided by principles that we can apply in a down to earth setting - no prophecy or angels required, just simple rules like "go after the majority in cases of doubt" (ibid, based on Shemot 23:2) and that's considered completely credible.

So, unless you happen to accident upon a particularly politicised case, the vast majority of Torah true Jews do not view each other has breaking halacha when they follow differences in practice. In fact, many will eat in each others' homes despite the differences in Kashrut laws, Shabbat observances, etc.

The point is that even though we have doubts and ambiguities, all the opinions we discuss and debate are well sourced, part of the mesora, and/or the words of our great Sages, whom Hashem entrusted to impart halacha to us, and commanded us to accept even in cases of doubt.

I.e. Eilu v'Eilu Divrei Elokim Chaim - these and those are the words of the Living God (Eruvin 13b).

For more detail, see this answer I wrote on the subject.

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    The additional detail also helps a lot. Thanks.
    – Seeker
    Commented Jul 11 at 19:45

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