Request for sources: Assuming one does not have semicha, (ordination) but is learned: Can one decide the Halacha for him\herself (after analyzing the issue and investigating the sources), or is one required to ask a Rabbi (or consult a halacha l'maaseh sefer)?


  • If one is unsure of the beracha to make on a food, and investigates and determines it is a fruit, can s\he decide that the proper beracha is העץ? (I'm assuming one is allowed to figure it out by looking it up in a "brachot book." But that isn't "deciding a Halacha.")
  • If one mixes meat with his\her dairy dishes, can s\he decide for him\herself what the proper Halachic course of action is?

Related: Am I allowed to answer my friend's Halacha question? Note: None of the answers there provide adequate sources.

  • 2
    It is not permissible even for a rav to give himself psak halakha! Because we're tempted to give ourselves rulings that we "want," it's imperative that we get a second opinion to make sure our motives are what we think they are...
    – Tatpurusha
    Commented Jun 2, 2014 at 2:08
  • That makes sense, but this is a request for sources.
    – Shmuel
    Commented Jun 2, 2014 at 2:08
  • And what if you can't ask a rabbi? (Due to time constraint, or whatnot)
    – Shmuel
    Commented Jun 2, 2014 at 2:10
  • I know it's a request for sources, that's why it's a comment instead of an answer. Also, obviously you are going to have to make many decisions yourself and for many of these it wouldn't be practical to ask a rabbi, so in that case you have to rely on your own reasoning, although that isn't psak halakha.
    – Tatpurusha
    Commented Jun 2, 2014 at 2:13
  • 3
    Are you asking about determining the facts (i.e. in your example, determining the biological information of this fruit to decide it is a fruit) or the halachic definition of fruit that you want to apply to the specimin in front of you? Commented Jun 2, 2014 at 2:43

3 Answers 3


The Rambam (Talmud Torah 5:4) citing the gemara Horios writes

כל תלמיד שלא הגיע להוראה ומורה הרי זה רשע שוטה וגס הרוח. ועליו נאמר כי רבים חללים הפילה

Any student who did not reach the level of deciding halachic answers but nevertheless instructs is evil, a fool and arrogant...

The relevant question is whether you are qualified to pasken for yourself. If you have reached the level of one who is ראוי להוראה then you can pasken. If not, you can't. This is not a black and white issue. You may be qualified to pasken shailos of berachos but not Shabbos or Niddah.

I have seen people who received semicha who are less qualified than those who did not and seen many people who think they can pasken for themselves who are woefully inadequate both in scholarship and יראת שמים.

In my opinion the only way to know if you have reached the level of ראוי להוראה is by getting experience and שימוש by a competent halachic authority to the point that the authority has the appropriate confidence in you. Indeed, that is what semicha is supposed to connote - that the rabbinical authority issuing the semicha recognizes and gives permission for the receiver of the semicha to issue rulings. (Yoreh Deah 242,14 Rema)

  • Ironically, nowadays that semicha has become, in some places, nothing more than a college degree like any other, I think that it hardly serves as a valid definer of the status of ra'ui hora'ah.
    – Yehuda
    Commented Jun 3, 2021 at 3:00

According to the Alter Rebbe of Lubavitch, this the Machlokes between the Rambam and others (primarily the Rosh). He explains this in Kuntres Achron to Hichlchos Talmud Torah.

According to the Rambam, learning a Halacha from sefer for yourself, even if the sefer doesn't bring the reasoning for the din, is OK. This is why the Rambam wrote the Mishna Torah that way. Others, who were very opposed to the Rambam's failure to include sources and warn people to not pasken from their understanding of it held that this is not at all appropriate.

It depends on the two/three ways that Rashi brings to understand המורין הלכה מתוך משנתם הם מבלי עולם in Sota 22a.

Thus, according to the Rambam the answer would be unambiguously yes - if you know enough of the Sugiya to exclude clearly rejected opinions (as in opinions that were negated by the Talmud) and the matter is addressed directly in what you learned. As for the Rosh, you have to understand the underlying reasons for the Halacha first, and of course the matter has to be directly addressed.

The question asked for sources, which are in the footnotes at the link.

  • The question was about a case where he learned through the relevant sugya, not just looked up what one person says.
    – Double AA
    Commented Jun 3, 2014 at 18:29

from hearos blog: http://hearos.blogspot.co.il/2011/12/bechoros-31a-paskening-for-yourself.html

Bechoros 31a - Paskening For Yourself The Braisa says that one is not allowed to pasken on their own Bechor that it has a mum to allow himself to eat it. The gemara explains that we are speaking about a kohein who was given a bechor and qualifies as a יחיד מומחה who can normally pasken by himself, but we don't allow him to pasken on his own animal because we are afraid that he will be mo'reh heter for personal benefit. Tosafos asks that based on this we should never permit anyone to pasken for themselves on any question of issur v'heter. Furthermore, the gemara in eiruvin says in that a talmid chacham can pasken for himself - how does this fit with our gemara? The Rash in Negaim (cited by Gilyon HaShas) asks Tosafos question and says that it is dependent on whether it is אתחזק איסורא. When the item has a status of being forbidden and relies on the p'sak of the chacham to permit it, one cannot permit their own. But, when there is no default status of issur, one may pasken on their own. The Binas Adam (sha'ar issur v'heter 2) elaborates about this Rash and explains that when a question of issur v'heter would arise on the kashrus of an animal in the shechita process, that would qualify as a chezkas issur where one cannot pasken on their own. But, when it comes to checking the shechita knife on which there is no chezkas issur, one can check their own. It should follow from this that if the shechita knife would get a p'gam in it causing it to be invalid for shechita, the shochet shouldn't be able to check his own knife. However, the Lechem Chamudos (cited by binas adam) explains that anything which is one's control to fix, he is believed on even if it is אתחזק איסורא. Since the schochet can fix his knife by sharpening and removing the nicks, he is believed to say that it has been fixed. The Binas Adam adds that we learn from our gemara that in a case which is אתחזק איסורא and not in one's own control to fix, even a talmid chacham isn't believed. This is clear from the case of Bechor where a יחיד מומחה isn't believed to pasken on his own. Following this approach, the Chochmas Adam (109:6) paskens that although a husband may pasken on the bedika cloth of his wife (and she may pasken on her own), if a question develops about chatzitza while immersing in a mikva, the husband cannot pasken. The rationale for the distinction is that he can only pasken when it is not אתחזק איסורא. Once she is established as a Nida and the question is about her becoming tahora, it is אתחזק איסורא.

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