Back in the days of the Sanhedrin, after a psak about a particular halacha was issued, were you able to still hold of your own opinion in private? If you were confident in your own interpretation of the law, were you able to continue doing things your own way — so long as you did not teach your way, or publicize it?

Please quote sources...

Thanks in advance for the help here!

  • 1
    Any reason he would not be in violation of על פי התורה אשר יורוך..לא תסור?
    – Yoni
    Commented Jun 17, 2014 at 23:39
  • To clarify: Does any other legal system allow a person, who believes his own interpretation of the law to be correct (as opposed to that decided by the legislature or supreme court), to act according to his interpretation, as long as he does so in private (and so long as he doesn't advocate doing so publicly)?
    – Tamir Evan
    Commented Jul 6, 2014 at 17:40

4 Answers 4


The Sefer HaChinuch says something which I believe addresses this question in two places.

Mitzvah 78 - אחרי רבים להטות

משרשי מצוה זו, שנצטוינו בזה לחזק קיום דתנו, שאלו נצטוינו קימו התורה כאשר תוכלו להשיג כונת אמתתה, כל אחד ואחד מישראל יאמר דעתי נותנת שאמתת ענין פלוני כן הוא, ואפילו כל העולם יאמרו בהפכו לא יהיה לו רשות לעשות הענין בהפך האמת לפי דעתו, ויצא מזה חרבן שתעשה התורה בכמה תורות, כי כל אחד ידין כפי עניות דעתו. אבל עכשיו שבפרוש נצטוינו לקבל בה דעת רב החכמים יש תורה אחת לכלנו והוא קיומנו גדול בה ואין לנו לזוז מדעתם ויהי מה

Summary: If we would each follow our own ideas, it would lead to the deterioration of our nationhood and disunification of the Torah. Now that we all follow the Sages, there is one Torah and it maintains us.

Mitzvah 496 - שלא להמרות על פי בית דין הגדול

כלומר, שאפילו יהיו הם טועים בדבר אחד מן הדברים אין ראוי לנו לחלק עליהם, אבל נעשה כטעותם, וטוב לסבל טעות אחת ויהיו הכל מסורים תחת דעתם הטוב [ה] תמיד, ולא שיעשה כל אחד ואחד כפי דעתו, שבזה יהיה חרבן הדת, וחלוק לב העם, והפסד האמה לגמרי

Summary: Even if the Sages are occasionally mistaken, it is better to listen to them and have the rare mistake, rather than each person do according to his own ideas, which would destroy the religion and divide the heart of the nation.

Following this logic, it would seem that if you would follow your own opinion, and everyone else would follow their own opinion, it would be a breakdown of the nationhood of Israel in that each person is doing his own thing. The ideal is to have one unified nation with one Torah.

  • So if you cannot deviate at all, what then is the point of learning if you're not on the Sanhedrin? If your opinion doesn't matter, and your interpretation makes no difference, how can we say shivim panim latorah?
    – WhoKnows
    Commented Jun 19, 2014 at 1:25
  • @WhoKnows Rambam in his introduction to Perek Chelek, as well as Nefesh HaChaim in Shaar 4, says that the point of learning is for the sake of the learning itself - as the Rambam says it, to know the Chochma. Either way, it's a mitzvah. That's like asking "why put on Tefillin if I can't paskin!" Commented Jun 19, 2014 at 2:12
  • @WhoKnows Regarding shivim panim, the opinions are still opinions even if you can't act on them. Commented Jun 19, 2014 at 2:13

Rambam Laws of Mamrim (rebellion against authority) 3:6

אין זקן ממרא חייב מיתה, עד שיהיה חכם שהגיע להוראה, סמוך בסנהדרין, ויחלוק על בית דין בדבר שחייבין על זדונו כרת ועל שגגתו חטאת, או בתפילין; ויורה לעשות כהוראתו, או יעשה הוא על פי הוראתו; ויחלוק עליהם, והם יושבין בלשכת הגזית.

The rebellious elder is only liable to the death penalty if he is a caliber of scholar worthy of ruling, ordained to the Sanhedrin; who argues with the Sanhedrin on something punishable by Karet if done on purpose, or a sin-sacrifice if done by mistake -- or with regards to tefillin. [Note that the Qumranites put the Ten Commandments in their Tefillin.] And he then instructs [others] to follow his ruling, or he himself follows it ...

But then again, if we're discussing giving the death penalty, that means there are two witnesses around warning him, and he's saying "yes I know I shouldn't be doing this, but I don't care." Your question is in the privacy of his own home when no one is watching, is he allowed to, say, do this action on Shabbos that he says is allowable but the mainstream say is not? Hm...

  • 3
    This doesn't quite seem to answer the question.
    – Scimonster
    Commented Jun 17, 2014 at 12:08

This is discussed in the gemara in bava metziah in relation the tanur shel achnai (snake oven). There was a big fight between Rabbi Eliezer and the chachamim. The basis of this fight was whether or not people should be debating the Halacha and voting on it or simply reiterating what their rabbis taught them. However, even Rabbi Eliezer would agree that once the Sanhedrin paskens a Halacha, nobody may argue. This is why he attempted to make the walls of the Sanhedrin fall down. There is a differing opinion ascribed to R' Eliezer ben Hurcanus, however no one else would agree with him.

  • So if you cannot deviate at all, what then is the point of learning if you're not on the Sanhedrin? If your opinion doesn't matter, and your interpretation makes no difference, how can we say shivim panim latorah?
    – WhoKnows
    Commented Jun 18, 2014 at 0:28
  • 1
    Since the torah is "Lo bashamayim he", when the Sanhedrin make a halacha, that halacha is final. Even if you do not agree with the outcome's psak, you must follow it. This can be explained by the metaphor of a democratic politician in Texas. Even though he/she may believe personally that gay marriage is fine, they have no right to privately marry gays. They are entitled to their opinion, but can not practice it.
    – ejLev
    Commented Jun 18, 2014 at 4:14

A Zaken ShaHiGiA LeHoRoO who follows BD when he knows they are wrong, must bring his own Chattos offering. However, a sacrifice is only brought for a Shogeg, and this Zaken is not a Shogeg, he knows it is wrong.

The Gemara and RaMBaM explain - his Shogeg is that he thought [wrongly] that it is a Mitzvah to follow BD even when they are wrong [presumably to maintain community cohesion] but that is wrong - and THIS is the Shogeg for which he brings his sacrifice He brings a sacrifice because he followed BD when he should have been following his own understanding

  • I don't think that's what the question is talking about. But welcome to Mi Yodeya.
    – Scimonster
    Commented Jan 13, 2015 at 14:57

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