(Inspired by P'sak halacha by AI?)

Much is made of the need for poskim to be well-experienced people who have been involved in a number and variety of Jewish legal situations commensurate with their reliability in a given realm. This experience serves their ability to relate to, intuit about, and inform the individual needs of the asker. Could it be possible for a well-qualified posek, in possession of these qualities, to forgo them for a good reason? Or would that invalidate the individualized p'sak?

For example, in the case (See linked answers.) where Rav Moshe is presented similar chickens by different women and decides differently for each of them based on his correct assessment of the facts, imagine that the woman whose chicken he allowed had come back in and declared "Individual proclivities aside, what should I really do with this chicken? Whatever you say I will accept wholeheartedly and follow with no hesitation or resentment."? Clearly we would not say that the original p'sak was wrong because there is simply more information now than there was before. Is there an intellectually and spiritually honest way that a sho'el who would be given a certain answer based on personal sensitivities and the like could opt to ignore those sensitivities and instead get the complete, true, and valid - but general - answer that a general treatment of his halacha would yield?

As a corollary, could a person be a type of person who always wanted and asked for the latter type of p'sak?

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    I think there may be no such thing as the objectively correct answer in many cases. Many issues are the subject of disagreement and of declarations of preference rather than decision by the authorities, and many questions bring different Halachic preferences into conflict. Deciding the right way to advise in these situations necessarily takes the situation into account, which includes the personality of the asker.
    – Isaac Moses
    Commented Feb 23, 2011 at 4:01

1 Answer 1


Rabbi Aaron Rakeffet likes to quote Rabbi Yerucham Gorelik as saying that a posek has to be in a laboratory, completely isolated from the outside world ... Rabbi Rakeffet then cites others who strongly disagree.

Individual proclivities aside ... I will accept wholeheartedly and follow with no hesitation or resentment.

Hesitation or resentment has nothing to do with it. It's a case where (for instance) we believe one opinion in the Rishonim is correct as baseline law, yet we seek to also follow a second opinion where it won't cause hardship. If it will cause financial hardship to this person, then they should not follow it. It's easy to say "oh it won't bother me", but if they have to spend the money on another chicken today, then tomorrow they won't have money for something else important. If the psak is "this instance should be allowed in cases of great need, and you have great need", then that is what should be followed. If the psak was based on faulty information (the lady was pretending to be poor to evade taxes but had billions offshore) that would be one thing; but if Rav Moshe saw the facts and made a psak, that's solid; don't waste your money on being machmir.

(I recognize the Gemara says that a Torah scholar on a high level should refrain from eating something that required a complex psak; we're talking about normal people here, once they've been given their psak.)

A sad but very pertinent footnote: from what I read a few years ago, OCD tends to manifest itself in the Orthodox community at about the same rate as the general population, but the behaviors tend to focus on a small handful of things: is this food really kosher? ; did I wash enough so I can pray now? ; and am I clean enough to dunk in the mikva now?. One vital way to tell whether someone has OCD or is simply being machmir is if their rabbi told them that's enough -- if they follow the rabbi, fine; if not, it could very well be OCD. So it's important as a matter of policy to let people know that a psak should be followed.

I don't recall which of the Achronim stated that if a small amount of non-kosher was nullified in a large mixture of kosher and a competent rabbi ruled it was okay, it's a mitzva to then eat that food (assuming it tastes good and you're hungry), to show we believe that the same Torah that said "don't eat non-kosher" also said "small amounts can be nullified in some cases."

Or as Rabbi Zev Leff told an older man who attempted to fast on Yom Kippur despite strong doctor's orders otherwise:

The will of G-d is that you eat today and stay healthy; what you're doing is idol worship. Who cares if the idol is a statue called Baal, or if the idol is a thing called Yom Kippur?

  • The presentation of OCD you describe is not specific to Judaism at all, but is common in many religions. Roman Catholics, for example, often exhibit OCD with regards to confessing sins in the proper manner (was I really forgiven? Does the fact that I can't remember whether I felt lust for Mrs. Jones three times back in 2005 or whether it was four times invalidate my current confession and make me liable to hell?) and worrying over whether sacraments were performed right. The recommended solution is the same - be open and honest with one's priest and ask if there is anything more to do. Commented Sep 30, 2020 at 15:56

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