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There are so many different halachot and custom nowadays, I have a lot of questions on how should one decide what halacha to follow.

Let's say I have an halacha question. The way I see it, I have three options:

  1. Ask my rabbi
  2. Look up by myself in some book of halacha, like shulchan aruch
  3. Find out my family's custom

Questions:

  • What alternative above is the ideal one?
  • In case 1, if I find out another halachic source that for me makes more sense than what my rabbi follows, can i do it that way?
  • And in case 2, let's say Shulchan Aruch argues with Aruch Hashulchan. Can i simply choose which ruling makes more sense to me, since they are booth authorized halachic sources?
  • Can I follow, let's say, Shulchan Aruch, in one matter and, for example, Aruch Hashulchan, in another matter or am I supposed to "adopt" a book to follow in all matters, just as we do with rabbis?
  • And in case 3, let's say I don't know whats my family custom in this matter, how deep should I search it to find out?
  • If my parents came from a certain city in Poland, should I follow that city custom?

I'm really confused about this stuff!

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    Option 3 sounds like the worst choice if you're really uncertain. Your family could have been doing things incorrectly for a long time, and you may have no clue. – DanF Jun 9 '16 at 19:54
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    My general rule of thumb: (1) check the recent codes (Chayei Adam, Qitzur, Arukh haShulchan, Mishnah Berurah). If they agree, I assume asking my rabbi would be wasting his time. (2) Find out my community's minhag, and then with #2 in hand -- (3) ask my rabbi. – Micha Berger Jun 10 '16 at 20:01
  • There is also a link between that list of codes and my community of origin. Of those books, all are East European, and three of the four are Lithuanian in particular. Notice also I do not get practical halachic rulings from modern day popularizations. I guess if my rabbi or HIS rabbi wrote one, that would be a different story. – Micha Berger Jun 10 '16 at 20:05
  • @MichaBerger: I've pretty much done the same thing, with the only difference being that I check the recent codes only to get the background on the sugya so that I have some footing when I go to ask my Rav. – DonielF Jun 14 '16 at 21:41
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When you have a doubt about how you should be following halakha, the final decision should always come from a rabbi. They are trained to consider all of the factors of a matter. What might seem to you like an applicable case in the Shulkhan Arukh may very well not actually apply to your situation for some reason that you had not considered. It might also be the case that the particular sefer you are reading does not represent today's commonly accepted opinion for this particular issue. Unless you are trained in giving psak yourself, you should go to your rabbi.

While your rabbi should always be the person who has the final word, your other two suggestions (looking it up in the halakhic literature and finding out your family's custom) are very important steps to take.

If you research the issue before approaching your rabbi, you can tell him what you have found. This will allow him to address your particular concerns. He can also explain why he might rule contrary to the source you've read. You asked about the case where the source you read makes more sense to you than your rabbi's ruling; if you bring that source to your rabbi, he can explain to you why he is ruling differently from your source. Just because it seems reasonable to you does not mean that it's correct or the normative halakha (especially if you haven't read the opposing arguments).

Family customs are also important. Your rabbi will be able to tell you how important they are. If a cursory attempt to determine your family's custom fails, you can tell that to your rabbi. He will be able to tell you whether you need to dig more deeply into your family's history or whether such research is not necessary.

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    Moreover, most works sound reasonable when you read them alone. After all the author thought it was reasonable. If you don't have a feel for what all the other sides say, your opinion of what is more reasonable isn't very valuable. It's not just that you can't be sure if the ruling applies to you. You can't always trust that what you think now is reasonable is indeed reasonable. – Double AA Jun 9 '16 at 19:53
  • @DoubleAA Indeed. I added that. – Daniel Jun 9 '16 at 19:56
  • No you didn't. You added something else. – Double AA Jun 9 '16 at 22:30
  • Rabbis also have informal training, ie practical experience in the art of ruling. And it is an art, not just some set of rules anyone with enough knowledge can apply. – Micha Berger Jun 10 '16 at 20:07

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