How does accepted Halacha come to be when there is a dispute?

More specifically - we notice different approaches in terms of practice: when it comes certain mitzvot: to how to put up a mezuzah, we take a hybrid approach. When it comes to shofar - we listen to a hundred blasts to fulfill various opinions., Zecher and Zeicher by parshas Zachor. However, when it comes to other mitzvot, we don’t find all Jews trying to fulfill all opinions in Halacha - e.g. Rabbeinu Taam tefilin, parshas Zachor in different dialects, all times of Shabbos etc.

Why and how did this evolve?

  • 3
    Not everyone follows hybrid approaches for mezuzah. Rarely are all 100 blasts needed to fulfill different opinions. Many oppose the modern newfangled practice of saying Zekher (six dots) for Parshas Zakhor. Probably you're just familiar with the "stringencies" common in your community and mistakenly assume everyone else does the same. Whole communitiea of Jews wear what are known as R Tam Tefillin daily, for instance.
    – Double AA
    Commented Sep 6, 2018 at 19:26
  • 2
    This is a tough question; maybe it should be split into two? One asking how the halacha emerges from a machloket and another asking why some machlokot result in stringencies. Commented Sep 6, 2018 at 19:44
  • 1
    Tempted to VTC as too broad - it depends on the nature of the machlokes. Tannaim against Tannaim? Amoraim against Amoraim? Rishonim against Rishonim? Achronim against Achronim? Is it a monetary case, an issur v’heter case, an arayos or potentially-arayos case, or a capital case? Even among those various categories it varies widely.
    – DonielF
    Commented Sep 6, 2018 at 20:14

2 Answers 2


There's no such thing as "an accepted Halachah" - it's just a figure of speech. Whatever is accepted by someone is rejected by someone else.

Halachah is always offered, but not accepted. A single Rabbi, can state that he rules it so or so, but nothing turns automatically into Halachah until people start practicing it. And we judge it, pretty much, statistically.

Rambam wrote his Mishnah Torah but it was not widely accepted immediately, so the writing does not turn it into Halacha. HaTur wrote the 4 Turim but it wasn't accepted, but when R' Karo copied it, it became "the de-facto" Halachah pretty arbitrary, it could be the other way around, as it happened to many other good Seforim.

So it is a matter of a "luck" whether a ruling will or will not be accepted by the wide audience or the other Rabbis (that rule wide audiences).

  • Halacha and minhag is NOT random or a matter of luck. To say so is saying that Moshe Rabeinu was lucky and got it right...which is basically what you're saying. Do you see the SERIOUS problem with that? Commented Sep 8, 2018 at 22:06
  • Let us continue this discussion in chat. Commented Sep 8, 2018 at 22:14
  • I like your answer. Because many people think they follow the shulchan arukh and they don't, they follow something else for this case, another for that case. And honestly it all seems like blind luck to me. Like doing kapparot, Maran rules against this directly, for a very good reason. Some communities stopped some didn't. Why? Seems like luck to me!
    – Aaron
    Commented Sep 8, 2018 at 23:39
  • @Aaron Not luck...some communities had prevailing customs prior to the ruling of the Shulchan Aruch, so they didn't accept the new ruling(R' Karo ztz"l insisted that communities with prevailing customs continue with theirs and not take on his ruling). Commented Sep 9, 2018 at 9:07

You're not [probably] like what I'm gonna say but it must be said:
Judaism is all about following Rabbis and their "subjective truths" and not about following [some kind of ] "the absolute objective truth". Here are the reasons why the Halachah looks as it is:

  1. Unlike the science that's goal is to find the empirical truth (as we don't care who discovered the formula or proved a theorem as long as it works), in Judaism, we follow the opinions of single Rabbis implying that that's the truth.

  2. Besides the belief that the Rabbis are guided by the Ruach Hakodesh (the Rabbies deny themselves) there's no way of the empirical testing the validity of any argument. So, theoretically, a Rabbi can utter any ruling without anyone being able to refute it. Here's a simple test for you: find a Machloket in the Gemmorah and see if you can refute the opposite resolution of a dispute (the factual Halachah). If you can't it is just as valid as the actual one.

  3. There are hundreds of ruling Rabbis, and there's no pre-defined way of who we follow in what questions. This is the way of the Talmud: in one Halachah, we follow R"A, in another R"Y, or Rabbah or Chahamim (anonymous) or Ravinah or R"Ashi or whatever (some try to set rules post-factum though). Who did Rambam follow? How did the Mechaber decide on the three to rule by Majority - is there such a principle in our Halachah? How did Mishnah Berura decide on his sources - who he follows?

  4. The punchline - whoever thinks that the purpose of learning Torah (and Halachah as you ask) is about finding the truth is wrong. It is all about "engaging in learning Torah" (as we say the Beracha "לעסוק בדברי תורתך"). To prove that is enough to remind you that the Sanhedrin was [presumably] functioning till the late Amoraim and ALL the disputes of the Talmud could be easily ruled in court, but they didn't use that tool, they preferred the disputes and inconsistencies, and personification of the Halachah instead of unifying and streamlining it.

(Did you see any Gdol Hador trying to unite other Gdoylim to prevent disputes or the opposite? (Here in Israel we have a joke about a Photoshopped virtual "Mizrach" where different Gdoylim (like R' Ovadia and R' Elyashiv and R' Kanyevsky and R' Auerbach Z"L) sit together by one table - which is only good for Kapparot on Rosh Hashonah).) So they all inherently endorse the diversity and variety of Rabbis and opinions, for it gives us the opportunity to continue that approach further.

Therefore we end up with a fabulous, legendary and incredible culture of following [arbitrary] traditions. There's no logical reasonable explanation and necessity of most of the current Mishnah Berurah or Shu"A. For example, women wobble Lulav with/without Berachah - can we refute if it was prohibited? Women don't put Teffilin - can we refute if they were obligated (Based on R' Akiva in Eruvin 98-99)?

But, as I said in #4, cheer up, if we're given the reward just for mere engaging in all those fights and disputes, and if that's the G-d's will - that's just fine, as the final Rashi in the Ecclesiastes - "מה שתוכל עשה ולבך לשמים"!!

Some afterthoughts:

  1. The Rabbis that deal with Halachic rulings, pretty much all of them are (unfortunately for me) are very inconsistent and non-systematic, following the format of our Scriptures and the Rabbinical books (Mishnah and Gemmorah) that are also very much inconsistent and non-systematic.

    • Take for example the way of commanding the Mitzvot in the Torah: First, there's no clear understanding of what substitutes a Mitzvah in the Torah, Second, there's no fixed formula for a Mitzvah: some are direct (Don't murder), some indirect (Bney Israel will not eat גיד הנשה), some are given in single (honor your parent)some in plural (fear your parent), some detailed (Lost and Found) some only hinted (Works on Shabbos), some only once (Teffilin) some numerous times, some before Matan Torah (פרו ורבו) and some after etc.

    • The Mishnah and the Gemorah follow the same vagueness, having no clear system of principles of how the Halachah is ruled (some tried to formulate it post-factum but it is not widely accepted). Sometimes it follows one Rabbi sometimes another - just a matter of chance.

    • Take for example Rambam's Mishnah Torah. Each Mitzvah is phrased differently, bringing different sources, sometimes citing whole Gemmorahs and sometimes not relying on the Gemmorah at all. There's not even a clear definition of what a Mitzvah is, as for example in Hilchos Krishma he starts with: "Twice a day [we] read Krishmah", not mentioning it's a Mitzvah at all, but 3 lines further he states "it is a Mitzvah to remember the Exodus at night", not mentioning that actually it is not a Mitzvah at all (he doesn't count it in his 613)

And the list goes on and on.

  • Yeah... I see what you mean by this, but the way it’s worded is incredibly misleading. An emphasis must be made on the distinction between rulings by the Sanhedrin HaGadol in the Lishkas HaGazis, where Hashem rests on them and ensures that they make a correct ruling - hence the concept of a Zakein Mamrei; between rulings by the Sanhedrin elsewhere, where, even without the same level of Siyata d’Shmaya, it’s still a body accepted by all of Judaism; and between rulings by later courts, where certain communities accepted them and certain ones didn’t.
    – DonielF
    Commented Sep 7, 2018 at 13:46
  • (Con’t) Even so, it must be noted that one is not allowed to “Rabbi shop.” If he has his Posek, he must listen to him - (related to) the concept of Emunas Chachamim. It’s still not the same as the Lishkas HaGazis, but there’s still Siyata d’Shmaya when a Posek hands out a halachic opinion.
    – DonielF
    Commented Sep 7, 2018 at 13:47
  • @DonielF This is a fascinating point and I didn't know that. So you're saying "ועשית ככל אשר יורוך" applies only to "וקמת ועלית" i.g. the Temple? So for the hundreds of years following the destruction, the Sanhedrin was what - a community center? This is the second time you outsmart me with your unorthodox answers (the first was about different Mitzvos counting - I'm gonna continue that point).
    – Al Berko
    Commented Sep 8, 2018 at 18:59
  • @DonielF Now some critics: 1. "one is not allowed to “Rabbi shop" says who? good point, I'm gonna ask it openly. (judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/95279/…) 2. "certain communities accepted them and certain ones didn’t" - my point is that the acceptance of the Rabbis' Halachic rulings is completely arbitrary (of course it's Ratzon Hashem, which is meaningless to us, for us it is arbitrary).
    – Al Berko
    Commented Sep 8, 2018 at 19:24
  • @DonielF 3. "the concept of Emunas Chachamim" - is a very vague thing. As we've seen from the Gemmorah the Tannoyim and Amorayim didn't follow it themselves, so what can we do? Unless we openly accept someone's authority (sort of a Neder, not more) nothing obligates us to accept other Rabbis' rulings. E.G I truly believe that R' Moshe was a Tzadik and full of Siyatah Dishmayah - does it obligate me in any way to accept his rulings?
    – Al Berko
    Commented Sep 8, 2018 at 19:27

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