Friday, April 01, 2005

Da'as Torah

R. Mordechai Willig on Da'as Torah:

...Advice is, by definition, not binding. One who seeks rabbinic advice and chooses to ignore it does not violate halachah. Indeed, if he is convinced, based on superior information , that the Rabbi has erred, he should ignore the advice. Many rabbis do not offer specific counsel when the expertise of others in a particular area exceeds their own. Instead, they advise the questioner to follow the opinion of an expert in the field.

The possibility that the greatest of scholars can err in strict halachah is explicit in Vayikra (4:13 see Rashi). Even in that case, an individual who is convinced that the Sanhedrin erred may not rely on their decision (Horayot 2b).

The Talmud (Gittin 56b) cites the view of Rabbi Akiva that Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakai, the greatest Torah leader of his day, erred grievously in a political decision equivalent to advice for Klal Yisrael. While it is true that the Talmud defends Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakai’s view, and, assuming it is wrong, attributes it to divine intervention which confounded the wisdom of a chacham, nonetheless, the principle of rabbinic fallibility is extended from pure halachah to more general matters.

This exception does not detract from the idea of the medrash cited earlier. Just as in halachah we must follow rabbinic rulings, despite the possibility of error rather than lapse into halachic anarchy (see Sefer HaChinuch, 496) so too in the realm of advice, both personal and communal, we do well by adhering to the counsel of Ziknei Yisrael, even though it is sometimes wrong...
On a related note, an audio of R. Nosson Kamenetsky's recent speech in Boro Park about the ban on his book has been posted online here. At 1 hour 0 minutes, he quotes Rav Elyashiv as telling him that he did not know that he (Rav Elyashiv) had been lied to about a specific matter because he does not have ru'ah ha-kodesh. (At 1 hour and 1 minute, he starts talking about R. Nosson Slifkin.)

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