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Sunday, October 21, 2007

Da'as Torah

One of the more interesting discussions that often take place in the Jewish community is regarding the issue of da'as Torah. This term, which literally translates to mean "knowledge of Torah", is commonly used to describe the idea that people should search out and follow the opinions of Torah leaders on various subjects. R' Yakov Horowitz has a fantastic article on this which has been mentioned in the past.

A friend once told me something a Rebbe of ours told him which was very poignant: “Whatever you do, when looking for a Rav or Rebbe, make sure he’s a ba’al mussar. If he isn’t, he can’t properly answer your questions.” In other words, unless the Rav or Rebbe is more concerned with what’s best for you, he can’t properly answer your question.

On a similar note, R' Natan Slifkin has a letter of responses in this week's Jewish Press (via DAG), and I thought it was very interesting to read, particularly this excerpt:
Switching to the topic of the age and development of the universe, Dr. Stern notes that Rav Moshe Feinstein was of the view that the Torah’s account of creation was to be interpreted literally. Indeed he was – but he was also of the view that one is not obligated to follow the opinion of a different posek, even if he is the gadol hador. In Iggros Moshe (Yoreh De’ah 3:88), he tells someone moving to Bnei Brak that he is fully entitled to dispute the positions of the Chazon Ish, although he must do so with respect.

And the Chazon Ish himself wrote (Yoreh De’ah 150) that one need not follow the majority of rabbinic opinion, past or present, in determining a ruling; only with the Sanhedrin was the ruling determined by majority vote. One need only follow one’s own rabbinic authority (if one is not competent to form an opinion oneself).

All of the above is stated with regard to halachic rulings; it is all the more true with regard to matters of hashkafa that are not related to halacha, since, as Rambam states (commentary to Sanhedrin 10:3), such matters are not subject to psak. One might perhaps make an exception for beliefs that relate to the fundamentals of faith, but the nature of creation (as opposed to the fact of creation) cannot be said to fall into that category – it does not relate to any of Rambam’s thirteen principles of faith. An opinion on these matters may be right or wrong, but it is not subject to being “paskened” that one may not believe it to be true.
Interesting. I wonder how much people are aware of this.

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