[Avodah] Psak in Machshava

Daniel M. Israel dmi1 at cornell.edu
Tue Jan 8 22:19:37 PST 2013

On Jan 7, 2013, at 4:28 AM, Micha Berger <micha at aishdas.org> wrote:
> On Mon, Jan 07, 2013 at 01:02:47PM +0200, Daniel Eidensohn wrote:
>> *Chasam Sofer (Y.D. 2:356)* R' Hillel who is quoted in Sanhedrin (99a)  
>> as rejecting salvation through Moshiach but asserted [according to  
>> Rashi] that G-d Himself would directly save the Jews...
> I believe it was this kind of thing that motivated R' Joel Rich
> to include the parenthetic comments in his original question:
> : I think we've discussed the general issue of psak in machshava (or at
> : least in the ikkarim)...                      Eruvin 13b specifically
> : uses what IIUC is the language of psak in a case of machshava (unless
> : there is a halachic implication to whether we would have been better
> : off created or not)
> There is a halachic implications inherent in accepting the concept
> of iqarim: They define the limits of rebellion for which one could be
> labeled a kofeir, apiqoreis or min. They impact who we can count toward
> a minyan, whose wine we may drink, the chovos halvavos side of qabbalas
> ol mitzvos before geirus, etc…

My first reaction here was to distinguish between something that there may be a majority opinion on, but there are still dissenting voices, versus something like the case from Sanhedrin mentioned above, where the virtually universal consensus for 1500 years has been on one side.

But then a completely unrelated take on this issue occurred to me.

In halacha we say that even if the Sanhedrin rules one way, it is mutar for a chacham to continue to teach as his own opinion a contrary position, provided that in practice he abides (and teaches others to abide) by the Sanhedrin's ruling.  Given that, what does it even mean to have a psak in machshava?  That is, in halacha there can be a distinction between what position one personally finds compelling, and what one does in practice.  But in machshava there is no such distinction.  So even if the Sanhedrin would pasken, "we believe such-and-such," since an individual Rav still may say, "I personally think the Sanhedrin made an incorrect conclusion,"  what does it mean for them to pasken altogether?

Daniel M. Israel
dmi1 at cornell.edu

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