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Author:  Michelle
E-mail:  not available
Date:  9/5/2004 10:15:00 AM
Subject:  RE: CYA & consistency
Message:  Dear Rabbi Abadi,

Another person wrote to Rabbi Abadi: "It is imperative that you be always say the same Halacha or else you lose all credibility." I once thought this way as well, and I would like to suggest that this is a common misconception in Judiasm that needs to be addressed. In that vein, I wish to share something that I have learned from many wise people around me: one must never regard consistency as the standard of a good Rav.

A halachic decision is something like a doctor's perscription--every decision must be tailored to the specific situation in which it is encountered.

I would never trust myself to perscribe my own medication for a specific illness, and I would never berate a doctor for being inconsistent when that doctor perscribed different treatments or dosages for people who had slightly different symptoms, health considerations, or life-situations.

Most people, when faced by a vexing medical problem, would go to the doctor, discuss the specific problem, along with all the details, and trust the doctor's extensive training and experience to determine the best treatment. Most people, after receiving that perscription, would not claim that THEIR perscription and dosage was the treatment for all similar illnesses in all people, and offer that perscription to their friends and family. That would be foolhardy and dangerous.

Asking a Rav for a halachic decision is similar to asking a doctor for a medical decision. One should provide the symptoms of the halachic situation, and all the details. One should not take a decision, based on particular circumstances, and apply it to everyone, or berate a rabbi who gave different treatments and doses to different people in different circumstances.

I was taught that if you asked someone second-hand what a Rav told them, and went by that decision, you may find yourself in violation of a law. Unless your situation is EXACTLY the same as the person for whom the decision was made, the decision cannot apply to you as well--and you can never know if there was some personal reason given to the Rav that the person has not told you about. Therefore, it is best to ask a Rav yourself, even if you think you might have a similar situation to the situation presented.

If consistency was the rule for applying halacha, then we could all just open a book and make decisions: but it isnt' that simple!!

Ravs are SPECIFICALLY TRAINED to know how to apply rules in different given situations. This is not inconsistent, this is Torah. G-d cares for each of us individually, understands individual differences, and has made the information available for how to determine individual situations within the halacha. Those few who understand how to make individualized halachic decisions have dedicated their lives to the constant study of G-d's laws. That is why a Rav that one can trust is a REQUIRED aspect of one's religious life.

This is not a "do it yourself" religion. We need guidance, training, advice, and help from those with the understanding, dedication, and experience required to understand Torah in all it's aspects.

Just my two-cents worth! I hope it was helpful to others to share the knowledge I have gained from the many wise people around me.


Reply:  Well said, Thank you

...and I will add that there wasn't a Rabbi in the Talmud or any other qualified Rabbi that didn't change his opinion periodically. Otherwise, there wouldn't be a need to continue learning every day....
It's in the Talmud hundreds of times...

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