Is this how respected Poskim decide Halacha

In the comments section on a rather bizarre post on another blog, Rabbi Meir Rabi made the following statement:

 I suspect that erudition is important, but not as important as the Posek’s mental posture, the landscape he sees himself operating in. If the Posek has already made up his mind about the style of Pesak that he is inclined to follow, the erudition will select those perspectives that suit and block out those that do not. It is the Talmid Chacham’s Placebo effect.”

All I can add is that if Rabbi Rabi paskens according to his self-declared “placebo effect”, he certainly need not explain his decisions to anybody.

I wonder if he’d pass this theory of Psak to the great Poskim of our generation for their הסכמה.

Author: pitputim

I've enjoyed being a computer science professor in Melbourne, Australia, as well as band leader/singer for the Schnapps Band. My high schooling was in Chabad and I continued at Yeshivat Kerem B'Yavneh in Israel and later in life at Machon L'Hora'ah, Yeshivas Halichos Olam.

10 thoughts on “Is this how respected Poskim decide Halacha”

  1. I have no view about MR’s other disagreements with authority. But here, I do think he is on to something. As a case in point, something dear to your heart Pitputim, look at the sheepish following of the Aguda line on sexual abuse, as opposed to an actual halochic approach. I don’t, however, understand his use of the words “Placebo effect”.


    1. I’m not sure I understand. The issue of asking a Rav first would appear to be meta halachic. If someone can enlighten me as to a halachic imperative for such, I’m all ears.



    החשמל בשבת

    בעקבות הערת אלי ועל דעת הרב מימוני אני מעתיק לכאן את הדיון שהתפתח אודות חשמל בשבת.

    מטפחת ספרים כתב:

    לגבי איסור חשמל בשבת, זו דוגמה לדעתי לדבר שאיסורו לא ברור כלל וכלל ובכל זאת היה ברור לרבנים שלא יתכן שיהיה מותר ושאיסורו הוא כמדאורייתא – זו דוגמה של עזיבת הפורמליות ההלכתית לטובת רוח ההלכה והשבת (קודם אסרו ואז מצאו למה אסור).


    אני חושב שהאמת ההיסטורית היא שהשימוש בחשמל בשבת נאסר בגלל שהגדויילים של הדור בו הטכנולוגיה החשמלית התחילה להכנס לשימוש, שמעולם לא ראו אוניברסיטה מבפנים, הבינו את מהותה של הטכנולוגיה החדשה במסגרת המושגים הפרימיטיביים שהיו להם – שחשמל הוא סוג של אש (חשמל = עושה פעולות. אש = עושה פעולות. לכן חשמל = אש) ואסרו על צאן מרעיתם את השימוש בחשמל כי חשמל הוא אש. כך היה במשך שנים רבות, עד שההבנה שחשמל אינו אש הגיעה לגדויילים. כשהיא הגיעה כבר היה בלתי אפשרי לשנות (היו אומרים שהרבנים האלו הם ניאו רפורמים). לכן גם אלו שלא מצאו טעם עקרוני לאסור (למשל רש”ז אוירבך ויבדלח”א מהנים ומועילים ר’ שמואל וואזנר) הכלילו את זה באיסור הגנרי ‘עובדין דחול’, שאין לו ממש קריטריונים ברורים ומהווה ‘ג’וקר’ שבאמצעותו אפשר לאסור דברים שאין להם טעם אחר.


    1. I don’t think that’s a good example. They struggled with the science and given the similarity to fire which is D’Orayso it made sense to pasken that way al pi klalei horaah


  3. placebo effect is where the mind crafts a wanted outcome which is real.
    However, since Halacha is not empiric, its consequences are not palpable nor testable with concrete outcomes, therefore placebo in Halach is simply a figment of the Posek’s imagination. This may be anything from extremely good to extremely bad. The gradient of good and bad is not measured by the final ruling, as is elegantly expressed by the Maharal in Nesiv HaTorah, particularly end of ch 15 [from memory]

    thus the Talmid Chacham’s Placebo effect” is when his erudition selects those perspectives that suit and block out those that do not. It’s like the king’s new clothes. see about the fantasy of N rays,


    1. I’d prefer the real outcome, not the placebo effect. The Mesorah is the ingredient to the non placebo outcome. That Mesora says that we believe Mesiach Lefi Toomoi. The email says much about placebo Kashrus


      1. We agree on this, we both prefer “the real outcome”.
        Other than those who wish to impose their own imagery of what the Halcha ought to be before they have investigated the Halacha, who doesn’t?

        Rav Schachter explains that Poskim must decide via their own analysis and evaluation. He says that Mesorah does not use precedent to determine Halacha.
        RaMBaM explains that a BD greater BeChochma UveMinyan is only required when wanting to overturn Takanos and Minhagim. Regarding Halacha, one is not to follow the previous BD but to rely exclusively upon one’s understanding.


        1. Actually you have presented Rav Schachter rather simplistically probably based on sound bytes. I have heard Rav Schachter many a time conclude empirically and then pasken via Mesora because there is a shemetz of doubt.

          Meir, who did you you do Shimush with in respect of your methodology of Psak? I’m interested to know because you sound like a cross between the Gaon and Chazon Ish and seem to treat Psak as a Jewish Science if Jurisprudence


            1. Apart from not so cleverly avoiding to answer my question, there is not only a Mesora in Psak, but Rav Hershel actually TEACHES it to his students as taught to him.

              I speak with him regularly.


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