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Halacha Q & A: “Kulah Shopping”

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Question: Is one allowed to go to various rebbeim with she’elot (questions on matters of Jewish law), searching until he finds the desired psak (halachic ruling, which in most cases would be the most lenient one)? Is one allowed to follow part of one rav’s psak and part of another rav’s psak?

Answer: Initially, one might defend such behavior as appropriate. After all, one is interested in seeking an authentic psak halacha even if it be a lenient position. As long as the decisions are not mutually exclusive or contradictory, what is objectionable with looking for kulot (leniencies) from different rabbis?

Despite the legitimacy of the above, kulah shopping involves profound problems and misunderstandings about the nature of Psak Halacha. The Gemara (Eruvin 6b, Rosh Hashana 14b) says that one who follows both the kulot of both Beit Hillel and Beit Shammai is a rasha (wicked person). [See Encyclopedia Talmudit Vol. 9, pages 275-76 for a fuller discussion of this Sugyah and footnote #470, in particular “rasha” is a strong term to use concerning someone who is looking for a psak halacha!] But herein lies the lie. Is the person looking honestly for a psak halacha, or for a stamp of approval for what he/she wants to do anyway?

Second, shopping turns the halachic process from a serious objective decision making system into a malleable and meaningless activity.
Third, each rav has his own approach and masoret (tradition) regarding Halacha. Mixing one school of thought with another is a recipe for bizarre intellectual concoctions.

Fourth, Avot (I:16) advises “Aseh Lecha Rav Vehistalek Min Hasafek” – (Aquire for yourself a Rav and keep away from doubt), which most Rishonim interpret to be referring to the area of Hora’ah (Halachic decision making). Find yourself a Rav who knows you, because while Halacha is an objective decision making system, a particular psak is a subjective, personal decision which relates to the questioner and his/her individual circumstances.
Finally, seeking answers to problems and questions represents a Jew’s honest quest for seeking Ratzon Hashem (G-d’s will) in this world and subjugating his/her will to a higher one. A Jew who is seriously concerned about their spiritual growth will see the process of seeking a psak halacha as part of his/her connection to Torah and to one’s ongoing development of a relationship with Hakadosh Baruch Hu.
One who goes “kulah shopping” is not likely to find any bargains!
Halacha Q&A Courtesy of the Darché Noam institutions. To learn more, visit
www.darchenoam.org.

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