Ask The Rabbi

For the week ending 4 July 2015 / 17 Tammuz 5775


by Rabbi Yirmiyahu Ullman -
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From: Nati

Dear Rabbi,

If I ask a rabbi a question and he gives me an answer that I’m not sure about, either because I’m not sure it’s correct, or it may not be the correct answer for me, or it may be too stringent when there is room for leniency, am I allowed to ask another rabbi for his opinion? Or would that be considered disrespectful and inappropriate?

Dear Nati,

I’m going to assume that you have not posed this question to another rabbi before asking me! (Smile)

But seriously, if you ask a rabbi a question and are not fully comfortable with the answer for whatever reason, you may ask another rabbi, but with the following conditions:

For one, you should first ask the first rabbi for clarification.

If the concern is that the answer itself is not accurate, you may respectfully ask the source for the answer, or ask if it’s conclusive that the answer apply or not apply to the particulars of your specific case.

If the concern is that the answer might not be applicable to you personally, you may certainly express why you think your personal situation might be an exception.

And if it’s a case where you think there’s room for leniency, you may ask the rabbi if that’s so and if he would feel comfortable ruling as such.

If, after clarifying with the rabbi, you’re still not comfortable with the answer, you may deferentially express your concerns and let him know that, with all due respect, you’d like to ask another rabbi’s opinion. The rabbi should not take offense at this, and should respect your need to feel comfortable with the guidance of the Torah. If he has any doubt about his answer, this may also give him the opportunity to reconsider.

If you end up asking another rabbi, you must tell the second rabbi from the outset that you’re currently asking for a second opinion. This gives the second rabbi a chance to ask who the first rabbi was and what he said in order to ascertain if he wants to answer and in what fashion. He may prefer to consult the first rabbi before giving you an answer. You should allow the rabbis to give you the correct answer while proceeding in a fashion that will, in their estimation, preserve the honor of the Torah.

That being said, a person should make every effort to find “a rabbi” who he considers to be “his rabbi” whom he consults consistently, if not on everything, at least on specific matters. So one may have several rabbis — one for halacha, one for advice, one for shalom bayit, etc. — but whom he consults consistently and relies upon completely. In this way a person avoids “shopping” among different rabbis in order to find the answer he’s looking for. That would be disrespectful to the rabbis and to the Torah.

This doesn’t mean a person can’t try many rabbis in his search for one who he resonates with consistently. But once he finds that rabbi, he should be willing and confident enough to accept that the rabbi is knowledgeable enough and knows him well enough to give him the correct answers which are also right for him personally.

Similarly, if for whatever reasons a person wants to find a different permanent rabbi, he may continue to consult other rabbis until he finds another he can be consistent with, but he should be constantly looking to commit himself to one rabbi (at least in each area of interest, as above) to whom he accords his trust and accepts his decisions, opinions or advice.

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