Bearing in mind that the site is meant amongst others for “for those who base their lives on Jewish law and tradition”, can I ask whether criticism of the views of great Rabbis is appropriate to the site?

Two examples (without names of the people commenting):

An answer to this question quoted Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky and someone commented “this is not a good answer, as per someone's observation which I made as well, that's why I mentioned the Torah in the question”.

An answer to this question quoted the psak of Rav M Sternbuch on which a comment was received “This "psak" leaves much to be desired.”

Obviously it should be possible to say that this psak or quote does not appeal to me. It is about the abrupt statement about the value of the psak or quote that I am asking.

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    Why do you expect that all rabbis' psakim shouldn't leave anything to be desired? I'm not sure what you find offensive about that one. Not every response by a rabbi is completely thorough about every aspect of the issue. The case there was basically where, to avoid the question, a work-around was recommended that doesn't help in every case. Of course that leaves you desiring to know what the Psak is when push comes to shove. Even the rabbi there desired more: he writes לא מצאתי הדין מבואר
    – Double AA Mod
    Commented Apr 26, 2017 at 21:01
  • Related: judaism.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/1632/…
    – Isaac Moses Mod
    Commented Apr 26, 2017 at 21:43
  • your first link is perhaps not a criticism on the RChK book. But if it is, criticism can be written with anava as you see regularly in Rabbi Akiva Eyger
    – kouty
    Commented Apr 26, 2017 at 22:06
  • @DoubleAA My point is not that all psakim are good. As I wrote, "It is about the abrupt statement about the value of the psak or quote that I am asking." My point is that I find it more respectful to say something like, "this psak does not appeal to me" rather than “this "psak" leaves much to be desired.” Commented Apr 26, 2017 at 22:14
  • 1
    @avr but those aren't the same things in different words. I meant the second and not the first. i dont care much for if it appeals to me or not. i read it and was left wanting a more informative conclusive position. If I ask "is this meat kosher because of XYZ" and you say "better to avoid it when you can, and I don't know what to do when you can't" that leaves much to be desired.
    – Double AA Mod
    Commented Apr 26, 2017 at 22:15

3 Answers 3


This answer is not linked to the examples cited in the question, and my purpose is not to criticize anyone but to address the topic itself, which is the core of talmudic study in my opinion.

To be respectful toward the words of wise and intelligent persons demonstrates that you really believe that they are chachamim. May be that they already did think about your kashia.

To ask your kashia against is a duty. To think "I have a better pshat" is ok. But to think that they did make a great mistake may be a problem. You need to understand why they didn't say your pshat.

To be convinced that the chacham did not understand the sugya is a symptom of superficiality. The chacham is really a Chacham, so you cannot decide in one second that you know. his process of thinking. Particularly when the text of the chacham was already studied by dozen of genreations of Talmide chachamim.

this trust trust in chachamim is fundamental in judaism, and simply in way to learn rabbinic works, to be persued that peoples like Rashi or Rabenu Tam, Rishonim and great Acharonim have a lot to teach us about Tora and Chochma.

The name of the website is "mi yodeya", this name outlines the importance of our desire to know what chachamim did say and think. If you have even a little quantity of contempt, you cannot spent energy to understand chachamim and cannot reach a high level of learning.

Criticism is appropriate with a right and good taste. We need a censorship against rude criticizm toward chachamim because it can induce error in the approach for beginner members. We know that in holy books there are a lot of rude statements, Raavad on Rambam, Rashba in Mishmeret Habayt, ..etc... but here there is not comparable situation. In a great percentage, rudeness has to do with bad midot.

A great Talmid Chacham told me about a very great rav who wrote a book on hilchot Nidda. This rav discussed about one of the sugiot with the Chazon Ish. He said "the Chavas Daas in this sugya seems to be against the pshat and we see that all Rishonim seem also clearly against this Ch. D.". The Chazon Ish told that the Chavas Daas is also a sugia. I.E. to understand the chavas daat on the sugia is also a part of the limud of the sugia. A chacham feels that to try to understand the Chavas Daas is also to try to understand tora.

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    Thank you @kouty for this answer. That is my opinion too. Commented Apr 27, 2017 at 9:35
  • 6
    Just to note, acceptance of an answer on meta does not indicate policy. Policy is determined by the highest voted answer(s).
    – Double AA Mod
    Commented Apr 27, 2017 at 17:07
  • @Double AA thanks for information
    – kouty
    Commented Apr 27, 2017 at 18:16

Challenging others' arguments is a long-established tradition, as DoubleAA pointed out in another answer, but when challenging anybody, whether a great rabbi or an unknown and anonymous user, we need to (a) be respectful and (b) bring substance not just personal judgements.

  • "This is not a good answer" -- usually not helpful. Allow the reader to draw his own conclusions from the information you provide.

  • "This 'p'sak'..." -- the quotes convey negative attitude from the start. It's ok to say "Rabbi Ploni's p'sak" even if you think Rabbi Ploni is full of beans; it's still his p'sak. Which you will then proceed to challenge. Don't start off negative.

  • "This p'sak leaves a lot to be desired" -- probably, but if that's the entirety of the comment, it's not very constructive. Tell us why you feel that way -- what are the issues? (Or, given that we're talking about comments here, what are the most important things that a reader should know, which can involve links?)

You can challenge without coming off as overly negative or disrespectful. Try formulations like these:

  • "On the other hand, the Rambam said (the opposite of some key point in the answer). Can you address that?"

  • "What about the Rashi on the next verse that says the opposite? How does Rabbi Ploni account for that?"

  • "R' Ploni did say that, but later he said the opposite (citation)."

  • "I don't understand how the Rav could say that, when (X, Y, Z) should lead to the opposite conclusion."

  • I scarequoted psak because it's not a psak (at least for certain connotations of the term). He didn't rule on the issue. He suggested a workaround to avoid the issue because he wasn't confident enough to rule straight out.
    – Double AA Mod
    Commented Apr 26, 2017 at 22:09
  • @DoubleAA I didn't go read the context and didn't know who was being talked about. If it was clear from context (or explained the way you did here) then that's different. I've seen other uses of scare quotes on the site that were derogatory, so when I saw it in the question here I thought it was another case of that. Commented Apr 26, 2017 at 22:14
  • @DoubleAA your comment is important, indeed there is a great difference between criticizm against pshat and against psak it is important to outline this.
    – kouty
    Commented Apr 27, 2017 at 6:48

Criticizing the views of great rabbis is arguably the most traditional Jewish thing to do. All great rabbis have done it. We should encourage good and thoughtful criticism of any position.

And remember to Be Nice since great rabbis are people too.

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    are people too is good, but there are more than simplr people, to understand a great chacham on a sugia is a sugya itself
    – kouty
    Commented Apr 26, 2017 at 22:08

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