Thursday, December 30, 2021

Halacha and the Fallen Rabbi: Q&A with Rabbi Hershel Schachter

A: What does one do with the sefarim written by such a rabbi?

RS: They should not be used. Since his sefarim include his ideas and rulings, they fit into the prohibition against studying Torah from someone who is unfit due to his improper behavior. Any time someone writes a sefer, he fleshes out and resolves apparently contradictory passages. This is called being machria—providing one’s own resolutions in Torah study. The type of person we are discussing is not qualified to be machria and, therefore, his sefarim cannot be used. If it can be verified that the sefarim and the halachic rulings were issued before this person’s sinful behavior began, only then can they be relied upon and quoted.

JA: Can we/should we continue to cite divrei Torah in his name?

RS: We are not allowed to do so. The gemara (Avodah Zarah 35b) says that if a rabbi violates halachah, one cannot say divrei Torah in his name. The statements found in the Talmud in the name of Elisha Ben Abuya were made when he was still committed to Torah observance and belief (see Tosafot, Sotah 12b). If it would appear that the books and articles of the fallen rabbi were written before he began his sinful behavior, they may be used.

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