What is a Posek?
1. a judge in a Jewish religious court.
2. a person knowledgeable in Talmudic law whose advice on religious questions is often sought by rabbis.
Given the suspension of semicha, any beth din existing in medieval or modern times is in theory a court of laymen, acting as arbitrators. In practice they are given greater powers than this by the local takkanot ha-kahal (community regulations), and are generally composed of experienced rabbis. Modern training institutes, especially in Israel, confer a qualification of Posek (religious judge) which is superior to the normal rabbinical qualification.
In formulating a ruling, a posek will base the psak din on a careful analysis of the relevant underlying legal principles, as well as a careful study of the application of these principles. A Posek must therefore be thoroughly versed in rabbinic literature, especially the Babylonian Talmud.
The process of analysis usually entails today:
- an initial study of the relevant Talmudic Sugyas with commentaries;
- tracing the development of all related material in the Rishonim (Medieval rabbinic authorities prior to the Shulkhan Aruch) through the Arba'ah Turim and Shulkhan Arukh;
- and finally, a close analysis of the works of the Acharonim (rabbinic authorities from about the 16th century onwards) discussing the halakha as recorded in the literature of the Rishonim (and earlier Acharonim).
The ruling itself is an attempt to apply the precedents and principles of the Tradition to the question being asked. One common goal of poskim in this regard is, as far as possible, to be consistent with the codified law, as well as with the maximal relevant legal precedents, generally being decisions recorded in the responsa literature.
As Noahides we came to the realization of the truth of Torah by way of asking questions. Particularly questions to Jews and for the most part Rabbis. One thing that many of us were unaware of was the fact that a Rabbi who has a smicha does not necessarily qualify them to answer questions on halacha. In fact the only Rabbi who should be consulted on a point of halacha is a Posek. A Judge is the only Rabbi with the scholarship to answer questions of halacha. In other words if you are going to have brain surgery why consult someone who only has a Bachelors degree? The answer is simple, you wouldn't. You would consult a trained expert in the field of Neurology and/or a Neurosurgeon.
So when it comes to learning the Noahide halacha why go to a Rabbi who only has a smicha? As well meaning as a they may be, they are not qualified to answer questions on Noahide halacha. In fact they should be referring you to an expert in halacha, a Dayan (Judge). If a Dayan recommends a Rabbi whose particular expertise may be in the Noahide Laws then you have a strong recommendation to follow up and get questions answered.
In this section we have question being asked by Noahides and Rabbis attending a yeshiva course on the Noahide Laws being taught by a Posek. We hope you enjoy them.
Important Q & A Below