Our goal is to create a great, useful, and readily available resource for Halacha on the web. Our intentions are leshem shamayim. We aim to police the site to keep contributions true to torah misinai. We envision that an undertaking this massive would only be done as a joint effort by klal yisroel, hence we chose to use the open code wiki platform. Obviously open code can be misused. Please help us in the effort. This project can use lots of help. If you have time to volunteer towards populating, cleaning or checking references, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Note, this is not the same as Halachapedia.
Who are we?
The founder and editors of the site are graduates of Yeshiva University. My brothers and I came up with this idea in 2009. At first, we thought it was impossible to organize and translate all of halacha, but thought we'd give it a try. As time as proven, doing two halachot each day can add up to quite a lot.
In general, the site is meant to cater to Orthodox Jews of all types and minhagim. Therefore, irrelevant of my background, I'm happy to to include as many Orthodox opinions as possible. However, as the site is growing and isn't finished it's very possible that a particular opinion on a particular subject is missed. Just let us know and we'll include it.
Halachipedia in the News
Here's a few links to news articles about Halachipedia:
Reliability of Halachipedia
A question that I've gotten from many people is whether there's any Posek or Rabbi who looks over everything on the website and how do you know that everything on the site is reliable. Although there's no Rabbi who's officially in charge of checking over everything on the website, every edit that's made on the site is checked thoroughly for accuracy. Regularly, I check the new edits of the site and make sure it is accurate. I'm not biased to anyone's edits; I'm just interested in maintaining accuracy and if you have good sources, all the better. However, if there's no source, Halachipedia's policy is that the halacha has to be taken down.
Just to clarify, there are halachic articles that are put out in Yeshiva University from the contributors of Halachipedia and these have been reviewed by Rabbi Mordechai Willig. To view these articles, see the Halachipedia Articles page. However, the content on the website that does not appear in those articles was not looked over by Rabbi Willig.
Choosing a Posek
As the Mishna in Pirkei Avot 1:6 tells us "Make for yourself a Rav," it is important for everyone to have a rabbi or posek they can ask for halachic guidance. The commonly used phrase "Ask your local Orthodox Rabbi" isn't just an excuse to punt an intricate question, but a reminder that halacha is a live ongoing process. Many questions addressed in print or on this website or only for the generic case, but often the answer varies based on the specific situation. Therefore, it is critical to have a relationship with a rabbi to ask questions to.
Keep in mind that certain areas of halacha are weightier and more complex than others. For example, the bracha on a banana is an interesting question, but since the answer today is undisputed it is fine to look it up and use that. However, for the question of how to make tea on Shabbos is a controversary and should be addressed to your rabbi. Furthermore, a complex question about an end of life issue should be addressed to your rabbi and not gleaned from a quick google search.
This is not a place for your opinion
Halacha is a production of a very long and serious process. Being involved in the process requires work but much more importantly requires a proper attitude towards Halacha. Someone who is filled with the appropriate fear of heaven and serious study is capable of learning a halachic topic from the background of the gemaras through the Rishonim, Shulchan Aruch, and Achronim until the latest Achronim. After completing serious study, then, it’s worthy to try understanding certain opinions and halachas and if need be ask additional questions (after serious thought). Nonetheless, under no circumstances should someone in this situation come to the conclusion that a certain opinion is incorrect and should be discarded. Only a posek who is certified from reliable and reputable Rabbis with Semicha, can come to his own halachic decision after arduous study of the topic.
Even so, a posek is only able to come to a decision for himself or a questioner and a single pesak does not clarify the ultimate halacha objectively. Therefore, if an individual feels that he has a opinion on the matter, Halachipedia is not the place; if you’re a qualified posek please write it down for yourself and those who ask you. If you’re not a posek, please write down your question and hold onto it until one finds a satisfying resolution by learning the topic again or inquiring a qualified posek.
Halachipedia is not a posek
Halachipedia's role is to collect and organize halacha as accurately as possible. Halachipedia in no way is a tool for arbitrating between the accepted opinions of halacha. Therefore, regarding any dispute in Halacha, even if Halachipedia reaches a point where it has amassed a great deal of sources and opinions, the bottom line of Halachipedia will remain double sided. Nonetheless, there are many ways to portray a given halachic dispute, and examples include:
- Some say the following and some say otherwise,
- Some say the following while others disagree,
- Many say the following while others disagrees,
- Many say the following while some disagree,
- Many say the following while the accepted minhag (Ashkenazic or Sephardic) is to do otherwise,
- Some say the following while the accepted minhag is to do otherwise,
- The minhag is the following, however, many disapprove
Because of the complexity of each issue the editor should use the accurate description of the dispute and not be biased in presenting the information. In deciding about how to present the dispute, it's very helpful to see how other books which summarize halacha phrase it. If you find that one of the presentations is inaccurate please correct it or report it.
A possible argument against Halachipedia
One of the main concerns about Halachipedia is that it threatens asking the local Rabbi. However, after thinking through the issue, the challenge can be addressed adequately. A very common misconception is that any question about how to act in a certain situation requires a pesak from a certified posek and anyone who tries to find the halacha autonomously is arrogant and mistaken. However, one should notice that halacha is a process which has developed over time and there has been two main streams of halachic literature. The essence of Halacha is the body of literature, spanning from the Gemara to Achronim, comprised of books that are devoted to clarifying and organizing halacha. Over the centuries, communities, and even the whole of the Jewish people have accepted certain books as more authoritative. Determining which books are definitive is not a science yet certainly is not guesswork. Practically speaking, certain books that are widely accepted become accepted practice (minhag) of a group, community, sect, and sometimes all of the Jewish people.
Therefore, if someone asks whether I can light a fire on Shabbat I don’t need a posek I just tell him that it's forbidden. It is obvious. It is a פסוק in the Torah! Similarly, many opinions permit relaying the rulings of Shulchan Aruch as is because of how widely accepted the opinion of Shulchan Aruch has become. Similarly, the Mishna Brurah is one of the most widely accepted books among Ashkenazim, the Shulchan Aruch HaRav among Chasidim, and occasionally the Ben Ish Chai or Yalkut Yosef among Sephardim. Without a doubt, each of the above do not have a monopoly on halacha and there are countless opinions that could be considered significant in any ordinary halacha.
Nonetheless, relaying the opinions of established authorities is not considered pesak, it’s just called finding the appropriate page to answer your question. In learning halacha, it’s clear that a person does not need Semicha or ordination in order to collect opinions on an issue and even to a certain extent find some conclusion. Nonetheless, it’s certainly not the job of Halachipedia to arbitrate between the major opinions of our day and all the more so to arbitrate between the authorities of old, Rather it is to collect the relevant modern day opinions which are most widely accepted, organize them, and allow the public to gain significantly in Torah and halacha. יהי רצון למפניך that all those who put effort into this site with a pure heart be blessed with continued success in learning, and merit to reap the benefit of their labor in the world to come.
What’s acceptable for Halachipedia content?
One should notice that halacha is a process which has developed over time and there’s been two main streams of halachic literature. The vast majority of halacha is found in books devoted to clarifying and organizing halacha and the other major group of primary sources are Responsa. In our day and age a third type of halachic source has become much more popular and that’s oral rulings. (It’s probably so popular because of the impulse we have in our generation to find immediate answers which are clear and definitive.) However, it’s very important to notice that in regards to oral rulings, there is inevitably a minimization of the proper learning and in-depth understanding of the halacha and a maximization of the name and numbers of opinions. Besides the accuracy of many of these rulings, because of the lack of primary sources and connection to the process, use of these sources are discouraged. Nonetheless, in a day and age when there’s an abundance of such rulings available these rulings shouldn’t be ignored but rather gathered and coupled with a background of real primary sources that stem from studying the topic thoroughly. Furthermore, based on some of the above and other practical concerns, Halachipedia gives less credence and value to such oral rulings that are not documented in published articles or books.
Attitude towards halacha
Even if there’s difficulties it is crucial to realize one’s shortcomings and at the same time view the halacha with great esteem. Chazal teach us that Hashem doesn't challenge a person except within his abilities and he's only expected to excel using his abilities. A God-fearing Jew should continuously work to try to achieve an uncompromising attitude towards Halacha even if the road to observance is difficult and long.
If one realizes that one has made a mistake, no matter how bad it may be and no matter the length of time one has been erring don't despair because everyone sins and everyone can repent and be completely forgiven. One should never dismiss a halacha as impractical or archaic; rather, with humility one should investigate how it properly applies to his life and see how best to observe that halacha. For this, it is important to have a rabbi as a religious rode model.
A person can be inspired to follow halacha precisely because it seems to be overwhelming. For this reason it challenges man to overcome his natural instinct and follow the will of the Creator.
We don’t serve Shulchan Aruch, we serve Hashem. One's intent should always be focused on serving Hashem's will and bringing oneself closer to Him in a spiritual sense.