Monday, March 28, 2005

A פסק on the referendum II

Yesterday on my way home from work, I was listening to news and commentary on a Haredi radio station. They had their political correspondent talking about what happened over the weekend and how Eli Yishai (the head of Shas) was going to try to persuade R' Ovadia Yosef to suppport a referendum on disengagement. At that point, the host broke in and said how could that be, he paskened against a referendum, how can he change his opinion based on politics? The host's comment really bothered me because the answer is obvious, there is nothing intrinsically wrong with a referendum, the question is whether it is good for the Jews (or Shas) or not. R' Yosef is afraid that this will open a pandora's box of referendums on religious issues which is a legitimate concern. However, it is not a psak in the traditional sense on a halachic issue. The host's comment shows the ignorance of people in these matters.

This is why it is a terrible thing to mischaracterize things and say R' Ovadia paskened against a referendum. If he then changes his mind for political reasons people start thinking, halacha is affected by politics, the Rabbis can pasken anyway they want etc. It confuses both religious people and non-religious people and cheapens the idea of a psak.

I have no problem with asking R' Ovadia his opinion on whether Shas should support a referendum, he is a Gadol B'Torah and therefore we should listen to his opinion. What I do have a problem with is calling it a psak with all the ramifications of the word psak.

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