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Frequently Asked Questions and Answers

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Question 4.6:
What is the difference between two Orthodox rabbis who disagree and an Orthodox and a Reform who disagree?


How could two people have two different, logically developed opinions on any issue? :-)

In answering this, there are two important points to keep in mind:

The Orthodox rabbis would both say that their halachic rulings are in line with the tradition of Torah learning, all the way from Sinai, and that their difference is in details. The Reform rabbi, however, might derive a ruling from other sources of morality, such as secular ethical notions of equality.

Reform Rabbi Walter Jacob writes, in Contemporary American Reform Responsa that "Our path in America is clear and our halakhic stance is akin to the pluralism of the past from the days of Hillel and Shammai in the first century through the entire rabbinic period to our own time." Orthodox rabbis would counter that the schools of Hillel and Shammai differed on the particulars of halacha (with the understanding being that the multiplicity of debate was a byproduct of a disucssion of students, not disciples, resulting in flaws of transmission). Thus, the Orthodox scholars believe there was no disagreement over first principles, while Orthodox and Reform differ significantly on major principles, such as Torah being from G-d, and the authority of individuals to decide halacha for themselves.

The FAQ is a collection of documents that is an attempt to answer questions that are continually asked on the soc.culture.jewish family of newsgroups. It was written by cooperating laypeople from the various Judaic movements. You should not make any assumption as to accuracy and/or authoritativeness of the answers provided herein. In all cases, it is always best to consult a competent authority--your local rabbi is a good place to start.

[Got Questions?]Hopefully, the FAQ will provide the answer to your questions. If it doesn't, please drop Email to The FAQ maintainer will endeavor to direct your query to an appropriate individual that can answer it. If you would like to be part of the group to which the maintainer directs questions, please drop a note to the FAQ maintainer at

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© (c) 1993-2002 Daniel P. Faigin <>