In Shoftim, Moses tells the nation that if they encounter a challenging situation which needs to be resolved, they should seek the guidance of priests and Levites, and the ‘judges’ of their generation. Today these categories are filled by rabbis.
What are the boundaries of this directive? Does anything decided by rabbis become Torah-obligated law? Did this instruction only apply in Temple times or does it still apply today? Should one only consult rabbis on matters of Torah law, or must we consult them regarding non-Torah matters as well?
Is it theologically acceptable for us to believe that rabbis make mistakes? What should we do if rabbis err? If two rabbis of great stature disagree on a point of Jewish law – such as Hillel and Shammai – are we expected to listen to both of them? How is this possible?
This topic opens up a host of questions that cut to the core of practical Judaism.
In the first of two shiurim on this topic, Rabbi Dunner tries to understand the necessity of rabbinic involvement in the development of Torah law, and to define the concept of “emunat chachamim” in the modern era.