Individual Postings 1st appeared(& were copied in html form) on the Email List Mail Jewish

From: rhendel@mcs.drexel.edu (Russell Hendel) Date: Wed, 7 May 1997 19:38:29 -0400 Subject: How Do you Make Decisions when Ignorant Eric Jason gives a long detailed account of what ordinary people go thru when they are faced with a halachically difficult decision and do not have clear knowledge or a Poseyk they can go to readily. Several interesting examples are cited from his and other postings. Several remedies are mentioned: The most basic of course is learning laws ---one should learn sufficiently so that one knows the answer in each case. Another possible remedy (which is not totally accepted in the posting) is being as stringent as possible till one can ask a competent halachick authority. I would like to suggest another solution: Developing ones critical thinking ability in analyzing cases. The development of critical thinking is the main skill competency developed thru the learning of Talmud. Note that this is a complementary skill to learning laws. Learning in Judaism encompasses both law knowledge and analysis capacity. To illustrate the novelties of this method I apply it to the case cited by Eric: >>My grandfather was very ill; we visited the hospital Friday afternoon; I brought my grandmother home to light candles; because of a traffic jam we got in late. My grandmother started to prepare to light candles and I glanced at my watch and realized it was after Shabbath. What do I do.>> Eric says that in his mind there were two conflicting halachic principles: 1) The prohibition of lighting candles on Shabbos proper; 2) The prohibition of endangering his grandmother's health in her aggrevated state by inteferring with her regular routine. However if one uses critical thinking one can "create" new alternatives. In this case I would suggest making the Shabbos Beracha over the electric lights (which I assume were already on since Eric could read his watch). It would thus be possible to satisfy both halachic principles. I conclude by noting that the great Poskim were noted not only for their ability to adjudicate between conflicting halachic principles but by their ability to critically create new alternatives. Russell Jay Hendel; Ph.d.;ASA; rhendel @ mcs drexel edu