By Rabbi Yitzi Weiner

Baruch Hashem, TableTalk has been met with wide appreciation. Many people share the Mitzvah Dilemma at their Shabbos table.

At the same time, we constantly get asked why we don’t share the answers. Initially, we did share the answers in the subsequent week’s edition. More recently we stopped giving the answers altogether. Why did we do this?

There are a few reasons why we have withheld the answers, but we decided that this question about the moral dilemmas is actually a meta-moral dilemma itself. We have therefore decided to present both sides of the dilemma about whether we should share the answers. We will then ask this question to Rav Tzvi Berkowitz and follow his decision.


Reasons not to give the answers:

  •        The purpose of the Mitzva Dilemma is to generate engaged discussion at the Shabbos table. Its purpose isn’t simply to share a question and answer. When the answer is not given right away it encourages people to think about the Torah issue for themselves and debate and discuss it among themselves.
  •        Furthermore, aside from creating discussion and encouraging people to think about the answer for themselves, it can motivate people to delve more deeply into the topic for themselves. They can look up the question in the source given, or they can do further research into other sources. They can also take the question to their rav for his direction. This can be a good opportunity to build a deeper relationship with their rav.
  •        Three, many of these questions are very complicated with multiple interpretations. In many cases there is not one answer. Different poskim have very different ways of resolving the shaila. Only sharing Rav Zilberstein’s approach may be misinterpreted as the final word on the topic. There are other ways to approach the given question which may yield a different answer.
  •        Four, these are all complicated questions that sometimes involve severe, and even life and death, issues. We want to make sure that people do not use this format as a tool for practical halacha. By not giving the answers we make it more likely that people will speak to a competent Torah authority should a similar question arise. It would be reckless to rely on the answer found in a weekly newsletter to address this question.


Reasons to give the answers:

  •        On the other hand, there are compelling reasons why it is important to give the answers. First, it is important to understand the Torah approach to resolving these questions.
  •        Second, people often feel like they are “left hanging” without any way to satisfy their interest and resolve their Shabbos table discussion
  •        Third, we have found that the opposite can also be true. Some people may not share the question at their table if they know there is no answer given.

We therefore brought this question to Rav Tzvi Berkowitz to decide.


This is what he answered:

In general, it is always a problem when “psakim” are posted in such a manner … because they don’t have havchana [ie. often small variables in a case will lead to a completely different answer.]

It is fine to present the questions and to present as the answer what are the different issues that the halacha would look at without a final psak.

You would have to play with the answer to careful write it without it being authoritative and final. You may have to use words like “this case may be comparable to such and such a case” and leave the reader wondering whether it really is. The point of the whole thing is to show that the Torah way of looking at things is not necessarily the way that the “man on the street” looks at it.