General directives of the Rebbe for a Rav and as to how he should Pasken

Rav Levi Bistritzky OBM, who was the chief rabbi of the Chabad community in Tzefas, had issued a ruling which prohibits homebirth’s and requires mothers to give birth in a hospital. This ruling was the result of a growing trend amongst some members of his community to give birth at home, and in certain cases doing so ended up compromising the health of the baby or mother. His ruling faced opposition from members of the community including from some of the leading Shluchim of the Rebbe to the city of Tzefas, who opposed it both ideologically, and under the claim that the Rebbe himself had given his blessings to many individual women to give birth at home. As a result, Rav Levi Bistritzky wrote to the Rebbe regarding whether the rumors are true and as to if true and as to whether he should retract his previous ruling. The Rebbe’s response to Rav Levi Bistritzky is not less than fascinating, and reveals the proper Torah attitude and attitude of the Rebbe towards a Mara Diasra of the community, and how he’s to give his rulings. In his response, the Rebbe makes the following points:

1) A rabbi must rule in accordance to the code of Jewish law, and not based on letters, including even letters of the Rebbe, as any letter that is contrary to Jewish law is considered null and void.

2) Prior to giving a controversial ruling a rabbi should build a coalition with other rabbis prior to publicizing his ruling.

3) In a generation such as ours in which many people don’t always listen to the rulings of rabbis, Rabbis are to beware to the utmost from publicizing new decrees and prohibitions that are not based on explicit rulings in the code of Jewish law. This especially applies when the reason behind the prohibition is not revealed to the public. This especially applies when rabbis in other communities rule that the matter is permitted, and other communities are accustomed to being lenient.

4) The above matter is only within the jurisdiction of officiating Poskim, and community leaders are not to mix themselves into the decision-making even if they have rabbinical ordination.

5) It is obvious that when I write a private response to an individual [that his wife may give birth at home] it is meant for him and solely for him based on their personal and private situation, and is not to be taken as a public directive or allowance.

6) It is well known that I do not intervene regarding controversy that surrounds the rulings of rabbis in Israel, and it is the job of the local rabbis in Israel to hear and arbitrate regarding the matters.

7) In New York, many women give birth inside their homes with agreement of the rabbis. Seemingly the conditions of this matter are different in your city, and it is obvious that only one who lives in the city can make a judgment for that city. 

See Menachem Meishiv Nafshi 1:83

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