Rulings of the Alter Rebbe that differ from the Tzemach Tzedek-Part 1

Ruling of Alter Rebbe that differ from Tzemach Tzedek-Part 1:[1]

A. Background:

The Alter Rebbe was divinely appointed by the Maggid of Mezritch[2] in the late 1760’s[3] to compile a new Shulchan Aruch which would arbitrate a final ruling amongst the various opinions in Halacha and compile the reasons.[4] This work of the Alter Rebbe, which became known as the Shulchan Aruch Harav[5], became accepted amongst all Jewry, and became the final practiced ruling for Chassidim, especially Chassidei Chabad.[6] Nonetheless, despite this being the general approach to always follow the rulings of the Alter Rebbe’s Shulchan Aruch, we find numerous instances in which the final Chabad practice differs from these rulings, either due to the Alter Rebbe himself having later retracted from his original ruling as we find in his Siddur, and Mahadura Basra, or due to Minhag Beis Harav [the personal custom of the Alter Rebbe and Chabad Rabbeim]. Now, regarding the rulings of the Tzemach Tzedek, the grandson and close student of the Alter Rebbe. The Tzemach Tzedek wrote many volumes of Halachic responsa’s, as well as commentary on the Talmud, and in some of these areas he writes differently than how his grandfather, the Alter Rebbe, had ruled in his Shulchan Aruch. In such instances, the question is raised as to whom Chassidim should follow; should we file the rulings of the Alter Rebbe which carry the full weight of the Shulchan Aruch which had been divinely written and accepted by all, or should one follow the rulings of the Tzemach Tzedek, due to the rule of “Halacha Kebasraiy[7],” and likewise due to the fact that perhaps the Tzemach Tzedek was aware that the Alter Rebbe later retracted from his ruling and this retracted ruling simply never came to writing [as is known, the Alter Rebbe wrote an entire second version of the Shulchan Aruch later on in his life, and only a few chapters of it survived the infamous fire of 1810].

Whom to rule like: Practically, there is no clear-cut directive of how Chassidei Chabad are to act, and how Rabbanei Chabad are to rule in those halachic matters which contain a contrast in ruling between the Alter Rebbe and Tzemach Tzedek. In some instances we rule like the Tzemach Tzedek over the rulings of the Alter Rebbe, while in other instances we were like the rulings of the Alter Rebbe over the rulings of the Tzemach Tzedek. This especially applies in those cases that the Tzemach Tzedek did not actually finalize the ruling which contradicts the ruling of the Alter Rebbe, but simply discussed the opposing ruling as part of his commentary on the Talmud and Poskim. While one can argue in such cases that this indeed expresses the true opinion of the Tzemach Tzedek to be unlike that of his grandfather, the Alter Rebbe, one can equally argue that the Tzemach Tzedek is simply showing Halachic support for the other opinions as part of “Eilu Vieilu Divrei Elokim Chayim,” and does not intend to practically rule against the ruling of his grandfather [i.e. Pilpula and Shakla Vetarya and not Pesak Halacha]. Furthermore, it is possible that the Tzemach Tzedek was not always aware that he was even arguing on the ruling of the Alter Rebbe, as can be seen from the fact in many of his contrasting rulings he does not even mention the ruling of his grandfather the Alter Rebbe, due to that perhaps he never saw that ruling of the Alter Rebbe whose Shulchan Aruch was only first printed in its entirety late in the life of the Tzemach Tzedek.[8]

The Rebbe’s opinion: There is no known clear position of the Rebbe on the subject of how to arbitrate when there is a dispute between the rulings of the Alter Rebbe and that of the Tzemach Tzedek. There were cases in which the Rebbe sided like the ruling of the Tzemach Tzedek [i.e. Shehechiyanu by daytime of Megillah], and cases in which he sided like the ruling of the Alter Rebbe [i.e. Mizmor Lesoda; Sheitals], as will be brought below in the examples. All in all, as can be gleaned from the Rebbe’s replies regarding how an ambidextrous should put on his Tefillin, this matter is subject to the rulings of Ziknei Rabbanei Anash, and hence whenever one has a question in this matter, he should turn to them for final ruling, and there is no set rule in this matter.

B. Case examples:

Coming up in Part 2!

  1. Tefillin for ambidextrous:
  2. Kesivas Setam:
  3. Zeman Kerias Shema Utefila:
  4. Sideburns of married woman:
  5. Direction of Kohanim to turn around by the blessing:
  6. Mezonos for Shabbos meals:
  7. Pouring Keli Rishon into water:
  8. Squeezing lemons on Shabbos:
  9. Mizmor Lesoda on Erev Yom Kippur:
  10. Direction of lighting Chanukah candles:
  11. Shehechiyanu by Megillah by daytime:
  12. Shetar Iska
  13. Bechor:
  14. Sheital
  15. Get with name Mostilav:


[1] See Hiskashrus 467

[2] Hakdama of Shulchan Aruch Harav, written by the children of Admur; Sifrei Halacha Shel Admur Hazakein; Sefer Hatoldos.

[3] The Rebbe Rayatz writes[3] that the Maggid asked Admur to write the Shulchan Aruch when he was 21 years old. [Sefer Hasichos 1929 Sukkos brought in Sefer Hatoldos 3 p. 161] It is unclear as to exactly which year Admur began writing the Shulchan Aruch. It was written anywhere between the years 1765-1775. [See Sifrei Halacha Shel Admur Hazakein p. 9]

[4] Hakdama of Shulchan Aruch Harav, written by the children of Admur; Sifrei Halacha Shel Admur Hazakein p. 31-32; Likutei Sichos 6 p. 40; Hilchos Talmud Torah Admur 1:6; 2:1.

[5] Likkutei Dibburim 1 p. 100-101

[6] Hakdama of Ketzos Hashulchan; See Divrei Nechemia Yoreh Deah 1

[7] See Admur O.C. Kuntrus Achron 168:7; 249:4; 509:2; 510:4; Admur Y.D. 24:36; 32:6; Siddur Admur Seder Hachansas Shabbos; Shut Admur 1; Miluim 16; 13; Maharik Shoresh 84l Maharashdam E.H. 114; Get Pashut Kelalim 50; Encyclopedia Talmudit Erech “Halacha Kibasraiy” p. 341

[8] Suggestion of Rav Y. Farkash in Hiskashrus ibid; See Taharah Kehalacha 1 footnote 1; Biurim 1 2 footnote 39

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