or innovations because of public policy considerations.226 Such prohibitions commonly appear in the halakhic literature under the general rubric of le-mi-gdar milta (protective ordinances). Thus, a posek may have some concern that a lenient ruling will harm the unity of his community or weaken his congregants’ commitment to tradition. Alternatively, the rabbi may fear that his balabatim (community members) will misunderstand, misuse, or abuse a theoretical leniency and as a consequence will ultimately come to violate actual prohibitions. Regarding the issue at hand, our conversations with community rabbis confirm that the furor surrounding the institution of novel practices within the women’s services, and the fear that more radical changes are in the offing, have prevented many from supporting or even cooperating with these groups.
Two caveats regarding public-policy-based prohibitions are in order. First, it is imperative to note that the consensus of codifiers maintain that public policy considerations, no matter how justified, do not entitle the rabbinic authority to misrepresent halakha. A posek need not give a rationale for his ruling, 226* but if he feels it necessary to outline some or all of the reasons behind a non-permissive ruling, he must be halakhically accurate in his presentation. For example, a posek has to be careful not to ‘upgrade’ a public-policy consideration by claiming that it is rabbinically or biblically forbidden; nor should a rabbinic authority even suggest one source for the prohibition when he is fully aware that it is not applicable, and is in fact another. Depending on the case, misrepresenting halakha and/or giving an erroneous reason for a prohibition may well involve violation of one or more of the following injunctions: adding to the Torah (bal tosif);227 lying;228 and ziyyuf haTorah.229 In addition, misrepresentation often results in unlawful leniencies in other areas,230 needless gossip and hate, as well as hillul Hashem (desecration of God’s name) and a total loss of trust in rabbinic authority should the truth become known.231
Our second caveat relates to the ease with which such public-policy prohibitions may be invoked. While there do not seem to be strict guidelines, it is clear that this authority to be stringent must be used sparingly. Halakha clearly warns against unnecessary and unwarranted prohibitions, suggesting that posekim must be lenient wherever Jewish law allows.232 And, as has been so insightfully noted by R. Abraham Isaac haKohen Kook, this is all the more required in the modern period:
The wont of our saintly rabbinic scholars . . . was not to lean towards stringency in all matters where there was room to be lenient. . . . For it should suffice us if we