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Question
What is the difference between a Rav and a Posek? What can a Rav decide? Who is a Posek today? What if one Rav or Posek have different opinions - who does one follow?
Answer
Rav is rabbi in Hebrew, so every orthodox rabbi is a Rav. Posek is generally a term used for a higher level of halachic authority who is accepted by many others to decide new questions that haven't been dealt with before, and accordingly must think of and search for relevant precedents in the Talmud and later halachic sources from similar questions. There is no "clear line" of dilineation between rav and posek, for every rav must apply the unique precedents of each individual case, which are obviously subjective and vary. There is no "official document" to become a posek as there is to become a rav, but as Rav Moshe Feinstein zt"l once said, people started asking him questions and apparently were satisfied, so gradually more and more turned with their respective questions. It's obviously not respectful to assign "evalutations" to great rabbanim, but among the generally recognized poskim today who would surely be recognized as such, include Rav Avigdor Neventzahl, Rav Osher Weiss, Rav BenZion Mutzafi, to name a few. When there is a difference of opinion, you follow your personal rav, who should know you, and your customs (ashkenaz, sefaradi, etc.), whether you are male or female, live in Israel or outside, personal, financial, psychological, religious and family status etc. This website, where questioners are pretty anonymous, is clearly not ideal!
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