One of the policies we established at the outset of our Toronto project is that we are not rabbis creating a shul.
• No one in our group, including me, is permitted to answer a halachic question;
• We do not have our own minyan;
• We will do nothing, programmatically or otherwise, to undermine any shul rabbi.
Part of this is personal; after a dozen years in the shul rabbinate, I would never do anything that would take anything away from a sitting shul rabbi. I respect and love shul rabbis, I know what it means to be in their shoes, and this is a matter of highest importance to me. I would not have signed on, were this not our policy.
Part of this is halachic; as the gemara makes clear, every location has its own halachic authority. Classic סמיכה (ordination) was like filling a seat on a judicial bench; your license was for a specific location, where there was a need. That’s why major talmidei chachamim didn’t receive סמיכה; there was no court vacancy.
And part of it is communal; having multiple rabbis offering psak is bad for communal unity, and even if those rabbonim actually agree. I’ve seen it in my professional life, repeatedly. Competition is good in many areas, but when it comes to leadership, to quote Sanhedrin 8a, דבר אחד לדור ואין שני דברים לדור, there is one leader for a generation, not two leaders for a generation.
The one catch: In theory, all of this is clear. In practice, it becomes complicated.
• I can be standing in a minyan and someone can turn to me to ask whether he needs to repeat the amidah for missing המלך המשפט; it’s a ביעתא בכותחא question, not something requiring analysis. I get a call from someone who has a halachic problem an hour before Shabbos, and he doesn’t want to bother the rabbi. Someone asks me to discuss a halachic issue with him, but he doesn’t ask me for a final decision, a psak.
• The same gray areas develop regarding our minyan rule; what if a group comes to a late shiur, and they want to daven maariv afterward?
• And regarding avoiding undermining a shul rabbi – is it undermining if we schedule shiurim and a rabbi’s congregants attend, resulting on a drain in his own audience?
So the implementation isn’t straightforward, but I believe we must take this tack – for the sake of community, for the sake of halachah, and for the sake of my personal comfort. We are not separatists; we are here only to help, להגדיל תורה ולהאדירה.