Flipping a Coin – Revisited


Shalom aleichem Rabbi Lauffer. Thank you for answering my last question. I came across something in the Artscroll Shmuel Aleph that might have a bearing on a question Rabbi Lauffer answered for me a couple years ago, but I’m not sure if it does or not. I asked Rabbi Lauffer “Is one allowed to do a coin flip in order to determine the result of a sports competition that he is betting on, or is this prohibited because of what the Shulchan Aruch (Y.D. 179:1) writes that “One should not inquire from stargazers and not through lotteries” and Rabbi Lauffer graciously answered me saying, “Personally, I think that it is forbidden. The Sages teach that it is sometimes permissible to do certain actions that are comparable to stargazing and the like but only when there is some kind of a connection between the “omen” and the thing that it is being done for.”

The note in the Artscroll Shmuel p. 243 writes “According to Radak, omens are prohibited only if they reflect commonly accepted superstitious belief. However, a person is permitted to devise a sign to aid him in making a decision. Thus, the Talmud’s citation of Jonathan does not mean to state that his action was impermissible. On the contrary, the Talmud’s use of Jonathan’s incident is to teach that it is appropriate to rely only on an omen that has been clearly stipulated in advance. A disquieting incident that has not been specified in advance only appears like a bad omen, and should be given no credence. Rema assumes that Radak’s interpretation of the verse is coincident with the opinion of Raavad [and in opposition to that of Rambam], and Rema cites these two valid opinions regarding the use of omens (Yoreh Deah 179:4).” According to this Rema cited in the Artscroll, would doing a weighted coin flip on a calculator be permitted to decide the winner of a sports contest that one is betting on, or would it be forbidden as Rabbi Lauffer paskens. Thanks a lot.

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  1. Perhaps I should not have used the word “forbidden” (if I did) about flipping a coin, and who am I to disagree with Rav Belsky (see below), but, personally, I am still of the opinion that one should not do it, because, at best, it is too close to what is truly forbidden.

    However, I did find the following at: http://www.cckollel.org/parsha_encounters/5768/bo.pdf
    If one cannot make up his mind about what to do, he is permitted to flip a coin to make a decision. When one flips a coin and makes his decision based on the results, he does not feel that his decision is necessarily the right thing to do. Rather, he was undecided, and he is leaving his decision up to “chance”! (Heard from Harav Yisroel Belsky)

    Best wishes from the AskTheRabbi.org Team