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Mi Yodeya is a question and answer site for those who base their lives on Jewish law and tradition and anyone interested in learning more. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Per our oft-cited FAQ, and our frequent use of the disclaimer to consult one's own rabbi in matters of practical Halachah, we do not, as a matter of policy, accept questions, or provide answers, relating to personal Halachic matters.

But, while I agree with this policy generally, and a lay person could not confidently/competently, and therefore should not, consult a printed work of Halachah for a serious question about a complicated problem, much less ask strangers for an answer to such a question, what is so wrong about looking on the internet for matters of day-to-day Halachah and issues that are covered in plain terms in accessible, printed works (eg., Mishnah Berurah for common issues relating to Tefillah, such as arriving late; Shemirath Shabbath, aka Shmiras Shabbos Kehilchasa, for quick answers to common, practical questions on Shabbath)? If someone would normally look in those books for the answer, but doesn't have it handy, is there something wrong or lacking in asking a community, and by extension an online community? I've even seen questions posted on Facebook asking for Halachic advice. If someone posts an answer with a link to an authoritative text for reference, is that not sufficient? Note also that there are many, many websites geared specifically towards providing such answers.

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(It should go without saying that someone should not look on the internet for a Shabbath question on Shabbath. But there, I said it anyway.) –  Seth J Jun 24 '13 at 13:47
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very related judaism.stackexchange.com/q/17454/759 –  Double AA Jun 24 '13 at 13:47
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It may be that how an individual should behave and what an online community should express as community policy and blanket advice to readers are two different things, with the former able to incorporate more nuance, such as the distinction between complicated and simple questions. –  Isaac Moses Jun 24 '13 at 14:37
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@annex, if you are complaining about how editing here works, don't forget that you can always rollback revisions. Not only that, but you can discuss your concerns about anything, including edits, in the chat room. –  Seth J Jun 24 '13 at 17:51
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@annex, this is not the place to complain about SE policy -- which, anyway, with respect to editing, is not going to change and if you read your user agreement you know that already. If you aren't prepared to be part of a collaborative site, this might not be the place for you; try a blog instead, where you have complete control. You are always welcome to raise issues of site governance or features that could plausibly be addressed on Mi Yodeya Meta, the designated place for such discussions. –  Monica Cellio Jun 25 '13 at 18:26
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2 Answers 2

I completely agree with @IsaacMoses's comment above. In a situation where a person would normally just look up the answer in a book or online (e.g. what is the bracha for xyz) rather than ask a complicated personal question, I don't think there's any problem with following the advice found on this site. But it's difficult to have an official policy that makes such distinctions because it is hard to find a general rule that includes all of those exceptions. Therefore, it makes sense for the official policy to be that we don't give any practical advice.

In short, I don't think there really is any difference between our site and a collection of seforim. But just like you wouldn't consult a sefer for a dificult question with many complicating factors, you shouldn't use this site for that question either. In that situation, consult a Rav.

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Yes and no. This site is like a book, yes -- except that you know to trust the book's author (because g'dolim do, say) and you don't know anyone here. –  msh210 Jun 24 '13 at 15:46
    
@msh210 Well the question is asking about a case where "If someone posts an answer with a link to an authoritative text for reference, is that not sufficient?" –  Daniel Jun 24 '13 at 16:59
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@Daniel It is insufficient until you follow the link and look up that source inside. People here make mistakes too. –  Double AA Jun 24 '13 at 19:39
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When one asks a question there are at times other mitigating factors that can result in a different response. Although it is similar to a reading a Sefer to determine what is the correct course of action, however it can not replace a competent Rabbi who can determine whether there are reasons to rule differently in that specific case.

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That is certainly true. My question is, however, in the sort of circumstance in which one would be able to look in a book and feel assured that what is written is reliable for his circumstance, is a website like this one valid for that same purpose? –  Seth J Jun 25 '13 at 17:25
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