Take the 2-minute tour ×
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.

Can a site like mi.yodeya.com be used for one to fulfill our sages mandate of "Make for yourself a Rav"?

Obviously I meant this facetiously. Of course a website cannot take the place of a rav, but did you see some of the halachic questions that are being asked and sound like they are being asked for practical reasons?!

share|improve this question
    
What if an actual poseik came and answered a question on mi.yodeya? Would that be considered p'sak? –  Adam Mosheh May 14 '12 at 7:29
2  
@AdamMosheh If someone will come and call himself RElyashiv and we can verify that it's him, then possibly there is what to discuss (we may ban in anyways since it's bad in principle). Until then, how can you listen to any "posek" on this website? Do you know who they are? How do you know that they are reliable? At most, one can look up the sources that they bring. Even that is problematic as not every psak of every big Rabbi is accepted in the Jewish world for practical Halacha. –  Shmuel Brin May 15 '12 at 18:32
    
Assuming verification of who they are. –  Adam Mosheh May 15 '12 at 18:54
    
Go even as far to say that I am a poseik: meta.judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/312/… –  Adam Mosheh May 15 '12 at 19:21
add comment

4 Answers

up vote 7 down vote accepted

This is an excellent and very, very, important question for a website like this, one that I've been thinking about from the beginning.

First of all, let me identify with the answers provided by Shalom and Alex and reiterate that mi.yodeya does not provide professional (particularly rabbinic) advice.(1) We try to alert users to this with red writing at the top of each page, a bold "Consult your Rabbi" suggestion on the "Ask a Question" page,(2) a disclaimer that comes up in red on the sidebar for new users and in bold in the the FAQ. In addition, I encourage answer-writers to stick in some humble language like "Here's my understanding, but ask your Rabbi before taking action." as necessary.

The remaining question is: What if people ignore the warnings and use mi.yodeya information as if it was professional rabbinic advice? I don't have an ironclad answer, but I think that on balance, we're doing OK. People give classes on Jewish law and practice all the time, and there's always the danger that attendees (or archive-listeners) will act on what they hear in the class or in an associated Q&A session without asking their Rabbi first.(3) The danger here is similar and, I think, similarly tolerable, with the advantage that we're explicitly warning against such practice at every turn.

Hopefully, more people will be encouraged to ask their Rabbi questions that otherwise wouldn't have than the other way around, thanks to our questions and answers spreading awareness of the issues and our disclaimers reminding people to go talk to their Rabbi.

All that said, I do need to upgrade my efforts (non-zero but not successful) to get Rabbinic guidance myself on this very point. And, of course, I'm very interested to hear what community members think, either in comments to this post or in email to info@yodeya.com.

UPDATE: I spoke to an internationally-respected rabbi who has experience and interest in Internet issues. He generally approved of the approach we're already taking, provided that we make sure that the disclaimers are prominent enough to be seen by everyone, and that we make it clear that while discussions of Jewish life naturally include Halachic content, people should go to a rabbi, not a website, for actual Halachic advice (my paraphrasing). I think we're pretty much fulfilling his advice already, but I'm going to review our disclaimers and consider beefing them up. Also, though the rabbi didn't bring it up, I'm seriously considering implementing some sort of flagging mechanism like the one Barry suggested. (See also my comment there.)

UPDATE 2 (2011 June 19 - after the migration to SE 2.0): When we migrated from the SE 1.0 site mi.yodeya, which I could edit more of, to this SE 2.0 site, the disclaimer went away, since it's not a standard part of an SE 2.0 site. We asked to have it put back, and SEI added it to the sidebar for new users. I also added it to the FAQ.


1) If you're wondering what it's good for, given that, please see my blog post on the topic.

2) See Update 2, above.

3) Recall the Blue Fringe lyric "I just heard a half hour halacha shiur / And decide to change the way I've lived for 18 years."

share|improve this answer
2  
I think any question can sound like a sheilah, perhaps it might be more effective to flag answers that sound like psak. –  Yirmeyahu Apr 8 '10 at 6:44
    
Isaac, visitors to the site are telling me that they do not notice the red warning because they start scrolling as soon as they hit the page. Flagging halachic questions so that they have the disclaimer in the question box sounds like a better system. –  Yahu Apr 12 '10 at 17:23
    
Thanks. I'm leaning toward adding something like that. –  Isaac Moses Apr 12 '10 at 17:36
1  
FYI, I had never seen the disclaimer until I thought to visit the site while not logged in. When logged in I do not see the warning on every page, and regardless of login status I don't see it on the "ask a question" page. Firefox 3.0.19 and Safari 5.0.5. –  Monica Cellio Jun 19 '11 at 16:14
2  
I think we are sidestepping the real issue here.. the issue is not "should I act based on what a website says or should I ask a rabbi".. that is obvious and no one disagrees on the answer to that.. but the real question is... "should I act based on what a website says or should I just do what I think is right on my own?" which is the harder and more relevant question. The reality is that many people who read this site don't have a real "rav" and are not planning to get one any time soon, but they ask here because they are still interested in the truth. Is it better that they don't ask at all? –  Desert Star Oct 5 '11 at 11:48
show 7 more comments

Isn't the key phrase there "for yourself"? On a website like this you can get some interesting information and discussion, but it won't be tailored to your specific situation, where you stand in Jewish observance, etc.

So no, there is no substitute for a personal Rabbi/mashpia/mentor/whatever you want to call it, who can show you how to integrate the various abstract halachic and meta-halachic principles into actual day-to-day practice.

share|improve this answer
add comment

No, no, no. See the red letters on top of each page:

Like Wikipedia, mi.yodeya makes no guarantee of validity, and does not offer professional (particularly rabbinic) advice. Treat mi.yodeya information like it came from a crowd of your friends.

share|improve this answer
1  
Note that the placement of this disclaimer changed after we migrated to SE 2.0. See the second update to my answer for more details. –  Isaac Moses Jun 20 '11 at 4:25
add comment

Perhaps there should be a way to flag a question as soliciting a psak. Similar to how in Wikipedia's reference desk, if a post smells like it's asking for medical advice, the crowd will respond that it's against the rules.

WP's Guidelines state: The reference desk does not answer (and will probably remove) requests for medical or legal advice. Ask a doctor, dentist, veterinarian, or lawyer instead.

OTOH, many web surfers who are uncomfortable asking a Rabbi, may simply decide a question for themselves, absent an online method for getting answers. In that case, getting a crowd-sourced answer is probably better.

Sounds like a question for a Rabbi to decide... :)

share|improve this answer
    
Re: Flagging: Interesting idea. Currently, we depend on answerers to incorporate something like "make sure to ask your Rabbi" when they feel it's necessary. I'm willing to consider something more heavy-handed from the moderators. Maybe there could be a practical-halacha tag that would be added to any such question and some scripting that would automatically insert an "Ask your Rabbi" note in every question with that tag. –  Isaac Moses Mar 17 '10 at 17:32
    
Re: Crowd-sourcing over self-paskening: I agree that this might lead to better outcomes in some cases, but I'm not comfortable with that being part of mi.yodeya's intended usage. –  Isaac Moses Mar 17 '10 at 17:34
    
Re: Your last point: I'll work on this more after Pesach. –  Isaac Moses Mar 17 '10 at 17:35
    
See the update to my answer, above. –  Isaac Moses Mar 22 '10 at 16:22
    
I really believe in this flagging idea, and I bet raabanim would like it as well. –  Hacham Gabriel Jan 8 '12 at 21:39
add comment

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.