I don't know how common this is, but I've occasionally been approached on the street by regular people whom I do not know (who presumably make the assumption that since I wear a kippah, I'm a rabbi) who then go on to ask me halachic questions. While I try to be helpful, I do employ the CYLR warning. (most of these folks are presumably not Orthodox and I'd rather avoid offending their sensibilities, even if it means the answers they get from a rabbi are not as appropriate as we might expect).

Does anyone have a good/better way to deal with this type of occurrence?


In my current and previous workplaces I have been the only visibly practicing Jew, and I got (and get) questions fairly often. Now my coworkers, unlike your people on the street, aren't asking me to make a ruling for them (they're not Jews), but I think in both cases we are seen as a representative, possibly a source of authority, so people who want to know The Answer ask the "obvious" person for it. They seem to assume that I can speak for all of Judaism.

I respond using phrases like "most Jews" and "some say" and "but other communities do something else". I speak descriptively, and I may talk about what I do personally, but I never (even with other Jews) speak prescriptively. Even if they push.

(For all that I've had dozens of exchanges like this, I'm having trouble calling a good example to mind. I'm sorry.)

You can answer their basic factual questions and expose them to the spectrum of Jewish thought while avoiding either giving counsel or appearing to speak for all Jews. That's the balance to strike.

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