Guess this touches a little on our old discussion of Hebrew Language Questions...

Recently, someone asked for Exercises to prevent eyes tiring, which has brought up an interesting question, which I would imagine will come up again-and-again.

On one hand: it directly pertains to Jewish Life - particularly to those who learn on a constant basis (which is something I would assume we all strive to do).

On the other hand: it also pertains to hundreds of other fields of study, and is in no way unique to judaism.

So, I suppose if we boil it down:

Can something be on-topic about Jewish Life if the question is one that is not unique to Judaism?

Should this question, which is intrinsically about general health matters be closed as off-topic?

As I think about the question more and more I keep switching sides. Bringing what I said back then against me:

There's a difference between a question about Jewish Life and Learning, and a question about something relating to Jewish Life and Learning.

Would seem to say that this is off-topic. I would really love to hear what everyone thinks about this...

Is the question at hand different from, say, this question? – Isaac Moses Jun 29 '11 at 12:25
Here are some more test questions: Tzedaka calls, Charity documentation, Shabbat afternoon, Bar Mitzva present, Mishloach Manot – Isaac Moses Jun 29 '11 at 13:38
@Issac "is not unique to Judaism" -- some of those are unique to Judaism. – yydl Jun 30 '11 at 0:26
@yydl to varying degrees, which is why I'm bringing them all up. I'd argue that temporary outdoor lighting, telemarketers, charity verification, and presents for teenagers are all not unique to Judaism, but all come up especially for people involved in certain Jewish practices. – Isaac Moses Jun 30 '11 at 18:42
@Isaac but bar-mitzvah presents, sukkah lighting, and Mishloach Manot are all unique to Judaism. While the answers may be the same had they been posted on some other SE site, it still does not subtract from the question's relevance to Judaism. (and with bar-mitzvah presents the answers would indeed be very different) – yydl Jun 30 '11 at 18:45
@yydl I think that's my point. The Mitzvot of Tzedaka and Torah study are also unique to Judaism as such. – Isaac Moses Jun 30 '11 at 18:47
@Isaac but as @yydl was inferring, the question was "what do about eyestrain from reading a lot", and would not be substantially changed if it were instead "what do about eyestrain from reading a lot of Torah". – AviD Jul 1 '11 at 13:52
@AviD, See my answer. – Isaac Moses Jul 1 '11 at 18:24

4 Answers 4

up vote 5 down vote accepted

It seems to me that if an issue comes up as a direct result of a Jewish practice, it's probably in-scope. If people following that practice are more likely than average people to run into the issue in question, then people on this site are more likely than average people to have encountered it and to have valuable experience or information to contribute. In addition, solving issues that come up especially in the course of Jewish practice facilitates that practice, which is a good thing for practitioners of Judaism to do.

The issue is even more in-scope if there's any nuance that applies differently in the Jewish case than in the way most people experience it, since good answers in other contexts might not take that nuance into account, but people here would.


  • Eye strain from reading comes up more for Torah scholars than for average people. It comes up more for computer programmers than for average people too, which is why it's been addressed in their community. However, the special nuance in the Torah study case is that it comes especially from hours of reading small, sometimes blurry print on paper.

  • Temporary outdoor lighting is something that sukka builders need more than average people. There are also potentially special nuances in that the lighting shouldn't interfere with the validity of the sukka.

  • Charity telemarketers call Jews more than they do average people, since many Jews get on lists by fulfilling the Mitzva of Tzedaka or by putting themselves in Jewish community phonebooks. Potential special nuances may come from halachot regarding how to treat people who ask you for tzedaka.

  • Verifying charities is something that Jews do more than average people because of the Mitzva of Tzedaka and the attendant sense of stewardship of the funds. Wanting to do this within the Israeli jurisdiction is a special nuance, though one could argue that this would apply equally to secular charity-givers in Israel.

See also the comments on – msh210 Nov 20 at 19:19
@msh210 FWIW, I agree with your side of the disagreement there. The only reason I didn't vote to reopen and get involved was that I thought the question needed more motivation, as described in my comment there. I think it's a shame that OP ended up deleting. – Isaac Moses Nov 20 at 19:22

I think that questions that have relevance to Jewish lifestyle are legitimate questions. I think those that disagree do not have to upvote. I also feel by limiting questions it makes the site less interesting.

Limiting questions may make things less interesting, but so does, for example, limiting the presence of whales at the pet store. Sure, it is more interesting with them there, but the facilities are not quite designed to sustain them and they are unexpected by and appear incongruous to patrons of the store. The same goes for limiting - or in the case of J.SE making suggestions about - answers to those questions. Often an answerer has an idea in mind that is expressed either properly in a suboptimal venue, or improperly in that it does not serve its putative purpose as an answer. . . – WAF Jul 20 '11 at 13:46
. . .i.e. answering the question. In the first case, a suggestion to move the well-formed statement to its more appropriate venue (such as being a comment on the question) is in my opinion not paternalistically limiting, but a reasonable suggestion between peers. In the second case, we would all agree that a downvote is in order, but it is not as constructive as a suggestion to reformulate the answer to retain as much fidelity to the good intent as the poster without diminishing its interpreted value to the reader. – WAF Jul 20 '11 at 13:52

I would suggest that such questions are on-topic when they specifically relate to fulfillment of a Jewish obligation. We would, after all, accept questions like "How do you fulfill the mitzvah of hearing the shofar if you can't hear," or "Can you wear tape in your shoes Shabbos if you have a blister? If not, what can you do?" Questions like "how to prevent eye strain for Torah study" are simply other questions about how to get mitzvos done.

And, because they're based in Jewish life specifically, there will inevitably be some details that are different than the general application of these activities. For example, Torah study may be different from secular reading insofar as you may not be able to hold the book closer to your eyes; it is likely to be an old, printed book rather than a computer or Kindle; you can't deface the book; and you can't necessarily read it in the room with the best light. Torah study is a specific enough distinction to make the question reasonable for our site.

Also, if someone asked "How do you get bugs out of lettuce?," it would call for a different answer here than on the cooking site, because in Judaism we are much stricter about even tiny bugs than in general cooking. So I would call that a question that is appropriate for Mi Yodeya (even without "Jewishly" appended somehow to the question title).

I'd be a little more wary of questions that do not relate specifically to religious obligations, such as "How do you get kiddush wine out of a tablecloth?" Unless you knew of something significantly different about kosher wine stains that made them harder to remove than regular ones, and possibly even then, this question would be better off on Cleaning.SE or equivalent.

Also, I'd be wary of questions like "How to pack your lunch for work" (asked here because there may need to be more precautions taken to keep kosher food kosher than to pack regular food for a non-Jew). If that were to be here, I would suggest a more general phrasing like "How to transport food kosher-ly," so that we can get comprehensive Jewish answers rather than instruction lists for very circumscribed tasks.

But in general, I think a question is in scope here if it passes the tests, "Does it matter whether this is Jewish?" and "Would this get [roughly] the same answer on another SE site as here?"


I agree that this is off-topic.
As I said in a comment on that question, this reminds me of a batch of questions from early days of SO:

  • "What is your favorite food... as a programmer?"
  • "What music is best... for a programmer?"
  • "Which is the most effective coffee... for a programmer?".

Just because it is relevant to you, doesnt mean its relevant specifically as a result of your Judaismness.

There is a difference between programmer's habit to drink coffee, eat, listen music and jewish habbit to learn texts! I don't want to add my answer to the question because my opinion is not objective, rather I want to hear others. – jutky Jun 29 '11 at 10:31
@jutky, I disagree - there is nothing innately "jewish" about learning texts. There is correlation, of course, but about as much as drinking coffee and programming. There is nothing indicative of ones religion about eyestrain in general - yes, it is common in Judaism, but also in programmers, 3rd year law students, and archeologists. – AviD Jun 29 '11 at 11:21
@AviD: Drinking coffee is not a Mitzva for programmers. Learning texts is a Mitzva for Jews. – Isaac Moses Jun 29 '11 at 12:24
@Isaac, but eyestrain isn't. On the other hand, eating is also a Mitzva (on certain occasions), and yet "how to deal with indigestion" is obviously not going to be accepted here as ontopic, right? – AviD Jun 29 '11 at 12:32
If we're looking to Stack Overflow for precedent, consider many of the questions in SO's ergonomics tag, especially this one. Or see the same tag on SU or Programmers, both of which also have open eyestrain questions. – Isaac Moses Jun 29 '11 at 13:56
@Isaac, but most of them are closed :). After many of those questions, they realized that they should be offtopic, because its not inherently a programmer issue. And what do you think of the indigestion q? – AviD Jun 29 '11 at 15:08
@AviD Many of those closures are for other reasons, such as "too localized." I think I'd be inclined to allow something like "How do you keep from choking when eating a modern-machmir 'kezayit' of matza?" or "How do you mitigate the effects eating lots of matza has on your digestion?" These are questions that come directly out of fulfilling Jewish practices. – Isaac Moses Jun 29 '11 at 15:25
Yes, but thats specific to matza, which is a Jewish thing - same thing for horseradish-maror, I guess. But the question we're talking about is not at all specific to jewish learning, it's relevant for anybody that pores over books or screen for a long time. Do you think that should be ontopic? – AviD Jun 29 '11 at 15:35
Matza questions are applicable to consumption of any dry crackers and the attendant effects. We care about them particularly because we are required to eat matza. Similarly, we care about eyestrain-from-hours-of-reading-fine-print questions because we're required to learn Torah. – Isaac Moses Jun 29 '11 at 15:52
@AviD let us continue this discussion in chat – Isaac Moses Jun 29 '11 at 15:52
Yes and no. The Hebrew language for example is not relevant to non-Jews, and even though a grammatical question is not inherently religious, it is still inherently relevant to Jewish Life. – Adam Mosheh Feb 12 '12 at 15:25
Hi @Adam, I agree about the Hebrew, but this question was about the tired-eyes question... I think the issues got crossed. :) – AviD Feb 12 '12 at 16:28
@AviD - I was giving the Hebrew language as an example but you are kind of right in that they are cross-referenced and they also do go hand in hand. – Adam Mosheh Feb 12 '12 at 16:34
But that was my point - I dont think your statement ("not relevant to non-Jews, and even though [it] is not inherently religious, it is still inherently relevant to Jewish Life") applies for tired eyes... – AviD Feb 12 '12 at 16:38

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