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...

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Is the question at hand different from, say, this question? –  Isaac Moses Jun 29 '11 at 12:25
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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
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@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
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@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
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@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

3 Answers 3

up vote 4 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.

Examples:

  • 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.

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Issac Moses, are you going to reopen the question about eyes train? –  jutky Jul 6 '11 at 20:19
    
@jutky Sorry it took me so long. I did it a few days ago, I think. –  Isaac Moses Jul 19 '11 at 21:47

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.

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BINGO GERSHON HIT IT ON THE NOSE THE RECENT OBSESSION WITH CATEGORIZATION AND PROPERNESS IS SICKENING AND MAKES THE USE OF THIS UTTERLY BORING. IT SEEMS TO BE LIKE TWO OR THREE PEOPLE WANT TO MAINTAIN A PROFESSIONALISM BY THEIR STANDARDS AND DO NOT CARE HOW IT WILL ADVERSELY AFFECT THEE SITE –  Chalutzhanal Jul 19 '11 at 23:33
    
I THINK THE WHOLE META SHOULD BE TAKEN DOWN AS PEOPLE ARE BUSY DISCUSSING WHAT SHOULD AND SHOULD NOT BE ON THE SITE INSTEAD ARE OF ADDING CONTENT AND THEN WONDERING WHY THERE IS NO PEOPLE I KNOW I STOP USING AS OFTEN BECAUSE OF THE OVERWHELMING AMOUNT OF NONSENSICAL RULES AND REGULATIONS WHICH MIGHT BE IMPORTANT TO PROGRAMMERS BUT NOT IN EVERYDAY LIFE PART OF WHY MOST ARE IN INDIA –  Chalutzhanal Jul 19 '11 at 23:37
    
The proper adage would be you miss the forest for the trees this is not just about finding the missing colon to get he program to run –  Chalutzhanal Jul 20 '11 at 0:43
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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
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. . .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
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@Chalutzhanal I am glad we have a forum in which to discuss this. To what particular nonsensical rules and regulations do you refer? A large part of the goal of the meta.SE is to describe what the content of the site is before prescribing what it should be. I have not done the research myself, but retention of users probably has a lot more to do with quality of content and consistency of expectations than proportion of taxonomical activity in meta. Quality and consistency are improved by a strong and accurate definition of communally agreed-upon standards. –  WAF Jul 20 '11 at 14:11
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To add one point to what @WAF said, a major advantage of having a separate meta site and of having comments displayed much less prominently than the actual questions and answers is so that people who are interested in the content and not in discussions about the content can easily find and read the former while ignoring the latter. –  Isaac Moses Jul 20 '11 at 14:59
    
One nonsensical rule would be closing all the riddles when he himself is the source of a continuous one –  Chalutzhanal Jul 20 '11 at 21:57
    
And another point there are 3 ppl here constantly and you all have this group psychology thing going (group think)Bad example but it drives home the point {like a bunch of communists saying You see we all say it is right so it must be} where you all reinforce your own options as you share them anyway anyone disagrees is attacked you need to get an outsiders opinion as the forum has become a soap box for the limited few. –  Chalutzhanal Jul 20 '11 at 22:42
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@Chalutzhanal - Sense can be made even of that decision, which is an exception to the rule. It is discussed here. You will notice that the check-marked answer that pretty much describes the current policy belongs to Dori and is presumably based on observations of the dozens (at least) of implementations of the SE model that were around at the time. –  WAF Jul 21 '11 at 1:47
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@Chalutzhanal - I assume the 3 you refer to are the three moderators pro tem and I would be very interested to hear your analysis of the commonalities between them and the underlying psychology that explains it. I am sure you will find that the most active users (including recently, yourself) are a much larger group of diverse opinions that are able to stand on their own merit. What do you think? –  WAF Jul 21 '11 at 1:51
    
Look at the points next to your comments that is groupthink –  Chalutzhanal Jul 21 '11 at 21:19
    
@Chalutzhanal, yet consider judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/8989. WAF, a mod pro tem, opined that the question was off-topic; [continued] –  msh210 Jul 22 '11 at 4:10
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[continued] Isaac Moses, another mod pro tem, did not opine one way or the other, merely pointing to this meta question (and his initial comment was @ddressed to WAF, which I took to mean that he was detracting from WAF's opinion that the question was off-topic, considering the ongoing meta thread, though perhaps I misunderstood that); and I, the final mod pro tem, did not opine, and did not upvote WAF's initial comment stating that the question was off-topic. And no one closed the question as off-topic. I suspect there is less groupthink than you are afraid of. –  msh210 Jul 22 '11 at 4:10
    
Oh (afterthought), and I upvoted the question. I, for one, don't think it's off-topic. –  msh210 Jul 22 '11 at 4:13

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.

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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
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@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
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@AviD: Drinking coffee is not a Mitzva for programmers. Learning texts is a Mitzva for Jews. –  Isaac Moses Jun 29 '11 at 12:24
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@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
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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
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@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
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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
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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
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@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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