I have noticed a number of questions phrased as follows: "Is X permissible?" or "What should I do in the following situations?", etc. and feel that this community was not created to deal with, nor should it deal with such questions. These types of questions are in need of actual psak halacha or a conversation with a competent Rav. Perhaps, if the question was phrased as, "What are the halachic issues with X?" or "What are halachic considerations regarding the following situation?" the questions would be more appropriate, but perhaps not.

It is crucial that we draw a line in the sand when it comes to halacha and prevent mis-guided individuals (perhaps not even the question asker, but future readers) from issuing a psak for themselves based on information on this site and/or using this site as psak halacha.

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I understand it to be shorthand. When I asked, for instance, if using a Kindle on Shabbat is permitted, I wasn't asking for a ruling; I was asking for people to bring the relevant issues. "What are the halachic issues with..." is a lot of text before you get to the first part of the content. If that's what's desired that's cool, but I think this is part of why people do it (and certainly why I've done it, in contrast to my earliest questions here). –  Monica Cellio Aug 1 '11 at 17:47
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Yes, @MonicaCellio, but it can easily be misconstrued. Perhaps askers should put the caveat at the end if it's too long for the beginning. ("Is X permitted? I am looking for the issues involved, not, of course, for an halachic decision.") –  msh210 Aug 2 '11 at 20:44

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The Talmud (Sotah 22A) tells us that someone who makes Halachic Ruling based on the Mishnayot he learned destroys the world.

Rashi there explains that this is because he is making Halachic Ruling without having learned the reasons of the Halachot brought in the Mishna.

Yet we don't see anyone banning the learning of Mishna. I've never even seen a Book of Mishnayot that has a warning in the preface: "Warning!! Ruling only from what you learn here will make you a destroyer of worlds!"

I think the warning we have on the site are sufficient (although it would be nice to have a notification like the one I suggested here).

I think the notifications we have now are enough to understand that even when asking a halachic question, the answers here are not Piskei Halacha.

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This is a very important challenge for this site, which we've been discussing and attempting to address for a long time, as seen in this very early meta-question on this site's progenitor, mi.yodeya. If you have any suggestions for remedies that we ought to employ that we aren't already, please suggest them.

Unfortunately, the red disclaimer we had at the top of every page, for everyone on mi.yodeya is now relegated to the side, and only for new users (plus the FAQ and the rollover text for on the main site). However, answerers seem to be doing a pretty good job of maintaining the practice of advising people to speak to their own Rabbi for personal advice.

I still stand by what I wrote then, which goes directly to your point about future readers paskening for themselves:

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. 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.

UPDATE:

Based on Adam's suggestions in the comments on this answer, I've added the following to the FAQ:

  • Questions that appear to be requests for personal practical advice will be either edited to more general wording or closed.

  • For more on why it's important to take personal questions of Jewish practice to your Rabbi, see here.

If a question is a blatant request for personal guidance that should be coming from a Rabbi, I will often close it using the "Too Localized" close reason. This is because one of the reasons why it's important to take such questions to your Rabbi is that your particular situation, lifestyle, habits, and communal context can be important factors in determining the correct guidance and actions for you, and that information should not be required to care about or answer a question in this public, permanent forum.

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Isaac, I love the analogy of a Halacha shiur, however there are two issues with it: 1. Rabbis who give Halachic shiurim know the crowd they are speaking two and therefore will often be careful in addressing certain topics and in the method with which they convey information. 2. Most of the time these shiurim are not given as a response to a practical question. The second of these issue can be addressed by enforcing a more strict policy regarding phrasing of questions relating to halacha. –  Adam Simon Jul 28 '11 at 22:16
    
Also, perhaps it is the communities/moderator's duty to write up a more substantial warning/explanation as to why it is important to ask a competent halachic authority and why one shouldn't rely on this site for halchic advice. –  Adam Simon Jul 28 '11 at 22:19
    
Perhaps it would also be beneficial to have a "resident posek" or list of poskim for people to get in touch with. I recognize the political ramifications of such a system... –  Adam Simon Jul 28 '11 at 22:21
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@Adam, your first point about shiurim doesn't apply to those that are archived for later listening online, or, indeed, to any archived resource, including text (books, articles, etc.). I like the idea of strictly enforcing a "no sounding like you're asking for pesak" rule as well as the idea of having a more robust writeup about the importance of going to your own Rabbi. Would you be interested in writing up the latter? –  Isaac Moses Jul 29 '11 at 1:56
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@Adam I don't think we want to get into designating a "resident posek," but we do have this resource in formation. –  Isaac Moses Jul 29 '11 at 1:58
    
Isaac, I agree with your point about the "resident posek" sort of kills the concept of the site. The resource in formation looks good and I will try to build on it. –  Adam Simon Jul 29 '11 at 13:46
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Isaac, in terms of writing up that document, I can try...but would like some help. Are there other community members who might also be able to help/add/comment? –  Adam Simon Jul 29 '11 at 13:48
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@Adam, have at it. If you post an answer and include notes either within or in a comment about where you'd like more information to flesh it out, I'm sure people will jump in. If we get a sufficiently clear and useful answer to that question, I'll add a link to it in the FAQ. –  Isaac Moses Jul 29 '11 at 14:04

I fundamentally disagree. There is no point in learning Torah if not to be mekayeim it (all 613 commandments including vehalakhta bidrakhav - see below). And of course we are learning in order to fulfill. So what if someone does not have access to his local orthodox rabbi and needs p'sak ASAP? People on this website seem to have a good grasp of the halakhic system and how it works, so why can't anyone answer questions if they are able to do so?

In birkat hatorah recited daily, we say that Hashem is Melameid torah l'amo yisrael. He gave halacha lemaaseh to the B'nei Yisrael at Mount Sinai. There is a mitzvah of vehalahkta bidrakhav, to imitate His ways, which includes this. We (kulanu beit yisrael) are all obligated included in this, because we learn al menat lelamed (and lishmor v'laasot) in order to be poseik halacha for B'nei Yisrael. So if not here and now, then where and when are we going to fulfill our torah obligation of teaching torah to others, on the practical level?

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Are you a posek? –  Shmuel Brin May 15 '12 at 18:27
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Related: judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/10238/… –  Isaac Moses May 15 '12 at 18:43
    
Related: judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/409/… –  Adam Mosheh May 15 '12 at 19:16
    
@ShmuelBrin - If I am mekayeim mitsvat halikhah bidrakhav, then perhaps that transforms me into being one. –  Adam Mosheh May 15 '12 at 19:18
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You don't have a Torah obligation to paskin for others until you are qualified to do so. –  Double AA May 15 '12 at 19:35
    
Yes, but I have an obligation to be holeikh bidrakhav, which means that I should take steps to become qualified to enable myself to be paskin. –  Adam Mosheh May 15 '12 at 19:37
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So use this site to learn for eventual paskining, but not to paskin. –  Double AA May 15 '12 at 19:38
    
How can I learn for eventual pisuk, if not from poskim? I.e., talmidei chachamim should learn from chachamim, not from talmidim of talmidei chachamim. –  Adam Mosheh May 15 '12 at 19:40
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@AdamMosheh I'm pretty sure there are 47 alternatives for you to choose from. –  Double AA May 16 '12 at 0:03
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See Rambam (Hil. Talmud Torah 5:4, וכל תלמיד שלא הגיע להוראה ומורה הרי זה רשע שוטה וגס הרוח. ועליו נאמר כי רבים חללים הפילה וגו). –  Fred Nov 12 '13 at 0:55

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