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Questions like this one, and especially the answers occasionally provided, sometimes make me wonder whether the people asking and/or answering are married. Should there be a policy about asking (or at least answering) these questions if a person is not intimately familiar with the way things work in the real world? If someone is not and has not ever been married, should he or she be answering this type of question based on knowledge learned from a book?

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    Should he be? Probably not. But is this any different from someone who's never actually slaughtered an animal answering questions about sh'chita, or someone who's never personally leined torah answering questions about trope? People should be clear about where their knowledge comes from in all cases, so if book-knowledge is insufficient for the reader that'll be clear, but if we do more, how do we draw that line? – Monica Cellio Sep 5 '12 at 16:13
  • @MonicaCellio, I hear you, but see my comment to msh210. – Seth J Sep 5 '12 at 16:38
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    Why is this different from any other question on Mi Yodeya? All answers should be completely sourced. If the source is in writing, fine. If it is personal experience, fine. It will be upvoted if it is reasonable. If someone wants to make up a personal experience and post it on the internets, I don't think there's much we can do about that. – Double AA Sep 5 '12 at 16:49
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    @DoubleAA hmm, true. I think we need to re-emphasize the need to CYLOR in these cases. – Seth J Sep 5 '12 at 17:00
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    @SethJ I've expanded my above comment into an answer. – Double AA Sep 7 '12 at 19:44
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It seems the Gemara already asked this question. On Sotah 4a, Ben Azzai (in a long list of other opinions) tells us that the length of time for Stirah (when the Sotah and 'Boyfriend' are alone together prompting an obligation to go drink the Sotah-water) is the amount of time it takes to roast and egg. On 4b the Gemara says that all the opinions were founded on personal experience. But the Gemara asks, wasn't Ben Azzai a bachelor? It answers three different ways: he was married and got divorced; he heard this measurement from his teacher; סוד ה ליראיו he knew with some sort of divine help. We see that the Gemara didn't mind his answering the question if he indeed had a good source.

So too should we act on Mi Yodeya: all answers should always be completely sourced. If the source is in writing, great. If it is personal experience, fine; it will be upvoted if it is reasonable. If someone wants to make up a personal experience and post it on the internets, I don't think there's much we can do about that, and if it is unreasonable it will not attract upvotes and perhaps even be downvoted.

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Knowledge learned from a book can be valuable. Despite what They say, it can be a substitute for knowledge learned from experience.

Kidushin 71:2:

עולא איקלע לפומבדיתא לבי רב יהודה חזייה לרב יצחק בריה דרב יהודה דגדל ולא נסיב

I assume you would not suggest that רב יצחק בריה דרב יהודה could not answer — or ask! — questions about hilchos nida. Granted, there are no רב יצחק בריה דרב יהודהs today, but I think the principle still holds: personal experience is not strictly necessary for answering questions (and certainly not for asking them).

That said, I agree that askers and answerers should bear their inexperience in mind and try to post only such posts as evince wisdom.

  • I think the particular question I referenced (as opposed to this one, or this one - or even this one) is heavily dependent on interpersonal relationships and intimacy between a husband and a wife, which someone not familiar with those feelings and mechanics may not - or really cannot - fully appreciate. I don't really think that answering questions dealing with emotions and intimacy can be done adequately by reading about it in a book. – Seth J Sep 5 '12 at 16:37
  • By the way, so far, I've got no objection to either answer except for a comment in one that suggests that saying "I love you" unnecessarily might be inappropriate. How does one determine what's unnecessary in something like that? – Seth J Sep 5 '12 at 16:44
  • @SethJ, re your first comment, even רב יצחק בריה דרב יהודה couldn't? – msh210 Sep 5 '12 at 16:46
  • I never got the chance to meet him in person, so I can't say from firsthand experience how well he would have judged these types of situations. #homerun – Seth J Sep 5 '12 at 17:03
  • Upon further reflection, I also don't think I have to suggest that רב יצחק בריה דרב יהודה could not ask or answer questions about Niddah per se. But the question I referenced is about relationships and the effects Hilchoth Niddah have on them, and in turn the effects the relationships have on observing Hilchoth Niddah. My point is, shouldn't one who is both an expert in the Halachoth and in relationships be advising on matters related to both (especially with emphasis on the latter)? – Seth J Sep 7 '12 at 18:12

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