After recently asking for an explanation on a certain custom, I was given an answer that was garbed in kabbalistic language. Not being a kabbalist myself (nor would I suspect most readers), I asked the answerer to explain the meaning of what he wrote. His response: if you can't understand, I can't explain.

I'm conflicted with how to accept this answer as legitimate. While being sensitive to the idea of Kabbalah being inaccessible for a public forum, I also can't claim that I "received an answer that worked for him or her personally" (the site's stipulation for accepting an answer). How am I supposed to know if this answers my question if I'm not a kabbalist?

This raises a broader question of accepting kabbalistic answers in general. How does "I'm not allowed to tell you" work in a public space of learning?

  • 15
    So don't accept it.
    – Double AA Mod
    Commented Jun 17, 2013 at 7:06
  • 1
    As the popular expression goes regarding kalabla: Those who really know what it means don't talk about it; those who talk about it don't know what they're talking about. Most things in Kabala cannot be taken literally - so quoting an answer cloaked in Kabalistic terms sounds like simply obfuscating an answer. Commented Jun 17, 2013 at 13:41
  • related? judaism.stackexchange.com/a/22584/603
    – Menachem
    Commented Jun 17, 2013 at 14:37
  • Aryeh, is the answer better? At least textually there's something you can look at now.
    – Seth J
    Commented Jun 17, 2013 at 15:38
  • @SethJ It's better now. I still don't understand why that explanation created the minhag, but I accept my ignorance in Kabbalah matters. The answer can now be understood on a very superficial level, which might be the most I can hope for in a Kabbalah answer.
    – Aryeh
    Commented Jun 18, 2013 at 7:39

1 Answer 1


I think that an answer to a non-Kabala question that is based on Kabala concepts which it neither explains clearly nor links to clear explanations of is likely to be in violation of the spirit and letter of our jargon policy.

The "overall guiding principle" stated in this policy is:

Will any English speaker who is interested in this content be able to understand what it means without additional research?

If the question is about, say, why we put on shoes in a certain order, then it is naturally of interest to anyone who puts on shoes and bases their life on Jewish custom. Thus, any answer should, ideally, be understandable by anyone in that very broad group. So, an answer that says "R' Rishon (p. 72) says we do it this way for Kabbalisic reasons that are difficult to explain." is acceptable. It may be unsatisfying to some readers, but there may be no choice if the underlying rationale is truly too esoteric to explain in public. On the other hand, an answer that says "We do it this way because shoes unite the concepts of Kabala_Concept_A and Kabala_Concept_B in a way that can only be resolved when we follow Kabala_Concept_C." is not acceptable, since the answer it purports to provide is completely unintelligible to anyone not familiar with A, B, and C, and is therefore not useful, impeachable, or improvable by many people in the question's target audience.

On the other hand, if the question is inherently about Kabala_Concept_A, and it's reasonable to expect that anyone who is familiar enough with A to be interested in the question is also familiar with B and C, then answers that refer to B and C without explanation are acceptable.

Does this application of site policy mean that answers to non-Kabala questions based on Kabala concepts are effectively prohibited, even if they are correct? To the extent that they depend on concepts that are impossible or improper to explain in public, yes. In a Q&A forum such as ours, answers must address the questions and those interested in them.

  • 6
    Probably the best case scenario would be a 2-part answer. The first part says the basic, "We do it for Kabbalistic reasons," and the second part gives the full explanation with a disclaimer that it may be difficult to understand.
    – Daniel
    Commented Jun 17, 2013 at 14:31
  • @ShmuelBrin I don't think my suggestion is substantially different from Isaac's. It's just an additional suggestion.
    – Daniel
    Commented Aug 3, 2015 at 22:09

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