Inspired by this question, but I am attempting to ask a more largely applicable point.

Questions which are about Jewish History are considered off topic. Now the Jewish History examples given there are very recent history, but unless I'm missing something, something that asked for the migration patterns of Jews after the destruction of the Second Temple would seem equally off topic, and I have definitely seen earlier history answers closed.

In this case, the asker (and I'll admit it isn't clear in this specific case as the question has undergone a lot of revision which presumably maintains a singular intent throughout but to a third party observer can seem very different) is specifically stating:

This question is looking for evidence demonstrating that the halacha was either the same or was different in that era.

And yet also states:

This is because explanations which are based on later halacha may not accurately reflect the circumstances present in the Tanach, and may instead be back-reading or inserting anachronistic concepts.

And thus (at least I think that is his reason) rejects the Rambam as evidence to the proposition. Is a question that a priori rejects such a Jewish source as evidence for the Jewish position on whether or not a Halacha applied then really asking a question about Judaism and not just exclusively about history?

Now I realize that applying this to this particular question may not be an exact match, but I am asking in general where the line between a purely historical question about Jews stops and a question about Judaism starts?

  • 2
    History of Jewish Law is on topic.
    – Double AA Mod
    Commented Jun 12, 2014 at 17:31
  • @DoubleAA what if it rejects Jewish sources as valid sources of that history? Commented Jun 12, 2014 at 17:35
  • It rejects only some Jewish sources. In some cases that could be reasonable.
    – Double AA Mod
    Commented Jun 12, 2014 at 17:36
  • @DoubleAA, do you see a distinction between a question which asks what Judaism has to say about the History of Jewish Law vs. what the History department of a University would say? If a question is only interested in the latter, is it still on topic?
    – Yishai
    Commented Jun 12, 2014 at 17:50
  • @Yishai Both seem on topic to me. I'm not paskining here, of course. Incidentally, is the University Jewish?
    – Double AA Mod
    Commented Jun 12, 2014 at 17:53
  • 1
    related meta.judaism.stackexchange.com/a/1499/759
    – Double AA Mod
    Commented Jun 12, 2014 at 17:54
  • 1
    "migration patterns of Jews" may be off-topic as a purely historical question, but influence of migration patterns on Judaism (ex. development of different minhagim) would be on-topic, at least based on my understanding of the rules here.
    – Shmuel
    Commented Jun 13, 2014 at 5:43
  • "Jewish source as evidence for the Jewish position" - I accept the Rambam as evidence that such an opinion exists. I'm questioning the validity of that opinion, especially given that the Rambam doesn't cite any sources, and since he lived 1500 years after the era in question, he doesn't count as a primary source.
    – Shmuel
    Commented Jun 13, 2014 at 5:50
  • My question isn't about pure history, it's about the development of Halacha throughout history. (I explicitly state that "This question assumes halacha changes over time. Answers which can prove this to be incorrect are acceptable.") Assuming halacha has changed, is there any way to figure out if the halachot of intermarriage were same\different back then? If Jsm says X about Halacha in that period, and can support its claims, then it's acceptable. The issue facing Jsm on this q is that 'tradition' says they converted, but the text does not. 2 contradictory sources require a 3rd to decide...
    – Shmuel
    Commented Jun 13, 2014 at 6:02
  • 2
    @Shmuel, I don't want to over-focus on your question, since it is entirely possible that the answer to this question is that such a pure history question is off-topic, but your question is on topic. I think I made that clear in my question.
    – Yishai
    Commented Jun 13, 2014 at 11:23
  • Also, this discussion seems a lot like our discussion way back when we changed the Help Center from "Jewish Life & Learning" to "Judaism" and got to make custom close reasons: c.f., chat.stackexchange.com/transcript/message/10040000 ff. Commented Jun 25, 2014 at 21:50
  • Specifically this section: chat.stackexchange.com/transcript/message/10043666#10043666. This is not to say that the past has a veto on the present... just giving some more thoughts that have been discussed. Commented Jun 25, 2014 at 21:59


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