7

I was a but surprised to find a question such as: "Are there any holes in the Kuzari argument for the transmission of Torah from Sinai?" because it seems to be asking for heresy. In actuality, it isn't heresy-seeming at all, but the opposite- as the end of the question states:

are [there] any serious counter-arguments that have been raised against it, either by Torah scholars or secular philosophers. If so, how have these counter-arguments been addressed in turn?

But, practically speaking, the answers don't address this last point, and anyone who might do research on the topic might not find answers to challenges that (s)he finds. As one comment there notes:

The raavad attacks the Rambam for bringing up the yediah-bechirah paradox when there is not a clear solution. How can you ask us to do something similar?

In my mind, such a question provokes disbelief, at least passively, and would thus be halakhically problematic. I'll also ask about future questions: what would we do with questions that actually are heresy seeking? Should/is this a concern to the Mi Yodea community?

On the one hand, anyone asking a question here has access to the internet (I've yet to find an internet filter that can filter out heresy, though if someone knows of one without using a whitelist I'd love to hear about it), and so a person interested in the matter can theoretically do the research him/herself (Avodah Zarah 6b: it's like a case of both sides of the river), though this site's format obviously makes such things easier, which is why it exists. Furthermore, as an internet community, there's much to be said about keeping things as open as possible.

On the other hand, if the Mi Yodea site is 'for those who base their lives on Jewish law and tradition', does that mean that the questions should also be based on Jewish law and tradition? (I'm assuming that asking a question which is likely to result in links to heretical viewpoints is prohibited from the standpoint of Jewish law, Rashbatz's opinion notwithstanding.) Should we strive to keep Mi Yodea 'clean and kosher'?

Note, I have no problem with questions such as this one (God's existence) or this one (challenge to divinity of the Torah), or questions where the OP self-identifies as an atheist or anything like that - those questions are looking for Jewish answers. This question, however, is specifically looking for heretical positions

Related, I think, to the question of "How Modest Should This Site Be"

  • 2
    While belief in Torah MiSinai may be an Ikar Emunah, belief in the Kuzari's proof for it is not AFAIK. There is no heresy in that question as far as I can see. – Double AA Jul 16 '14 at 5:25
  • possibly related meta.judaism.stackexchange.com/q/1180/759 – Double AA Jul 16 '14 at 5:44
  • definitely related meta.judaism.stackexchange.com/q/1475/759 – Double AA Jul 16 '14 at 5:53
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    I'm really sorry you found my question distasteful - it was not my intention to provoke such a reaction in anyone. My reason for asking it was in order to understanding the topic better. I am entering a teaching role where I might be required to give this argument over, and I want to be aware of any weaknesses it may have, and how these may be addressed. I wanted to know if this argument was a watertight, logical proof of the divinity of Torah, or if it is an explanation that makes a lot of sense to someone who already believes. – DaagahMinayin Jul 16 '14 at 12:16
  • @DaagahMinayin I should be more sorry to you for wording the question like that; I'm going to think of a way to change it. And that's a great reason for asking such a question- I wish you much hatzlacha! – Matt Jul 16 '14 at 12:23
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    @thats not the point. The point is that asking for reasons NOT to believe in Torah min hashanayim is, I believe, halakhically problematic – Matt Jul 18 '14 at 0:33
  • @DaagahMinayin If the OP on the example question would give his motivation for asking the question (are there any holes THAT I MIGHT HEAR WHEN PRESENTING the argument of the KUZARI), I would leave it open. Otherwise, I would close it. – LN6595 Nov 29 '15 at 18:07
5

I think that questions that are respectfully asked are generally fine even if they involve heretical ideas. Some readers may be working in kiruv or teaching children and may have to contend with such topics; I'd rather give them good, sourced, Jewish answers than hope they'll find something relevant on Yahoo Answers or Wikipedia. And understanding both sides of a dispute is important in firming up one's own belief, too, or at least that's been my experience.

I said "generally fine" above because there's a type of question we see sometimes that's of the "I'm going to present an anti-Jewish idea; refute this" form. Even when those are respectfully asked, if they stray into comparative religion (off-topic) or opinion-based discussion or soapboxing (not constructive), they should be shut down. But I don't think "this involves something that could be (or is) heretical" is automatic grounds to close.

How people vote on such questions is, of course, a separate matter that can't be regulated.

  • 1
    Well put. I personally still find this position a bit unsettling (as I was really coming to like this site!) but hopefully users will upvote your answer if they feel the same way – Matt Jul 16 '14 at 13:20
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    @Matt I appreciate your participation and I hope you'll continue to help build Mi Yodeya! If the consensus is that such questions are ok and you don't want to have to look at them, there are some ways to mitigate that -- please don't just quietly leave before discussing. Thanks. – Monica Cellio Jul 16 '14 at 13:42
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Since this question was asked on Meta, then I'll answer in the spirit of Meta.

Since this site is open to those who want to learn more about Judaism, such people may come with very strong, heretical questions. They are genuinely curious, but still posing challenges in ways that are not really interested in respecting religion or the ultimate conclusion. You can't a priori call that out of bounds and still maintain a site that welcomes sincere questions.

And when we contemplate that this site is explicitly pluralistic, where questions about the Reform Movement or Conservative responsa are within bounds, it cannot be that such a question is out of bounds for the site. Unlike the sexuality limitation, the line is too blurry.

The Halachic issues of participating in, reading and answering such questions is one thing - that would be a question for the main site - but in terms of something being on topic for this site, I can't see any principled reason to come to any other conclusion.

  • By the way, I agree that the main problem with the answers in this case are that they don't address the question, which specifically was looking for traditional responses to such challenges, not just seeking challenges. This isn't the only question with this problem. – Yishai Jul 16 '14 at 22:15
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    As mentioned, I have no problem at all with questions coming from a so-called 'heretical' viewpoint, if they are seeking traditional Jewish answers. I'm bothered by questions that appear to seek heretical answers – Matt Jul 16 '14 at 23:09
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I think nearly any question can be asked, if it is written properly. The question you brought in your example was not written properly, it should have included motivation (that the OP brought in a comment).

I think if someone asks, "Are there any holes THAT I MIGHT HEAR WHEN PRESENTING the argument of the Kuzari?" that would be acceptable. But an unadorned request for heresy is frankly out of bounds for this site. It is neither a question of "those who base their lives on Jewish law" nor a sincere person "interested in learning more". These questions are out of scope of Mi Yodeya.

  • Ah. If the goal of the question is to elicit heresy for its own sake, I agree with you. I think I understood an implicit "what claims might I hear that I'll have to deal with" in the question, but it's good to be explicit about goals and motivations. – Monica Cellio Nov 29 '15 at 19:20
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    Since when do we close questions for lacking motivation? – Double AA Nov 29 '15 at 22:53
  • @DoubleAA We don't. We close questions which are incomplete or lack necessary context. In this case, the question should have included the motivation as context for the question. – LN6595 Nov 29 '15 at 22:58
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    @LN6595 How do you know the context here is necessary? (See how this answer is circular?) – Double AA Nov 29 '15 at 23:08

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