A few times I have come across questions like this one, kasher a nonkosher Le Creuset pot?, that are put on hold due to a clear request for psak but if edited could yield a good(?, at least on topic) question about kashering enamel. However when I attempt to overhaul the question I get an error that I edited too much.

What's the appropriate action on such a question if I can't edit it?

Wait for the asker to edit? Ask my own question (and "steal the ops reputation opportunity)? Let the mods/people with higher rep deal with editing it?


I endorse both msh210's answer and Monica Cellio's, which I'll summarize as two alternatives for what to do right away:

  • msh210: Close the question, leave a nice, welcoming, explanatory comment, and leave it for the author to come back and edit so that it fits our mission.

  • Monica Cellio: Edit the question so that it fits our mission, and leave a nice comment, explaining what you did and why (recommended when the author is a new user).

I think that both of these techniques ought to be in our toolbox, to be applied judiciously, depending on the circumstances. An advanced form of Close would be to Close immediately, wait some reasonable amount of time, and then, if the author doesn't come back, go ahead and Edit the question, then re-open. Here are some factors to consider:

  • If the author is a new user who's likely to be confused and offended by Close that's a point for Edit, as per Monica Cellio.

  • If it's ambiguous whether the question is actually a request for pesak or just a request for analysis of a hypothetical case in which "I" is used as the hypothetical subject, that's a point for Edit, since it's not clear that a message needs to be sent.

  • If, in your judgement, the non-pesak version of the question you can edit it to would be an interesting and valuable one, that's a point for Edit, since Mi Yodeya thrives on interesting and valuable questions.

  • If you, personally, are interested in the question's topic and inclined to put the necessary work to improve it, that's a point for Edit. If not, that's a point for Close. Either of these actions is a correct response to a pesak-seeking question, so there's no rule forcing you to put in the greater effort to Edit if you'd rather not.

  • If the core question is a duplicate of a question Mi Yodeya already has, that's a point for Closing it as a duplicate and possibly also leaving a comment about both duplicates and pesak.

  • If there are other serious problems with the question, including gross unclarity as to what the author is actually getting at, that's a point for Close, since the author will need to help fix the other problems, anyway.

  • If the question is about a particularly sensitive area of Halacha, such as end-of-life care decisions, that's a point for Close, since we really don't want to facilitate unqualified pesak-exchange for implementation in such areas.

  • If the question describes a complicated and highly-specific case that is not trivially reducible to a single Halachic question, that's a point for Close, as it may not be possible to faithfully capture the author's non-pesak-seeking intent without the author's help, anyway.

  • If the entire content of the core question is what this individual should do, e.g. Here's a list of authorities who say A, for these reasons. Here's a list who say B, for these reasons. Should I do A or B?, that's a point for Close, since removing the pesak-request leaves us with information, but no question.

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    (Just as a procedural point, I'll note that even though your answer was accepted by the OP it is not policy as community consensus until it gets a dominant number of votes.) – Double AA May 10 '16 at 16:07

The body of this question asks specifically about the case where editing isn't possible. I'm going to give a broader response based on the question in the title.

We have a custom here of not editing people's p'sak-seeking questions for them, even when it's clear how to fix the question. I understand that we do this for educational reasons and to impress on them the importance of gathering information here but directing personal questions to their rabbis. I get that.

And yet, I feel it's unfriendly toward new users. While it's fair to expect more of experienced users, consider the challenge faced by a user new to Stack Exchange and Mi Yodeya:

  • It's a Q&A site, not a discussion site.
  • It's not an ask-the-rabbi service.
  • There are detailed instructions about what types of questions are and are not welcome.
  • They don't understand what it means to put a question on hold yet; even though both the boilerplate and individual comments explain it, anecdotal evidence suggests to me that many first-time askers see it as final, as shutting down the question.
  • They might not yet appreciate the subtle nuances of wording; why is it bad to ask "can you X" but ok to ask "what is the halacha of doing X"? We're used to it, but I can see how it comes across as splitting hairs. Yes, we come from a fine, longstanding tradition of splitting hairs, but users have different backgrounds. Some of them have never been inside a yeshiva.

So in the case of a first or second question from a new user, where the intent is clear but the formulation of the question is problematic, I think it should be acceptable to fix it so long as we also leave a detailed comment explaining why we made the change and the importance of consulting your own rabbi for individual advice.

Instead of just giving them links to read, we can provide a positive example of how to fix a question that's otherwise going to get closed. This is welcoming in a way that "read this link" and a closure isn't, and it's still a teaching moment. If they don't learn from it then future questions will be closed, but we can help a new user have a better first experience. I think that makes it more likely that the person will have a second experience.

Nobody should feel obligated to do this, but it should be permitted. You'd help that stranger who wanders into shul and doesn't seem to know his way around the siddur, right? Well, we too are a community with not-always-obvious conventions, and IMO a demonstration of what to do will lead to a better experience all around.

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    FWIW I don't know that anyone claimed this was forbidden. – Double AA May 9 '16 at 22:39

I think it's important for askers of such questions to realize that this site is not meant for p'sak and that they should consult a rabbi. While it's possible to improve the post by editing out the p'sak-iness of it (and I've done so myself), it is probably wiser to leave it closed until the asker has had a chance to read why it's closed, to read the caveat. That — more than seeing that his question was edited and reading an answer that also seems to address his original question — will impress upon him that he needs to consult a rabbi. Or I hope so, anyway.

A good way to ensure the asker reads the caveat and thinks about the question more generally than his own specific question is to make him edit it to remove the p'sak-iness before it's reopened. The closure should come with a more explanatory, nice, welcoming comment if the user is new.

What's the appropriate action on such a question if I can't edit it?

Wait for the asker to edit? Ask my own question (and "steal the ops reputation opportunity)?

Wait, I think. (And if no one's done so and the user is new, welcome him or her and explain what's going on.) But if it looks as though the asker isn't editing, then I think it's wholly appropriate to ask the general question separately and link to it in a comment on the older question.

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    Sometimes I wonder if closing a new user's first question turns them off. If you fix it for them and leave a nice note explaining what happened and why you fixed it, and perhaps telling them what to do in the future, it could have the same effect without the bad taste of feeling like you got slapped for technicalities before you knew how to use the site (even though more experienced users may understand having a question closed isn't a bad thing or an insult, new users may not appreciate that). Two-time offenders should get closed. – Y     e     z Feb 2 '16 at 4:39
  • @yEz, this question asks what someone who can't fix it should do, so maybe it's not the best place for you to post that as an answer, but perhaps you want to anyway, or maybe ask another question about what to do with "fixable" p'sak questions (assuming one can edit) and answer it. – msh210 Feb 2 '16 at 6:11
  • Yeah I left it as a comment for that reason. Although, perhaps it could still be an answer to this question, in the form of supporting the OP's third option - wait for higher rep users to deal with it. – Y     e     z Feb 3 '16 at 3:45
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    @yEz, Bad tastes and perceived slaps can be avoided/mitigated by leaving a polite, welcoming comment. The best way to get someone to learn to use the site correctly is to get them to practice using the site correctly, including by editing. I'd suggest editing this answer to include a recommendation for leaving nice comments, especially when the user is new. – Isaac Moses Feb 3 '16 at 16:19
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    @IsaacMoses good idea; done. – msh210 Feb 3 '16 at 16:54

I think that some users do not know the nuance. Look at the Ritba Eruvin 63a about to teach Halacha when the Rabbi is here:

...דלא מתסר אלא בששואלים ממנו הלכה למעשה, אבל כשאין שואלים ממנו אלא פסק הלכה בלבד שלא לעשות מעשה באותה שעה מותר, דהא לא חשיבא הוראה, והכין משמע בפרק קמא דהוריות.‏
The only difference between a psak and an answer to halacha question is if the question is a request to know on practice what to do now. {The asker can ask as a question when he need a psak, and can ask a psak when he need a knowledge. The difference is not necessary a difference in his intent.}
  1. I see no problem to modify.
  2. But a real problem is that I see many wrong answers (I do not want to quote), very wrong... and the answers remain.

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    Indeed unfortunately there are a number of posts which are just wrong but get upvoted. That's an inherent danger of measuring quality by popularity. – Double AA May 10 '16 at 18:00

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