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Sometimes we get questions that either indicate or suggest that the author is seeking advice regarding a matter of high Halachic or medical states, for example:

  • Determining whether a particular relationship would constitute adultery.

  • Deciding whether a particular career move would justify setting Shabbat restrictions aside.

  • Making end-of-life healthcare decisions.

  • Dealing with mental health issues.

Frequently, these questions are closed as off-topic because they are asking Mi Yodeya to provide personal advice as a rabbi (or healthcare professional) would. In other cases, questions like these may be closed, like any other question, for any of the other reasons that we consider a post to be not a good fit for this Q&A community.

In cases like this, should the Q&A and topicality rules be set aside, so that community members can provide information and advice? Maybe someone will provide advice that could save someone from grave spiritual or physical consequences. Should we let rules stand in the way of such an opportunity to help?

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No, we should not break our Q&A model in these cases.

At least as likely as it is that someone may offer advice that makes the difference in a good way, someone may offer advice that (God forbid) makes the difference in the opposite direction. In fact, unlike the relevant local professional, the community doesn't know the asker, doesn't know the asker's communal context, and can't effectively interrogate, so the likelihood of giving unfitting advice is elevated. This is one of the reasons that we don't offer personal advice as a rabbi would, and its importance only increases as the stakes of the question do.

Of course, there's always danger that readers may use any information they find here for immediate practical purposes, without consulting their rabbi (or, where applicable, doctor). As I've discussed elsewhere, that's an issue faced by everyone who ever discusses or teaches Torah in public. It's our job to approach the task with appropriate humility and to be absolutely clear about our limitations with readers and askers. Following our own rules about not standing in for the relevant professional advisers is the foundation of that effort.

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