According to the official FAQ (with the parts irrelevant to this post left out):

If you have a question about...

... then you've come to the right place. Please, ask away!

On the other hand, questions unrelated to Judaism, even if they are about...

... are generally off-topic.

Granted that there's that word "generally" stuck in there at the end. That ambiguity is probably what leads to situations such as what follows.

Torah meaning in the connection between חזיר (pig) and חזרה (return or repeat) was originally posted as a general question about the words חזיר and חזרה sharing the root חזר. I voted to close the question, leaving a comment saying that I had done so as per the above policy. The OP asked me for a clarification as to that policy, and I posted what was my understanding of it: asking about Hebrew in general is off-topic; asking about Hebrew in a specific, Judaism-related context is on-topic. Thus, the former example in the FAQ is on-topic, as it asks about the Hebrew usage and grammar in regards to Tehillim 118, while the latter example is off-topic, as it asks about Hebrew in a topic that's not Judaism-related.

Apparently I understood the policy correctly, as even before I finished writing up my explanation it was mod-closed.

Well, several hours later, the post was reopened, slightly tweaked as to be looking for a "Torah message to be gained by the similarity of these two words."

To me, that's exactly the same question, but to three others and a mod, that's enough of a difference to make it on-topic and reopen-worthy. To quote user6591:

I think the difference is that it is now a religious message as opposed to simple language anomaly. Although I'm not sure why this should be so technically. Most if not all Hebrew language question can be rephrased like this and pass through the loophole. And if that is so we shouldn't be making people jump through these loops and just accept language questions, assuming this logic as implicit. My 2 cents.

Where exactly does the community stand on this? If we allow the loophole, we should just get rid of the Hebrew language rule altogether. If not, then where do we stand on posts like this one?

And, while we're at it, can we please address the word "generally" in the FAQ? What sort of question would be an exception to that rule?

Notice that I have not tagged this . Although the outcome of this discussion will necessarily impact the question cited, I ask about the policy in general.


1 Answer 1


If a question asks whether there's Judaism significance to an observed phenomenon, and if it provides some motivation for why we might expect there to be Judaism significance to that phenomenon, then it's about Judaism, regardless of whether the phenomenon is linguistic, natural, or Halachic, and it's on-topic.

Does that mean that there are many questions about Hebrew as understood by Judaism that are on-topic? Yes. Hebrew as understood by Judaism is a tremendously important part of Judaism.

Does that mean that you can slap "Is there a Torah significance to this?" on any question about Hebrew, and you'll have snuck a question that's not about Judaism onto Mi Yodeya? No, because if the "this" is not about Judaism, then "Is there a Torah significance to this?" is, by definition, a different question.

Let's give this a try.

Why don't people use the suffix "נה" anymore for future feminine plural?

Off-topic, as this is not about Judaism.

People don't use the suffix "נה" anymore for future feminine plural. Is there Torah significance to this?

It's unclear why anyone would think there's Torah significance to changes in natural language grammar, and it's not stated here. Close as Unclear, and ask for clarification. If such clarification is added (perhaps, I dunno, shifting the question toward asking whether Hebrew-speakers are doing something hashkiaficaly wrong by speaking a language that's like Lashon Hakodesh but deviant from it in ways such as this), then the question is clearly about Judaism, and could be re-opened.

Regarding this question in particular, it is obvious to me from context that its author intended to be asking about Torah significance, not about some exogenous concern such as historical etymology. Whether the question looked on-topic or not, its intent was on-topic. Fixing the form of the question to better express the intent was not pushing an off-topic question through a loophole but saving an on-topic question from being excluded for mostly-formal reasons (and also, more importantly, clarifying and strengthening the question on its own terms).


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