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Recently we've had various questions and answers from the reletively new user Jdoe. The user in question rejects the traditional Jewish thought that the Torah Sheba'al Peh was received alongside the Torah Shebichtav at Har Sinai. Therefore, he rejects any answer which quotes the Mishnah, Gemara, Midrash, or any other traditional Jewish source (such as Shulchan Aruch, Rambam, etc.) He says that he does not see these sources as Divine. To put in his own words:

Why should I care about, or trust, books that are separate from the Torah? They don't strike me as divine inspiration.

I love the Torah. Why should I turn to a different text?

How should we deal with answering his questions, then? If he rejects any answer which quotes a traditional Jewish text, how can we properly answer him in a traditional Jewish way? To quote our site policy:

Mi Yodeya is a Q&A site for those who base their lives on Jewish law and tradition and anyone interested in learning more.

The phrase "...who base their lives on Jewish law and tradition..." seems to imply that all questions and answers must assume a traditional Jewish view.

Some questions in Judaism cannot be answered without quoting extra-Tanach sources. For instance, when he asked the question From where in the Torah do we learn that a conversion requires three men? he wanted to know where in the direct text of the Torah we learn this from, and when Danny Schoemann attempted to give him an answer based on traditional Judaism and its interpretation of the Torah, he rejected the answer as it was based on Rabbinic interpretation.

Disclaimer: This question on Meta here is in no way an attempt to shame or put down Jdoe. He is a member of our Mi Yodeya community, and is entitled to his own opinions on how to follow G-d. My question is not whether we should "shun" him, G-d forbid, but whether questions basing themselves on the notion that Torah Sheba'al Peh is not the word of G-d are on-topic for the site.

Related, elsewhere on Meta:

Are questions about Samaritanism on-topic?

Is Mi Yodeya a Judaism Stack Exchange, or a Rabbinic Judaism Stack Exchange?

Is there not room for non-orthodox opinions?

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    We had many like these before, they tend to get discouraged and leave after a few weeks, so maybe we should be a bit patient here as well – mbloch Feb 18 '18 at 7:44
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    @mbloch Do we want them to leave? – ezra Feb 18 '18 at 16:34
  • No not necessarily - but when one person wants to join a community and doesn't accept their basic beliefs - that is most often what happens – mbloch Feb 18 '18 at 18:02
  • I realize this is tangential, but who says that JDoe is a male? – רבות מחשבות Feb 18 '18 at 19:10
  • @mbloch I feel like your appraoch though is not trying to help the user in question, but just waiting for him to get fed up and leave... (Sarcastically) Problem solved! – ezra Feb 18 '18 at 22:27
  • @ezra like you, I have had a number of times the experience of providing full sources only to see a user reject some because they only believe in the Written Torah. At that point, you can try once or twice more and then realize you are facing someone who is not interested to learn. It is then that I am saying these users will often leave when they realize no one here thinks like them. I don't say this critically but rather factually – mbloch Feb 19 '18 at 3:58
  • @רבותמחשבות in a deleted comment he wondered aloud about rabbis cutting a certain organ as part of the conversion process. – Y     e     z Feb 20 '18 at 3:10
  • @Yez ok, thank you – רבות מחשבות Feb 20 '18 at 3:13
  • @ezra >>"Disclaimer: ... Jdoe. He is a member of our Mi Yodeya community, and *is entitled to his own opinions on how to follow G-d*<< If Jdoe is Jewish, then he is NOT entitled to his own opinions on how to follow G-d. The Jewish people were given instruction as to what is mandatory belief for them. Belief in Torah shebaal Peh is a mandatory belief, no Jew is "entitled" to an opinion not to believe this. Besides, If he does not believe in TSBP He is not "following G-D", so this would not be an opinion on how to follow G-d. – RibbisRabbiAndMore May 29 '18 at 22:42
  • @RibbisRabbiAndMore He is entitled to his own opinion - that doesn't mean his opinion is correct or good to follow. But as a person he can make judgments for himself, whether they're good choices or not. But I see your point. Either way, Jdoe is no longer a user here on Mi Yodeya. – ezra May 29 '18 at 22:45
  • @ezra Since that "opinion" is forbidden by G-D, you cannot say that he is "entitled" to it? – RibbisRabbiAndMore May 29 '18 at 22:47
  • @RibbisRabbiAndMore Free will, no? – ezra May 29 '18 at 23:12
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This is just a miscommunication.

Questions that don't agree with traditional Judaism aren't the problem. The problem is objectivity and clarity.

The hypothetical question

I love Rabbeinu Tam. Why does everyone wear Rashi tefilin?

is invalid, despite accepting "traditional Judaism," because the question is based on the questioner's personal opinion. It should be edited to:

  • What is the basis in the Talmud for Rashi's opinion?
  • Which authorities agree with Rashi's opinion?
  • Why do modern Jews wear Rashi tefilin?
  • How would Rashi explain this passage?

The user asked (revision 1) why there is a "general consensus away from the Torah" regarding conversion. The question already assumes that the Torah says one thing and that the general consensus is otherwise, and the question as it was wanted to know why Jews do something against his view of what the Torah says.

Revision 2 makes the question more objective by asking about the basis in the Torah for conversion with a court. While this much improves the question, the questioner was evidently not satisfied with the answer. He has to explain what he wants to know, either by editing the question or asking a new one about his unstated assumptions.

  • Why do modern Jews do this?
  • Why do modern Jews follow the Talmud?
  • How does the Talmud seemingly take this verse out of context?
  • What internal proofs are there to this interpretation of the verse?
  • etc.

The answer which quoted the Talmud is only understandable to someone who is familiar with the style of the Talmud. The fact that the questioner doesn't accept the answer is not necessarily because he doesn't accept the Talmud, but because the answer doesn't make sense to him, based on the words of the Torah.

Some people have trouble expressing themselves, and it can be seen as confrontational or rude. If the questions are indeed asked in good faith (rather than as a rant), the user just needs to clarify the question. It's possible to ask for clarification sensitively without giving the impression that his questions aren't welcome.

  • Revision 2 of the question was made by me. :) – ezra Feb 18 '18 at 16:37
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You seem to be assuming we should tailor the accuracy of our responses to the asker (and are therefore asking how we can possibly do so for an asker for whom such tailoring would result in false answers). We should tailor the amount of background info to the type of question and perhaps to the asker, and how much jargon we include, too. But I reject the notion that we should tailor accuracy to the asker. We should answer as accurately as possible and if the asker doesn't like the answer, that's his loss.

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To add to msh210 answer, I believe the right approach is to answer the question, rather than attempt to answer the questioner.

MY is a public, open forum. Many more people are reading questions and answers than are actually participating. By focusing on the question rather than the questioner, we can produce high quality and generally useful material.

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