If a question can be answered without any reference to Judaism or anything Jewish, is that indicative that the question is not really on-topic?

Example: Good dimensions for a Shulchan (Reading Table)

The question certainly seems to be about Judaism. However, the answer suggests:

If you have access to a shul with an existing shulchan that you like, and that you think other people like, you could try to copy the dimensions of that one.

The answer happened to use Jewish terms like "shul" and "shulchan" but it could just as easily have been written as:

Find one that you like, and copy it.

So, is this a flaw in the answer for not being specifically Jewish, is it a flaw in the question that it can be addressed by an answer that is not Jewish, or is everything perfectly fine?

Related: The Parameters of "Jewish Life" Scope

1 Answer 1


Questions must be judged for fitness to Mi Yodeya on their own merits, not on those of answers that have been posted to them. My standing proposal for how to evaluate the topicality of questions of this nature is given in my answer to The Parameters of "Jewish Life" Scope, which you linked here:

I believe that the guiding principles (though not a bright-line rules) for on-topicness should be:

Is this question expressly or implicitly motivated by a desire to understand or practice Judaism?


Is it reasonable to expect that a group of people who base their lives on Judaism would be especially able to give informed answers, due to their basing their lives on Judaism?

In the example you posed , the question clearly passes both tests:

  • The question is motivated by the author's desire to furnish his shul for the purpose of practicing Judaism.

  • It is reasonable to expect Judaism experts to be especially able to give informed answers, based on their familiarity with the function of the shulchan in a shul and (in the case of the subclass of Judaism experts who are shul-furnishing experts) how to build one.

The answer, on the other hand, is pretty clearly not a strong answer, as reflected in the comments. A strong answer to that question would definitely employ specific Judaism expertise regarding the form and function of shulchans. Given that the question is asking for dimensions, and this answer offers a suggestion for how to determine dimensions, I suppose it provides enough movement toward an answer to not be deletable, but others, including me considering it again, may disagree. In any case, the presence of a weak answer like this doesn't impugn the fitness of the question.

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