Take this recent question as an example.

It was patently obvious that the question was asking for an actual psak. Of course, those are off-topic, and therefore the question was closed.

The question was then edited into the third person, with “imagine”s and “theoretically”s sprinkled throughout the question, to distance it as far from psak as the edits (all 3 of them, plus more that aren’t relevant to this question) could manage. (One of them explicitly labeled his edit as doing so to “give the new guy a fighting chance.”)

What should be done with this question? Technically it’s no longer psak seeking - if I ignore the edit history for a moment and look at the post as it is written now, it’s very clearly a theoretical question. But on the other hand, it was posted as an actual halachic question - is ignoring the edit history in this case justified?

The other answers suggest reopening as soon as possible given the content of the question (either because those are the rules or because there is no longer the appearance of approving of Psak questions), reopening when the risk of Psak giving is clearly mitigated erring in closure, and never reopening. I'll suggest something in the middle.

Reopen when a) the question is posed well, b) the post is not in first person, and c) a short amount of time has passed to allow the message of the RFP policy to reach the questioner.

People need to get the message that we don't offer Psak and we don't believe they should look for Psak here. If someone needs an immediate answer they'll see the closure and its notice and go look elsewhere, as they should. After that the question is like any other.

In short, any question that the OP has acknowledged by editing to depersonalize or is over about a day* old is welcome to be reopened if posed well.

*This could vary slightly by case, particularly for calendar related questions. A fasting while pregnant question posted on 8 Tishrei should probably just wait until 11 Tishrei to be opened.

  • (fwiw as precedent, this has been my practice as a moderator) – Double AA Sep 7 at 20:59
  • If someone needs an immediate answer Is "Answer ASAP plz!" (as in this question) indicative of psak-seeking? – Alex Nov 2 at 20:22

The current version of the example question is still not a good fit for Mi Yodeya. The edits made the question less intelligible than it was to begin with, and still left us with a complex story that may implicate a few distinct questions of Halacha, along with many extraneous details. In situations like this one, I think the question should be further edited to present one clear question before it's re-opened.

  • Does this imply that once the question is made clear it is no longer a problem of seeking a ruling? – Alex Sep 7 at 18:36
  • 2
    @Alex Not just "made clear" but brought to a state in which it presents a single, clear, answerable question that's a good fit for Mi Yodeya. If it still contains the original author's life story, with all the "I"s changed to "he"s, it's probably not yet a good fit. – Isaac Moses Sep 7 at 18:42

We should evaluate questions based on their current state.

If a question were asked theoretically in the first place, would we be concerned about the author's motives? Demonstrably not, or we'd close many more questions on this site. Some of them are asked out of intellectual curiosity or as frames to get to an underlying point of halacha. Judging from some of the discussions I've seen in our texts, this kind of pursuit has a long and upstanding history. Others of them are probably asked because the author plans to act on them. But we don't know which are which, knowing is not our job, and we shouldn't expect the community to review the history of every question put before us.

If a question currently meets our rules, it should be open. If it's interesting, people will engage with it. If it's not, it will fade away.

If a question is currently framed as a p'sak-seeking question, it should be put on hold. If anybody is interested enough in the question to edit and get it reopened, great. If nobody cares to fix it, it will stay closed and fade away.

This is a potential policy on the topic. As always on Meta, upvote if you agree and downvote if you disagree.


As I said in my other answer, for reasons I stated there, such questions should remain closed, seeing as the intent behind them is clearly psak-seeking, even if the text in front of them appears to be innocuous at this point.

On the other hand, questions are often edited to the third person because people besides the asker actually want to know the sources on the topic (gauging by the edit summaries to the example in the OP, perhaps not in this particular case).

Therefore, I might suggest a compromise. For questions which are clearly “expired” (i.e. no longer hold any significance to the OP; for instance, if he wants to know about a particular circumstance that came up which must be resolved by the end of the week, and it’s long past that deadline), perhaps in such cases - and such cases only - they might be considered for editing to be theoretical, slap a CYLOR sticker on them to be safe, and send to the reopen queue. (If you can’t tell if they’re expired, well, assume they’re not.)

Personally I do not like this policy, because it introduces a grey area which can easily be exploited due to its subjectiveness, and it will ultimately lead to confusion as to whether a question should be reopened or not. Eventually a large enough majority of such questions will fall under the “if in doubt, don’t reopen” clause, leading to my other suggested policy anyway; or, that final clause will be ignored, leading to all sorts of psak-seeking questions (even unedited ones) to be reopened - or worse, stay open. For that reason I prefer my other answer of leaving them alone, but I thought I would pose this to the community anyway.

To contrast with DonielF's answer, I suggest that we follow the letter of the policy. At a certain point you can't help someone who doesn't want to be helped. If someone wants to accept an answer here as an actual ruling despite all the disclaimers to the contrary, there is nothing we can really do about it. Any answer, even one to a non-ruling-seeking question might be used as a ruling by a reader. Despite the possibility, though, we don't refrain from answering all questions. This is because once we take the necessary precautions it is out of our hands.

When a question specifically asks for a ruling then we close it. This is not necessarily because we are making a decision of probability, that this question is more likely to result in someone using an answer as a ruling. If that was the case then we should delete all such questions that received answers before they were closed. Rather, the reason for closing these questions is that if a question is clearly asking for a ruling and it receives an answer, it is tantamount to a tacit approval by Mi Yodeya of using it for a ruling. In such a case, then, we are more at fault then by a regular question.

However, this concern of "tacit approval" only exists when the question is clearly asking for a ruling. In such a case readers see a request for a ruling followed by an answer, which can easily lead to the assumption that Mi Yodeya endorses the answer as a ruling. Where the question does not explicitly ask for a ruling, we don't have this concern because there is nothing in the question or answer itself to indicate that Mi Yodeya endorses a ruling.

That the intent of the questioner may actually be to receive a ruling is not our concern. We already did our part by having disclaimers and closing the original question. If someone still insists on using the answer as a ruling despite us telling them not to, then, as mentioned above, we can't help it. To start attempting to divine people's intent when asking or editing a question is a risky enterprise that doesn't seem to be necessary.

In short, we answer questions that don't specifically ask for rulings, and we close questions that do specifically ask for rulings.

  • This argument works the other way as well. "However, this concern of 'tacit approval' only exists when the question is clearly asking for a ruling..." Why shouldn't this exist when the original version is clearly asking for a ruling, regardless of what later edits have done to the post? – DonielF Sep 7 at 18:27
  • Because the original version is not what is displayed on the site. In fact, the edit history itself is as explicit a disapproval of ruling-seeking-questions as you can get because it shows that we disapproved of the original question precisely because it asked for a ruling, and then we approved it precisely because it stopped asking for a ruling. – Alex Sep 7 at 18:33

This is a potential policy on the topic. As always on Meta, upvote if you agree and downvote if you disagree.


I think for these kinds of questions, where the risk is run of people actually following our advice rather than getting tailored answers to their situation from their LOR, we need to consider the spirit of the policy, not just the letter.

While we can’t guarantee that every halachic question posted in the third person and labeled “theoretically” is actually theoretical that we should close it, here I think the history demonstrates that very well. Therefore, I strongly believe that even when the question is edited to be “theoretical,” since it’s obviously not, it should remain closed.

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