Suppose a Jewish text says something. Suppose this something relates to some factual reality. Suppose I wonder whether the something is actually true. Would it be on topic to ask about it on Mi Yodeya?

Let's take a simple example to illustrate this:

The Talmud (Berachot 35b) states:

וחמרא מי סעיד והא רבא הוה שתי חמרי כל מעלי יומא דפסחא כי היכי דנגרריה ללביה וניכול מצה טפי טובא גריר פורתא סעיד

But does wine sustain? Did not Raba use to drink wine on the eve of the Passover in order that he might get an appetite and eat much unleavened bread? — A large quantity gives an appetite, a small quantity sustains. (Soncino translation)

Upon reading this Talmudic passage I begin to wonder if it is in fact true that a little bit of wine fills you up but a lot of wine makes you hungry. Note that the question I would be asking is not seeking an interpretation of the Talmudic passage, nor is it asking for the Jewish view of anything. I don't want to know whether "there's a deeper meaning to this passage", or "nature has changed", or "the Talmud might have later rejected this idea", or anything of the sort. I would simply be looking for confirmation or denial of the alleged fact – is it true or false that a small quantity of wine fills you up while a large quantity of wine makes you hungry?

Ostensibly, the question itself has nothing to do with Judaism or Jewish life. However, it was generated from Judaism, and the answer to it may affect my understanding of one of Judaism's core texts. Additionally, it is perhaps reasonable to think that the question would be of interest to other members of Judaism, as they might have studied the same passage and had the same question. It is also perhaps reasonable to assume that "experts on Judaism" might be specifically qualified to answer this question since they may have had to address it themselves when studying the Talmud.

So, does that make it on-topic, or is it still off-topic because the question itself is not about Judaism or Jewish life in any way shape or form?

Obviously, I could edit the question somewhat to make it definitely on topic, but that's not what I am trying to raise here. I want to know if a question of that form would be on topic.

Additionally, you don't need to get hung up on this specific example. There can be other similar types of questions where the statement being fact-checked is a more practical statement or a less practical statement.

Also, you don't need to discuss whether the question itself is a good question (e.g. is it answered in the first Google result?). For the sake of this (Meta) question, assume that the (potential Mi Yodeya) question passes the basic standards to be a question on the Stack Exchange network in general.

I would advocate for applying the guidelines I suggested in my answer here, which you appear to have done already in mulling over this question:

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 your example question, the motivation is clearly for the sake of understanding the Talmud.

Regarding expectation of expertise, I think your example is still OK. As you indicate, you're probably not the first Talmud scholar to come across this passage and want to understand the nature around it. It wouldn't be surprising if any of the commentators from Rashi on down matched up such a statement against their own experiences and observations (or studies!).

On both fronts, however, whether the motivation seems genuine and whether the expectation seems reasonable are legitimate judgement calls that close-voters have to make for themselves. It's not hard to imagine (and I think we might have gotten a case or two) a question that's more like "I'm a scholar of classical viticulture. The Talmud talks about wine, so clearly there was wine in classical Babylon. What strains of grapes grew then?" which, in my opinion, would fall short on both tests.

I think this is on topic. The Help Center allows asking about "general knowledge (science, etc.) as it relates directly to Judaism". The pursuit of information needed to understand a Gemara properly is certainly in that realm.

This is just like asking a history question ("Did Rabba live before or after R' Zeira? It makes a difference in understanding Gemara X"), an anatomical question ("What shape are a cow's stomachs? I want to understand the rule of Treifot..."), or a linguistic one ("What is the root of תנן and does it differ from the root of תניא? "). Knowing if the facts found in the simple reading of the text are accurate is essential to understanding what to take away from the text and how to interpret it.

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    The difference between OP's example and your first is that Rabba and Rabbi Zeira's biography is more likely to be found in the Gemara, so if anything, History.SE should come to us for such questions, as we (collectively) are the experts here. Re. the second, if you want to know how a cow's stomach looks like, I would go to Biology.SE (or wikipedia). If I want to understand how that cow stomach picture works with the Gemara, I'll ask here as it's a Gemara question, not a biology question. – Shmuel Brin Nov 4 at 3:27

If you're not looking for a "Jewish" explanation of the relevant Gemara (such as, the body changed, or we misunderstood the Gemara, or even that it was a mistake), you should probably ask Seasoned Advice or Skeptics. They have experts at cooking or at debunking false facts, so they'll look up if there's any sources discussing wine and hunger.

On the other hand, if you found independent confirmation that the Gemara as-is is not correct, then we are a good source to look up Rishonim or Achronim who'll discuss what to do now (Is this Aggadata and can be wrong? Do we change Halacha when the original reason was found incorrect? Is there simply a deeper meaning to this Gemara?)

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