Recently I attended an event in which our chief rabbi, Rav Lau, was called on to say a few words. One of the many things he talked about (it's never just a few words…) was the risk of answering 'shailos' (halachic questions) over the internet. We all know that different people get different answers. The Rabbi assesses the many aspects of the situation, and of the person standing in front of him, and gives his answer based on the knowledge of Halacha and taking in consideration all of the above. No two situations are ever alike even if the question is the same. When answering questions on an internet site much of this information is unknown, and more than that, you take the risk of other people reading the answer and applying it to situations which are remotely different, who will read the answer given and make their own judgments as well as their own extrapolations to other circumstances. Nonetheless, the 'shutim' ('Shailos and Tshuvos', questions and answers) online are flourishing. They are necessary! People who may have not asked a Rav altogether now have access to Halacha, have who to turn to.
Why is all this relevant?
I feel the same issues apply to my profession too (excuse the comparison…). I often get calls or get stopped on the street with requests for design advice. Some of these people I've never met before, others I know well but do not have enough data in front of me to give an answer. On the one hand, I'd love to give it out, why not? On the other hand, how could I give a professional answer with inadequate information? What's the situation on site? How do I know if these people are up for the l’chatchilah (ideal answer) and when the bedieved (ex post facto) or a compromise are called for? Are they looking for the best solution or the cheapest solution? Is time a factor?
If I reply that I need to see the house or sit down and have a work meeting to analyze the situation, some people may think I'm trying to avoid giving an answer, others may think I'm being stingy. The truth is I take my job (too?) seriously, and what I want is, to save unnecessary costs, prevent damage and mostly give that person the best solution for their situation. If someone seeks me for my professional advice I better make sure it is truly professional!
The same risk applies to the posts I send out every week. How do I know they were understood correctly? Applied in the right situations? Situations are so complex, whereas the posts must be kept short and simple. How could one tip apply to all different people and situations?
And yet, there are also advantages to the online advice. Many more people have access to professional tips. I'm getting feedback from readers who have managed to implement the tips and the ideas and write that they have benefited from the posts. Some have written that that they've managed to save themselves from serious mistakes or damage. Is it possible that the benefits outweigh the risks?
The weight of responsibility accompanies every post that goes out. I try to choose tips that can be clearly defined and implemented easily, but never will the real situation be as black-and-white.
So what do I ask of you?
Read the posts and enjoy them but use your senses too. Does it feel right for you? Could there be different factors in your situation that may affect the advice given in the post? Do you think there is a mistake? Or room for improvement? This isn't math, more like Halacha, there could be more than one right answer!
My mail is open and each of you is welcome to address these issues and forward comments and questions whenever you feel fit. The aim of the posts is to spread out free- professional design tips, and I will do my best to keep that up. Some may find it sufficient for their needs, others may find it as a starting point and go on to seek additional personal advice for their situation. Whatever way works for you, take what you can and use it wisely!
Creating spaces people want to live in.