The 18th World Congress of Jewish Studies

Chumra and Kula as a “Halackic Sentiment”: A Method and Identification of Psika Trends in Internet Responsa

Chumra and Kula as a "Halachic Sentiment": A Method and Identification of Psika Trends in internet Responsa

Dr. Efraim Margalit & Prof. Dan Bouhnik

The responsa sites provide the religious community with free, speedy, anonymous and direct access to inquirers and responders. It may be said that the online responsa instigated a revolution which redefined the roles of the individual, the women and the rabbis within the communities.

In this study we examine the axis of Chumra and Kula in Psika as manifested in the internet. We examined three of the most popular responsa sites: Kipa, Moreshet and Yeshiva – for 15 years. We digitally analyzed over 300,000 responsa, consisting of over 50 million words.

To the purpose of the research, we developed a method for the definition of "semantic functions" of analyzed texts which reflect the Chumra and Kula terms in Halachik related responsa. The function is based on morphological analysis of texts and utilizes NLP NITE Tools. Finally, the reponsa were categorized as Machmir, Meikel or "unidentified" by applying a heuristic technique on the results of said analysis.

The heuristics was tested on a sample group which was analyzed manually and served as a control group. The results of this group were: recall: 77.4% and precision: 81.8%.

The findings dismiss the widespread perception that the Psika is becoming more Machmir. The research indicates that the general discourse leans toward Kula. We also found a connection between multiplicity of responses and Kula discourse.

Despite the differences between ethnic groups and religious movements, the research indicates that, the differences between the Poskim are minor. That said, findings indicates that the most Machmir discourse exists within the ultra-orthodox-national Sephardic group and as expected, the most Meikel discourse is of the ultra-orthodox Sephardic. Contradictory to the original assumption, the discourse of the rabbis who are considered liberal was found to be average.

This study, presented a wide long range digital analysis of texts of responsa literature. The study opens a window to various possibilities of analysis of Chumra and Kula from the Halachik, social and cultural aspects.