Talk:Shemini Atzeret/GA2

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The following discussion is closed. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made on the appropriate discussion page. No further edits should be made to this discussion.

GA Reassessment[edit]

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I don't usually make a habit of opening GARs and I see that the reviewer has done some good work on here, please don't be offended by this, but I see so many problems with this article that I'm really not happy for it to be accepted as a GA. I find it extremely difficult to read and understand, particularly the scruffy looking bulleted sections with strange use of italics and unfamiliar terms to a non Jewish/Israeli reader. If you select a portion of it to read it really lacks quality and coherence. Random sample "Pilgrimage Festival (רגל): Description of day as regel bifnei atzmo, as described above. Rashi at Sukkah 48a states that this specifically means (a) that one does not dwell in the sukkah on Shemini Atzeret and (b) that one does not describe the day as "Sukkot" during one's prayers.[1](pp760–3)" This isn't written in the way you'd expect from an encyclopedia, it's like a religious text book. I come away from reading it clueless as to what the encyclopedia is trying to tell me, it makes no sense to a non Jewish/Israeli editor like myself and the purpose of such an article should be to explain it in a clear well-structured and written way to dummies on the subject like myself. The sourcing also looks problematic with a seeming lack of solid/verifiable reliable sources and even uses a blog to support several citations. It needs a complete rewrite IMO and to rid of those ugly bullets and bold/italics and to be written properly with decent quality prose which is digestible and understandable to an average non Jewish reader.♦ Dr. Blofeld 19:39, 20 October 2013 (UTC)

Thank you for explaining the problems you see with the article and for being specific about it. The way I understand it, the following needs to be done:
  1. Rewrite bullet points in paragraph format
  2. Find better sources
  3. Give more explanation for Hebrew terms
If it's alright with you, I would like to request that a week be given to address these things before the article is delisted. Also, do you know of any other pages on religious holidays that are currently GAs? When reviewing, I usually look for other GAs in the same category for comparison but was unable to find one for this article. --1ST7 (talk) 20:09, 20 October 2013 (UTC)

Yes that is the bulk of the problem. It needs to be written by somebody keeping in mind that a non Jewish reader might be reading it and try to see it from that perspective. It needs to be written in clear, readable prose with sourcing to books where possible I think. [1] seems to be a lot of reliable sources on the subject. I see that you've written GA quality articles yourself which look fine, so I think you know how to generally source books using sfn or page notes and bibliography. As I'm unfamiliar with the subject I'm not aware what already exists at GA, and it's possible that similar articles have already passed which shouldn't have, can you look into it? Wikipedia:Good articles/Philosophy and religion doesn't seem to have anything on a holiday though at first glance. Sure I'll keep this open a week and see how progress is being made. Bare urls and references without publishing details should also be avoided of course.♦ Dr. Blofeld 20:15, 20 October 2013 (UTC)

I'm not Jewish, but I speak Hebrew on an intermediate level and was able to read through the article without confusion. I see how some of the text could be more difficult to understand for other readers, though. Perhaps it would help to remove some of the Hebrew script from the page, or at least to only use it in parentheses. Hopefully the editor who nominated the article will comment here soon; I'm pretty sure he'll want to get these issues addressed and fixed. --1ST7 (talk) 20:34, 20 October 2013 (UTC)
The lead does not summarize the article. It mostly seems to talk about disagreements about the date, giving information that is not in the body. What is the reason for the holiday? Is something being celebrated or mourned? I do not see that. Is the Torah the same thing as the Talmud? What is the difference between Rabbinical and non-Rabbinical?
Some sentences are mystifying: "In Israel—and for different reasons in Reform and Reconstructionist Judaism—none of the unique observances of Sukkot (sukkah, lulav and etrog) carry over to Shemini Atzeret. Elsewhere, however, there is still a further question to reconcile – one that has proved very difficult and problematic over time, going all the way back to the Gemara". What are the different reasons? What is the question? What is the Gemara? Has the question been resolved?
There are far too many bulleted or numbered lists. Some of the language is convoluted if not ungrammatical: "Concerning eating in the sukkah, there are variations sometimes seen." The article needs a serious overhaul, starting with the assumption that most readers will have no background at all. Aymatth2 (talk) 00:02, 21 October 2013 (UTC)

Here's some sources that can be used for the article:

  1. 101 Things Everyone Should Know about Judaism
  2. Teaching Jewish Holidays
  3. Every Person's Guide to Sukkot, Shemini Atzeret, and Simchat Torah
  4. Celebrating the Jewish Year: The Fall Holidays
  5. The Mishnah in Contemporary Perspective
  6. Rediscovering the Jewish Holidays: Tradition in a Modern Voice
  7. Jewish Traditions: A JPS Guide

I'll try to help with getting everything you mentioned addressed. Hopefully all problems can be fixed within the next week. --1ST7 (talk) 02:51, 21 October 2013 (UTC)

A bit late to the discussion, but I agree with nearly, if not all of the concerns raised by Dr. Blofeld. In its current form the article is extremely difficult to follow and a through shake up and restructure is most definatly needed. For me, the bulleted list must go. I have watch listed the article and can help the nominator with prose and layout advice should it be required. -- CassiantoTalk 05:44, 21 October 2013 (UTC)


  • Here is my view of what should be fixed to make the article accessible to non-Jewish readers:
  • Add brief explanations of all Jewish terms when first used. The article does not have to precisely define the term so much as say what kind of thing it is. "... Rabbi, a religious leader, ... Torah, a religious text, ... Etrog, a citrus fruit, ... Tishrei, an autumn month in the Jewish calendar, ..."
  • Get rid of the bulleted/numbered lists
  • Straighten out the language (other editors can help)
  • Delete the lead, leaving only "Shemini Atzeret (Hebrew: שְׁמִינִי עֲצֶֽרֶת) is a Jewish holiday that occurs in autumn."
  • Organize the body text as:
  • Significance: What the name means, what the festival celebrates, how it relates to other festivals
  • History: Basis in religious texts or traditions, historical mentions, evolution of the festival
  • Common Activities: food, prayers, rituals etc.
  • Variations: For each region or sect, the date the festival is held and the unique customs (do not discuss variations until this point - the first sections give a description of the generally accepted significance, origins and observances. This section is where debates and disputes are introduced.)
  • Miscellaneous: Anything that does not fit in the above framework
  • Glossary: Not required, but could be useful. Can be bulleted. This would not replace the brief explanations given in the text, but could allow for slightly longer explanations of terms specific to this festival.
  • Rewrite the lead as a summary of the text, covering all the essential points in the same sequence as the body. It should be a bit shorter than the present lead: avoid detail. There should be no citations in the lead, since all the information in the lead is covered in more detail in the body text, all of which should have citations.
Assume that the reader knows nothing at all about the Jewish religion. Aymatth2 (talk) 14:53, 21 October 2013 (UTC)
From nominator: I have a couple of questions, and would like to respectfully challenge a couple of assertions from Aymatth2 and the others. With all due respect, could we slow this down just a little, not start the clock on a delisting yet, and have a discussion first?
Do keep in mind that this was just promoted, and that I spent a decent amount of time getting it ready. I may not be able to jump back into another revision so fast, and I did what I was asked, in good faith, to prepare it.
I expect to have some questions and comments for you by the end of the day today (EDT). StevenJ81 (talk) 15:51, 21 October 2013 (UTC)
Yes, it might take some time to get it up to scratch. I'm in no rush to immediately delist it. But I do want to see some start towards refactoring it addressing the concerns here over the next week or two. I'll see how progress is being made by the end of the month.♦ Dr. Blofeld 19:07, 21 October 2013 (UTC)
I'm still here, and still drafting my response. Stay tuned ... StevenJ81 (talk) 16:55, 22 October 2013 (UTC)

Comments from nominator as of 19:30, 22 October 2013 (UTC)[edit]

Thank you to everyone for your suggestions to improve this article. And thank you for your patience. I'd like to be able to address these comments, but I'm concerned it will take a while.
To start, I felt a little kicked in the gut, for two reasons. First, this was only promoted a week ago. I wish these suggestions were raised during the original nomination process. Oh, well: water under the bridge. Second, I usually think that my writing is good; to be told it lacks "decent quality prose" really hurt. But I see how sloppy I got, and certainly will commit to fixing that.
Some of the other suggestions are trickier. I would like to have some agreement before I jump in as to what is acceptable and what is not. Here are some of the issues I see:

  1. "Assume the reader knows nothing at all about the Jewish religion" (from User:Aymatth2, emphasis added). Part of the challenge here is to prevent this article from running out on tangents not directly related to this holiday. The subjects of Sukkot (the holiday), the Four Species (also known as lulav and etrog, ritual objects used on the holiday of Sukkot), and the Sukkah (a booth or tabernacle used on the holiday of Sukkot) should not be described in detail here. The principal point about them is actually that they are not used on Shemini Atzeret. So I don't want to lengthen this article by describing them in detail.
    I am a little surprised that hyperlinks on first mention are not sufficient for the purpose of the brief description that some of you have requested.
    I am happy to assume the reader knows not very much, but nothing at all might just really require too many basics to be feasible.
  2. Get rid of the bulleted/numbered lists (also from Aymatth2). I get that, to a point. At the same time, sometimes such lists help give order to things. There are two (non-stub) different-language articles on this holiday that were written before this one: fr:Chemini Atzeret and he:שמיני עצרת. (simple:Shemini Atzeret is later, and I'm writing it.) Both made judicious use of bulleted lists; I used them as models. These articles are not GA, and in any event other wikis' standards are not necessarily ours. Still, I do think some judicious use of such lists is reasonable. In particular, continuing to use a bulleted list (edited!) in Shemini Atzeret#Relationship to Sukkot will make that section much more concise.
  3. There are some recurring issues in Judaism-related articles on use of Hebrew language and on the acceptability and citation style for certain sources. I have tried to be consistent with what I think the consensus is at WikiProject Judaism. I don't think I was entirely successful, so I will review the guidelines. Still, please understand the following:
    • [R]emove some of the Hebrew script from the page, or at least [...] only use it in parentheses (from User:1ST7). I will do that.
      It is sometimes reasonable to include the Hebrew text where it is material to an understanding of the question at hand, even if only someone knowledgeable understands it. It should have translation and transliteration, of course. But the Hebrew itself can add important nuances that can be material to knowledgeable readers. My job here is to include that without "too much of a good thing." So, for example:

      The Talmud, in Tractate Sukkah 48a, describes Shemini Atzeret with the words "a holiday in its own right" (רגל בפני עצמו, regel bifnei atzmo) with respect to six specific halakhic (Jewish law) issues. The six issues are abbreviated[ref] as פז"ר קש"ב: (hyperlinks and references removed)

      Regel bifnei atzmo is material. The specifics of the abbreviation are not.
    • ... sourcing to books where possible I think (from User:Dr. Blofeld). This one is not necessarily so straightforward. We often have this issue in articles on religion in WikiProject Judaism. Torah is clearly a primary source. Talmud is often a primary source, and sometimes a secondary source. Commentators like Rashi are certainly secondary sources. More modern books are to some extent secondary, and to some extent tertiary sources. So you get a conflict. Older secondary sources are often better in that they explain why certain practices are the way the are, at least in traditional circles. They are also mostly in Hebrew. Newer sources are, of course, necessary for some purposes. But when used for the same purposes as quotes from traditional commentators, they become tertiary sources, and secondary is preferred to tertiary.
      There is also an issue with "publication information". To use Rashi as an example, he lived from 1040-1105. Initial publication of his commentaries was pre-Gutenberg, of course. His commentaries on Chumash (Pentateuch) and Talmud are printed in traditional standard editions of those works, at least in Hebrew. They are available widely. The Chumash commentary is available on the web in English, and I often (usually?) hyperlink to it when I use it. The Talmud commentary is massive and has not been fully translated into English. Many English Talmud editions cite Rashi's comments, but they are not available in toto. So in the Jewish world, the normal citation style for that is something like "Rashi on Sukkot 48a", and that's sufficient. I'm willing to footnote that such commentaries can be found in standard editions. But there is no particular reason to cite one edition, complete with ISDN, over any other.
      I am pretty certain I used only one blog, which I used twice. I hesitated before using it, because of WP:BLOGS. Still, it was a very well-researched blog, the posting was not by the author, and it covered a very complicated subject more clearly and succinctly than anything else I found. It's hard to say that blogs are always unreliable, and there was nothing controversial there that would have caused the blog to have a bias. (The fact that Reform Jews don't observe a second day comes from a completely different issue.)

There may be other derivative issues to discuss, but I think the above captures the main points. I look forward to your responses.StevenJ81 (talk) 19:33, 22 October 2013 (UTC)

The heavy use of bullet points/bold and the text book-like points are not encyclopedic, they have to go. Never use a foreign wiki as a model for English wikipedia! You've been told what needs to change, so I'd probably get on with it the best you can and we can comment in a week or two on what still needs to be done.♦ Dr. Blofeld 19:42, 22 October 2013 (UTC)

  • "Assume the reader knows nothing" is a reasonable assumption. I consider myself well-educated, and know something of Jewish history, but know no more of the detailed beliefs and practices than I do of the Yoruba religion. I do not know Yiddish, Hebrew or Yoruba. It is not reasonable to expect that a reader will know these languages. Hyperlinks have their use, but flipping repeatedly back and forward from the main text to hyperlinked articles is very awkward. Again, you do not need to give a long definition, just enough that the reader gets an idea of what kind of thing is being referenced without having to click on the link: "... the Torah, a religious text, ..."
  • On the use of Hebrew script, remember that this is an English-language encyclopedia. Almost all readers will no more be able to read Hebrew script than Thai script, and will anyway have no idea what the words mean in Latin script. Which do you find easiest to understand, มีวันที่ดี or mī wạn thī̀ dī? Or neither? Explain the nuances hidden in the script if they are relevant. Do not give information that can only be understood by the initiated. The goal is to explain to the uninitiated, not to mystify them. Obscure erudition impresses nobody.
  • On the suggested organization, this is obviously just a suggestion. The basic idea is to draw the reader into the subject. First give them a straightforward broad-brush view of what the festival is about, its origins and the common customs, then get into more specific details. Aymatth2 (talk) 20:36, 22 October 2013 (UTC)

I see the writer of this has now resorted to personal attacks and labeling me "pompous" and scoffing at Aymatth's comments on Yoruba on his talk page. You're not helping the situation Steven.♦ Dr. Blofeld 16:22, 23 October 2013 (UTC)

I'm entitled to my opinion: I found your phrasing pompous, or at least unnecessarily dismissive. But I also said you were an experienced editor with a track record worthy of respect, and that I was pleased that you seemed to be willing to work with me on this. So on net I meant that to be positive.
With respect to Aymatth2, I certainly am not denigrating Yoruba in the least. I do question whether an analogy between peoples' understanding of Yoruba religion and their understanding of Judaism is a reasonable one on a wiki written in a language rooted in Western civilization.
Nevertheless, I apologize for the attacking nature of my comments and promise you they will not be repeated.
At this point, I would like to go ahead and withdraw the nomination of this article for GA. I will concur with its delisting. I do not have the time and energy right now to try to rewrite and defend the article. I promise you that if and when I decide to take it back up I will inform everyone who has been involved in this discussion. StevenJ81 (talk) 16:54, 23 October 2013 (UTC)

Sadly you seem to think that all of us want to delist this article asap and you feel you have to "defend" it as if this is an attack. That isn't the case. We'd like to keep it as a GA on condition that the article is improved sufficiently so that everybody finds it clear and worthy of GA status. Aymatth in particular has put in some time here explaining what needs to be addressed. There's no rush for you to address the points but delisting it as a GA won't change the problems the article has. One of the conditions for nominating articles for GA and FA is to be able to accept criticism from others and see it as a constructive thing which will improve the article. I think you've taken this a little to heart and aren't seeing it from the perspective of others.♦ Dr. Blofeld 17:35, 23 October 2013 (UTC)

  • I would also like to see the article improved to GA standards. It has a lot of potential, but is hard to follow in its present form. It is wrong to assume readers are familiar with Judaism, or even Christianity. English is a world language, not just the language of the United States and Britain. It is widely spoken in India, Malaysia, the Philippines, Guyana and Nigeria, for example, and is a second language for students in many other countries. Many readers of en.wikipedia will not speak English as their native language. In some ways these are the most important part of our audience: write for them. Clear and concise prose is very important. Aymatth2 (talk) 18:35, 23 October 2013 (UTC)
Dr. Blofeld—you say (at the top of this page):
"If you select a portion of it to read it really lacks quality and coherence. Random sample "Pilgrimage Festival (רגל): Description of day as regel bifnei atzmo, as described above. Rashi at Sukkah 48a states that this specifically means (a) that one does not dwell in the sukkah on Shemini Atzeret and (b) that one does not describe the day as "Sukkot" during one's prayers.[1](pp760–3)" This isn't written in the way you'd expect from an encyclopedia, it's like a religious text book."
But isn't part of the problem the sample you are selecting? That sample is part of a paragraph. The paragraph is Relationship to Sukkot. This is a paragraph explaining the relationship between Shemini Atzeret and Sukkot. Taken as an entirety I don't think the paragraph is entirely unclear. But taken out of context, a portion may not be entirely intelligible. A small snippet referring to "Sukkah 48a" may not make a lot of sense. But earlier up in the paragraph we find "The Talmud, in Tractate Sukkah 48a, describes Shemini Atzeret with the words "a holiday in its own right" (רגל בפני עצמו, regel bifnei atzmo) with respect to six specific halakhic (Jewish law) issues." I think that some parts of the section "Relationship to Sukkot" shed light on other parts. Bus stop (talk) 19:26, 23 October 2013 (UTC)
  • I'm sorry, but I got a bit lost on this bit too. I'll happily admit I'm ignorant on matters of the Jewish faith, but actually, that's the point of an encyclopaedia - to inform those of us who are ignorant as to the correct information. - SchroCat (talk) 21:03, 23 October 2013 (UTC)
  • I think Blofeld raises two separate issues here. First, we are presumably informing readers about the holiday, not giving them a language lesson. Surely it is possible to describe in clear and concise English what the festival is about, where it came from and what happens. I do not need to know that the Hebrew for "a holiday in its own right" is "רגל בפני עצמו", or regel bifnei atzmo. It would be enlightening to see the article with all non-English words eliminated or replaced by their English equivalent. A start would be to always put the English version first, then the Hebrew form italicized in parentheses, as "six specific Jewish law (halakhic) issues". Then decide if the Hebrew form needs to be kept. See MOS:FOREIGN: Foreign words should be used sparingly. That is certainly not the case with this version.
The second issue is the constant harping on sources and authorities: "Rashi at Sukkah 48a states that this specifically means..." Certainly the sources and their various views are relevant, but push them to the back of the article or down into footnotes where they are out of the way of the casual reader. I want to know what the holiday is about, where it came from and what people do. The combination of Hebrew and in-line citation can be deadly: "Just below this discussion, the Mishnah (at Sukkah 48a or at Mishnah Sukkah 4:7) describes Shemini Atzeret as יום טוב אחרו‏ן של חג (yom tov aḥaron shel ḥag, final holiday of the Festival [of Sukkot])." This is far from clear and concise. Aymatth2 (talk) 01:35, 24 October 2013 (UTC)
Aymatth2—in your first paragraph you say "Surely it is possible to describe in clear and concise English what the festival is about, where it came from and what happens." In your second paragraph you say "I want to know what the holiday is about, where it came from and what people do." I am not so sure the material lends itself to such concision. You (and Dr. Blofeld) refer to the paragraph Relationship to Sukkot. Notice the points that are being made in that paragraph. The paragraph begins with the sentence "Because of its date and name, Shemini Atzeret is often referred to as the eighth day of the Festival of Sukkot, which occupies the seven preceding days. This description is only partially accurate, however." Sukkot and Shemini Atzeret share certain aspects but are distinct in ways. The paragraph is explaining those ways in which the two holidays can be thought of as almost the same and the ways the two holidays are distinct. The last sentence of the paragraph reads "This dual nature of Shemini Atzeret (both part of Sukkot and apart from it) is reflected in the observances and customs of the day(s)." Yes, any article should be "clear and concise". But the description of Shemini Atzeret also involves Sukkot. The two are separate holidays but indistinct in ways. Bus stop (talk) 04:42, 24 October 2013 (UTC)
The relationship to Sukkot is relevant and belongs in the section that says what the holiday is about, early in the article. E.g.
Shemini Atzeret means "the assembly of the eighth day." It follows the seven-day Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot), but is a distinct holiday.[8]
The source for this statement should be cited, but not named in-line. A secondary source is preferable. If there are hair-splitting theological arguments about just exactly how distinct, they can be mentioned in a footnote or a section way at the back of the article, out of the way of the casual reader. The protagonists in the debate can be named there. The section that describes customary practices can compare and contrast them to the practices of Sukkot. The concern is not the information that is presented, but the way in which it is presented. Aymatth2 (talk) 13:17, 24 October 2013 (UTC)

Aymatth has summed it up well. We want to know about the holiday in clear and concise prose not bloated bulleted sections which are very difficult to grasp. Clear and concise prose really is more important than anything and as Aymatth says this was way off being that. The main problem is that it mostly treats the subject indirectly rather than directly. I'd like to see more chunks of paragraphs which directly refer to it and its customs. I've tried to make some adjustments and to make it clearer but I think it still needs a lot of work and to really be simplified. A lot of the mentioning of the overlapping on the 8th day gets a bit confusing in particular..♦ Dr. Blofeld 10:00, 24 October 2013 (UTC)

What is meant by "the Song (שיר) refers to the Shir Shel Yom (psalm of the day) recited by the Levites in the Temple, believed to allude to agricultural gifts to the poor,[9] which must be separated from the crops by Sukkot, while that of Shemini Atzeret is entirely different." Why is Shemini entirely different?♦ Dr. Blofeld 12:40, 24 October 2013 (UTC)

Comments from nominator as of 14:00, 24 October 2013 (UTC)[edit]

OK. I will try to give this a go. Everyone needs to understand that

  • I really need to be careful about the time I spend here. Real world responsibilities need not to suffer.
  • I'm pretty sure that this will take the better part of a month to get done.
  • We should probably do the heavy lifting in a sandbox, because doing it piecemeal in place is going to make the article even harder to navigate in the interim.

If you think the article can stay GA-listed through all of that, it's fine with me. But I cannot afford the time to rush it in order to maintain the listing. From the perspective of time pressure, I'd be just as happy to delist it, work on it, and then relist it.

Dr. Blofeld, just to comment on your penultimate paragraph:

  • Part of the problem is that Shemini Atzeret has almost no customs that belong to it alone. Among all the Biblical Jewish holidays, Shemini Atzeret is the only one without distinctive customs brought directly from the Torah. In contrast, Passover has matzo and avoidance of leaven, Shavuot has the bringing of first fruits (bikkurim), Rosh Hashanah has the shofar (ram's horn), Yom Kippur has fasting, and Sukkot has the Sukkah (tabernacle) and Four Species. Shemini Atzeret has accrued customs over time—it has evolved into Simchat Torah. But it has few of its own.
  • The overlap with the eighth day is inherently a difficult, challenging topic. It results in some Sukkot practices (but not others) being incorporated into the first day of Shemini Atzeret (but not the second), and only outside Israel (not inside). I will really try not to get lost here, but there needs to be a fair amount of detail present if one wants to understand it.

I continue to welcome everyone's ideas and participation. If people are ok with the sandbox idea, I will set it up and let people know where it is. StevenJ81 (talk) 14:11, 24 October 2013 (UTC)

A sandbox does not really work. Other editors may come along and change the mainspace version unless you plaster every section with comments pointing to the sandbox version. Even then some editors will miss the comments. Better to improve it in mainspace in the normal way. I may help. Aymatth2 (talk) 14:19, 24 October 2013 (UTC)

Agreed Aymatth. Yes Steven, I can see that it is largely relevant. Better to keep it as a GA and work together to try to get it to the standard where everybody is happy. If it takes up to a month, that's fine, the biggest issue (the bulleting) has at least been resolved now.♦ Dr. Blofeld 14:44, 24 October 2013 (UTC)

Is there an MoS entry on using bulleted text in entries? In many ways, I fully appreciate the desire to minimize that, but the extent to which it bothered you really caught me off guard. StevenJ81 (talk) 19:20, 24 October 2013 (UTC)
See Wikipedia:Manual of Style#Bulleted and numbered lists, particularly the first point: "Do not use lists if a passage is read easily as plain paragraphs". - SchroCat (talk) 19:52, 24 October 2013 (UTC)

The article does have a lot of good and relevant content. But it was the way it was presented in lists with bold and italics and the religious textbook way of addressing the points which caused most of the problems. The prose is still unclear and awkward in parts and still needs to be partly rewritten but I think it's headed towards warmer climes. I'd still like to see more info directly about it using book sources if possible. I'm sort of unwilling to make any further changes as I fear I may put in errors and misinterpret what you've written. Maybe Aymatth2 feels more confident that he can research it and improve it further. I think it still needs to be partly cut and condensed to the purely relevant points which are fully clear and easy to read and turned more into a cultural type of article (which it is being a Jewish holiday) rather than a more theological type of article. ♦ Dr. Blofeld 20:34, 24 October 2013 (UTC)

I fail to see what was "theological" about the article if theology is defined as "the field of study and analysis that treats of God and of God's attributes and relations to the universe; study of divine things or religious truth; divinity."[2] Bus stop (talk) 22:02, 24 October 2013 (UTC)
Theology is often concerned with expressions of doctrine. A cultural slant says what people do on the holiday and explains the symbolism. A theological slant analyzes the validity of alternative ritualistic interpretations of doctrine. Aymatth2 (talk) 01:38, 25 October 2013 (UTC)
Do you disagree with the dictionary definition? I ask because I see no intimation of entities such as "God" and "religious truth" and "divinity" in the article. Bus stop (talk) 02:37, 25 October 2013 (UTC)
It is not the best of definitions, since it seems to rule out theology of polytheistic religions such as Hinduism. But yes, theology is the study of religious truth, more generally called doctrine or dogma since one person's truth is another's heresy or superstition. The line between doctrine and the language of the holy texts and commentaries that define the doctrine is often blurred, with the words often considered sacred and a lot of theological discussion surrounding interpretation of the words. Ritual is also often closely associated with doctrine, and theologians argue over whether rituals conform with doctrine. The mentions of temple offerings and the Torah tell me there are religious aspects to this holiday. A large part of the language is about compliance with the texts. Aymatth2 (talk) 04:00, 25 October 2013 (UTC)
Aymatth2—I'm trying to understand the objection voiced by Dr. Blofeld in which he/she expresses objection to this article as being "theological". This is an article about a religious holiday. You say "The mentions of temple offerings and the Torah tell me there are religious aspects to this holiday." How could there not be "religious aspects to this holiday"? You say "A large part of the language is about compliance with the texts." Are you referring to the "language" of the article? Are you referring to "language" found in religious texts? "Compliance" with which "texts"? Are you referring to the "text" of the Torah? Are you referring to texts written by Rashi, a twelfth century Rabbi? I am not sure what you are saying. Bus stop (talk) 13:23, 25 October 2013 (UTC)
Holidays often combine religious and secular aspects, and evolve over time. The "cultural" or "tourist guide" view describes when the holiday occurs, where it came from, what it celebrates (e.g. the harvest, or a major historical or mythical event) and what one would expect to see (e.g. dances, special foods), with brief notes on the symbolism of the activities. The "theological" view gives an expert explanation of the religious significance and discusses how variants of ritual reflect subtleties in interpreting sacred writings and later commentaries.
Both are relevant, but most readers will be more interested in the cultural view than in theological niceties. The article should begin with a description of the reason for the holiday, the timing, history and common activities, explaining symbolism but avoiding excessive technical terminology. Later it can give a clear and concise overview of theological justifications and disputes. Aymatth2 (talk) 20:08, 25 October 2013 (UTC)

Both are relevant, my point is that it shouldn't be purely written like a religious text book, there are cultural aspects to a holiday. The heavy theological stuff as Aymatth2 says should come later.♦ Dr. Blofeld 14:59, 26 October 2013 (UTC)

Update as of 17:30, 25 October 2013 (UTC)[edit]

I have made a major overhaul of the first two sections. Based on what I am seeing from the reassessment reviewers, I sense that you want less focus on sources and on what some might see as no-longer-relevant details (like differences in the Temple service). As Bus stop (talk · contribs) points out, there is not necessarily a bright line there, and there will certainly be "religious aspects to this holiday" and religious texts used as sources. After all, this is a religious holiday. Still, we'll try to reduce the detail some.

Accordingly, I have made the following changes. I replaced the first two sections with a new section on "Significance." I have removed all Hebrew script. (I plan to retain the Hebrew for Shemini Atzeret and for Simchat Torah in the lead.) I left two Hebrew phrases in transliteration, which I'd like you to leave there, at least for the time being. I restored the term Hallel, as it was not referring to praise in general, but to the recitation of a unit of six specific Psalms which are known by that title. There is an article by that title in this Wikipedia.

I left out the details on four of the six pieces of the Talmudic discussion on differences between Sukkot and Shemini Atzeret, as they are related to the Temple service. Frankly, I did this as much to avoid a bulleted list as because the topics are mainly of historical and religious significance. Some of you made errors in de-bulleting the text. Beyond that, though, I had a hard time finding a way to keep all six points in place that was neither bulleted nor incredibly awkward. So I chose brevity instead.

That's all for this week, as Shabbat will soon be upon us. StevenJ81 (talk) 17:12, 25 October 2013 (UTC)

Changes look excellent, much clearer already, thanks. I think both cultural and the "theological" analysis are relevant, don't get me wrong. I am aware it is a religious holiday, but the article should look at its cultural practices and observances and tell the reader what happens on the holiday before going into heavier information on the theological aspects which as Aymatth said should be as concise and simplified as possible. My biggest concern previously was that as soon as you started to try to read the body you were struck with heavy textbook-like reading in bullet points which to anybody unfamiliar with the subject seemed very difficult to understand. I think the average reader would want to know what it is and what happens before going into the theological analysis. Your changes have already made a considerable difference anyway. Look forward to seeing your further edits.♦ Dr. Blofeld 15:12, 26 October 2013 (UTC)

I object to the distinction being made between the theological and the cultural as concerns material in this article, in the absence of any source making such distinctions. This is the wrong way to write this article, in my opinion. We don't find any sources making any such distinctions. If anyone knows of a source making any such distinctions please point that out to me and I will stand corrected. But as I see it in my admittedly brief research, no source is characterizing any material relating to Shemini Atzeret as being theological, cultural or anything similar in related terms. This doesn't surprise me. This is an important but fairly low-key holiday. Anyway—even if an editor feels that in their opinion some material is more "cultural" or more "theological" (or some related term) I think the editor should just defer to the way sources discuss the holiday and the material relating to it. Our article should accord weight in proportion to that which is found in sources. A few sources I've encountered: Judaism 101, Encyclopedia Britannica, New York Jewish Times, Virtual Beit Midrash, Bus stop (talk) 00:12, 27 October 2013 (UTC)
I am starting to get an uneasy feeling that this holiday is so low-keyed that many Jews are only vaguely aware of it. I admit to visualizing a colorful holiday with traditions, dances, rituals, special foods and so on. It seems to be more just a date observed in the synagogue. Do we have any information on how actively people participate in the holiday in Israel and abroad? Is observance mainly limited to some group? That would certainly be relevant. Aymatth2 (talk) 01:06, 27 October 2013 (UTC)
A holiday need not involve fanfare. Our article already states "Shemini Atzeret is a quiet holiday…"[3] Bus stop (talk) 03:02, 27 October 2013 (UTC)

Sadly Bus stop you continue to answer everything back here negatively and still seem to see this as some sort of war. We've made suggestions for improvements which will retain it as a GA that's all. None of us are arguing that the article should avoid covering certain details which are widely covered in sources which might be "theological" in nature, the article should indeed reflect what is covered in sources. But there is a way to do it in a balanced manner which addresses the various aspects of the holiday and related content without going into difficult, heavy prose on any of its assets. Above all it should be clear and concise (which it was far from being). So long as it clearly explains what the holiday is and about I don't mind what extra details are added at the end of the article which might be relevant, so long as it is relevant and clear/concise.♦ Dr. Blofeld 09:38, 27 October 2013 (UTC)

Well, part of what Bus stop is trying to say is that some of what has been requested—particularly what Aymatth2 has requested, more than Dr. Blofeld—just doesn't exist the way you expect it to exist. Most Jews do know Simchat Torah—the holiday into which Shemini Atzeret has evolved over the centuries. And in Israel, where the two are really one and the same, that makes Shemini Atzeret's separate (and earlier) existence fairly irrelevant to non-religious Israelis. But outside Israel, where Simchat Torah is limited to the second day of Shemini Atzeret, I would venture that Aymatth2 is correct: Jews who are not observant in some way or another do not really know Shemini Atzeret very well. It is the only one of the holidays mentioned in the Torah without a distinctive ritual, which is probably one reason the celebration of Simchat Torah came to fill the vacuum.
Look, this is a relatively complex holiday to describe, in a way. I thought I had described relatively clearly and concisely. Evidently, it was not clear and concise enough for a general audience, so I am rewriting. But some details are going to stay, because without them this will not make sense.
Let me ask everyone to step back and take a breather, and give me 2-3 weeks to nail this down. I think I have a pretty good idea of what Dr. Blofeld and Aymatth2 want to see, and I have a pretty good idea of what (Bus stop and) I think needs to be here, and I'm actually a pretty good writer. When I tell you I'm finished with the draft, then jump in. OK? StevenJ81 (talk) 15:10, 27 October 2013 (UTC)
Sure, I had already left you to it, but seeing Bus stop's continued negative comments towards our suggestions started to grate..♦ Dr. Blofeld 17:50, 27 October 2013 (UTC)

A summary of points I would ask to be considered in a rewrite:

  • The lead section should summarize the body of the article, giving a very condensed form of the body content in the same sequence as the body. It should not give any information that is not included in the body. The lead section does not need and should not have citations.
  • I am slowly getting some idea about the nature of the holiday:
Shemini Atzeret immediately follows the autumn festival of Sukkot, and was at first simply a prayer for plentiful rain in the coming winter. It is quiet, with no traditional rituals. Non-observant Jews will be relatively unaware of it. The newer Simchat Torah holiday is the main part of Shemini Atzeret, and is better known. It celebrates the completion of a cycle of Torah readings and the start of the next cycle.
If an introduction like that could be given up front, the reader would have some context for topics like the relationship to Sukkot.
  • Assume the reader is Indian and knows nothing about the Jewish religion. Briefly describe any technical term when first used. E.g. "The Torah, a religious text, ...". There is no need to precisely define the term, just to explain what kind of thing it is.
  • Modern authors should be used when discussing the modern holiday. Direct citation of ancient sources such as the Torah, Talmud or Rashi's commentaries should be minimized, since this may be considered original research.
  • Sources should be named in citations or footnotes that appear at the back of the article. If a source must be named in the text, it should be described. E.g. "Rashi (1040–1105) was a medieval French rabbi who is considered the "father" of all commentaries on the Talmud.[9] According to Rashi..."
  • Numbered or bulleted lists should generally be avoided. Items may be numbered if that improves clarity: "There are three points. First... Second..." Usually this is just clutter.
  • Hebrew script should be used only in footnotes, and only if absolutely needed. It will be incomprehensible to almost all readers.
  • Hebrew words may be given in Latin script if they are directly relevant, with their translation. The Hebrew word should be italicized unless it is in common use in the English language. When in doubt, italicize. The English form should be given first, followed by the Hebrew form in parentheses: "... Jewish law (halakha) ...".

I hope this helps. Aymatth2 (talk) 14:26, 28 October 2013 (UTC)

Aymatth2: You have already made clear what you would like to see here and what you would not like to see here. I get it. Now let me make clear what parts I will insist on being present as well. I am already concerned that things that I consider important and appropriate to an encyclopedic article will not be included. But if you are not willing to take a step back in my direction, we can just stop this here and now.
  1. I will rewrite the lead. I plan to do that last so that everything is covered. Please be patient.
  2. If I see fit to include a transliterated Hebrew phrase, I will do so. I believe you are going much too far in making this point. It feels to me as if you would not be doing this if it were Latin or French. The language of Jewish law, custom, ritual and practice is Hebrew, not English. So there is bound to be at least a little Hebrew here. I am minimizing as much as I can, but if I leave some here, know that it is because I think it is necessary. Note that except for the holiday names themselves, I am taking out all of the actual Hebrew in the article.
    • By the way: At this point in history, Torah is a good English word. I believe the current version explains it anyway.
  3. I am trying to mix more modern authors in. HOWEVER: The basic sources for this holiday are in the Torah and Talmud, and I will cite them as appropriate.
    I am already extremely troubled that you are trying to get me to divorce the modern celebration of the holiday from its basic underpinnings in Jewish law. Frankly, in my view, that is important and necessary to the understanding of the holiday. I am the topic expert here, not you, and I don't think it is your call to say that I need to leave all of that out. I am trying very, very hard to leave out unnecessary detail, but I will not leave out necessary detail. And that includes Torah and Talmud as sources.
    The 1906 Jewish Encyclopedia, which is a Jewish source, to be sure, but also an encyclopedia, uses scriptural sources (and a numbered list) in its description of the day. See here.
Dr. Blofeld, I truly don't want this to sound as if I'm being disrespectful to the suggestions being made. Truly, I am trying not to be. But the issue that Bus stop was trying to mention—the separation of the modern celebration from its underpinnings in Jewish law—is a serious one. Correct, encyclopedic coverage of any Jewish holiday must include that information, or else it is incomplete.
Please, both of you: Let me try to thread the needle here as well as I can. StevenJ81 (talk) 14:43, 28 October 2013 (UTC)
I am not asking for all Hebrew words or phrases to be eliminated. Terms that are commonly used in relation to the holiday can and should be included, but should be explained in English. I am also not asking to divorce the description of the holiday from its basis in Jewish law. That is completely relevant. It should be explained in a way that can be understood by a reader who has no background. The Torah and Talmud may be cited, but great care is needed to avoid anything that may be considered original research. It is preferable to cite a modern scholar who describes how these texts support this or that aspect of the holiday. Aymatth2 (talk) 15:10, 28 October 2013 (UTC)
With the risk of sounding like a broken record, again that's not what I said. I said it was largely relevant didn't I? When I said I wanted it treated like a cultural article I meant to tell people about the practice and customs first without it all reading like a heavy theological text book. You can use Jewish terms and discuss its relevance to other issues and make it clear to the reader without going into excessive detail which is difficult to follow for a non Jewish person. Whatever is documented in sources is fine, provided that the article is balanced, easy to read and understand and is concise. I think Aymatth and myself should just leave you to it now because you clearly misunderstand what we're trying to say.♦ Dr. Blofeld 17:20, 28 October 2013 (UTC)
I understand quite clearly, sir. I felt as if Aymatth2 was giving me another lecture, and as if he were pushing me further in that direction. That is clearly not the case. I've got it. So I will proceed. StevenJ81 (talk) 17:44, 28 October 2013 (UTC)

Technical question at 17:00, 29 October 2013 (UTC)[edit]

To whomever first placed books in the bibliography: Did you have information supporting the specific day of publication mentioned in several cases? It feels odd to me for books to show a "day of publication" as opposed to a "year of publication". If you did not have such specific information, do you mind if I replace the |date= parameters with |year= parameters? Thanks. StevenJ81 (talk) 17:28, 29 October 2013 (UTC)

The person who included the exact date of publication may not be watching this page. In my opinion such precision in this matter is uncalled for. But perhaps that person will weigh in momentarily. Bus stop (talk) 20:23, 29 October 2013 (UTC)
If that person weighs in over even the next day or two, fine. Otherwise, I'll eventually change it. Thanks. StevenJ81 (talk) 20:55, 29 October 2013 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── Swapped over to year, rather than date. - SchroCat (talk) 22:08, 29 October 2013 (UTC)

Critique of nominator's assumptions and approach to WP articles as of 10:12, 30 October 2013 (UTC)[edit]

I also notified User:1ST7, who was involved in the initial GA review, and User:Debresser, who helped me before the first GA review. StevenJ81 (talk) 16:42, 30 October 2013 (UTC)

This discussion does not appear to start out or to be heading in a healthy direction. WP is NOT "WP for idiots" and it is not written in that genre of "books for dummies"! No subject on WP is expected to be "dumbed-down" to the point that it should be structured that the "most ignorant" moronic person with a low IQ should be able to make heads or tales of it. WP assumes a great level of intelligence and ability about its readers, after all it is an ENCYCLOPEDIA and not a "nursery school" for babies, and if readers have some problems and questions, they will reach out and ask other more learned WP users and LEARN rather than grouch and call for major re-writes to the point that the subject will not be known to its own devotees. Allowance must be made for the practitioners of Judaism or reliable expert editors to explain things here and so far very little effort in that direction is visible, which is very troublesome! There are wonderful editors in this regard, such as User:Yoninah, User:Avraham; User:Jfdwolff, User:Debresser and others who could help out here, but so far their voices are absent! Articles in Category:Astrophysics or Category:Neurosurgery or for that matter in all religions are not "broken down" to the point that someone from an opposing religion or outlook should have every last details and term explained to them. Sure, articles can be improved, but by the same token many article are written by editors who's first languages is not English or articles are translated and it takes time to iron them out and make them readable. This article is not much different to a topic about a holy day in Islam such as Eid al-Fitr or Christianity's Assumption of Mary both of which would be bewildering to a Jewish or atheist or scientific reader not familiar with the premises and notions of religions alien to anew reader. It would seem that that for some or other reason User Dr. Blofeld (talk · contribs) is not going about this correctly. There should first of all be a long-term discussion on the articles talk page to see how it could be improved. Then there should a request for WP:EXPERT editors. There should be a call for discussion placed on the WP:JUDAISM talk page. There should be various templates that call for improvement deployed. Barely any of this if anything has been done, while the nominator feels no compunction to create an uncalled for "draw" when more reasoned and slower debate is called for. Why is it that one gets the sense that this article is being unfairly picked on and not just for the reasons stated. Please help me out here. Thanks, IZAK (talk) 10:12, 30 October 2013 (UTC)

Before you carry on—and before others start reacting to such a provocative post—perhaps you could firstly read through WP:AGF and then re-couch your post in more appropriate and less confrontational language? Thank you - SchroCat (talk) 10:15, 30 October 2013 (UTC)

Your post here IZAK is not constructive and is bordering on malicious. Not going about it correctly? I have more experience than most with articles and writing/reviewing. 3 or 4 of wikipedia's most experienced editors here have agreed with me. Eric Corbett, one of the most prolific reviewers and writers of GAs, agreed with me that it shouldn't have passed GA as it was and I asked for his advice before coming here just in case it was only myself who saw it as problematic. Ask any regular reviewer/editor of GAs here if the original was written in the format and standard expected of GAs. The fact that it was mostly written in bullet points alone violated the MOS guidelines. You've canvassed some of the Jewish experts with linking their names, but I'm sure experienced editors like Yoninah would at least see issues with the use of bullets and bold in the original User:Dr. Blofeld/Shemini Atzeret which are against the guidelines. It was written like a textbook rather than an encyclopedia article. I've not picked on the article or anybody, it simply stood out among the other articles which passed because of the style and approach which I believe made it very difficult to read and digest for the average non Jewish reader. I know what sort of article this sort of thing should really have, and Steven has already made extensive edits to resolve it and is doing a great job. Please just let him get on with it and I'm certain the article will be much better for it.♦ Dr. Blofeld 10:20, 30 October 2013 (UTC)

Okay I will hold off, but please understand that from the way you present this, it would appear that you want this article about a key holiday in Judaism to be written from a NON-Jewish POV which would be self-defeating. IZAK (talk) 10:24, 30 October 2013 (UTC)

Non Jewish POV? Is it even possible to write about such an article in anything but Jewish terms and customs? Sorry I don't follow. I've simply asked for it to be written in a way which is clearer and better structured for the average wikipedian, with better sourcing and use of books, and it's already much improved for it and I'm sure the others here would agree with me that it's headed in the right rather than the wrong direction. If the experts you summoned have the ability to further improve the article with books and are capable of writing in a clear way I would welcome anybody to work on it, as long at it doesn't interfere with Steven's own work on it. What you've said IZAK about readers of articles asking experts if they don't understand it, that defeats the object of what the encyclopedia article is there was in the first place. The whole point of an encyclopedia article is to give you the basics of any topic which is understandable without having to ask somebody.♦ Dr. Blofeld 10:33, 30 October 2013 (UTC)

IZAK , It should certainly not be written from a Jewish POV either, but instead be couched in a neutral, encyclopaedic tone. - SchroCat (talk) 10:34, 30 October 2013 (UTC)
Exactly, but if you write it only from a "clinical POV" without a feel and expertise in and about the subject you land up with a hybrid that does not tell you anything because it will be neither fish nor foul. It will in fact look STUPID to an expert in that field and you don't want that happening either. It is also a violation of WP:NEO on a grand and obvious scale that makes a laughing stock of the subject. Sadly, EVERYONE thinks they're "experts" in religion, while NO ONE would dare pontificate about a subject in science they know nothing or little about. That is the balance that is required: to be fairly NPOV by WP standards but by the same token not create something that does NOT exist in the real world. The job of an encyclopedia should be to Describe and Explain which is its Empirical function, but be careful NOT to cross over to make a mish-mash of [[Normative}] and conflicting POV's that destroy the point trying to be made. That is why if you want to find out about a Judaic subject you go to Encylopedia Judaica but if you want to find out about a subject in Roman Catholicism you go to the Catholic Encyclopedia. WP cannot be "better" than those sources by creating it's own voodoo subjects that neither faith would accept. Do you catch my drift here? IZAK (talk) 10:46, 30 October 2013 (UTC)

What you've said IZAK about readers of articles asking experts if they don't understand it, that defeats the object of what the encyclopedia article is there was in the first place. The whole point of an encyclopedia article is to give you the basics of any topic which is understandable without having to ask somebody. It is finding a balance above all between content which the average reader will understand and learn from and the expert will consider an adequate basic outline. Please stop talking in capital letters, you're coming across as very rude.♦ Dr. Blofeld 10:33, 30 October 2013 (UTC)

No Doc, I was NOT saying that "readers" must ask "experts" (read what I wrote again) -- what I WAS saying was the WP EDITORS and nominators who jump in should reach out to and consult with expert WP EDITORS as much as possible -- while obviously ALL WP editors share the job and all presumably take it seriously to explain subjects, but in this case, it looked to me like you were trying to chop up the article into too small "idea pieces" that would reduce it to such a "Shavuot for idiots" level that no serious reader would even like to read it, unless they were kids in elementary schools. Articles must be kept serious all the time, and WP:EXPERT EDITORS are the key to that happening. Not more and not less. IZAK (talk) 10:58, 30 October 2013 (UTC)
I "catch your drift", but reject it utterly, I'm afraid. This is a non-specialist encyclopaedia which should be able to provide information on a topic to an interested non-specialist. If I, as someone completely ignorant in Jewish matters, comes across this article, I should be able to read it fully, and understand it and all it contains. Some specialist areas may need more explanation than others, but if it's well written I should be able to stay on the page and read it all. If I don't, then the article fails in its primary mission: to educate me on its topic. This is a challenge with specialist areas, but religious topics, like many others, need to avoid failing some basic thresholds like WP:TECHNICAL if they are to serve their readers properly. - SchroCat (talk) 11:03, 30 October 2013 (UTC)
"This is a non-specialist encyclopaedia" would assume that you have read the literally millions of articles on WP in all languages yet to make that rash generalization. Come on now, be honest, do you think that by just reading an article ONCE about an obviously serious subject you know nothing about, you should "presto" become so enlightened that you need have no further need for more reading, thinking or study? No high school functions like that and no book works like that. Many volumes have to be written to "catch the drift" of a subject sometimes. And compressing it into "microdot" format in terse twitter style tweets makes subjects look like they were written in those famous books For Dummies which a SERIOUS encyclopedia should not sink to. WP can remain serious yet clear, and that should be the goal, it has succeeded in that thus far, of course it should aim to be informative but it also expects that people have brains and IQs that allow people to understand that they will not grasp everything in quick drive-by reading even on WP, since when do encyclopedias also have to be for "dummies"? Information is not like instant coffee. IZAK (talk) 11:17, 30 October 2013 (UTC)
  • IZAK, I've removed your "call to arms" from the list of deletion topics: no-one is suggesting deletion, just a re-working of the article, which is what Steven is doing very well at the moment. I do not think that what you are doing here is beneficial to his work, and your entire stance his is questionable. This started out as a question of how this article compared to the MOS. You seem to be turning into something entirely different and I am rather suspiscious of your motives and actions. Can I suggest you leave Steven to continue doing what he is doing and leave it at that? - SchroCat (talk) 11:11, 30 October 2013 (UTC)
    • Sure. I am not "interfering" with anyone, I am asking, better: prodding, the nominator to come up with some solid reasons why he picked on this article out of thousands of others that could also use this rough treatment. IZAK (talk) 11:17, 30 October 2013 (UTC)

Thousands? I regularly check Wikipedia:Good articles and the recently passed good articles. I usually thank the editors by hitting the thank button. I came across this article there out of 10 or so recently passed articles and it stood out a mile because of the formatting, sourcing and readability problems. I couldn't read it, that's why I took it to GAR.♦ Dr. Blofeld 11:27, 30 October 2013 (UTC)

  • Well, I have just spent some time trying to tidy it up. My time is limited lately, but I can assure you that I am not the only one with the concerns I expressed, just that I took the plunge and brought up the discussion. Even the best of all articles can be improved. But the problem was obviously compounded here by the willingness to use one's lack of familiarity with a subject to take it to task. That sounded very fishy, because obviously one cannot be an expert in all articles in all fields -- even if your job is to squeeze them all into one tidy "info-ox"! Perhaps it is wrong to expect homogenization from all articles that they should all feel and taste like cream cheese when in fact they are tougher to grasp since they are not easy subjects to start off with. There is in fact a sort of "nebulous" quality about this Jewish holiday that even long-time practitioners of Judaism would be hard-pressed to explain clearly. So it's a tough job, but don't demand that it all be broken down into child-like formats that destroys the serious of the subject-matter. IZAK (talk) 11:45, 30 October 2013 (UTC)
  • Absolutely no-one is "demanding" anything of the sort, so please try and moderate your language a tad. As I have said above, this article failed to comply with some areas of the MOS: a request was made to address this concern and StevenJ81 has been doing just that, before you decided to try and make you overly-dramatic entry into the equation. No-one is expecting homoginsation, just an article that clearly explains the topic it addresses - and one that is understandable to ALL readers, not just those already knowledgeable about the topic. - SchroCat (talk) 12:14, 30 October 2013 (UTC)
Of course as responsible editors we always try to write and edit in a manner that will be "understandable to ALL readers" that is not my quibble -- the problem here is that in an effort to make the article "super readable" the subject itself may lose a lot or some of its essence (words/phrases that may seem gibberish at first may have important meaning on deeper inspection), as in washing out the color of a clothing item in a laundry that contains too much bleach. One does not want to do that either. One can apply so much "detergent" or acid so that the subject will simply disintegrate which is what I am trying to prevent. That is is the difference between a butcher and a skilled surgeon, or perhaps more aptly the difference between severe plastic surgery who changes the subject beyond recognition, to displaying the subjects sometimes warts and all which is a far truer depiction. Sometimes the convoluted language may come from an Israeli editor or of a Hasidic Jew whose use of syntax is very different to a properly educated English major. Now the English major may know how to write, but the Israeli or Hasidic editor/s may well be a scholar who has difficulty with being a wordsmith in English. So the trick is not to throw out the baby with the bathwater and not opt for the easy option of just having smooth words that just water down and in effect make the subject meaningless at the end of the day. No one is saying that WP is "only" for "experts" but no one is calling for WP to become a global "WP For Idiots" either. IZAK (talk) 12:52, 30 October 2013 (UTC)
  • I'm sorry, but there are so many metaphors (mixed and otherwise) that I have no idea what you are talking about for part of this. An encyclopaedic entry should be readable for all reasonable readers (in UK law there is the concept of the Man on the Clapham Omnibus as to whether someone is a "reasonable person", and the concept can easily be applied here to). If an entry is not understandable by such a reasonable person, then it fails in its objective. I'm also not sure what you mean when you refer to the article's "essence"? This article should be as readable and understandable to the hypothetical "Man on the Clapham Omnibus" as articles about a rock formation, a film, a piece of classical music, a medical condition or a piece of legal jargon. All that was asked of the original writer was to bring the article more in line with the MOS and to make certain parts of it more understandable to all readers: I'm not sure how you see things, but absolutely no-one has asked that this article is written for idiots only, no matter how many times you say it is. - SchroCat (talk) 13:34, 30 October 2013 (UTC)
  • I completely agree with Dr. Blofeld and the suitability of this article for GA. To my understanding, most articles about Jewish holidays are not listed at GA because they are too volatile; someone is always changing something. I don't believe this article qualifies for GA. Besides being weighed down with too much back-and-forth of when the holiday falls in Israel, when outside Israel; how it's related to and independent of Sukkot; and the overly detailed and halakhic discussion of customs and observances; the article doesn't give the non-Orthodox Jewish reader any clear sense of what Shemini Atzeret is and why people bother to celebrate it. The fact that the page is mostly based on academic rather than primary, classical sources also robs it of context and meaning. For example, I made one change in the Atzeret section which was OR on the part of the book author; any child who studies Rashi knows that this is a parable from Rashi and not a direct statement about God. Also, some of the statements in the article, such as the hakafot hashniot description sourced to Haaretz (a blatantly anti-Orthodox newspaper), are downright POV, not even mentioning the Hasidic origins of the custom. I’m sure the good folks at GA just checked all the sourcing and pronounced it fine, but the fact is that the article needs to cite classical rather than academic sources much more, and must be simplified and de-bloated in order to make it understandable to all readers. Yoninah (talk) 14:42, 30 October 2013 (UTC)
Wow. Woke up a little late this morning, and missed all this.
I'd like to address a few of the points above.
  1. First, starting with the comment of IZAK (talk · contribs) above:

    There is in fact a sort of "nebulous" quality about this Jewish holiday that even long-time practitioners of Judaism would be hard-pressed to explain clearly.

    I would encourage everyone to keep the above fact in mind. As I will elaborate further, part of the reason for all the detail in the initial version was exactly to try to explain this "nebulousness"; I thought the detail was important to that end.
  2. Second, the article is in an in-between state right now. Someone coming on it today would see a mess, not a GA. Whether or not the original deserved GA, it's currently a work in process to get back there. So please don't judge overall quality by the current state of affairs.
  3. Third, I'm not sure that I think MoS is quite as hostile to bulleted lists as some of the others here do, but I am quite sure I overdid it last time. So I am not troubled to take correction for that.
  4. Fourth, particularly for Yoninah (talk · contribs): I could really use your help with a few things here. Per IZAK above, once one concedes that the bulk of material on Simchat Torah goes in the Simchat Torah article, it's hard to get much of a handle on this holiday. If I had to summarize where I am trying to go with this, it would be along the lines of
    (i)  Torah says little about this other than (a) the Sukkot stuff ends at day 7 and doesn't spill over to day 8, (b) avoidance of melechet avodah, and (c) a regime of korbanot that are quite different from those of Sukkot. Gemara at Sukkot 48a elaborates on this with its six points of differentiation and regel bifnei atzmo, while also saying yom tov acharon shel chag. In the actual version cleared for GA, I elaborated on these points. If that was too much halachic detail, ok, but I thought this actually gave the whole discussion some interesting material. I'd be happy to add something along the lines of "this holiday does not require objects because the ultimate joy comes from serving God, not using objects"; if you have a source like that at hand, I'd appreciate it.
    (ii)  The reason I elaborated on the date: In Israel, the Sukkot stuff does end at day 7. Yet by the time of the Mishnah, we also begin to see discussions of how to handle shemini safek shevi'i in galut—hence some discussion of why we eat in the Sukkah, but not sleep, and no lulav/etrog, etc. I assumed, again, that some halachic description of why this is the case made it more interesting and substantive.
    (iii)  By the time of the Mishnah, we begin to see that Simchat Torah starts to emerge, but doesn't flower until later
    (iv)  Also by the time of the Mishnah, we see a mention of Geshem in Gevurot, although again it doesn't seem to be formalized until later.
  5. Fifth, again especially for Yoninah: My GA-approved version used more classical sources and fewer academic ones. Most of those were added later. Dr. Blofeld (talk · contribs), but more particularly Aymatth2 (talk · contribs), wanted to see academic sources in preference to classical sources. That troubled me quite a lot, actually. In the event, though, I have been trying to keep a mix of classical and modern sources together, and to the extent that I am using academic sources, trying to find ones that make use of the classical sources.
    • Of course, I am familiar with Rashi's use of the parable. I like how you edited that.
    • I added the Haaretz source myself and certainly did not intend it to be anti-Orthodox POV. (I think you're familiar enough with my work here to know that.) If you have a source on the chassidic source of hakafot shniyot I'd welcome one; I was unfamiliar with that.
  6. Sixth, especially for IZAK, who is always acting l'shem shamayim (for Divine purposes) but sometimes does so in a fiery way: I can see where you came to your conclusion. The idea that academic sources must be more important than classical sources, and that Hebrew is so troubling in this setting, are both difficult for Orthodox Jews like us. I think we have the right to push back to some extent, and I have been. But I also think we need to make sure we are not drowning people in details.
  7. Finally, especially for Dr. Blofeld: Thank you for the compliments above. As you know, there are still bits about your approach that worry me, in the sense that I wonder if I will be able to include everything I think is important enough. But as I've said to you before, let's finish the draft and then see where we end up.
A question for all: is it reasonable to write an encyclopedia article with appendices? We could put a more detailed halachic description in an appendix.
Thanks to all for helping to improve this article. StevenJ81 (talk) 17:43, 30 October 2013 (UTC)

Steven, I see the glaring difference between your GA-nominated article with mostly classical sources and the latest version with mostly academic sources. The fact is that most of these "academic" sources are along the lines of "Halakha for dummies." IMO, the sourcing needs quite a bit of upgrading and expansion to make it well-rounded and reliable. I'm happy to help, but I'll need some time. Also, as much as you tried to "fill in" material to make up for the lack of what to say about Shemini Atzeret, I don't think it helps the article at all. If we have a nice, simple holiday with a nice, simple explanation, it will interest far more readers, Jew and non-Jew, than this version. If you like, I could suggest a new outline. Best, Yoninah (talk) 19:15, 30 October 2013 (UTC)

Face-smile.svg Thank you I would welcome your help. Take your time; I told the nominator that I thought it would take a month. I've things in the real world to attend to myself. StevenJ81 (talk) 19:22, 30 October 2013 (UTC)
  • A Wikipedia article should mainly summarize what secondary sources have said, written for a wide audience without excruciating detail. Primary sources are not the best, since they may be too close to the subject and may be ambiguous. One text says wine leads to sin while another says it is a gift from God. Selective quotes could support either view. Sects often dispute the meaning of primary sources, e.g. Theravada and Mahayana in Buddhism. Reliable secondary sources are better, as discussed in Wikipedia:No original research, ideally ones that try to stand back and give an objective description. There should be no need for appendices. Footnotes may hold discussions of technical points. Readers who want more can always read the textbooks or even the primary sources. Aymatth2 (talk) 20:05, 30 October 2013 (UTC)

Some thoughts[edit]

I was asked to comment by IZAK. I think the introduction is very good, but some of the subsequent paragraphs become rather detailed and fly off into unnecessary detail (e.g. Y.Z. Meckelenburg's etymology). I support the premise that our articles should primarily be based on secondary sources in English. That is not to say that I wouldn't want the key sources represented in some form. The most important Talmud quotes therefore need referencing, perhaps even inline. All in all I think it needs a small amount of concerted work to retain GA status.

I am actually most bothered by two different sections both called "Notes" with separate citation systems. That looks weird and clumsy. JFW | T@lk 21:18, 30 October 2013 (UTC)

The latter is because it's in the middle of being rewritten, so we haven't yet had a chance to standardize all that. StevenJ81 (talk) 21:29, 30 October 2013 (UTC)

More thoughts[edit]

(also invited at WT:JEW)

I think one of the problems here is that there's a disagreement as to how much articles should be clear to novices in the subject. There seems to be a site-wide consensus that some sections may be tailored for readers who are already familiar with the subject. See the Featured Article "Pi" which contains many parts (such as "Complex numbers and analysis") which are not really understandable by someone who doesn't know much post-elementary math.

On the other hand, many here want articles to be intelligible to those who are completely unfamiliar to Judaism, even at the expense of providing useful information to those who are "experts" in the subject. I think this issue needs to be worked out for the article to reach its potential. -- Ypnypn (talk) 01:00, 31 October 2013 (UTC)

I see two different issues apart from general conformance with policy and manual of style, which should be taken for granted. The first is that the article should as far as possible be accessible to the general reader. It may be possible to compromise on this by pushing detail to the back, but Wikipedia is a popular encyclopedia, not a textbook for advanced students. Think of the level of theological argument you would want in an article on a holiday in some other religion. The second is that it should be clear that the article does not reflect only the views of one sect, but gives a balanced overview. Aymatth2 (talk) 02:10, 31 October 2013 (UTC)
Aymath, here are responses to what you assert above:
  1. "I see two different issues apart from general conformance with policy and manual of style, which should be taken for granted." --Agreed! No one is suggestion that this be violated in any way.
  2. "The first is that the article should as far as possible be accessible to the general reader." -- Again, no one is suggesting that articles "not be accessible to the general reader" it is almost ludicrous to suggest that somehow any responsible editor even thinks otherwise.
  3. "It may be possible to compromise on this by pushing detail to the back, but Wikipedia is a popular encyclopedia, not a textbook for advanced students." Again this is not even on the table. No one here is suggesting turning WP into a place for "advanced students" of anything. But, it IS assumed that reliable editors WILL somehow or other either be "advanced students" of a subject or have access to information that is based on advanced scholarship. Otherwise you have information based on nothing which is something no one wants. Furthermore, if anyone here imagines that this article or any other article on WP relating to Judaism approaches a level of being a "text book" then you obviously do not realize that most of the information is in any case baby-ish and in fact no one who takes Judaism seriously or knows the difference between serious knowledge and WP's version would even spend one minute looking at WP articles. So therefore, please understand we as WP editors are already working to enlighten the "hoi pollois" of the world (in my case, for over ten years already!)
  4. "Think of the level of theological argument you would want in an article on a holiday in some other religion." -- This is an absurd statement because this holiday is ONLY about a theologcal day holy to the religion of Judaism only. And, within Judaism "facts" and practical observances are ONLY presented in the "Talmudic method" of "theological arguments" simply because Judaism works on many levels and in its scholarship it is very much like a legal system of legal debates with different schools of thought debating possible outcomes and resulting in various observances. There is no way to avoid this when presenting subjects in Judaism so it is therefore not just absurd but also WRONG to cut that out completely because it is the way the very lifeblood and system have evolved and function.
  5. "The second is that it should be clear that the article does not reflect only the views of one sect, but gives a balanced overview." Um sorry, but you may not realize it that you are being insulting to Judaism and its practitioners. Also just what does "balanced overview" mean? It sounds like somehow or other some editors are trying to be "un-balanced". The real issue here is to find the best terminology and best sources to convey what this Jewish holiday is all about. Who knows best, professors in universities who have never even stepped into a synagogue and cannot read Hebrew, or scholars who know Judaism and are steeped in its heritage and methods of study? This article has at no time tried to give the views of "one sect" whatever that means. There are no "sects" in Judaism because it is one religion at its core, there are not 25 or a thousand Judaisms, only one, and since it is a religion that is 3,300+ years old, it has split into various schools of thought, but at its core it remains one Judaism. It just so happens to be that Rabbinic Judaism and Orthodox Judaism in particular are the ones that have the most intense ongoing heritage dating back over 2,000+ years. While asking for a "balanced overview" may sound nice in theory, there is no way you can present the views of people who both accept and deny the tenets of Judaism, or asking that views of Christians and atheists be regarded as equals to classical Judaic scholars. No one asks that Jewish scholars give their views on articles explaining Christianity or Atheism and if any editors would try to do to those articles what gets done to articles about Judaism all the time, then in effect what is being attempted is the obliteration of Judaism and its holidays under the false rubric of applying WP policies and and methods in a way they are not meant to be. No one can come and tell the world what they think Judaism is, if Judaism itself does not agree with that at any point. Judaism does not need the help of WP to be "explained" to the world, it can speak for itself. IZAK (talk) 09:25, 31 October 2013 (UTC)

Section on "Biblical origins" [15:15, 1 November 2013 (UTC)][edit]

IZAK, I'm inclined to delete your whole section of Biblical origins. I don't mind changing the next section's title to "Significance and Biblical origins." But in an article where we are already being told there is too much detail here, I'm not sure that talking about atzeret in the context of Shvi'i shel Pesach or Shavuot will be helpful; on the contrary, I'm concerned it will raise more questions than it answers. I do mention the etymology to "stop" in the section entitled Atzeret: A day for assembly—or pause, and I think that covers the ground enough. StevenJ81 (talk) 15:30, 1 November 2013 (UTC)

  • Of course one needs to include those sources. I felt they were generally covered in the section Shemini:Relationship to Sukkot. I didn't choose to put in all the citations, though I certainly don't mind other direct citations being added. I thought your addition was mostly redundant, and I thought that getting into the use of atzeret on other occasions would be confusing. StevenJ81 (talk) 15:07, 3 November 2013 (UTC)
  • Hi Steven, you say: "I felt they were generally covered in the section Shemini:Relationship to Sukkot" -- but I don't see that clearly enough. There is nothing wrong, in fact it is important, to succinctly and comprehensively, give all the Biblical sources in a couple of sentences, and this is exactly what the Jewish Encyclopedia does in its opening on Shemini Atzeret, which is scholarly, logical and the correct set of premises to start from. To put the cart before the horse makes no sense when it comes to origins of Biblical holidays. And it is again the Jewish Encyclopedia that brings up the connections that come out of the Biblical usages of "atzeret" and it is certainly not too much to expect that readers would follow the explanations. Not sure how you arrived at the conclusions that readers are dumb and articles need to therefore be dumbed-down. IZAK (talk) 07:08, 5 November 2013 (UTC)
  • I don't see how you arrive at the conclusion that I think readers are dumb. I simply didn't think it worthwhile introducing the concept of "atzeret" by Shevi'i shel Pesach and the consequent "why is this one a separate holiday and not that one," etc. But fine: you want it there, it's not inappropriate, and this is a collaborative encyclopedia. StevenJ81 (talk) 14:52, 5 November 2013 (UTC)
  • BTW, we have been using tz to transliterate in this article, not ẓ, so do you mind just changing that? Thanks. StevenJ81 (talk) 15:02, 5 November 2013 (UTC)
  • Hi Steven, I know about the "tz" or "z" (American) usage in Hebrew and I stick to it myself, actually I prefer "ts" or "s" (British), so both "tz" and "ts" are valid, but when quoting from the Jewish Encyclopedia directly I just left their in there, it is the classical way that is typed in any case. Have you ever seen the headers of many articles that begin with Hebrew words, there are all sorts of usages for sounds there to represent varieties of ways such sounds are used. IZAK (talk) 11:33, 6 November 2013 (UTC)

Wikibreak: StevenJ81[edit]

I must take a Wikibreak of at least two weeks due to the real world intruding. Please keep on working on this. I'll take things up when I get back. If you must demote in the meanwhile, I understand. StevenJ81 (talk) 15:20, 7 November 2013 (UTC)


I propose to delist this article within seven days on the basis that it does not meet Wikipedia:Good article criteria. Specific concerns are the lead, clear and concise, original research, unnecessary detail, neutral and stable. The article may be re-nominated after it has been upgraded to meet the GA criteria. Aymatth2 (talk) 03:35, 16 November 2013 (UTC)

Aymatth2: I am on a Wikibreak due to pressing concerns in real life. You are welcome to delist this article immediately. In fact, I think I would prefer that you do so. StevenJ81 (talk) 15:22, 17 November 2013 (UTC)
I have delisted the article. It has great potential, but from the discussion above there is no consensus that it meets GA criteria at this time. It seems better to give time for improvements with no sense of a deadline, and renominate when the concerns have been addressed. Aymatth2 (talk) 16:29, 17 November 2013 (UTC)

The discussion above is closed. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made on the appropriate discussion page. No further edits should be made to this discussion.
  1. ^ a b Cite error: The named reference Siddur was invoked but never defined (see the help page).