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22
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6answers
671 views

Looking for more information about a story of positive atheism/heresy

In a 2006 article (original link no longer available), Rabbi Jonathan Sacks tells the following story: “DO YOU believe,” the disciple asked the rabbi, “that God created everything for a purpose?” ...
14
votes
1answer
474 views

Understanding “The Bruriah Incident”

Masecheth 'Avodah Zarah (18b) cryptically mentions "מעשה דברוריה" - "The Beruriah Incident" - as a reason R' Meir fled to Bavel. Rashi (ad loc) explains that R' Meir was teasing his wife (the noted ...
11
votes
2answers
220 views

Are these two urban legends about perceptions of God's help for Jews true?

The following story is told as an urban legend: I don't know if the following story is true, but I'll let you decide. Kenya's star soccer player used to offer a prayer for victory before every ...
11
votes
1answer
161 views

The Alshich and Lavan

There are many sources online mentioning the story of how the Alshich once gave a Drasha and the Arizal was present. In the Drasha he elaborated on the 100 different ways Lavan deceived Yaakov. At one ...
11
votes
2answers
220 views

Were the people of Chelm really unintelligent?

There are many stories that are told over about the people who lived in Chelm. They all have the theme of: the people in Chelm were fairly unintelligent. Where did this come from? Is it true? It ...
10
votes
2answers
345 views

Where are the magic cucumbers discussed in the Talmud?

Where are the magic cucumbers discussed in the Gemara by a Rabbi proud of his knowledge? Are magic cucumbers discussed elsewhere? Thanks.
10
votes
2answers
485 views

Why was שמאי holding a ruler?

The Bavli, Shabas 31 amud 1, has two stories in which a gentile came to Shamay asking to be converted to Judaism, upon which Shamay "pushed him with the construction cubit in his hand". Rashi explains ...
10
votes
2answers
277 views

Was Rabbi Akiva obligated to divulge that his daughter was destined to die on her wedding day?

Inspired by this question (perhaps even a duplicate). From the Talmud (Shabbat 156b) (Soncino Translation): From R. Akiba too [we learn that] Israel is free from planetary influence. For R. Akiba ...
8
votes
3answers
602 views

What does the angel Gavriel represent?

In trying to come up with an answer to this question, I became aware that the angel Gavriel plays a common role in several aggados and midrashim. Not only in the midrash with Moshe and the burning ...
8
votes
4answers
663 views

Werewolf in the Torah

I have been told that there are Pirushim on the Torah who speak of werewolves. Can anyone locate them?
7
votes
5answers
704 views

Rashi's Daughters wearing Tefillin

There is a commonly held "tradition" that Rashi's daughters wore Tefillin. One highly educated rabbi/professor has publicly stated that he's spent 35 years searching for a source but to no avail. ...
7
votes
1answer
778 views

Why did the rich Gentile buy a pearl?

In the story of Yosef Mokir Shabbat, Yosef is a Jew who honors Shabbat above all, and ends up becoming very rich because of it. There was a very rich Gentile who was told that all of his wealth would ...
7
votes
1answer
103 views

Who said many agados were to wake students?

Someone told me this morning that he had, years before, seen a commentary published in the back of a volume of g'mara, likely Maharsha or Maharam, say that many of the agados throughout shas were said ...
6
votes
1answer
158 views

Source for Dubno Maggid's rebuke of the Vilna Gaon?

In a shiur I heard that the Vilna Gaon begged the Dubno Maggid to give him mussar (rebuke) after repeatedly declining the Maggid responded that It is not so difficult to be a Gaon, cloistered in ...
6
votes
1answer
47 views

What was the ריב"א thinking?

In ריקאנטי number 166 (brought down here, #4), he brings a story about the ריב"א: ושמעתי כי ריב"א חלה חוליו שמת בו וחל יוה"כ באותם הימים וא"ל הרופאים אם לא תאכלו ודאי תמות ואם תאכל שמא לא תחיה ...
6
votes
1answer
210 views

Jews were on 49th level of Tumah. Says who?

There is a well known idea that when the Jews left Egypt during the Exodus, they were on the "forty-ninth level of tumah". Many explanations are given for this and it is expounded upon at length by a ...
6
votes
2answers
134 views

“Hit him with a hammer until he pays attention!” Literally?

Abaye makes a rather harsh judgment on someone who is unattentive in prayer (Ber. 34a): Hit him with a hammer until he pays attention! Is this meant to be taken as Halachah? Or is it just meant to ...
5
votes
2answers
173 views

Abigail's Thigh

The Talmud in Megillah 14b says that Abigail revealed her thigh, and that David followed her for 3 parasangs in his desire for her. In Tosafos it is asked how this righteous woman could have revealed ...
5
votes
1answer
344 views

Source for story about The Rabbi and the prostitute

I learned a great Gemara about a rabbi who visited a famous prostitute. But before he consummated the deal, his tallitot slapped him on the face, reminding him of his faith. Where's the story? Any ...
5
votes
1answer
186 views

why was R. Eliezer ben Hyrcanus excommunicated?

Bava Metzia 59b says that at the end of the episode of the Oven of Akhnai, Rabbi Eliezer ben Hyrcanus was excommunicated. (Apparently there's a makhloket about whether this was nidui or cherem.) The ...
5
votes
1answer
243 views

Sherlock Holmes-ian deduction in the Talmud

I remember learning a story in the Talmud (I think) and am trying to find the source. I'm a little fuzzy on the details, but this is what I remember. There was a Talmudic Rabbi who was sold into ...
5
votes
2answers
70 views

How do different scholars define “aggadah”?

It is common to conceive of Shas (Bavli and Yerushalmi) as being an admixture of halakha and aggadah, and I've no doubt that people have differed from one another on the precise delineations of each. ...
5
votes
1answer
56 views

Chafez Chayim checked copies of (which) books?

I've heard that the Chafetz Chayim inspected each page of each printed copy of the Mishna B'rura to be sure that it was printed correctly (with no large ink splotches or the like). Is there a ...
5
votes
1answer
73 views

What did the Or Sameach do for Rabbi Yaakov Ruderman?

I have heard that Rabbi Yaakov Yitzchak Ruderman of Ner Israel quoted Rabbi Meir Simcha (the Or Sameach or Meshech Chochma) in almost every, or possibly even in every, Torah address to the school. I ...
5
votes
2answers
283 views

Is there any precedent to read the first 11 chapters of Genesis as metaphorical?

I believe this will be related to a similar question about a statement by Rabbi Sacks. Rabbi Jeremy Wieder said in a lecture titled Non Literal Interpretation of Scripture in Jewish Tradition (and ...
5
votes
0answers
253 views

Where did the “a cat will always be a cat” story about the Rambam come from?

I've seen and heard a story about the Rambam told multiple times along the lines of this particularly concise retelling: There is a beautiful story of a disagreement that Maimonides had with a ...
5
votes
0answers
68 views

On What Subjects Does One Say Birchas HaTorah?

Must one say Birchas Hatorah before learning Aggadata in the Gemara? Biographies like Shem Hagedolim (a biography of various Rabbonim written by the Chida)? Artscroll biographies?
4
votes
2answers
402 views

What exactly is the story behind the person who wrote the Akdomus (said on Shavous)

On Shavous morning we say the poem Akdomus, and supposedly there's a fascinating story with the Baal Akdomus and the Sambatyon river (something about it being quiet on Shabbos which is why he was only ...
4
votes
2answers
179 views

What is the story of Yehudit which takes place during the Chanukkah Story?

I have heard many varying and conflicting stories about Yehudit and her effect on the war with the Greeks at Chanukkah time and was wondering if anyone has sources for her story and what it truly is. ...
4
votes
1answer
60 views

Is there a Jewish tradition of God reviving Israel at Sinai?

I once heard that according to "Jewish tradition", though it could be mere hearsay, that there was a story or legend that when the Israelites saw God's presence upon Mt. Sinai (or heard His audible ...
4
votes
2answers
135 views

Story about “simple Teshuva” via never telling a lie

I read a story over shabbas from Tales of Tzaddikim, Bamidbar pg 251-252, Published by Mesorah Publications, and it quoted it from Sefer Chassidim, Siman 6407. I opened up my Sefer Chassidim and the ...
4
votes
1answer
109 views

Midrash on children and the letter shapes?

I've heard about a midrash that discusses a day when little children took over the study hall and, by interpreting the shapes of the Hebrew letters, articulated many of Judaism's most powerful ...
4
votes
3answers
120 views

Information about Arab Travelers in Aggadah

Pesachim 110b and Bava Metzia 86a mention ההוא טייעא‏ in the midst of aggadic stories. Professor Jastrow translates this word as a traveler, esp. an Arabian caravan merchant. Soncino Translates it ...
4
votes
2answers
200 views

Is Aggadah the same thing as Midrash?

(Inspired by a comment on this question.) What characteristics define Aggadah and Midrash, and how are they related? If the distinction is merely that Aggadah is a more general category of "legend" ...
4
votes
1answer
120 views

What is the earliest source of the story of Serach bas Asher and the harp?

This post indicates that the earliest source for the story of Serach bas Asher and the harp, wherein she notified Yakov that Yosef was still alive in a very subtle musical fashion, is a very late ...
4
votes
1answer
245 views

Source for story of Rashi, the King, and the Four Horsemen

There is a story (you can read the details here) about Rashi telling a King that he will conquer Yerushalaim for 3 days and return with 3 horses and 3 riders. The King returned with 4, but as they ...
4
votes
1answer
132 views

Are coupons for Chometz - Chometz? II

Inspired by yydl's question. I read that in Russia where bread was unpurchasable without "bread ration cards", people would save them throughout Pesach and use them after Pesach. One such person ...
3
votes
1answer
278 views

Story of Rabbi Who Burned Out His Eyes

I once heard a story about a rabbi who was given a test by God, in which the Satan was sent in the form of a beautiful woman to entice him. He would not look at the Satan, and when pressed, he had one ...
3
votes
1answer
80 views

source for a story: man who went to milk a lion

When I was a kid I heard the following story at least a few times in grade school from the school headmaster (probably around Rosh Hashanah time). It's based on a Jewish legend or midrash, and I'd ...
3
votes
1answer
78 views

Source for Osnat's Locket

I've heard that the reason Joseph knew he could marry Osnat was because he saw her wearing a locket / pendant with a Hebrew inscription on it so he knew she was a Hebrew. Has anyone heard this story ...
3
votes
1answer
144 views

Why did the Baba Sali leave Yavneh?

I remember hearing that the Baba Sali very suddenly decided to move away from Yavneh. Does anyone know the story of what exactly occurred?
3
votes
2answers
143 views

Which 20th century rabbi said “G-d normally doesn't stop the ill-intentioned”?

I recall hearing the following story: There was a non-observant Israeli Jew who kept having visions of his deceased father telling him he should do more religiously. Finally he was about to turn on ...
3
votes
1answer
95 views

Source for story of rabbi's claiming land said “you're both mine”

I heard the following story recently (though I paraphrase, and may have some details wrong): When Rabbi M'nachem Perr lived in Queens, New York, he had an Italian, non-Jewish neighbor who, during ...
3
votes
1answer
70 views

Which Tana said the shem hafemorash and why?

I remember learning a gemarah (midrash?) that one of the tanaim (possibly R' Chanina [ben Dosa]) said the shem hameforash explicitly. Can you source this story and explain why the shem hameforash was ...
3
votes
1answer
59 views

What was/is the leviathan as described in Tanach and Rabbinic literature?

Today the Hebrew word "leviathan" is translated as a whale. But the leviathan of the Tanach seems to be some kind of sea creature. See Job 41:1-34. Tehillim 74 there is an implication that G-d ...
3
votes
0answers
62 views

Source for story about Chazon Ish and mischief

I once heard a story along the lines of the following: A man brought his 7 or 8 year old son to meet the Chazon Ish. He wanted to show him what a masmid his son was. The Chazon Ish, after asking ...
3
votes
0answers
71 views

Which of the Napoleonic wars had no casualties?

The Chasam Sofer (droshos 8th Tamuz) writes about a war in the year 1809 with no causalities on our side. Can anyone tell us which war this was, and where these details may be recorded?
3
votes
0answers
65 views

What happened to the spoils from Egypt?

According to Pesachim 119a, Yosef collected all the wealth of the world during the famine and b'nei Yisrael took all of it out during the exodus. The g'mara then traces what happened to it from ...
3
votes
0answers
108 views

A Mashal of HaShem as a crazy king and Moshe as His weak-kneed friend?

The Gemara (Ber. 32a) quotes R' El'azar that when HaShem wanted to destroy Bnei Yisrael and Moshe intervened, it is comparable to a king who beat his son terribly, and the king's friend was at his ...
3
votes
1answer
52 views

Why did R' Yochanan ben Zakkai ask for multiple things?

In Gittin 56b there is a conversation between Vespasian and R' Yochanan ben Zakkai. Vespasian offers to grant a wish of R' Yochanan's אלא בעי מינאי מידי דאתן לך R' Yochanan proceeds to ask for 3 ...