Questions related to how something was in the past, and how it's developed since then.

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Why were the baraitot excluded from the mishnayot?

The Gemara (or Talmud) is full of Tannaitic teachings known as baraitot (or baraita in the singular). Nevertheless, these teachings were not codified in the Shishah Sidre'i Mishnah (Six Orders of The ...
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Historic, variant wording for birkat hamazon for women?

The Mishna Berura (halachot birchat hamazon, siman 187) mentions a variant wording of the birkat hamazon that is said by women. Precisely what is this wording and when was it used and when was it ...
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Tractate Shekalim and Daf Yomi [duplicate]

Tractate Shekalim is the only tractate of Yerushalmi included in the Daf Yomi cycle. I assume this is because it was the only lonesome tractate of Seder Moed which did not have Bavli on it, so to ...
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History: Prevalence of Torah study

Historically, when has Torah study throughout the world been most prevalent, and when has Torah suffered relatively limited study and knowledge thereof? Are there any sources that break this down? It ...
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1answer
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Did Aleppo Jews observe Purim on the 14th (regular) or 15th (Shushan Purim)?

Did the Jews of Aleppo, Syria observe Purim on the 14th or 15th of Adar? Was it believed to be old enough for the latter?
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2answers
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When did the original names of the months change?

The Haftorah this past week mentions the second month using the name Ziv. The orignal names of the months are discussed here: First-Temple-Era names of the Hebrew months? When did the original names ...
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4answers
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Why did Mordechai not let Bigson & Seresh assasinate the king?

Why did Mordechai report the assassins before they could kill King Achashverosh? What did he have to gain? Had the king been killed, Esther might have been free to go home. She definitely wouldn't ...
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1answer
79 views

How old is Purim Torah?

How old is the tradition of Purim Torah? The Wikipedia article linked from our PT policy notes a disputed claim of Purim Torah in the talmud (Hulin 139b), with some saying that while the talmud ...
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What is a Drut’syla?

This link was sent to me by a friend, about a woman who is a Drut'syla (dertseyler in Yiddish), or storyteller. The article simply says it's a Jewish tradition, but doesn't place it within Judaism. ...
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1answer
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Rishonim who wrote on Kodshim

Seder Kodshim is composed of largely currently non-applicable laws, relating to sacrifices and the running of the Temple. The Rambam wrote on Kodshim. So did Rashi and the Ba'alei Tosefos. To the ...
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1answer
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When in time did the Jewish people get sold to Greacans, according to Joel?

Yoel 4 says: 3 And they have cast lots for My people; and have given a boy for an harlot, and sold a girl for wine, and have drunk. and 6 the children also of Judah and the children of ...
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Where in the Talmud is it said that the Berber tribes' conversions were not done according to the Halakha?

H. Zafrani, a French specialist on the Berber Jewish tribes, says that the Talmud explains that these tribes' conversions were not made according to the Halakha. I wonder where in the Talmud such a ...
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1answer
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How did they ask both Rabbi Akiva and Rabbi Yehuda Ben Beseira?

The Gemara (Yevamos 108b) says: אמר רב יהודה אמר רב מאי דכתיב מימינו בכסף שתינו עצינו במחיר יבאו בשעת הסכנה נתבקשה הלכה זו הרי שיצאה מראשון בגט ומשני במיאון מהו שתחזור לראשון שכרו אדם אחד בארבע ...
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1answer
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Paintings and Sculptures of Rabbis Throughout the Ages [closed]

There are many paintings or sculptures of Rabbis from throughout history, like the Vilna Gaon (paintings), Maharal (statue), and Rambam (statue). Are they accurate (or at least somewhat accurate) ...
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When did the Chain of Semicha Break?

When was the chain of Semicha from Mt. Sinai broken? Originally, Semicha was a direct line from Moshe, but when did it break?
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2answers
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Who was for and against Jews fighting back against the Germans in WW2?

There was a famous controversy regarding the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising that was the largest uprising the Jews performed against the Nazis. I have heard tell that a lot of Rabbonim banned fighting back ...
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1answer
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When did the bar mitzvah ceremony originate, and when did it take on its current form?

In the extract of David Rosenberg's book An Educated Man that I've looked at out of curiosity, he makes mention of Jesus of Nazareth presumably undertaking bar mitzvah studies and chanting the ...
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Rainbows prior to the Mabul

Did the rainbow exist as we know today, prior to the Mabul? Was it the same, different, or it did not exist at all prior to the Mabul? (sources please)
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Sefardim starting to study the Talmud with Rashi and Tosfot

When did the sefardim start to study the Talmud with Rashi and Tosfot? And which books did they use before knowing about Rashi and Tosfot?
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How big is the baalei tshuva movement resulting from the “Art Scroll Revolution”?

Since 1975, Art Scroll Publishing, and its non-profit arm The Mesorah Foundation, have produced Hebrew-English annotated translations of Tanach, the Mishna, the Babylonian Talmud, the Kitzur Shulchan ...
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1answer
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Why do some Rabbis wear a black frock coat?

How did the black frock coat come to be garb of some roshei yeshivos and other senior rabbis? Related Did "Litvish" frock coats button left-on-right? and Haredi clothing
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3answers
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Where does “probeh” come from?

Every time recently that I've heard of an Orthodox congregation conducting a search for a rabbi, the stage at which the rabbi visits the community for a Shabbat and auditions for the position is ...
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2answers
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How was the Torah written by Moshe (were there spaces)?

Someone told me that before Ezra Hasofer the Torahs did not have spaces (he said that according to some opinions not even between words). It was just given over when learned where the parshas ...
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Q on Men of the Great Assembly [duplicate]

When did the Men of the Great Assembly start and cease to function and why? What was their relationship to the Sanhedrin and to beit Hillel and Shammai?
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Ger Tzedek: Avraham Ben Avraham

The famous story of the ger tzedek Avraham Ben Avraham has been claimed to be a legend. Are there any defenses of its authenticity such as references to it before the 19th century?
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1answer
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Did shadchanim suggest the shidduch?

Today, the role of the Shadchan is, depending on your community, to suggest to the prospective match that they meet, to introduce them, to arrange their meetings, and/or to advocate / be the ...
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287 views

Source of Ramban's famous debate

Where can one find the 'disputation of Barcelona' between Pablo Cristiani and the Ramban?
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the nature of an argument between the Wurtzberger rov and Rav Shamshon Refoel Hirsch

Does anyone know the nature of a famous argument between the Wurtzberger rov and Rav Shamshon Refoel Hirsch? I think it was to do with the extent a kehilah must follow thier rov or vice versa.
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Did Rebbi arrange the Mishna at the end of his life?

There's a famous line in the Gemara "וכי רבי לא שנאה ר' חייא מנין לו". It means that if Rebbi didn't teach a concept in a Mishna, Rabbi Chiya can't know it. Let's assume here it means that if it's ...
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2answers
210 views

Animal sacrifice in Judaism — was it copied from other religions?

Why is there animal sacrifice in Judaism? Animal sacrifice was found in other religions before Judaism, so could it be that the Jews copied the practice of animal sacrifice from other religions?
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1answer
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Why did Hadrian care about hair specifically?

In Midrash Eicha 5:5 It says that Hadrian (May his Bones be Crushed) commanded that if a Jew was found with hair, his head should be removed? Midrash Eicha What is pshat here, is it talking about ...
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What did the Arizal's contemporaries write about him?

Over here, ray posits that the validity of certain schools of Jewish philosophy rests on the Arizal's word. The Arizal was most famous for his teachings in Safed (though he only lived there for two ...
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How was kosher cheese made before artificial rennet?

I understood that cheese is made by throwing in Stomach hide into milk and letting it congeal. How was kosher cheese made (where one's not allowed to mix milk and meat)? Now we use chemicals or ...
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4answers
197 views

Did Jewish Men Always Have Beards Throughout History

When did Jews start keeping their beards? Did Moshe's generation have beards? What is the historical development behind this phenomenon?
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1answer
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Precedent for Forbidding Conversion

The Syrian community has a Takkanah in place which bars conversion. In addition to forbidding conversion under their own auspices, they also "Never accept a convert or a child born of a convert", as ...
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1answer
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What is the oldest work to incorporate an acrostic of shem Havaya in the opening?

I have seen many books where the first letters of the first 4 works in the first sentence of the work spell out the shem Havaya (the Tetragrammaton, yud-kay and vav kay). What was the first Jewish ...
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How and when did fedoras arise as acceptable headwear?

Today I learned that the fedora was originally a woman's hat, invented/popularized for women in the late 19th century and only migrating into menswear after 1924 when Prince Edward of England started ...
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Does Jacob's Well in present-day Nablus/Shechem have a Jewish tradition associated with it?

There's a well in present-day Shechem (Nablus) called "Jacob's Well." It has an Orthodox Christian church on top of it right now. I was wondering if there is any Jewish tradition that Jacob dug this ...
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Timeline of the frequency of Bedikos

The Talmud states (Mishna, top of Niddah 13a): כל היד המרבה לבדוק בנשים משובחת The more bedikos (checks for menstruation) that a woman does, the better This is brought in the Shulchan Aruch ...
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2answers
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Whatever happened to plumbas?

Not so many years ago, a plumba (apparently created by Rabbi Jacob Joseph) -- a metal tag attached to the wing of a kosher chicken indicating that it was, indeed, kosher -- on a kosher chicken was the ...
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Source of various versions of Haamek Davar

There are commonly used versions of Chumash Haamek Davar in which the respective Haamek Davar commentaries differ widely from one another. I mean that the differences are not a word here and a letter ...
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154 views

Why is the Miracle of Oil mentioned so much later than records of Chanukah celebrations?

The miracle of oil isn't really mentioned until the Talmud, and is absent from all earlier sources for Chanukah like the Books of Maccabees, Josephus, and others. I have seen historians claim that ...
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1answer
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Paro enslaved Yisrael but they kept the good land — was that normal?

When Yisrael come to Mitzrayim Paro gives them the choice land of Goshen. Later another paro enslaves them but apparently lets them keep the good land, because they're still there during the plagues. ...
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1answer
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Specific writings of the Vilna Gaon

1- What writings of the Vilna Gaon do we have that are not commentary or textual emendations? 2- Do we possess any writings of the Vilna Gaon that talk about or reference his contemporaries or ...
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Early descriptions of the Foundation Stone

I am looking for early descriptions of the "Foundation Stone" (אבן שתיה) -- the huge flat rock now enclosed by the mosque known as the "Dome of the Rock," and believed by many Jewish scholars to have ...
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Rabi Yochanan Ben Zakai, or Josephus?

Josephus in Wars 3. 8. 9. records a story of how he meets Vespasian, tells him that he will become ruler, and Titus will take over his position. Vespasian, although sceptical at first eventually ...
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Where are the lost tribes?

Are they spread all round the nations? If so, how will they still be Jewish, surely they will have assimilated so many generations later? Or are they spread within the Jewish nation? I learnt in the ...
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Who wrote the Ritva on Gittin?

I've heard many things about the author of "Ritva on Gittin." It might have been the Ritva, it might not have been. There's also the "חידושים מכתב יד," which some ascribe to the Ritva, while others ...
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I would like to see an actual Vilna Shas

I would like to see the pages of an actual Vilna Shas. I know there are many many reprints out there in bookstores, my bookshelf, and websites like http://www.e-daf.com, but that's not what I want. I ...
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Just how overpriced was Efron's burial cave anyway?

In B'reishit 23 Avraham pays 400 shekels to Efron for the cave of Machpelah. This seems to be an enormous amount of money and Rashi suggests it's even worse than it appears (referring to larger ...