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

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2answers
2k views

Why do the Philistines have many Giants?

Were the Philistine giants bigger than the Israelites? Were giants common among the Israelites' neighbors? Did they have better nutrition? (Just curious.) Were the Israelites typically smaller in ...
6
votes
4answers
694 views

Why use Babylonian calendar instead of our own?

Why did the Hebrews not create their own calendar system instead of copying the pagan Babylonians'? I find it interesting that they use a pagan calendar which often honours pagan gods. Why is this ...
6
votes
2answers
147 views

Looking for biographical information about R. Avraham Halevi Fattal

I'm writing something for which I need a capsule biography of him. So far, about all I know is: He is the father-in-law of (יבלח"ט) R. Ovadiah Yosef. He was an important figure in the Syrian Jewish ...
5
votes
1answer
110 views

How and when did the word “Kollel” come to mean “an institution for paying scholars to study Torah”?

How and when did the word "Kollel" come to mean "an institution for paying scholars to study Torah"? If I'm not mistaken, the Hebrew word "kollel" means "includes." But today we've all heard of the ...
6
votes
1answer
398 views

Where did the Levitical priesthood go?

Has the sacrificial system of the Torah been abandoned? Do those in the Tribe of Levi still act as priest? I have just never seen or heard of anyone making sacrifices of animals or going to a ...
12
votes
1answer
258 views

Kubutz and shuruk in Polish/Hungarian pronunciation

What is the origin or basis of the Polish and Hungarian prevalence for pronouncing "oo" vowels as "ee"? The variants of other vowels are easier to understand in the context of phonological shifting, ...
16
votes
2answers
431 views

Jews under Charlemagne

Jews under Charlemagne in the 8th century and the Carolingian emperors were accredited food providers in addition to providing wine for Christian mass. I am looking for halachic responses to these ...
10
votes
3answers
236 views

What's the origin of having more than one name?

I suppose this is more of a history question: as in when did Jewish people start naming their children with more than one name? But I would also be interested in knowing the circumstances behind it? ...
14
votes
8answers
825 views

“If God had not delivered us from Egypt we would still be slaves”? Really?

One part of the Pesach seder that has always bothered me is saying that if God had not taken us out of Mitzrayim at that time we would still be slaves today. This seems lacking in faith in God; ...
8
votes
5answers
285 views

Learning History on Shabbos

Is there a Halachic problem to read and or learn the topic of History on Shabbos for enjoyment purposes? and why?
2
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1answer
222 views

Who were the Magharians?

Title says it all. Who were the Magharians? It seems like they were some group of Pre-Christianity Jews or something like that that lived in caves?
12
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2answers
149 views

Sukkah in the Soviet Union

The opinion of the Shulchan Aruch Harav is that one isn't allowed to build a Sukkah on public property (because it is considered stolen). In the Soviet Union all property was nationalized and they ...
9
votes
1answer
412 views

What was the topic debated in the series of Satmar/Lubavitch talks?

I'd heard there was a point in the late twentieth century when the Lubavitcher Rebbe (R' Menachem Mendel Schneurson) would give an address, which would be relayed to the Satmar Rebbe (R' Yoel ...
15
votes
4answers
494 views

What is the source of the Magen Dovid (Star of David)?

What is the source of the Magen Dovid (Star of David) in Rabbinic Judaism? When was it first used, and for what?
10
votes
1answer
81 views

Who instituted the Nusach of the Mi SheBerachs that we say?

Who instituted the Nusach of the Mi SheBerachs that we say for a newborn, for a sick person, after an Aliyah, etc.?
10
votes
3answers
187 views

Who instituted the Musaf prayer?

According to the Gemara in Brachot, there are two views about Shacharit, Mincha, and Maariv: one is that the Avot instituted them, and one is that they correspond to the daily tmidin and the burning ...
11
votes
3answers
502 views

What has the Holocaust taught us as a people?

The Holocaust was one of the most horrific and important events in our history. What have rabbis said are lessons we should take from it? I am looking for lessons that should apply to all Jews, ...
6
votes
1answer
714 views

How did the Ten Martyrs actually die?

On Yom Kippur and Tisha B'av we read about the Ten Martyrs who were gathered and killed by Emperor Hadrian to atone for the Sale of Yosef HaTzadik. In addition to the idea that the Ten Martyrs didn't ...
5
votes
1answer
115 views

Community/Synagogue Honorifics

I visited the Rare Books section of the JTS in New York in Dec. 2009, to view an old manuscript from Kezmarok, Slovakia. I selected certain pages that I was interested in translating, on behalf of ...
4
votes
2answers
299 views

Source of appellation “Shimshon HaGibor”

I've heard it claimed that the expression "Shimshon HaGibor" (Samson the Mighty) [as a descriptive of Shimshon in Tanach] was invented by the Zionists, to promote their "strong Jew" narrative. Is this ...
8
votes
2answers
360 views

When did people stop wearing Tefilin all day?

At what point in history did most religous people stop wearing Tefilin all day?
9
votes
1answer
192 views

Chamisha Asar B'Av - when did the Minhag stop?

The Gemara Taanis 31. says אמר רבן שמעון בן גמליאל לא היו ימים טובים לישראל כחמשה עשר באב וכיוה"כ שבהן בנות ירושלים יוצאות ... וחולות בכרמים ומה היו אומרות בחור שא נא עיניך וראה מה אתה בורר לך אל תתן ...
5
votes
1answer
51 views

Choosing Rabbonim in shtetlach

How were Rabbonim chosen in Shetlach? Was there an Election (like in Crown Heights), and if so, who were eligible to vote? Was it all men were allowed, or just learned members of the community?
4
votes
1answer
87 views

seeking text of a notice published by the Malbim

Someone told the following story today (or something like the following story. I may be remembering it incorrectly to some extent). He said he had gotten it from a book called Em Habanim S'mecha, ...
5
votes
0answers
92 views

Why are the kinos about Jeremiah's appeal to the avos out of order?

The kina (elegy, said on the ninth of Av) about Jeremiah's going to ask the avos to pray (kina 21 in at least some versions) is said before the one about Tziyon's telling him to do so (22). Why this ...
11
votes
2answers
133 views

Did Shuls in Europe display their countries' flags prior to the holocaust?

Prior to the holocaust, did Shuls in Europe display their countries' respective flags? Do Shuls currently display their countries' flags? When did it start and why?
10
votes
3answers
340 views

Pre-1948, what flags were found in American synagogues?

Certainly throughout the 1970s and 1980s, it was not at all uncommon to see an American synagogue where the Aron Kodesh was flanked by American and Israeli flags. Pre-1948, was there just an American ...
3
votes
1answer
192 views

Which rabbis forbade cars 100 years ago?

"Venishmartem Meod Lenafshoseichem" I heard that there were Rabbonim about 100 years ago who forbade cars, saying that they were dangerous. Does anyone know who they were?
6
votes
1answer
279 views

Who divided the Tehillim into days?

Who divided the Sefer Tehillim into daily sections (both day of week and day of month)?
6
votes
1answer
212 views

Did the Sefer Torah written by the Maharam of Rottenberg survive the Holocaust?

There is a famous story of the Maharam copying a Sefer Torah written by Moshe Rabbeinu. Before passing, he threw it in the river by the castle in which he was arrested. This Sefer Torah reached ...
11
votes
3answers
254 views

Who was the first Chasidishe Rabbi to settle in the USA?

Who was the first Chasidishe Rabbi to settle in the USA? Where did he settle?
8
votes
3answers
275 views

Why the split between Sefardim and Ashkenzim?

Why is there a much bigger split between Sefardim and Ashkenzim and not, say, between Sefardim and people who lived in Bavel? The distance between Spain, and say, Israel should have been big enough to ...
10
votes
2answers
194 views

Did the Rosh (Rabbeinu Asher) describe the culture clash moving from medieval Germany to Spain?

Rabbi Asher (the "Rosh") moved from medieval Germany to Spain. I know he describes some different halachic practices that were done in Spain (e.g. linen tzitzis); but does he describe the difference ...
0
votes
1answer
192 views

What was the 'evolution' of determining who is part of the Jewish people?

Starting with Abraham and continuing till modern halacha. how has the halacha regarding who is part of the Jewish people changed? What were the causes of the change, and the reasoning, and the change ...
33
votes
2answers
458 views

Were slave-related commandments observed in America?

Since there was slavery in the Americas between their discovery and 1856, do we know of any Jewish slave-owners there who observed slavery-related laws of Judaism?
7
votes
2answers
399 views

לשון הקדש: the oldest language?

Rashi to B'reshis 2:23 says that the language Adam spoke was one that Rashi calls לשון הקדש, lashon hakodesh (or l'shon hakodesh), and that contains the words אִשָּׁה and אִישׁ. Keeping to Rashi's ...
2
votes
0answers
130 views

Who gave the “yadav rav lo” ordination a few decades ago?

According to Rabbi Hoenig's article, "The Orthodox Rabbi as Military Chaplain" (Tradition Fall 1976, emphasis in the original): This situation brought up the question of proper ordination, the ...
3
votes
1answer
98 views

'fixed' wording of the g'mara justified by found mss.?

In the margins of the g'mara are many notations indicating changes that various rabbis (Bach, G'ra, Tzon Kadashim, Shita M'kubetzes, etc.) made in the wording of the g'mara, seemingly to resolve ...
7
votes
1answer
178 views

Amon and Moav today

The Halacha is that a Jewish woman may not marry a convert of Amon and Moav. Is there any way to know who is a descendant of Amon and Moav today?
12
votes
2answers
261 views

Why isn't there a single, centralized Sanhedrin today?

It seems that many mitzvot in the Torah are opened to interpretation in some way, potentially subject to ruling by the Sanhedrin. And some mitzvot (examples below) seem to require the presence of the ...
10
votes
1answer
287 views

Eldad HaDani's Lasting Influence - Is there any?

Eldad HaDani is (apparently) considered today to have been a fraud. According to this Wikipedia article, he was a traveler who told stories of his place of origin, which he claimed was a sovereign ...
13
votes
1answer
443 views

What is the oldest manuscript of Torah Shebaal Peh?

We don't have (and more's the pity!) R' Yehudah Hanassi's autograph copy of the Mishnah (well, okay, it's a controversial issue whether he actually wrote it or only arranged it orally), or Ravina and ...
14
votes
2answers
4k views

All people in world are Jews?

According to the Book of Genesis, Noah saved his family and representatives of every animal from a flood by constructing a boat. So since all of humanity should be descended from Noah, does that mean ...
11
votes
6answers
300 views

Is there a good visual companion to Tanach?

I'm looking for a visual companion to Tanach, i.e. maps, charts, and timelines. So when I'm learning Sefer Yehoshua, for example, I can see maps that chart the various battles and such. Are there any ...
5
votes
1answer
239 views

Do we know anything else about the calculus problem solved by Rabbi Moshe Feinstein?

The biographical sketch of Rabbi Moshe Feinstein that appears in Igrot Moshe volume 8 describes the following (my translation): The Communist takeover meant the schools taught against religion. ...
10
votes
2answers
139 views

What was the dietary source of calcium in Talmudic times?

The Mishna in Ketubot Chapter 5 describes the basic diet of a working-class woman at the time (around the year 200): ה,ז [ח] המשרה את אשתו על ידי שליש--לא יפחות לה מקביים חיטים, או מארבעת קבים ...
4
votes
1answer
51 views

What medical condition was this “epilepsy that causes mental instability at all times”?

Rambam's laws of testimony (written about 800 years ago) describe disqualification for testimony (eidut) due to mental instability. He writes: The epileptic is disqualified when having a seizure, ...
8
votes
3answers
431 views

Did Rabbi Dovid Feinstein of Uzda wear tefilin that were Ktav Ari or Ktav Beit Yosef? What about his son?

The biographical sketch of Rabbi Moshe Feinstein that appears in the beginning of Igrot Moshe volume 8 states that his father, Rabbi Dovid Feinstein of Uzda, was born and raised Hassidic, but took on ...
7
votes
4answers
292 views

Moshe's divorcing Tzipora

Moshe refrained from marital relations with Tzipora for almost forty years, so as to be able to receive prophecy at any moment (Shabas 87:1). 1. Did he divorce her? 2. If not, why not?
9
votes
4answers
3k views

Is a rabbi required to be married?

I have heard (I honestly cannot remember where...) that to be a rabbi a man must be married. Is there any truth to this? I am more interested in knowing if this "WAS" true in time of Jesus, than if ...