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

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5
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4answers
380 views

Why was the Gemara written in Aramaic?

The Gemara (the Bavli and Yerushalmi) are the fundamental texts that we possess of the Oral law. Why were they written in Aramaic? At first glance, Ravina and R' Ashi probably knew that this will be ...
3
votes
1answer
287 views

Why was the Mishna written in Hebrew while the Gemara wasn't?

By the time of the Mishna, people speaking in Aramaic on a day-to-day basis. Nonetheless, R' Yehuda Hanasi wrote the Mishna in Hebrew. So were the Toseftas and the Braisos. Why? On the other hand, ...
7
votes
1answer
77 views

When did the spice box get it's classical shape?

All Havdala Bsamamim boxes I have ever seen are in the shape of a tower. Why (and when) did it take on that classical shape (rather than just a silver box)?
5
votes
2answers
278 views

When did the use of Rashei Tevot, Heh Kuf, הק׳ in writings, books, letters, etc., begin?

Perhaps I'm among the last to have found this out, but it took me quite a while to understand why, in a signature, the name was preceeded by a הק׳. THe Ozar Rashei Tevot book has 31 different ...
6
votes
3answers
482 views

Illegitimacy in 18th-19th century Europe

I have been capturing genealogical information (Birth, Marriage, Death, Tombstones) in the Spis Region of Slovakia, which includes Jews who migrated from Galicia, parts of Hungary, or were living in ...
4
votes
2answers
147 views

Tu B'shvat Seder

Where did the idea of doing a Seder on Tu b'Shvat come from? Why a Seder, not just the eating of fruit? Why do we call it a Seder if there is no formalized way of doing it?
4
votes
1answer
104 views

List of titles before different Rabbis

It is customary to put many honorific titles before most modern day Rabbis (I've even seen seforim that write Harav Hagaon etc. etc. So-And-So). Many times one sees long lines of adjactives praising ...
11
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4answers
1k views

Why don't we seek converts to Judaism?

Why don't Jews try to convert other people to their religion, outside of Israel? Since Christian and Islamic forces try to make them a minority shouldn't they also try to convert people to grow ...
7
votes
2answers
266 views

Start of the Upsherin ceremony

When did it become popular to have a ceremony for a boys Upsherin, his first haircut when he reaches the age of three?
19
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4answers
2k views

Why is the Jewish Population so small?

Judaism is one of the oldest religions, but there aren't many Jews compared to Muslims and Christians. What are main reasons behind that?
16
votes
2answers
190 views

What defines a country to be a legitimate country?

There are a few Halachas that apply to a Jew's relationship with his country. For example, Dina Dmalchusa, another is not to rebel (although its Halachic strength is disputed, all agree that under ...
7
votes
2answers
126 views

What financial arrangement did Rambam have with his jeweler brother?

I was taught in yeshiva that as a young man, Rambam just studied Torah and was supported by his brother, who was a jewel merchant. Then his brother died at sea, so Rambam became a physician. Recently ...
4
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2answers
172 views

Shabbat songs that rhyme only with Hashem's real name [duplicate]

Possible Duplicate: Pronouncing Hashem's name in a song Many songs we sing and the Shabbat table we use the word Hashem instead of Hashem's real name even when the song was written in ...
5
votes
2answers
155 views

Mitzvos on Mount Sinai?

Was Moshe Rabbeinu obligated in mitzvos during the two periods of 40 days that he spent on Mount Sinai? Did he keep mitzvos (whether obligated to or not) during that time? I ask because the Torah ...
10
votes
1answer
791 views

Four Holy Cities

I have often seen reference to the Four Holy Cities: Jerusalem, Hebron, Safed and Tiberias. What is the earliest source to reference this? Why these four cities? Has there ever been a different count? ...
9
votes
2answers
124 views

What is the provenance of Maseches Sofrim

Who wrote Maseches Sofrim and when did he live. Is it accepted by everyone? The Rashba in Brachos 34a writes that is one of the minor masechtes that were authored by the early sages. He reiterates in ...
41
votes
4answers
2k views

How do we know that the civil Saturday is the correct Shabbat?

Disclaimer: I am not a religious Jew, this question is only out of curiosity. I understand that observant Jews observe Shabbat from Friday night to Saturday. And from this question and this it seems ...
5
votes
3answers
236 views

Mathematics in Cheder

I recall reading that their is a pesak/teshuvah/report by a major posek, perhaps an early "later" Acharon, (Rabbi Akiva Eiger zt"l) which noted that at least elementary arithmatic or mathematics was ...
5
votes
7answers
2k views

Which surnames are exclusively Kohanim's and why?

It is well known that is a person has a certain surname (last name) they are more likely to be a Kohen. Examples: Cohen - for obvious reasons Kahn Katz - stands for "Kohen Tzedek" What are some ...
14
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2answers
224 views

Who is the composer of Haneiros Halolu?

When we light the Menora we say Haneiros Halolu. Who composed these words?
0
votes
2answers
69 views

Yochanan Kohain Gadol

The Gemara Brachos 29 tells us that Yochanan Kohain Gadol at 80 years old went off the Derech and became a צדוקי. How does this jive with the Gemara in Yuma עברו רוב שנותיו ולא חטא, שוב לא יחטא - 38 - ...
8
votes
3answers
856 views

Were the Books of Maccabees found in the Dead Sea Scrolls?

Were there copies of any of the Books of Maccabees (and/or Megillas Antiochus) found amongst in the Dead Sea Scrolls?
2
votes
0answers
44 views

בימי מתתיהו בן יוחנן כהן גדול - who was the Kohain Gadol? [duplicate]

Possible Duplicate: Bmei Matisyahu ben Yochnan Kohen Godol בימי מתתיהו בן יוחנן כהן גדול - In the days of Matisyahu ben Yochanan Kohain Gadol --"Al Hanisim" prayer said on Chanuka Who ...
4
votes
2answers
191 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. ...
7
votes
2answers
110 views

When did Ben Teshuva become Baal Teshuva?

Rabbeinu Yonah in Bava Basra 39a talks about someone who does Teshuva and calls him a Ben Teshuva. What is the earliest reference in history to the words Baal Teshuva? And why did it change from Ben ...
8
votes
1answer
680 views

Fighting Wars on Shabbat

As I mentioned in another question, I was reading the Book of Maccabees over Shabbat (I and II). In the book of Maccabees, it mentions that early on in the struggle, there were a group of Jews hiding ...
11
votes
7answers
2k views

How are Spartans the son of Abraham?

I was reading the Book of Maccabbees (I and II) over shabbat and in it there is a letter written to Sparta to ask for peace, goodwill and friendship. In the reply letter back from Sparta, they affirm ...
7
votes
2answers
228 views

Semicha (ordination) by Rabbi Yaakov Kamenetsky Zatzal

I have never met anyone or heard of anyone that has received Semicha (rabbinic ordination) from Rabbi Yaakov Kamenetsky Zatzal. Did Rabbi Yaakov Kamenetsky ever give anyone Semicha? If the answer is ...
14
votes
2answers
247 views

Why doesn't Chabad differentiate between Ches and Chaf, and Ayin and Aleph?

The Previous Lubavitcher Rebbe writes that the Shabbos before the great debate in Minsk, the Alter Rebbe served as the chazzan and baal koreh for his minyan. Furthermore, although the Alter Rebbe used ...
4
votes
1answer
368 views

When and why did we start reading the Parshat Hashavua?

My question is twofold: When did we start reading a new parsha (torah portion) every week? Why did we start reading a new parsha (torah portion) every week?
9
votes
2answers
294 views

What were the Nephilim?

Inspired by this question on Biblical Hermeneutics. What were the Nephilim mentioned in Bereishis and in Bamidbar? Bereishis 6:1-4 The Nephilim were in the earth in those days, and also after ...
14
votes
2answers
448 views

What are the sources for the stories of Chanukah?

I'd like to find the sources for the stories associated with Chanukah. When I was younger, I was taught stories like: Eliezer Maccabee being crushed by an elephant. The rebellion staring in Mode'in ...
7
votes
1answer
298 views

Was Rabbi Moshe Feinstein ever formally ordained? (Given semicha?)

Did Rabbi Moshe Feinstein ever formally receive semicha? From whom? I recall reading that he studied a great deal with his father, and that his first responsum was written "at his father's orders."
3
votes
3answers
168 views

What are the major ancient literature on Judaic mysticism and spiritual development?

What are the major ancient literature on Judaic mysticism and spiritual development? By ancient I mean B.C.E. I also would appreciate if you can also provide links to online English translations if ...
5
votes
2answers
540 views

Sources for Hassidic views on marital celibacy/asceticism?

My understanding is the traditional view of Ger Hassidism was that marital celibacy was a good idea, once all procreative needs had been met. My impression is that Chabad-Lubavitch never advocated an ...
9
votes
3answers
453 views

How did the Star of David become iconic?

We all recognize the iconic symbol of the Star of David, do we know where it came from and where it got its name? I always learned that the symbol appeared on King David's shield. True? How do we ...
7
votes
1answer
114 views

Which came first the Mishnah Torah or the Pirush HaMishnayos

Which sefer did the Ramabm author first, was it his Mishnah Torah (Yad HaChazaka) or his commentary to Mishnayos?
5
votes
1answer
99 views

יום זה לישראל variants

The Shabas table song "יום זה לישראל אורה ושמחה" is sometimes found printed with twelve stanzas forming the acrostic יצחק לוריא חזק, and sometimes with but six of the twelve (the ones forming the ...
11
votes
2answers
206 views

Rabbinic Responses to Landline Telephones

Recently the use of cellphones and smartphones has met with a lot of criticism in some communities. I'd be interested to see if landline telephones encountered any similar opposition when they were ...
12
votes
3answers
522 views

Why is Rosh Chodesh sometimes TWO days?

Why for certain months of the year do we celebrate the festival of Rosh Chodesh for two days while on other Roshei Chadashim we have one day of Rosh Chodesh?
10
votes
2answers
257 views

What's the source for a Cheirem al pi Kabbalah?

The Previous Lubavitcher Rebbe describes: "'a real cheirem as prescribed by Kabbalah' requires the following: a court of seventy-two rabbis fast for forty consecutive days (excluding Shabbos ...
-1
votes
1answer
194 views

What are the evidence of red/reed sea crossing?

Are there any credible historical evidences behind red/reed sea crossing? Besides, of course, the Torah.
13
votes
1answer
350 views

How does Orthodox Judaism view the Book of Jubillees

How is the Book of Jubilees regarded by Orthodox Jewry (I'm not asking if we believe it existed, but if we hold any of the information in it to be accurate). Is it ever quoted by any of the ...
15
votes
2answers
201 views

What happened to the Yeshivas Shem v'Aiver?

What happened to the Yeshiva of Shem v'Aiver and all who learnt there?
6
votes
1answer
118 views

Stops in the Sidrah Leyning - Rishon, Sheni etc

Who instituted Rishon, Sheni, Shelishi etc in the leyning of the Sidrah? When was this done? What are the principles which were applied to determine where the stop should be? One would have thought ...
7
votes
1answer
108 views

Sefer Torah enclosures

The Torah scrolls of Ashkenazim have a very different look than those of Sepharadim. Ashkenazim just roll the parchment onto two poles, and read it in a horizontal position; the Sepharadim install the ...
4
votes
2answers
66 views

בָּא אֵלַי הַפָּלִיט מִירוּשָׁלַ‍ִם … How late was he?

In Yechezkel 33:21: וַיְהִי בִּשְׁתֵּי עֶשְׂרֵה שָׁנָה בָּעֲשִׂרִי בַּחֲמִשָּׁה לַחֹדֶשׁ לְגָלוּתֵנוּ בָּא אֵלַי הַפָּלִיט מִירוּשָׁלַ‍ִם לֵאמֹר הֻכְּתָה הָעִיר That is, on the Fifth of Teves of ...
11
votes
4answers
312 views

Was King David also a Navi?

Is there any suggestion in the scripture (even implicitly) that King David might have been also a Navi?
6
votes
1answer
74 views

The return for Beis Sheini (or lack thereof)

It seems that from what I've learned, the vast majority of Klal Yisroel didn't return for Beis Sheini. I was taught that this was on account of the fact that the talmidei chachamim didn't advocate the ...
17
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2answers
1k views

When did we start counting the Year since Creation?

This year is 5772 / תשעב (Taf-Shin-Ayin-Bet) on the Hebrew Calendar. What is the earliest reference to the Year counting from the Creation of the world?