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

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20
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4answers
3k 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?
17
votes
2answers
220 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
148 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
votes
2answers
180 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
157 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
858 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
133 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
244 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
votes
2answers
228 views

Who is the composer of Haneiros Halolu?

When we light the Menora we say Haneiros Halolu. Who composed these words?
0
votes
2answers
77 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
974 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
196 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
114 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
789 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
8answers
3k 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
241 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
264 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
410 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
340 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
475 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
325 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."
4
votes
3answers
186 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
592 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
482 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
119 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
102 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
210 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 ...
13
votes
3answers
626 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
260 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
205 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
387 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 ...
17
votes
2answers
217 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
123 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
112 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
67 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
322 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
75 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
votes
2answers
2k 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?
6
votes
2answers
224 views

No yetzer hora of idolatry, so no nevuah?

I remember learning in a shiur (sorry, can't think of the reference) that Chazal was able to essentially destroy the yetzer hora of avodah zora but with the side effect that there wouldn't be nevuah ...
9
votes
3answers
180 views

What happened to Avraham's students?

We read how Avraham was going around convincing people to believe in one G-d and of his many students. Yet we don't hear of those students (or their descendants) ever again. What happened to them ...
9
votes
3answers
925 views

When and why did the black velvet yarmulke become the standard for some communities?

Ashkenazi yarmulkes from around 200 years ago closely resemble the Yerushalmi style - white knitted with a tassel on top. Today, the vast majority of Chasidim and Yeshivish Jews seem to wear black ...
6
votes
1answer
172 views

What did Sephardic Jews do when yibum required taking a second wife?

As I understand it, in the Sephardic world not long ago, the marriage contract would have a steep penalty clause if he took a wife beyond the first one without her permission. And as I understand it, ...
8
votes
0answers
103 views

Explanations for forbidding writing Oral Torah [duplicate]

Possible Duplicate: Why was Torah sheBal Peh not allowed to be Written? The Wikipedia article for Oral Torah mentions the possibility that it was forbidden to write and publish Oral Torah. ...
7
votes
3answers
577 views

Is there sufficient evidence to support the theory that ancient Israel practiced monolatry?

I just came across this Wikipedia article on monolatrism that says some people believe ancient Israel practiced monolatry. The highest claim to be made for Moses is that he was, rather than a ...
11
votes
1answer
120 views

Were Avraham's tactics in rescuing Lot typical of the time?

Parshat Lech L'cha describes how Lot was captured in the battle of four kings against five kings. When Avraham heard, he mounted a night-time attack to rescue him. This got me wondering: was a ...
8
votes
4answers
158 views

Why did the scholars of Bavel live in Bavel and not Eretz Yisrael?

If there is a positive mitzva of living in Eretz Yisrael, why did the scholars of Pumbedisa, Sura, Nahardai, Mechoza, etc. remain in Bavel. If it was to learn Torah from the giants, then we can focus ...
5
votes
1answer
261 views

Question about Polygamy and Marriage Ceremonies

This is a follow up to my previous question on Polygamy In Jewish marriages, was it ever common for a man to marry more than one wife in the same ceremony? The context: I've been looking into ...