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

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3
votes
5answers
262 views

Saying Rishonim or Achronim were “wrong”

People are very careful (and rightfully so) to say when they don't understand the words of the Achronim or Rishonim to not say they are/were "wrong". But rather to say "I don't understand what he ...
16
votes
3answers
2k views

Why don't we see magic today?

Throughout Tanach and Talmud, there are numerous recorded uses and practitioners of magic1. From Pharaoh's magicians to Shaul's necromancer, and magic cucumbers to were-donkeys, the references are ...
16
votes
5answers
810 views

Gezeira of Rabbeinu Gershom text

Does anyone know where I can find the actual text of the Gezeira of Rabbeinu Gershom? It keeps popping up in my learning, but only as being referenced, I would like to read that actual text.
13
votes
3answers
462 views

Did people ever place actual physical stumbling blocks before the blind?

I know that the prohibition against placing stumbling blocks before the blind has been understood to be a prohibition against misleading or causing people to sin, but the simple meaning of the text is ...
11
votes
4answers
2k views

Is Hebrew the mother of all languages spoken today in the world?

I often wonder what language Adam, Seth, Noah and Abraham (may peace and blessings be upon them) used to speak. What was their native tongue? Was it classical Hebrew? If yes, then would it be right to ...
11
votes
2answers
154 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
185 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 ...
10
votes
3answers
406 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 ...
9
votes
1answer
258 views

Teffilin and women

Rashi's daughters are popularly described as having worn Teffilin, but apparently there is no such source, just a popular urban legend in Jewish circles. Are there any women described in Rabbinic ...
8
votes
2answers
355 views

How historically accurate is Josephus?

How accurate is the writing of Josephus? Can we rely on any of his writings to establish authentic Jewish practices or in areas of halacha?
8
votes
3answers
475 views

Which masechtot don't really have Rashi?

I often hear that the printed "Rashi" commentary in certain masechtot of the Talmud Bavli (first that come to mind are Moed Katan and Nedarim) is not actually written by Rashi. Does anyone have a full ...
8
votes
2answers
475 views

When did people stop wearing Tefilin all day?

At what point in history did most religous people stop wearing Tefilin all day?
7
votes
1answer
327 views

Chad Gadya: The price of a kid goat

Was the fair market value of a kid goat really two zuzim? This piyyut is of course allegorical, but, if the value given is highly inaccurate, is the discrepancy in value symbolic beyond the symbolism ...
6
votes
1answer
178 views

Was the Tzemach Tzedek related to the Metzudos Tziyon/Dovid? [closed]

The Tzemach Tzedek (of Lubavitch)'s father's name was Shalom Shachna Altshuler. Is he related to the Metzodos Tziyon?
5
votes
3answers
356 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 ...
4
votes
2answers
878 views

When in history did Purim happen?

When in history did Purim happen? I understand that there are several opinions that this is based on (who אחשורוש was, whether this was before or after the end of the exile), but I've been unable to ...
17
votes
13answers
1k views

What are the oldest Jewish songs (tune plus words) that are still popular today?

When I say "song", I mean the combination of tune and words; and yes I'm probably thinking Ashkenazically here. It seems like any European old-timer I've met knows the "good old fashioned" tune for ...
12
votes
1answer
426 views

Did any of the early Rabbis encounter Mohammed?

Mohammed, the prophet of Islam, lived in Saudia Arabia, mainly in Mecca and (later) Medina. He lived from 570-632CE. According to this wikipedia article there were Jews in Saudia Arabia at that time: ...
15
votes
2answers
240 views

Why does almost every community say Lecha Dodi?

The prayer Lecha Dodi was composed in the 16th century which is relatively recent as the general Nusach of prayer was founded between 516 BCE – 70 CE by the Anshei K'neset Hagdolah, and its rare that ...
11
votes
5answers
385 views

The authenticity of rabbinic literature

I am studying the history of various branches of Judaism. I understand the position of rabbinic Judaism that parts of the laws were oral and not written. But this alone would not justify the ...
10
votes
3answers
297 views

what are the “Mishnah” and “Gemara” referenced in Pirkei Avot 5?

At the end of Pirkei Avot 5, we have a statement (of either Ben Hei Hei or R. Yehuda ben Tema --- I have two siddurim with slightly different texts): He used to say: at five years of age, the ...
6
votes
5answers
280 views

What is the Difference Between Prophets and Writings?

In the Tanakh, the Jewish Biblical Canon, there are three categories of works: the Torah of Moses, and what are know as the 'Prophets' and 'Writings'. This categorization is outlined and mentioned in ...
16
votes
1answer
587 views

When did Matza become dry?

It's pretty commonly accepted that Matza used to be soft (sort of like a tortilla) and was used by Hillel to make a wrap (not a sandwich). When did this change in various geographic locations which ...
14
votes
2answers
217 views

How were judges appointed in the times of the Bais Hamikdash?

In the times of the Bais Hamikdash, were judges appointed by the king, or were they elected by the people? And was the system different based on which size court (i.e., courts comprised of 3, 23, or ...
12
votes
3answers
1k views

Was Judaism ever a proselytizing religion?

It is often asserted that up until the time of Constantine or so, Judaism was an actively proselytizing religion. This can be contrasted with the common practice today of rejecting potential converts ...
11
votes
5answers
4k views

Why did nobody succeed the Lubavitcher Rebbe?

The late Lubavitcher Rebbe Menachem Mendel Schneerson zt"l had no successor as the rebbe of Chabad-Lubavitch. Why is this? Was it simply because he had no children? If so, why was nobody else ...
10
votes
3answers
2k views

Author of Nishmat kol chai

Who is the author of the prayer "Nishmat kol chai" which is said on Shabbat, Yom Tov, and during the great Hallel at the Seder?
9
votes
5answers
502 views

Can a convert be a prophet?

I don't think there were any gerim amongst the nevi'im, but would it have been possible?
9
votes
2answers
232 views

Why was the “Ark of the Covenant” lost?

Why is it that in spite of the fact that the ark carried Torah tablets and other sacred objects, it was lost? Was it not taken care of by the priests of that time? Or was it destined to be lost? Why? ...
9
votes
2answers
346 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 ...
8
votes
1answer
193 views

Why are challot traditionally braided?

What is the reason that challot are traditionally braided? When did this tradition begin?
8
votes
1answer
161 views

Has anyone declared a time of oppression regarding the four Temple fasts?

The Sha'ar haTziyun (OC 550 sk 9) speculates if in his day (~1900 CE) there was enough oppression of the Jews to warrant declaring the fasts of 10 Tevet, 17 Tammuz and 3 Tishrei into full fledged ...
7
votes
1answer
130 views

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 ...
7
votes
1answer
345 views

What are some understandings as to how animals populated different continents after the flood?

What are some understandings as to how animals populated different continents after the flood? Did some species of animals survive the flood? Or are we to understand that the flood only affected the ...
6
votes
2answers
255 views

Examples of Rabbis who had strong disagreements and were amicable

I'm looking for examples of Rabbis who had a serious disagreement and were nevertheless very kind and thoughtful towards each other. The main reason I'm asking for examples is to illustrate what a ...
4
votes
2answers
234 views

Cairo Geniza Controversy

What are the arguments against using manuscripts from the Cairo Geniza? Are there any Seforim / articles that discuss this debate?
2
votes
2answers
213 views

Moses Mendelssohn, permitted to quote him?

Is it permitted to quote Moses Mendelssohn, the father of the Jewish Enlightenment, as a source or reference? Is he considered in jewish lore a heretic? from wikipedia page linked above: In the ...
2
votes
2answers
217 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?
2
votes
1answer
168 views

What does the talmud/rabbinic writing have to say about Yeishu hanotzri (Jesus)?

I Understand that the name Jesus was not uncommon 2000 years ago, and Jewish writings about person of historical interest to the christian church call him "Yeishu hanotzri" = "Jesus the Nazarene". I ...
2
votes
6answers
2k views

A natural explanation for the significance of the numbers 7 and 40

In the Jewish religious texts the numbers 7 and 40 seem to appear quite often and carry special significance. Some examples among many: God's creation lasts 7 days The Great Flood was from rain ...
1
vote
0answers
212 views

Any famous Jews named Muhammad, Mahmud, Mehmet, etc.?

There is a halacha that one may not name a child after an evildoer, a principle known as shem reshaim yirkav taken from Yoma 38b ("ועל בן קמצר וחביריו נאמר ושם רשעים ירקב", cf. Mishlei 10:7). Later ...
15
votes
8answers
915 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; ...
14
votes
2answers
481 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 ...
14
votes
2answers
168 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 ...
13
votes
3answers
485 views

Were our symbols for trope and nekudos created by the Masoretes, or transmitted by them?

It is commonly said in secular sources that the shapes of the trope and nekudos we use today were invented by the Masoretes (7th to 11th Century CE), but I cannot find any source in our mesorah to ...
13
votes
1answer
154 views

First-Temple-Era names of the Hebrew months?

The Chumash refers to the months simply as "the first", "the second", and so on. Today we know them by their Babylonian names (Nisan, Iyar ...) Occasionally the Prophets from the First-Temple Era use ...
12
votes
2answers
196 views

Division of Verses in Tanach

In light of comments here, what is the history of the current division of tanach into pesukim? Specifically, to what extent do we view our breaks as coming from Sinai? Are there Christian influences ...
10
votes
2answers
173 views

“שליט״א” only for certain people

Living people sometimes have "שליט״א" added after their respective names. This means, roughly, "may he live a good, long life". That seems like a nice blessing for anyone; yet, in my experience, only ...
10
votes
1answer
192 views

What happened to the Eirev Rav?

What happened to the Eirev Rav after the Jews entered Israel? They were open trouble makers in the desert, yet nothing was mentioned of them later? Did they clean up their act? Did they die out?
10
votes
1answer
432 views

What happened to the Jewish practice of using burial caves?

A three-part question about funerary practices. In ancient times, Jews used to bury people for a year or two, then, after the body decomposed, collect their bones and put them in a family cave. In ...