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

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11
votes
1answer
192 views

Does Torah inerrancy extend to the prophets and the writings?

Most Orthodox Jewish scholars hold that the Torah is 100% factually accurate (see previous question). I believe this is generally understood to refer specifically to the five books of Moses. What do ...
11
votes
2answers
153 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
396 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
3answers
178 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 ...
8
votes
2answers
343 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
391 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
447 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
325 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
170 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
336 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
839 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 ...
-4
votes
3answers
948 views

When did the switch to matrilineal descent occur?

Does anyone know when the switch the matrilineal descent took place? I've seen other information about the potential impetus, but when did it become so? Was there even a switch?
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 ...
15
votes
2answers
236 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 ...
14
votes
4answers
401 views

When did kosher bakeries, restaurants, etc. start requiring supervision?

If my neighbor Shmerel keeps kosher and otherwise appears to be observant to the best of my knowledge, then I'd be allowed to eat in his house (assuming I'm invited), eid echad ne'eman b'issurin, his ...
11
votes
5answers
378 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
278 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
241 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
575 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
215 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 ...
13
votes
5answers
3k views

Are there any Jewish people alive today who can identify themselves as coming from a particular tribe?

The Christian "New Testament" claims Paul (Saul) was of the tribe of Benjamin. Since Roman times have there been any people who can validly claim they were from a particular tribe? At least at that ...
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
2answers
225 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
335 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
156 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
110 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
342 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
246 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
231 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

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
5answers
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
190 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
901 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
472 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
164 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
468 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
150 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 ...
10
votes
1answer
183 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
2answers
184 views

“m'nora” on Chanuka

My kid came home from school one day insisting that the thing we light on Chanuka is not a m'nora but a chanukiya. I replied that that's the word most Israelis use now but that m'nora is a perfectly ...
9
votes
3answers
343 views

Did all animals come into the Teiva?

Were there any type of animals that were destroyed completely by the Mabul? (For example - Is there any source that there were dinosaurs or any other type of wildlife and they were destroyed by the ...
9
votes
1answer
423 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 ...
9
votes
1answer
238 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
3answers
245 views

Talmudic Censorship

Unfortunately, the Talmud and other writings have been subject to censorship since their completion. These alterations seem still to be present in many modern editions of the Talmud. Why aren't these ...
8
votes
2answers
252 views

Laying Tefillin on Chol HaMoed Prior to the Shulchan Aruch

As a continuation to my question regarding why the Beit Yosef apparently deviated from his normal method of ruling in the case of laying teffilin on Chol HaMoed, I'm curious what the practice was ...
7
votes
1answer
111 views

When did people stop getting Tazra'as?

At what point in history did Tzra'as stop happening? Was it sudden or gradual? Do we have any sources that suggest that it could still occur today?
7
votes
2answers
146 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 ...
6
votes
2answers
96 views

What are the major regions relevant to Ashkenazi minhagim?

Motivating this question are the instructions in the ArtScroll Siddur for the two versions of kel erekh apayim, said on weekdays before taking out the sefer torah: one is identified as “נוסח אשכנז, ...
6
votes
1answer
61 views

Selichot origins

In what year (CE) did saying selichot in Elul begin? In what year were they made a standard addition to prayer books? Looking for an academic answer, not the yeshivahish one. And did Sephardim start ...
6
votes
1answer
1k views

Which major gedolim have said Hallel on Yom Haatzmaut and Yom Yerushalayim?

Which major gedolim, especially at the times at which the events occurred, but in general too, have said Hallel for Yom Haatzmaut and Yom Yerushalyim? The definition of a major gadol is, of course, ...