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

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6
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1answer
489 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
2answers
254 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?
6
votes
1answer
1k 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 ...
0
votes
2answers
95 views

Is the number 6 considered evil in Judaism?

I have heard from some sources that the number six is/can be construed as an evil number in Judaism, and as such, it should be avoided. Is there truth to this? If so, what is the reasoning behind ...
17
votes
4answers
2k views

What is the original halachic source for a woman covering her collarbones out of modesty (tznius)?

Many contemporary instructions on women's modesty (tznius) say that necklines have to be high enough to cover the collarbones. I can certainly accept that if this is the communal standard, it should ...
14
votes
1answer
213 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 ...
12
votes
2answers
398 views

Who didn't recite Kabbalas Shabbos?

In this article, R. Michael Broyde writes that: Indeed, there have been prominent halachic authorities of the last generation who did not recite Kabbalat Shabbat. Can anyone provide examples of ...
5
votes
2answers
290 views

Cairo Geniza Controversy

What are the arguments against using manuscripts from the Cairo Geniza? Are there any Seforim / articles that discuss this debate?
19
votes
3answers
1k views

Why do we bow down in the direction of the ark?

This is a question I've had for many years, to which I've never received a satisfactory answer: In Hebrew school, we were taught that idolaters bowed to a idol of their god. They would claim that ...
12
votes
3answers
2k 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
1answer
293 views

(How) was Tu B'Av observed as a matchmaking/singles-meeting event through history?

I know the Talmud describes how the fifteenth day of the month of Av (Tu b'Av) was a day of ... I'd say "matchmaking", but I think "marriage-minded-singles-meeting" is more like it: אמר רבן שמעון ...
8
votes
4answers
710 views

Why is the Mesillas Yesharim so popular and accepted?

To overgeneralize, I bet there is a copy of the mesillas yesharim in almost every orthodox home, shul and beis medrash. I'm wondering why this work is so popular and accepted. My wondering is ...
8
votes
1answer
367 views

Why are challot traditionally braided?

What is the reason that challot are traditionally braided? When did this tradition begin?
8
votes
4answers
605 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?
8
votes
1answer
190 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
2answers
290 views

History of Capital Punishment

When is the most recent documented occurrence in Jewish history of a beit din carrying out the death penalty? Or if historical documentation is lacking, when is the most recent time in Jewish history ...
3
votes
6answers
3k 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 ...
3
votes
5answers
272 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 ...
2
votes
1answer
251 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 ...
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?
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 ...
13
votes
2answers
231 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 ...
11
votes
2answers
167 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
471 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 ...
10
votes
1answer
496 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
278 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 ...
9
votes
3answers
318 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 ...
9
votes
2answers
599 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
2answers
421 views

Does the cherem that the Vilna Gaon put on certain sectors of Chassidus still apply?

It is known that the Vilna Gaon put 2 sectors of Chassidus in Cherem. I am wondering who has permitted them now seeing as we non-Chassidim don't make borders between them and ourselves.
8
votes
2answers
401 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 ...
8
votes
1answer
163 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?
6
votes
2answers
144 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
2answers
304 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?
5
votes
3answers
2k 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 ...
3
votes
2answers
270 views

Hammurabi in Jewish sources

The Hammurabi code is one of the oldest preserved codes of law dating back to 1772 BCE. This is roughly the time after the flood (-2105BCE), the tower of Bavel (1765BCE) and the Patriarchs. Although ...
1
vote
4answers
715 views

Why do we count years from the date of Creation?

Why do we count years from the date of Creation? I intend two sub-questions here, of which the second is far more interesting, so please answer it: Whence did this tradition originate? Why do we ...
0
votes
4answers
557 views

What is the source of hatred perceived by Jews in different parts of the world?

I don't know if this is off topic but a similar question is here at Christianity SE and I thought it would be interesting to ask the corresponding one here. It intrigues me how people from other ...
18
votes
12answers
2k 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 ...
8
votes
2answers
1k views

What should our response be to ancient scripts that mirror the Torah?

There are quite a number of ancient documents that have been found that (supposedly) predate the Torah, and yet they share many lines practically verbatim. If the Torah is truly divine, how could this ...
7
votes
5answers
422 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 ...
15
votes
2answers
274 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
8k 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 the first century C.E. ...
10
votes
1answer
188 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 ...
10
votes
3answers
371 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 ...
8
votes
2answers
740 views

What historical figures have been identified as 'Amalek?

Adolf Hitler is often said to have been from 'Amalek. I've even heard it said not only figuratively but literally (how one could know that is a mystery to me). What other historical figures are ...
3
votes
6answers
1k views

Niddah and Counting 7 Clean Days - What are its Origins?

The following comment is made in the wikipedia entry on Niddah: In the days of the Amoraim, because of possible confusion in determining when menstruation began and ended and hence whether blood ...
46
votes
5answers
952 views

Were slave-related commandments observed in America?

Since there was slavery in the Americas between their discovery and 1865, do we know of any Jewish slave-owners there who observed slavery-related laws of Judaism?
17
votes
4answers
361 views

Was Malbim an innovator?

Malbim (Meir Leibush ben Yechiel Michel) wrote a commentary on most of Tanach. In his introduction (to Yeshayahu) he writes the assumptions with which he operates in his commentary: :עמודי התוך ...
17
votes
2answers
566 views

What was wrong with the word Talmud?

The Wikipedia article on The Talmud says: and Pope Pius IV commanded, in 1565, that the Talmud be deprived of its very name. The convention of referring to the work as "Shas" (shishah sidre ...
16
votes
1answer
752 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 ...