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

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9
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3answers
227 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 ...
33
votes
2answers
460 views

Were slave-related commandments observed in America?

Since there was slavery in the Americas between their discovery and 1856, do we know of any Jewish slave-owners there who observed slavery-related laws of Judaism?
16
votes
3answers
724 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 ...
15
votes
1answer
393 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
208 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
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5answers
2k 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 ...
10
votes
3answers
1k 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?
6
votes
0answers
116 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 ...
6
votes
2answers
209 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 ...
0
votes
0answers
117 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 ...
14
votes
2answers
336 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 ...
12
votes
2answers
149 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 ...
11
votes
4answers
1k 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
133 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
341 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
312 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 ...
8
votes
2answers
362 views

When did people stop wearing Tefilin all day?

At what point in history did most religous people stop wearing Tefilin all day?
6
votes
2answers
124 views

Why did none of the later kings of Israel destroy Amalek?

There is a commandment to obliterate Amalek. Shaul Hamelech was commanded to obliterate Amalek and failed. Dovid continued in the process, but obviously didn't destroy them completely. None of the ...
6
votes
1answer
160 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
2answers
216 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 ...
5
votes
3answers
658 views

Reb Moshe Feinstein in the New York Times

Reb Moshe Feinstein was once interviewed by the New York Times where he answered questions like how does Klal Yisroel know who is a Gadol? Does anyone know when it was, and does anyone know where I ...
4
votes
0answers
160 views

Statistics regarding how many people convert yearly

What are the statistics for the last 50-100 years as to how many people convert and become Geirim yearly?
4
votes
1answer
80 views

Who composed the Piyut Echad Mi Yodeya?

Who composed the Piyut Echad Mi Yodeya that is commonly recited on Pesach?
4
votes
3answers
358 views

Seeking old Jewish recipes

What are some really old recipes that Jews are known to have used (actual recipes that say how to make the dish, not just names or descriptions of what was eaten like צלי קדר)? I'm seeking ...
4
votes
1answer
292 views

Which Raban Shimon ben Gamliel was it who was martyred?

The Ten Martyrs liturgy describes Rabbi Yishmael the High Priest and Raban [=nasi or "chief rabbi"] Shimon ben Gamliel as killed by the Romans at the same time. Rabbi Yishmael served as cohen gadol ...
4
votes
8answers
710 views

Anyone know anything about Shlomo Kluger Yeshiva?

A friend of mine said his great-grandfather taught at a yeshiva in New York called Mesivta/Yeshiva Shlomo (Solomon) Kluger. I've heard of Rabbi Shlomo Kluger, and assume this institution was named in ...
3
votes
5answers
418 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 ...
2
votes
1answer
200 views

Breakdown of Yirmiyahu's 70 year prophecy

Can someone supply a good breakdown of Yirmiyahu's 70 year prophecy, and the misinterpretations of the prophecy? This is what I've learned in the past: Yirmiyahu made a prophecy that 70 years after ...
2
votes
1answer
187 views

Were the prophets and holy people who lived before Judah (Yehudah) also Jews?

The word "Jew" originates from the name of the eldest son of Jacob. The term "Jew" was introduced many generations and decades after him. I wonder whether Adam, Noah, Lot, Abraham and Moses were all ...
2
votes
5answers
1k 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
1answer
152 views

Was Shlomo Molcho a great kabbalist or a false messiah?

History records that a Portuguese Marano, Diego Peres (born 1500), after being spurned by Jewish adventurist David Reuveni, circumcised himself, changed his name to Shlomo Molcho, and went on a ...
1
vote
4answers
455 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 ...
-4
votes
2answers
540 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?
14
votes
1answer
219 views

What sources, prior to the 19th century, support or refute the existence of the Council of Jamnia/Yavneh?

Multiple questions on Christianity.SE1 refer to the Council of Jamnia/Yavneh in reference to the canonization of the Bible (Tanakh). Wikipedia states: In 1871 Heinrich Graetz, drawing on Mishnaic ...
11
votes
2answers
574 views

Origins of איל משולש and Vilna Ga'on's bathroom math

There is a well-known fact that the Vilna Ga'on studied math while in the bathroom since Torah was out of the question in an unclean place. It is also somewhat well-known that he produced the material ...
9
votes
3answers
426 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 ...
13
votes
4answers
964 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 ...
10
votes
4answers
337 views

What happened to Chasidus?

When one reads stories of the old Chasidim, from the Baal Shem Tov through the first few generations, the impression one is left with is of a movement very different from the Chasidim of today. ...
10
votes
2answers
200 views

Why are most mitzvas impossible to keep?

Nowadays, one can only keep so many Mitzvos (271). That is less than half of the commandments of the Torah. I don't know if there is any statistic regarding how many Psukim discuss currently relevant ...
9
votes
2answers
397 views

Why was Chassidus controversial?

When Chassidus came about, it was very controversial. The Vilna Gaon even put Chassidim in cherem. What were the reasons for the controversy? And why is there peace and mutual respect today between ...
6
votes
4answers
150 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 ...
6
votes
2answers
169 views

Shakespeare in Classic Jewish Sources

Does anyone know of any references to Shakespeare, translations of his works, or anything related to Shakespeare in classic Rabbinic sources?
5
votes
2answers
158 views

What happened to Avraham's other sons?

After the Torah's account of Avraham's other sons, Zimran, Jokshan, Medan, Midian, Ishbak and Shuah, being sent to the East with gifts, do we have any tradition about what became of them? Did they ...
3
votes
2answers
855 views

How many Maccabees were there and what were their names?

How many Maccabees were there and what were their names?
19
votes
16answers
860 views

About what were rabbis ahead of the times?

I have heard claims that experts in the world of Torah were significantly ahead of their counterparts in the world of natural science (or mathematics, or psychology, or…) in that they knew X ...
19
votes
2answers
404 views

What kind of kippah is this?

This photo of my great great grandfather was taken around 1900. He's a Lubavitch Jew from Belarus. His name is Zalman Malkin. He is from Liozna. The story of his life is here: ...
15
votes
2answers
943 views

How does orthodox Judaism view the Dead Sea Scrolls?

I'm trying to understand how orthodox Jews view the dead sea scrolls. Are they considered authentic representations of Judaism? If there are textual variants between our current tanach texts and the ...
15
votes
2answers
448 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 ...
14
votes
2answers
200 views

Who is the composer of Haneiros Halolu?

When we light the Menora we say Haneiros Halolu. Who composed these words?
13
votes
3answers
642 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 ...