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

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Hand gesture origin for “David Melech Yisrael” song

What is the origin of the gestures for the song whose text is "David melech yisrael, chai chai v'kayam"? (An example would be https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cWItJ0TF2fw.)
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When and why did Torah-reading “aliyot” begin?

I was able to locate only one reference discussing how public Torah reading was done (i.e. - who read it): Originally the Torah was read in public once every 7 years during Hakhel Mishneh Torah, ...
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579 views

Were flour tortillas invented by the Jews of New Spain?

I was reading the Wikipedia entry for tortilla. It says, The wheat flour tortilla was an innovation by exiled Spanish Jews who did not consider corn meal to be kosher, using wheat brought from ...
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How common was tzaraas?

Tzaraas (discussed in Vayikra 13-14) is a human skin disease that renders its victim impure and subjects him to many laws. In a different form, tzaraas can also affect clothing and houses. It is ...
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108 views

Who came up with this story?

It says in Mekor Baruch (of Rabbi Baruch Epstein) The Rosh Yeshiva of Volozhin, the Netziv, was once sitting down surrounded by several high-caliber students – avrechim versed in Torah, wise, and ...
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20 views

Noted instances of Kares and Ariri

Are there any written recordings in any branch of Torah where we find a comment proving someone actually died from Kares/Ariri? Now, of course being a heavenly decree it would be hard to know for ...
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71 views

Timeline of Egypt to Sinai

Does anyone know of a source with an account of what happened each day of the journey from Yetzias Mitzrayim to Har Sinai?
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98 views

How big is the baalei tshuva movement resulting from the “Art Scroll Revolution”?

Since 1975, Art Scroll Publishing, and its non-profit arm The Mesorah Foundation, have produced Hebrew-English annotated translations of Tanach, the Mishna, the Babylonian Talmud, the Kitzur Shulchan ...
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88 views

Timeline of the frequency of Bedikos

The Talmud states (Mishna, top of Niddah 13a): כל היד המרבה לבדוק בנשים משובחת The more bedikos (checks for menstruation) that a woman does, the better This is brought in the Shulchan Aruch ...
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57 views

Early descriptions of the Foundation Stone

I am looking for early descriptions of the "Foundation Stone" (אבן שתיה) -- the huge flat rock now enclosed by the mosque known as the "Dome of the Rock," and believed by many Jewish scholars to have ...
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89 views

Chida's statement about shabbat violators

I heard Rabbi Yitzhack Yosef Shelita (Rishon LeTzion and son of Maran HaRav Ovadia Yosef, Z"L) who says that the Chida writes that in all the places that he was never saw a Sephardic Jew that wasn't ...
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Which of the Napoleonic wars had no casualties?

The Chasam Sofer (droshos 8th Tamuz) writes about a war in the year 1809 with no causalities on our side. Can anyone tell us which war this was, and where these details may be recorded?
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111 views

How did the mesorah for techeles get lost?

It seems odd that something like the tradition for techeles could have been lost. It seems unlikely that Jews just stopped using techeles at some point and then immediately forgot. Are there no ...
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95 views

Why did they stop packing the gizard, neck and liver inside the chicken cavity?

Why did they stop packing the gizard, neck and liver inside the chicken cavity? I think this practice stopped about 25 years ago. When I was a novice cook, I didn't know that I had to first take out ...
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65 views

Earliest use of the word “gematria” to mean the value of words

What's the earliest use of the word "gematria" followed by the use of it to mean the value of the word? I'm aware that in Pirkei Avot the word itself is used, but that is not used in conjunction with ...
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254 views

Did Rashi wear a yarmulke?

Tractate Sofrim (14:14) records two opinions that concern the wearing of a head covering during the Shema: there are those who say that it is not necessary, and there are those who say that it is ...
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425 views

Did Achashverosh rule over the entire Old World?

Megilla 11a says "Three ruled over the world - Achav, Achashverosh and Nebuchadnetzar." It suggests a few other names that weren't on the list and rejects them because they didn't rule over one ...
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127 views

The heel of Moshiach?

I have seen quotes from various rabbis, the oldest dating back to the Ari Z"L that state that we are in the ikve d'Moshiach (the heels of the Messiah). Ostensibly that was meant to convey that ...
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161 views

How did the modern day Beis Hora'ah phenomenon develop?

Here in Eretz Yisrael, we find Batei Hora'ah in many cities - places where a moreh hora'ah sits either during special times or perhaps the whole day or different rabbonim throughout the day answering ...
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52 views

Final redemption attempt

Elie Wiesel relates in "Souls on Fire" that the Seer of Lublin together with two friends Mendel of Riminov and the Maggid of Kozhenitz "devised a detailed strategy combining their powers to bring ...
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33 views

Why do we refer to Chazal as a monolithic group?

In discussions of Torah, halacha, etc., people often say, "According to Chazal..." as though all the thousands of rabbis of an 800-year period spoke with one voice. But you almost never hear people ...
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Mesada/masada, are there any torah sources confirming or denying Josephus' version

This documentary seems to give good points to doubt the masada story. Are there any talmudic or later sources regarding this if yes what are they Related. Masada - heroic martyrdom or immoral murder/...
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Why was Judah/Yehuda the tribe that endured?

My basic question is: Are there any reasons or hints in the Torah that explain or hint (bedieved) that Judah/Yehudah would be the tribe that was not lost? Yes, I know that parts of Benjamin survived ...
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87 views

Origins of the Yerushalmi Kaftan

Among Yerushalmi Chareidim, a special dress code seems to have developed which has some features which are unique from standard Eastern Ashkenazi dress. While most Chareidim I have seen wear black ...
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Are there any Jewish records of Ananus ben Ananus aside from Josephus?

In Josephus' Antiquities of the Jews, he records an incident that led to the removal from office of the high priest of the Temple. According to this account, the Roman proconsul of Judaea, Porcius ...
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Responses to Dr. Chaim S. Heifetz's timeline of Persian History

Dr. Chaim S. Heifetz has been quoted in a few places as revising the history timeline which if correct would greatly impact Jewish history from the Persian empire and on. See here http://www....
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107 views

Book about Rabbis and Zionism

What is a good book which goes into detail about Rabbis (particularly those living in Israel from 1880-1950) and their personal experience with Zionists and the Palestinians? I am particularly ...
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107 views

Why Vilna Sha"s?

If one enters a beit midrash and takes out a masechta of Talmud, one will invariably find that it is typeset following the exact form of the page found in the edition from Vilna. So here are two ...
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71 views

How did our forefathers bake the dough they took out of Egypt? Would it qualify as matzo now?

Shmos 12 (39) says: “They baked the dough that they had taken out of Egypt as unleavened cakes, for it had not leavened, for they were driven out of Egypt, and they could not tarry, and also, ...
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43 views

History: Prevalence of Torah study

Historically, when has Torah study throughout the world been most prevalent, and when has Torah suffered relatively limited study and knowledge thereof? Are there any sources that break this down? It ...
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105 views

What is a Drut’syla?

This link was sent to me by a friend, about a woman who is a Drut'syla (dertseyler in Yiddish), or storyteller. The article simply says it's a Jewish tradition, but doesn't place it within Judaism. ...
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76 views

What did the Arizal's contemporaries write about him?

Over here, ray posits that the validity of certain schools of Jewish philosophy rests on the Arizal's word. The Arizal was most famous for his teachings in Safed (though he only lived there for two ...
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51 views

Does Jacob's Well in present-day Nablus/Shechem have a Jewish tradition associated with it?

There's a well in present-day Shechem (Nablus) called "Jacob's Well." It has an Orthodox Christian church on top of it right now. I was wondering if there is any Jewish tradition that Jacob dug this ...
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94 views

How old is the Earth?

There are few versions of the age of the Earth Wikipedia Article but they seem to be mostly (all?) from christian interpretations. Are there estimations from the Tanakh, with Jewish interpretations? ...
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81 views

Josephus' Fall of Jerusalem

Is this book commonly accepted in the Jewish world as an accurate description of the events surrounding destruction of the Beit HaMikdash? I'm particularly interested in its portrayal of the behavior ...
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61 views

What is known about the Sage מונבז?

מונבז is mentioned in Shabbos 68b. I know there were two Kings of this name. What is known about the Sage of this name?
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48 views

Chazals intention behind bedikat hametz

Nowdays, it seems to be standard for jewish family's to begin cleaning their houses days before Pesach. By the time bedikat hametz arrives, the houses are usually hametz free. From reading Talmud ...
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60 views

Chronological order of parshiyot in Sefer Vayikra

I am trying to figure out when several parshiyos in Vayikra were said by Moshe to bnei yisroel. For example, the parshiyos of Tazria and Metzora - when did Moshe teach them? In במדבר פרק ה Hashem ...
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170 views

Why doesn't Rav Saadia Gaon write about wearing tefillin even during prayer?

In the Siddur of Rav Saadia Gaon, he only mentions tephilin once, and even then is only talking about the bracha made when putting it on. No where does he say that when davening, you should be wearing ...
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124 views

When was the modern manuscript for the Torah agreed upon?

(This question is also asked here on history.SE for a different perspective.) Considering that variations have occurred in the Torah's text over time (I think the Gemara may mention events where a ...
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48 views

Why did הַר הַזֵּיתִים become a place of burial

I am wondering if there was any particular reason that הַר הַזֵּיתִים was chosen to become a place of burial. Is there?
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59 views

Why was Megillas Taanis written?

In general, oral Torah isn't allowed to be written down (Gittin 60b). For all generations until the Amorayim (at least according to Rashi), that Halacha was kept. Yet, according to Rashi, Megillas ...
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120 views

When did the Kaf HaHayyim first see the Aruch HaShulchan and the Mishnah Berurah?

The Kaf HaHayyim was written roughly contemporaneously with the Aruch HaShulchan and the Mishneh Berurah, but is the last of the three seforim to be finished, with its final chapters completed by the ...
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107 views

Have the empires of old perished?

I remember being taught when I was younger that the fact that Jews are around is a testimony to the eternity of our religion; that we survived them all and that they are no longer. I am unaware (...
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75 views

What were Bar Kochba's sins?

In his answer to the question Is there any evidence that Rabbi Akiva's students fought with Bar Kochba, Jake cites Y.T. Taanis 4:5 and M.R. Eicha 2:4 as sources for the position that Bar Kochba was ...
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80 views

Are there mystical underpinnings to Maccabi?

One of the explanations I have heard for the title מכבי is that it is an acronym for the pasuk 'מִי-כָמֹכָה בָּאֵלִם ה (Shemos 15:11). Is there any reason, mystical or otherwise that that pasuk (or ...
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108 views

King Yoash murdered - Who's responsible?

II Melechim 12:21 and II Divri HaYamim 24:25 both indicate that servants conspired and killed King Joash. There seems to be a little bit of confusion on the murderers' names---Yozacar vs Zabad ben ...
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34 views

History of Chevra Kadisha's in New York City

I am interested in knowing about the Chevra Kadisha's in NYC, Brooklyn, etc. When they were started and by who? Under whose auspices? Any other information.
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163 views

What is the date ending the 700 years mentioned in these midrashim?

Based on this answer I was able to have some extra fun reading over Shabbat. First, I would like to say, that I was amazed as to how much of the material I was allready familiar with, mostly from ...
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77 views

Was Bar Kochva disemboweled?

The gemarah in Gittin, 57a, details a story of "bar d'roma" who performs miraculous feats in defending the Jews before meeting his demise by being disemboweled by a snake (similar to the end of Bar ...