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

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1answer
478 views

What is the oldest manuscript of Torah Shebaal Peh?

We don't have (and more's the pity!) R' Yehudah Hanassi's autograph copy of the Mishnah (well, okay, it's a controversial issue whether he actually wrote it or only arranged it orally), or Ravina and ...
13
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1answer
403 views

Was there a GOLEM?

was there really a golem made in Prague that was alive and interacted with other people? I heard that this story was nothing more than a made up tale in a children's book. Does anyone know the real ...
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2answers
1k views

Origin of the term Yoshke?

I have often heard Jews refer to Jesus as "Yoshke". Is the origin of that appellation based on halachic issues regarding mentioning names of foreign deities, or some other Jewish law or custom? When ...
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2answers
313 views

Is it heresy to follow secular dating on the destruction of the first Temple?

There is a discrepancy between rabbinic and secular sources regarding when the first Temple was destroyed -- a difference of some 165 years or so, which are called the "Missing Years." My question is ...
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2answers
1k views

Why is there no 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 ...
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4answers
1k 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 ...
13
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1answer
350 views

How does Orthodox Judaism view the Book of Jubillees

How is the Book of Jubilees regarded by Orthodox Jewry (I'm not asking if we believe it existed, but if we hold any of the information in it to be accurate). Is it ever quoted by any of the ...
13
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2answers
154 views

How long did Chava (Eve) live?

The Torah tells us that Adam HaRishon lived for 930 years. Is there a source that tells us for how long Chava (Eve) lived? I have been unable to find any source that discusses how old Chava was when ...
13
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1answer
307 views

Are there any halachic authorities which relate to the non-mechitza, pre-1967 prayers which were held at the Kotel?

There are various pictures pre-dating the 1967 Six Day War, available on the Internet and in various scholarly sources, clearly showing free mixing among the genders at the Kotel (Western Wall) in the ...
13
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3answers
419 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 ...
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 ...
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3answers
321 views

When/where did the practice of “recycling” names begin?

Perhaps this had never bothered anyone in the past, but for someone like myself who delves into genealogy, the fact that there are family naming patterns is a great boon. Of course, we can go only so ...
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2answers
1k 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 ...
12
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2answers
274 views

Why isn't there a single, centralized Sanhedrin today?

It seems that many mitzvot in the Torah are opened to interpretation in some way, potentially subject to ruling by the Sanhedrin. And some mitzvot (examples below) seem to require the presence of the ...
12
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3answers
523 views

Why is Rosh Chodesh sometimes TWO days?

Why for certain months of the year do we celebrate the festival of Rosh Chodesh for two days while on other Roshei Chadashim we have one day of Rosh Chodesh?
12
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1answer
285 views

Kubutz and shuruk in Polish/Hungarian pronunciation

What is the origin or basis of the Polish and Hungarian prevalence for pronouncing "oo" vowels as "ee"? The variants of other vowels are easier to understand in the context of phonological shifting, ...
12
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3answers
789 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 ...
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3answers
317 views

Understanding of Ps. 137 before the exile

Psalm 137 starts (in my own translation) On Babylon's rivers, there, we sat, also cried, in our remembering Zion. and continues to describe the scene. Ibn Ezra cites some who hold that David ...
12
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1answer
2k views

Why does the Jewish calendar HAVE to end?

It seems to be common knowledge that on or around the year 6,000 of the Jewish calendar "everything" (left intentionally vague) will come to an end and there will be a 1,000 year 'Shabbos'. I'm ...
12
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3answers
1k views

What is the red string all about?

Where did the concept of wearing a red string come from? I have heard different opinions ranging from "you should definitely wear it" to "its forbidden like idol worship" - who is right?
12
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2answers
183 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 ...
12
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1answer
183 views

Were there any sages who supported the Zealots during the seige of Jerusalem?

In Gittin 56a-b, we read how the sages warned the Zealots (a.k.a. the Biryonim) to not wage war with the Romans who were holding Jerusalem under seige, but that the Biryonim set fire to the store ...
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5answers
362 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 ...
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3answers
297 views

Who was the first Chasidishe Rabbi to settle in the USA?

Who was the first Chasidishe Rabbi to settle in the USA? Where did he settle?
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4answers
1k views

Why don't we seek converts to Judaism?

Why don't Jews try to convert other people to their religion, outside of Israel? Since Christian and Islamic forces try to make them a minority shouldn't they also try to convert people to grow ...
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4answers
312 views

Was King David also a Navi?

Is there any suggestion in the scripture (even implicitly) that King David might have been also a Navi?
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3answers
535 views

What has the Holocaust taught us as a people?

The Holocaust was one of the most horrific and important events in our history. What have rabbis said are lessons we should take from it? I am looking for lessons that should apply to all Jews, ...
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5answers
3k 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 ...
11
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2answers
378 views

Why do we think of the korban pesach as a sheep, not as a goat?

Ask many a grade-schooler (and many an adult, for that matter) what animal the korban pesach is, and he'll tell you "a sheep".[1] In fact, it can be a sheep or a goat. (It's explicit in chumash ...
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1answer
345 views

Eldad HaDani's Lasting Influence - Is there any?

Eldad HaDani is (apparently) considered today to have been a fraud. According to this Wikipedia article, he was a traveler who told stories of his place of origin, which he claimed was a sovereign ...
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6answers
328 views

Is there a good visual companion to Tanach?

I'm looking for a visual companion to Tanach, i.e. maps, charts, and timelines. So when I'm learning Sefer Yehoshua, for example, I can see maps that chart the various battles and such. Are there any ...
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2answers
170 views

Is there a model of reconciliation in the Tanach?

Monica asked an excellent question about how to correct someone who posts something objectionable on a public forum. I was struck by the suggestion that the usual course of action was "to take the ...
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7answers
2k views

How are Spartans the son of Abraham?

I was reading the Book of Maccabbees (I and II) over shabbat and in it there is a letter written to Sparta to ask for peace, goodwill and friendship. In the reply letter back from Sparta, they affirm ...
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1answer
626 views

Is this the Chofetz Chaim?

What is the story behind this picture being known as the image of the great Rabbi Yisrael Meir Kagan(Chafetz Chaim)? Is it him in fact? Where does it come from? The only true picture (that I am ...
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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
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2answers
279 views

Does our literature discuss invalidating a conversion because the convert would not put his/her lot with the Jewish people?

When a person is interested in converting, there are really two questions they are asked: Are you prepared to accept the theology and observance of Judaism? Are you prepared to accept your identity ...
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1answer
185 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 ...
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5answers
489 views

Existence of Heaven and Hell

I heard from a Jewish colleague that the concept of Heaven and Hell were not originally part of Judaism. I couldn't find references to these concepts in the Old Testament. So Were these part of ...
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2answers
404 views

Is it possible for mesorah to be discovered?

Suppose there was a previously unknown collection of midrash or sayings or halachah or commentary that was discovered in an archaeological excavation and is hundreds or thousands of years old. ...
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1answer
138 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 ...
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2answers
607 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 ...
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2answers
278 views

Is there a chief Rabbi of the United States?

Is there currently or has there ever been historically a chief Rabbi of the United States? If not, why not?
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2answers
163 views

“Avram” for when he was young?

The Gemara in Brachot 13a teaches us that we should only refer to Avraham as Avraham and not as Avram. תני בר קפרא כל הקורא לאברהם אברם עובר בעשה שנאמר (בראשית יז) והיה שמך אברהם רבי אליעזר אומר ...
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1answer
693 views

What is a “Sephardic Jew”?

My name is Paul Avila (yea, I know, doesn't sound Jewish at all) I was born in the Azores Portugal and moved to the United States when I was 2. People always ask me if I am Persian. Never ...
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2answers
357 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 ...
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3answers
388 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 ...
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1answer
662 views

How often did the average Israelite bring offerings to the temple?

In addition to the mandated communal offerings, individual Jews were liable for, or permitted to bring, a variety of offerings of their own. How often did the average Israelite bring each type of ...
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2answers
221 views

Were the people of Chelm really unintelligent?

There are many stories that are told over about the people who lived in Chelm. They all have the theme of: the people in Chelm were fairly unintelligent. Where did this come from? Is it true? It ...
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4answers
264 views

Why do we still use the non-Jewish way of delineating chapters in tanach?

The "perakim" (chapters) of tanach were established by non-Jews. Why do we continue to use them? Many of the chapter breaks do not correspond to our petucha/setumah paragraph system, and they often ...
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2answers
143 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?