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

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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 ...
13
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4answers
962 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
176 views

Why was the parah aduma found in 2002 disqualified?

In 2002, various news sources reported that a red heifer was found and the Temple Institute in Israel declared it kosher. Many of these sources later reported that the parah aduma was disqualified ...
13
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1answer
327 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 ...
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3answers
634 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 ...
13
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1answer
284 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 ...
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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 ...
12
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3answers
312 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 ...
12
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7answers
221 views

Zmanim accuracy before digital clocks?

How was time measured for the purpose of Zmanim before we had accurate clocks like we do today? Was it possible to accurately determine Chatzos (at night) or the different watches of the night? I know ...
12
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2answers
261 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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2answers
983 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 ...
12
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1answer
257 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
449 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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3answers
305 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
1k 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
905 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
166 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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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 ...
12
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3answers
394 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 ...
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5answers
343 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
254 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
296 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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5answers
2k 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 ...
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3answers
502 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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2answers
366 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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6answers
300 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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6answers
512 views

Can halacha change based on scientific research?

Shabbat 39a says: "With regard to heating food in the sun itself, everyone agreed that one is permitted to place food in the sun to heat it, as it is certainly neither fire nor a typical form of ...
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2answers
160 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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5answers
445 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 ...
11
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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
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1answer
134 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 ...
11
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2answers
573 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
246 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
158 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 ...
11
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1answer
591 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 ...
11
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2answers
345 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 ...
11
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3answers
346 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 ...
11
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1answer
495 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 ...
11
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2answers
216 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
251 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 ...
11
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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?
11
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1answer
110 views

Were Avraham's tactics in rescuing Lot typical of the time?

Parshat Lech L'cha describes how Lot was captured in the battle of four kings against five kings. When Avraham heard, he mounted a night-time attack to rescue him. This got me wondering: was a ...
11
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2answers
195 views

Rabbinic Responses to Landline Telephones

Recently the use of cellphones and smartphones has met with a lot of criticism in some communities. I'd be interested to see if landline telephones encountered any similar opposition when they were ...
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4answers
247 views

Why did Esther make two parties; why not just one?

What was the purpose of the two parties that Esther made for Haman and Achashverosh (Esther 5:4–8 and chapter 7), if one could have done the job? In other words, what happened that she needed a ...
10
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2answers
139 views

What was the dietary source of calcium in Talmudic times?

The Mishna in Ketubot Chapter 5 describes the basic diet of a working-class woman at the time (around the year 200): ה,ז [ח] המשרה את אשתו על ידי שליש--לא יפחות לה מקביים חיטים, או מארבעת קבים ...
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7answers
294 views

Why was Moshe buried alone?

Why did Hashem bury Moshe in an unknown place, and did not do so with other great Tzadikim like Avraham, Yitchak and Yaakov?
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3answers
383 views

How Kabbalistically accurate is the golem-making procedure described in “Niflaos Maharal”?

There's been plenty of discussion about the historic authenticity of "Niflaos Maharal", a book that appeared in the early 1900s describing how the Maharal made a Golem to defend the Jews against blood ...
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1answer
287 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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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?
10
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1answer
202 views

Did the kohanim wear tefillin during their Temple services?

The Torah and the Gemara (especially in Yoma) gives us fascinating detail about the bigdei kahuna (clothes of the priests) that were worn in the Holy Temple. What is not clear is whether tefillin ...