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

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4answers
197 views

Who is the voice of Tosafoth?

Tosafoth were the sons-in-law, grandchildren, and students of Rashi (and their students), and "they" wrote a commentary on the Talmud that is often at odds with Rashi's earlier commentary. Sometimes ...
12
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1answer
424 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 ...
12
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1answer
348 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 ...
12
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2answers
892 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
242 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
403 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
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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4answers
863 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 ...
12
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3answers
830 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
157 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
147 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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2answers
844 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 ...
12
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1answer
271 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
337 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 ...
11
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7answers
216 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 ...
11
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3answers
246 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
288 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
478 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
154 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
432 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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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
129 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
246 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 ...
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2answers
557 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
231 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
148 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
548 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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3answers
292 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 ...
11
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2answers
332 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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1answer
400 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
210 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 ...
11
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4answers
237 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
130 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?
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1answer
105 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 ...
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2answers
188 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 ...
11
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1answer
285 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 ...
10
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4answers
244 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 ...
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6answers
283 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
134 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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2answers
350 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 ...
10
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3answers
373 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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3answers
319 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 ...
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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
185 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 ...
10
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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 ...
10
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3answers
178 views

Who instituted the Musaf prayer?

According to the Gemara in Brachot, there are two views about Shacharit, Mincha, and Maariv: one is that the Avot instituted them, and one is that they correspond to the daily tmidin and the burning ...
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2answers
255 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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3answers
209 views

What's the origin of having more than one name?

I suppose this is more of a history question: as in when did Jewish people start naming their children with more than one name? But I would also be interested in knowing the circumstances behind it? ...
10
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4answers
325 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. ...
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2answers
191 views

Did the Rosh (Rabbeinu Asher) describe the culture clash moving from medieval Germany to Spain?

Rabbi Asher (the "Rosh") moved from medieval Germany to Spain. I know he describes some different halachic practices that were done in Spain (e.g. linen tzitzis); but does he describe the difference ...