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

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6
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4answers
413 views

Why is the Mesillas Yesharim so popular and accepted?

To overgeneralize, I bet there is a copy of the mesillas yesharim in almost every orthodox home, shul and beis medrash. I'm wondering why this work is so popular and accepted. My wondering is ...
6
votes
1answer
160 views

Why was the “Ark of the Covenant” lost?

Why is it that in spite of the fact that the ark carried Torah tablets and other sacred objects, it was lost? Was it not taken care of by the priests of that time? Or was it destined to be lost? Why? ...
5
votes
2answers
161 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?
4
votes
1answer
184 views

Source for story of Rashi, the King, and the Four Horsemen

There is a story (you can read the details here) about Rashi telling a King that he will conquer Yerushalaim for 3 days and return with 3 horses and 3 riders. The King returned with 4, but as they ...
3
votes
2answers
158 views

Did the Jews in the Midbar know the entire Torah?

The G'mara in Y'vamos (ד) and B'rachos (כא) records a dispute over whether laws can be deduced from the fact of two p'sukim appearing adjacent to one another in the Torah. The Mahara"tz Chayos ...
0
votes
0answers
83 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 ...
18
votes
2answers
1k views

Why is the Jewish Population so small?

Judaism is one of the oldest religions, but there aren't many Jews compared to Muslims and Christians. What are main reasons behind that?
15
votes
1answer
681 views

What was daily life like for Jewish women living in al-Andalus in the 10th/11th centuries?

The emir of Al-Andalus (approximately the Iberian peninsula) declared himself a new caliph, breaking off from the caliphate in the east, circa 950 CE. I have read that the next couple hundred years ...
14
votes
2answers
306 views

What does “the Talmud” mean in the Talmud?

The G'mara Bavli says in Shabas 63: אמר רב כהנא, "כד הוינא בר תמני סרי שנין, והוה גמירנא ליה לכוליה תלמודא, ולא הוה ידענא דאין מקרא יוצא מידי פשוטו..." Rav Kahana said, "When I was 18 years ...
13
votes
8answers
792 views

“If God had not delivered us from Egypt we would still be slaves”? Really?

One part of the Pesach seder that has always bothered me is saying that if God had not taken us out of Mitzrayim at that time we would still be slaves today. This seems lacking in faith in God; ...
13
votes
4answers
461 views

What is the source of the Magen Dovid (Star of David)?

What is the source of the Magen Dovid (Star of David) in Rabbinic Judaism? When was it first used, and for what?
12
votes
3answers
828 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
votes
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 ...
11
votes
1answer
541 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
votes
1answer
345 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 ...
11
votes
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 ...
10
votes
2answers
152 views

“שליט״א” only for certain people

Living people sometimes have "שליט״א" added after their respective names. This means, roughly, "may he live a good, long life". That seems like a nice blessing for anyone; yet, in my experience, only ...
10
votes
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
votes
3answers
324 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 ...
10
votes
1answer
147 views

What happened to the Eirev Rav?

What happened to the Eirev Rav after the Jews entered Israel? They were open trouble makers in the desert, yet nothing was mentioned of them later? Did they clean up their act? Did they die out?
10
votes
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 ...
9
votes
1answer
179 views

Origin of Haggadah Section Titles (Kadesh Urchatz, etc.)

What is the historical origin of the section titles of the Haggadah? (Inspired by discussion in comments on this answer to the question: Translation of haggadah section titles)
9
votes
1answer
182 views

Chamisha Asar B'Av - when did the Minhag stop?

The Gemara Taanis 31. says אמר רבן שמעון בן גמליאל לא היו ימים טובים לישראל כחמשה עשר באב וכיוה"כ שבהן בנות ירושלים יוצאות ... וחולות בכרמים ומה היו אומרות בחור שא נא עיניך וראה מה אתה בורר לך אל תתן ...
9
votes
1answer
342 views

What happened to the Jewish practice of using burial caves?

A three-part question about funerary practices. In ancient times, Jews used to bury people for a year or two, then, after the body decomposed, collect their bones and put them in a family cave. In ...
8
votes
0answers
92 views

Explanations for forbidding writing Oral Torah [duplicate]

Possible Duplicate: Why was Torah sheBal Peh not allowed to be Written? The Wikipedia article for Oral Torah mentions the possibility that it was forbidden to write and publish Oral Torah. ...
8
votes
3answers
264 views

Why the split between Sefardim and Ashkenzim?

Why is there a much bigger split between Sefardim and Ashkenzim and not, say, between Sefardim and people who lived in Bavel? The distance between Spain, and say, Israel should have been big enough to ...
8
votes
1answer
130 views

“m'nora” on Chanuka

My kid came home from school one day insisting that the thing we light on Chanuka is not a m'nora but a chanukiya. I replied that that's the word most Israelis use now but that m'nora is a perfectly ...
7
votes
2answers
162 views

What are the 3 things Rabeinu Gershom banned?

I've heard that Rabeinu Gershom (a 10th-11th century scholar) banned 3 things, and I know one of them is polygamy. Does anyone know what the other two are?
7
votes
3answers
274 views

Masada - heroic martyrdom or immoral murder/suicide?

Was the mass coordinated mutual killing at Masada (for lack of a better term) an act of heroic martyrdom or immoral murder and suicide? While it is unknown for certain what exactly transpired, ...
7
votes
3answers
252 views

Which masechtot don't really have Rashi?

I often hear that the printed "Rashi" commentary in certain masechtot of the Talmud Bavli (first that come to mind are Moed Katan and Nedarim) is not actually written by Rashi. Does anyone have a full ...
7
votes
2answers
96 views

How did Dovid Hamelech kill Amaleikim?

Similar to this question. How did Dovid Hamelech kill the Amaleikim when they were almost completely obliterated (their only survivor was a baby fathered by Agag on his last day) by Shaul Hamelech ...
7
votes
1answer
257 views

Was Rabbi Moshe Feinstein ever formally ordained? (Given semicha?)

Did Rabbi Moshe Feinstein ever formally receive semicha? From whom? I recall reading that he studied a great deal with his father, and that his first responsum was written "at his father's orders."
7
votes
4answers
266 views

Moshe's divorcing Tzipora

Moshe refrained from marital relations with Tzipora for almost forty years, so as to be able to receive prophecy at any moment (Shabas 87:1). 1. Did he divorce her? 2. If not, why not?
7
votes
2answers
182 views

The Split Between Sefardim and Ashkenazim

How did this split happen historically and halachically before Shulchan Aruch, and why is not like having two Torahs? Where is the source for the split?
6
votes
1answer
104 views

How much of the sefer torah did the king read each day?

According to D'varim 17:18-20, a king was required to write for himself a sefer torah and read from it each day ( וְקָרָא בוֹ כָּל-יְמֵי חַיָּיו). This doesn't say he had to read the whole sefer each ...
6
votes
1answer
203 views

When did “Zal” give way to “Zatzal”?

Inspired by this answer and it's comments. Early on, it was standard to refer to great Rabbis who had passed away with the appellation "Zal" - "zichrono/ah livracha "May his/her/their memory be a ...
6
votes
2answers
258 views

What's the history of Hekhalot/Heichalot/Heikhalot literature?

There is a field of study, which focuses on the Hekhalot literature. However, the internet gives conflicting information about them. For example, some state that they were written by the early ...
6
votes
2answers
234 views

Start of the Upsherin ceremony

When did it become popular to have a ceremony for a boys Upsherin, his first haircut when he reaches the age of three?
6
votes
2answers
112 views

What financial arrangement did Rambam have with his jeweler brother?

I was taught in yeshiva that as a young man, Rambam just studied Torah and was supported by his brother, who was a jewel merchant. Then his brother died at sea, so Rambam became a physician. Recently ...
6
votes
1answer
368 views

Where did the Levitical priesthood go?

Has the sacrificial system of the Torah been abandoned? Do those in the Tribe of Levi still act as priest? I have just never seen or heard of anyone making sacrifices of animals or going to a ...
6
votes
1answer
188 views

Did the Sefer Torah written by the Maharam of Rottenberg survive the Holocaust?

There is a famous story of the Maharam copying a Sefer Torah written by Moshe Rabbeinu. Before passing, he threw it in the river by the castle in which he was arrested. This Sefer Torah reached ...
6
votes
1answer
193 views

What went down in 1666 before Shabtai Tz'vi's apostasy?

It seems agreed upon that one or more representatives from Lvov traveled to either investigate, visit or out Shabtai Tzvi in 1666 when he was still claiming to be the mashi'ach. Immediately following ...
5
votes
2answers
104 views

What was the formulation of the Bracha about Yerushalayim in the times of the Temple?

In Shemona Esrei we pray that Hashem should return to Yerushalayim. Obviously while the Jews were in Yerushalayim during the time of the Bais Hamikdash this Bracha had to be different as it would not ...
5
votes
1answer
185 views

When will the period of Acharonim end?

What will mark the end of the period of Acharonim? What in general demarcates rabbinical eras? Are these halachic rules or conventions?
5
votes
1answer
366 views

Which major gedolim have said Hallel on Yom Haatzmaut and Yom Yerushalayim?

Which major gedolim, especially at the times at which the events occurred, but in general too, have said Hallel for Yom Haatzmaut and Yom Yerushalyim? The definition of a major gadol is, of course, ...
5
votes
3answers
149 views

Can you fulfill the obligation to pray if you can't hear the leader?

The gemorah in Sukkah daf 51b explains that, in the enormous shul in Alexandria, in order for everyone to know when to answer Amen when the shliach tzibbur (prayer leader, aka sha"tz) was davening, ...
5
votes
0answers
151 views

Relations among King David, the Sanhedrin, and the high priest

Do we have any historical source that discusses the relations among King David, the Sanhedrin during his reign, and the high priest during his reign? Were they on friendly terms? Was there a power ...
5
votes
4answers
320 views

Why was the Gemara written in Aramaic?

The Gemara (the Bavli and Yerushalmi) are the fundamental texts that we possess of the Oral law. Why were they written in Aramaic? At first glance, Ravina and R' Ashi probably knew that this will be ...
5
votes
2answers
474 views

Sources for Hassidic views on marital celibacy/asceticism?

My understanding is the traditional view of Ger Hassidism was that marital celibacy was a good idea, once all procreative needs had been met. My impression is that Chabad-Lubavitch never advocated an ...
5
votes
1answer
96 views

If the “ten martyrs” didn't happen together, did the punishment-for-Joseph story happen? When?

It's commonly believed that the "ten martyrs" didn't all live in the same time period, and the description of them as a group is conceptual, not historical. Now the story opens with a Roman ruler ...