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

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4answers
176 views

Is beauty that is described in the Torah objective beauty?

Perceptions of beauty have changed throughout time. For example, in the times of the Talmud, R' Yochanan, who was described as being fat (Berachos 13b), is also described in the Talmud as being ...
9
votes
1answer
184 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
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1answer
216 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
376 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 ...
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0answers
94 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
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3answers
283 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
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1answer
177 views

Teffilin and women

Rashi's daughters are popularly described as having worn Teffilin, but apparently there is no such source, just a popular urban legend in Jewish circles. Are there any women described in Rabbinic ...
7
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2answers
179 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
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3answers
326 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
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3answers
321 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
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2answers
98 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
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2answers
123 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 ...
7
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1answer
286 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
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4answers
307 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
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2answers
187 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?
7
votes
1answer
211 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 ...
6
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1answer
204 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?
6
votes
1answer
114 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
726 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, ...
6
votes
1answer
245 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
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2answers
220 views

Does the cherem that the Vilna Gaon put on certain sectors of Chassidus still apply?

It is known that the Vilna Gaon put 2 sectors of Chassidus in Cherem. I am wondering who has permitted them now seeing as we non-Chassidim don't make borders between them and ourselves.
6
votes
2answers
296 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
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2answers
255 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
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1answer
414 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
219 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 ...
5
votes
2answers
613 views

What's the source for naming children after Alexander the Great?

I know many Jews whose actual bris-given name is Alexander, and this has been a popular name even among great tzaddikim of the past (such as R. Alexander Ziskind). I've heard a legend (mentioned on ...
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0answers
150 views

Order of Masechtos in Seder Moed

According to the standard Shas print (Vilna Bavli), the order of Masechtas is Pesachim-Shekalim-Rosh Hashana-Yoma-Sukka-Beitza. This makes (some) sense as this is the order of holidays. However, the ...
5
votes
2answers
108 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
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0answers
160 views

Source for not referring to Chanuka lights as a “menora”

Following up on this question about the use of the words "menora" or "chanukiya" to refer to Chanuka lights: I find it interesting that the use of "chanukiya," popularized in 1897 through a secular ...
5
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3answers
159 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
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0answers
167 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
356 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
515 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
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1answer
516 views

Yerushalmi Versus Bavli

What are the differences between the two Talmuds? or are there differences? Why did the two Talmuds develop separately or did they? Why do we Poskin like the Bavli or do we? Is it true that the ...
5
votes
1answer
101 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 ...
5
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1answer
218 views

Can a 9 year old do Yibbum?

Back then was a 9 year old and 1 day boy allowed to do yebam to his dead brothers wife?
5
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4answers
317 views

What's the origin of the name “Jew”?

Why are we called "the Jews"? Did Hashem pick out this name for us? What does the word "Jew" mean?
4
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2answers
108 views

Historical evidence that blue snail dye was produced in ancient times

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tyrian_purple and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iles_Purpuraires show that blue dye was produced from the murex in ancient times in these locations. But on Ptil Tekhelet's ...
4
votes
0answers
77 views

What scribal variations (decorations etc) have changed from the earliest sifrei torah until now?

This article reports on the identification of what is possibly the oldest complete sefer torah we have, dated c.1155-1225, at the University of Bologna. (The scroll was previously thought to date to ...
4
votes
1answer
145 views

Who dropped Moses from the Hagaddah?

Moses is not mentioned in the Hagaddah (with one minor exception), presumably to show that the exodus happened entirely by G-d's power and to not deify Moses. Presumably, though, the maggid during ...
4
votes
1answer
133 views

Ashkanazim paskening like Rema

Was it always a straightforward presumption ("davar pashut") that in general the Ashkanazim should decide Halachic questions ("pasken") in accordance with the Rema over the Machaber/Beis Yosef (when ...
4
votes
1answer
230 views

Do Jews believe the content of Maccabees (I-IV) is true?

This related question touches on the book of Maccabees. I was wondering if Jews believe the content of Maccabees (I-IV) is true, even though it is outside the canon. If any of the Rishonim or ...
4
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0answers
62 views

How were the “seven good men of the city” appointed?

How were the “seven good men of the city” שבעה טובי העיר appointed? Was there an election and if so who could be candidates?
4
votes
1answer
177 views

Qumran - Proof or Genizah for Errors?

The comment and the ensuing thread quoted at the bottom of this question make me wonder what, exactly, was buried at Qumran. Were the items buried there actually used at some point and later placed ...
4
votes
1answer
505 views

Hebrew Havarah?

Similar to this question Different parts of Eastern Europe had different dialects. For example, Ukrainian, Polish and Hungarian Jews pronounce a "Shuruk" as a EE, or a Komatz as an oo (so Boruch ...
4
votes
2answers
146 views

Tu B'shvat Seder

Where did the idea of doing a Seder on Tu b'Shvat come from? Why a Seder, not just the eating of fruit? Why do we call it a Seder if there is no formalized way of doing it?
4
votes
1answer
354 views

When and why did we start reading the Parshat Hashavua?

My question is twofold: When did we start reading a new parsha (torah portion) every week? Why did we start reading a new parsha (torah portion) every week?
4
votes
2answers
2k views

how old is Judaism?

How old is Judaism - not legendary, but indicated by science? What are the oldest scriptures found of the story of Moses, for example? Or are the scriptures imported from very different cultures so ...
4
votes
1answer
147 views

g'mara about David's conception

Where's the g'mara about Yishay's divorce (or was it separation?) and David's conception, please?
4
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1answer
183 views

Aleinu L'Shabeach - Nusach HaTefila

The words "Sheheim Mishtachavim Li-Hevel Voryk Umispallelim El Eil Lo-Yoshiya" - Was this originally part of Aleinu and then removed, or was it added later to Aleinu? Why was this done?