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

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Using oil lamps on Shabbas in old times

In the olden times, before electricity, did religious Jews have lamps that could hold large amounts of oil so that they could use light on Shabbas, similar to how we use Shabbas lamps and have lights ...
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175 views

What was the status of the Pharisees, and their relationship with the Temple authorities in the early first century?

One of the many mistakes made by the authors of the Christian gospels is attributing the state of affairs in their own time to the time they are trying to describe. An example of this error is the ...
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354 views

How did the Jewish people understand and make sense of the destruction of the Second Temple?

Since I began studying the history of the Christian faith, and the relation between Judaism and Christianity, I have been struck by the idea of the Second Temple's destruction. I simply can't imagine ...
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How was choral liturgical music used in the renaissance?

Salamone Rossi was a 17th-century Italian composer who wrote choral arrangements of several liturgical texts -- piyutim, Tanakh passages, prayers (like hashkiveinu and kedusha), etc. (See the link ...
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83 views

Was referring to a Jewish firstborn son as “____ bar [mother's name]” insulting in the first century?

There is a passage in the Christian "gospels" in which Jesus is referred to by his community in an unusual way. The text [Mark 6:3] was originally written in Greek, but the English translation is: ...
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190 views

How would first century Jews in Judea have reacted to the Jesus Movement's messianic claims?

My understanding is that first century Jews in Judea, Jerusalem, etc, would have known that Jesus could not possibly be the messiah, because the messiah was expected to be triumphant in life, and no ...
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177 views

When and why did we stop wearing sackcloth?

When and why did we stop wearing sackcloth in times of mourning and other times of distress (e.g., when fasting for rain)? (I presume sackcloth was quite uncomfortable.) Sackcloth is mentioned in ...
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120 views

Not approaching the Western Wall

A decade ago, I visited the Western Wall in Jerusalem with Nosson Tzvi Finkel, a widely respected rabbi in Israel. As we approached one of the holiest sites in Judaism, the rabbi halted about 10 yards ...
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363 views

Is there any tradition of any Jews leaving Mitzrayim before the Exodus

Is there any tradition of Israelites leaving Mitzrayim before the Exodus? Moses fled Egypt on his own. Was this a unique occurrence, or is it safe to assume this was a regular thing? If it ever ...
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147 views

Massacre of Baalei Tosafos

There is a famous story about the Baalei Tosafos using their own blood to write their pirush on the chapter Merubah in Bava Kamma before they were massacred. Is there a source for this?
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River flowing from the southern end of the Dead Sea?

A footnote on page 966 of the Artscroll chumash (this week's reading) has a map that includes the dead sea. The map shows a river flowing from the southern tip of the sea. According to a Duke U site: ...
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185 views

Did manna fall on yontif?

For kiddush on yontif we use two challot. We did not collect manna on Shabbat because of carrying. But carrying is allowed on yontif. Does that mean that manna did not fall on yontif?
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Use of speaking “Baruch HaShem” in 1492 Spain

I am writing a play that takes place during the Spanish Inquisition. A Rabbi is walking home from the King's court and his belongings are tossed to the ground by hooligans. A young Spanish girl picks ...
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91 views

Kamtza bar Kamtza [closed]

This might be speculation, but during learning yesterday we discussed how would people have known if the cohenim brought the sacrifice with the blemish on its lips? Would Bar-Kamtza have found another ...
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2answers
235 views

How does Judaism answer the problem of evil? [duplicate]

I would think that after the great amount of suffering the Jews had to suffer in the 20th century a whole lot of them had to review how the deity they believed in could let what was happening to them ...
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Death Penalty for Desecrating God's Name?

In light of some of the recent embarrassing criminal incidents involving visibly religious Jews in the United States, it made me think of something I had read once ( or vaguely remember reading ) that ...
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149 views

Tikunei Ha-Zohar: What happened to Tikun 20?

hebrewbooks has a scan of the 1558 Mantuba edition of Tikunei HaZohar. In that edition, Tikun 20 is several pages long. (Starts here, goes for several pages). The only other edition I found on ...
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History of ḥalāqah/Upsherin (אפשערן/חאלאקה) [duplicate]

What are the earliest sources for these customs? i found mention of the custom amongst Sephardim of Eretz Yisrael in the Kether Shem Tob. But that only mentions it for Eretz Yisrael, and doesn't ...
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An eye for an eye Hammurabi's code [duplicate]

The Hammurabi is supposed to predate the Torah and contains a verse "an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth". I've done a little reading around the issue, but is there any reference to why there would ...
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31 views

Could Kohanim use pottery or only stone kelim?

Someone told me that when the Temple was standing, Kohamim could only use stone kelim because they could not become tomeh. OTOH (are these abbreviations well known here?), on the other hand, it seems ...
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Responses to Dr. Chaim S. Heifetz's timeline of Persian History

Dr. Chaim S. Heifetz has been quoted in a few places as revising the history timeline which if correct would greatly impact Jewish history from the Persian empire and on. See here http://www....
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Was the fast of Tisha B'av in effect during the second temple era? [duplicate]

As the Beis Hamikdash was rebuilt at that time was the fast of Tisha B'Av in effect during the Second Temple Era?
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108 views

Book about Rabbis and Zionism

What is a good book which goes into detail about Rabbis (particularly those living in Israel from 1880-1950) and their personal experience with Zionists and the Palestinians? I am particularly ...
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1answer
48 views

What is the meaning and history behind the velvet signs decorating Abraham's tomb?

I was recently reading up on Wikipedia regarding the Tomb of the Patriarchs, and was particularly interested in this picture: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/8/89/Cenotaph_of_Abraham_-...
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Is there a book or online source that discusses the history of “U.S. / Canadian use” Siddurim?

I am fascinated when I view old and even current Siddurim used in shuls in U.S. It seems that as demographics changed, new Siddurim were designed to cater to this. For example, the 1st English ...
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Were new arrivals stuck at Ellis Island for Shabbos?

If I understand correctly, if your airplane or boat arrived on Shabbos, you're stuck within a ~half-mile radius of the boat or plane until after Shabbos because of techum. (I'd heard some discussion ...
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1answer
140 views

Accuracy of Torah Text

What evidence do we have regarding the accuracy of the torah text? (five books of Moses) How much if at all has it changed over time.
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132 views

Can anybody read from the torah or prophets in a synagogue?

I am trying to understand the context of a passage from the Christian gospels. Luke 4:16 says that Jesus went into the synagogue and started reading from the book of Isaiah. At that time could ...
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2answers
73 views

What was Rabbi Yehuda Hanassi's role in compiling the Mishnah?

I have always heard that Rabbi Yehuda Hanassi "compiled" the mishna. What were his roles in compiling it in the form that we currently have it? Specifically, did he perform any of these roles: ...
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2answers
84 views

Can the Baitusim and the Essenes be one and the same?

This is a total shot in the dark, but it seems coincidental to me that we have a group of heretics closely related to the Tzedukim, called Baitusim who are never mentioned in the historical works of ...
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2answers
120 views

What's the source that יונתן בן עוזיאל passed away 26 sivan?

The tomb of ben Uzziel is located in Amuka, Galilee near Safed, Israel. It is customary to visit ben Uzziel's tomb on Rosh Chodesh, the first day of the lunar month, and on 26 Sivan (the day on ...
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139 views

History of Shabbat: how (or) did they count to align with 7th day of creation?

The Torah (Exodus 20:8-11) commands: ח: זָכוֹר אֶת יוֹם הַשַּׁבָּת לְקַדְּשׁוֹ: ט: שֵׁשֶׁת יָמִים תַּעֲבֹד וְעָשִׂיתָ כָּל מְלַאכְתֶּךָ: י: וְיוֹם הַשְּׁבִיעִי שַׁבָּת לַה' אֱלֹקיךָ לֹא תַעֲשֶׂה ...
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1answer
119 views

Instances where women wore tefillin [duplicate]

Up to (and including) the period of the Rishonim, are there multiple documented instances of Jewish women wearing tefillin? Edit: As discovered by another user on this website, there is another ...
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63 views

How old was Joshua at the time of the spies?

Num 13 and 14 discuss the spies sent by Moses to asses the land, among them Joshua and Caleb. Josh 14:7 says that Caleb was 40 when he was sent as a spy. How old was Joshua at the time of the spies (...
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Hatov V'hameitiv origin

In relation to the following question:Kulo Tov, I wondered who wrote the hatov v'hameitiv and what its origin is. (Looking for sources that state that HaShem is [all/completely] good)
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283 views

What is the origin of the claim that they played games to hide Torah learning prior to Chanuka

This question makes a very commonly heard claim: "Before the miracle of Hanukkah, when those who controlled the land severely restricted Torah study, Jewish children would gather to study Torah in ...
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123 views

Mary Jesus' mother or Mary Magdalene?

The Gemara in Chaggigah (4b) mentions a woman by the name of Miriam Megadla Se'ar: זיל אייתי לי מרים מגדלא שיער נשייא Which means she was a "grower of woman's hair" which is to mean she was a ...
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1answer
170 views

Banei Abir clan of Habbani Yemenite Jewry

There's this video for "ancient tefillin wrapping" that shows a wrapping style utilizing the paleo-hebrew characters. The statement is that this method of wrapping is preserved by the "Banei Abir clan ...
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38 views

Authorship of Midrash Tehillim

What do traditional sources say regarding the date of authorship of Midrash Tehillim?
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109 views

Why Vilna Sha"s?

If one enters a beit midrash and takes out a masechta of Talmud, one will invariably find that it is typeset following the exact form of the page found in the edition from Vilna. So here are two ...
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82 views

Why no halachos in the Babylonian Talmud like in the Palestinian?

Most Jewish texts have a easy way to pin down a citation. Some are numbered. For example, Rambam and Y'rushalmi and Tosefta have chapter and halacha. Some of these have different numberings in ...
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1answer
59 views

Memorization of the Talmud by Tosafists

I have heard a story (referenced here for example) about R. Isaac of Dampierre making sure that each tractate of the talmud be memorized by one of his students. What are the earliest sources for this ...
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108 views

Derech Halimud of Yeshivas in Istanbul, Salonika and other Sephardic Countries

In classic mainstream Ashkenazi European Yeshivas such as the Mir, Telz, Kletzk or Kaminetz, each yeshiva had their own particular style. The Mir and Kaminetz were heavily influenced by the Brisker ...
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90 views

What did the Second Beis Hamikdash look like before Herod renovated it?

As penance, Herod rebuilt and remodeled the second Beis Hamikdash (See Bava Basra 4a). Most of the models of the Beis Hamikdash are of this rebuilding. What did the original one look like?
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86 views

Under whose rule was the second Beis Hamikdash destroyed?

Rashi in Sota (41a) says אגריפס המלך. מלך ישראל היה מזרעו של הורדוס והוא שנחרב בהמ"ק בימיו The Beis Hamikdash was destroyed in the days of Aggripas. I thought that by the time of the ...
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146 views

Were there any Sadducees on the Sanhedrin?

Various Jewish sources indicate the presence of Sadducees among the priesthood, including the position of Kohen Gadol. However, are there any Jewish sources that discuss Sadducees on the Great ...
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253 views

Who broke the parshiyot into aliyot and how?

The Torah readings on Shabbat are broken into 7 aliyot. I know that there are rules for the minimum number of pesukim for each aliyah but I am wondering who set up the exact placement of the aliyah ...
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What kind of publicity was required for Smicha?

There's a story in Sanhedrin 14a: שפעם אחת גזרה מלכות הרשעה גזירה על ישראל שכל הסומך יהרג וכל הנסמך יהרג ועיר שסומכין בה תיחרב ותחומין שסומכין בהן יעקרו מה עשה יהודה בן בבא הלך וישב לו בין שני ...
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119 views

How did the water climb so high?

The Gemara in Sota 34 says וכיון שניטבלו רגלי כהנים במים חזרו המים לאחוריהם שנאמר וכבוא נושאי הארון עד הירדן וגו' ויעמדו המים היורדים מלמעלה קמו נד אחד וכמה גובהן של מים שנים עשר מיל על שנים עשר ...
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Who authored the topic - division headings in the Shulchan Aruch?

In every Shulchan Aruch I have seen, there are headings identifying the topic of each upcoming series of sections. For example, between sections 88 and 89, there is a heading which labels the next ...