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

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4answers
137 views

Why did the scholars of Bavel live in Bavel and not Eretz Yisrael?

If there is a positive mitzva of living in Eretz Yisrael, why did the scholars of Pumbedisa, Sura, Nahardai, Mechoza, etc. remain in Bavel. If it was to learn Torah from the giants, then we can focus ...
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 ...
8
votes
2answers
156 views

Why are most mitzvas impossible to keep?

Nowadays, one can only keep so many Mitzvos (271). That is less than half of the commandments of the Torah. I don't know if there is any statistic regarding how many Psukim discuss currently relevant ...
8
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2answers
332 views

When did people stop wearing Tefilin all day?

At what point in history did most religous people stop wearing Tefilin all day?
8
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5answers
270 views

Learning History on Shabbos

Is there a Halachic problem to read and or learn the topic of History on Shabbos for enjoyment purposes? and why?
8
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3answers
638 views

Were the Books of Maccabees found in the Dead Sea Scrolls?

Were there copies of any of the Books of Maccabees (and/or Megillas Antiochus) found amongst in the Dead Sea Scrolls?
8
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2answers
453 views

Which 20th-century Rosh Yeshiva studied under the mysterious Monsieur Chouchani?

Monsieur Chouchani was a mysterious figure who travelled around post-World War II and taught several great Jewish thinkers, including Emmanuel Levinas z"l and [yibadel l'chayim] Elie Wiesel. ...
8
votes
3answers
186 views

what are the “Mishnah” and “Gemara” referenced in Pirkei Avot 5?

At the end of Pirkei Avot 5, we have a statement (of either Ben Hei Hei or R. Yehuda ben Tema --- I have two siddurim with slightly different texts): He used to say: at five years of age, the ...
8
votes
1answer
395 views

Did the Egyptians use whips on the Hebrew slaves? Why do we assume so?

It seems like every image I've ever seen drawn (or acted) of the Jews' slavery in Egypt involves them being whipped by Egyptians. The Torah says that the Jewish foremen were stricken as their ...
8
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2answers
146 views

Yearning for Moshiach while the Temples stood

Did we (the Jewish people) yearn for the complete Redemption (with the Techias HaMasim, etc) like we do today, at the time the either Temple was standing? It can't be that we just assumed "This is ...
8
votes
2answers
435 views

Was “correcting” left-handed children something traditionally done by Jews?

In many societies, efforts are made to "convert" children who are naturally left-handed to using their right hands. As I understand it, modern neurology strongly frowns upon this practice. I recall ...
8
votes
1answer
181 views

Riding the Boston train (T) on Shabbat - written evidence?

I've long heard 'urban legends' of halachically observent Jews in Boston many years ago riding the train ('the T') on Shabbat. Does anyone have any written evidence of such a practice? (I'm not ...
8
votes
1answer
158 views

Does a Rabbi have to sink with his ship?

There is a famous story (mentioned in his wikipedia article) that R' Elchonon Wasserman visited the United States before the war. He had the option to stay, but he refused since (as I heard) "A leader ...
8
votes
2answers
209 views

What happened to the utensils from the Second Bais Hamikdash?

After the second temple was destroyed what happened to the keilim? When was the last time they were recordedly seen and where do historians or other academics believe they are today?
8
votes
1answer
113 views

How commonly used are manuscripts in psak?

How Halachically valid are recently discovered manuscripts? For example, if one found the original manuscript of the Rambam and he rules differently than the currently known text, do modern Poskim ...
8
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1answer
644 views

Four Holy Cities

I have often seen reference to the Four Holy Cities: Jerusalem, Hebron, Safed and Tiberias. What is the earliest source to reference this? Why these four cities? Has there ever been a different count? ...
8
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0answers
82 views

Were there any sages who supported the Zealots during the seige of Jerusalem?

In Gittin 56a-b, we read how the sages warned the Zealots (a.k.a. the Biryonim) to not wage war with the Romans who were holding Jerusalem under seige, but that the Biryonim set fire to the store ...
8
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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. ...
7
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5answers
643 views

Have there ever been inter-faith debates between Jews and Muslims?

There are records of many inter-faith debates (disputations) between Jews and Christians even up to modern times. However I have never heard of similar such debates between Jews and Muslims. Are there ...
7
votes
4answers
267 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
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
786 views

Has the Torah been changed over the ages?

It is quite a famous argument from Muslims for authenticity of the Quran that the previous Holy Books (Bible and Torah) sent by God have been corrupted or changed by their followers and that Quran is ...
7
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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
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2answers
96 views

When did Ben Teshuva become Baal Teshuva?

Rabbeinu Yonah in Bava Basra 39a talks about someone who does Teshuva and calls him a Ben Teshuva. What is the earliest reference in history to the words Baal Teshuva? And why did it change from Ben ...
7
votes
1answer
107 views

Which came first the Mishnah Torah or the Pirush HaMishnayos

Which sefer did the Ramabm author first, was it his Mishnah Torah (Yad HaChazaka) or his commentary to Mishnayos?
7
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6answers
248 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?
7
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2answers
187 views

When did Achashverosh stop rounding up fair maidens?

So first Achashverosh was married to Vashti. Then no more Vashti. Then he's rounding up all the fair maidens in the land to um, "meet" them, one per night, but they're still stuck in one of his royal ...
7
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2answers
219 views

History of Capital Punishment

When is the most recent documented occurrence in Jewish history of a beit din carrying out the death penalty? Or if historical documentation is lacking, when is the most recent time in Jewish history ...
7
votes
3answers
151 views

Under whom did these Rabbis study?

In an effort to trace back Rabbi-to-student transmission of tradition, I've run into some dead ends, and I'm hoping the community can offer some leads. Under whom did the following Rabbis study? ...
7
votes
1answer
326 views

Is this the Chofetz Chaim?

What is the story behind this picture being known as the image of the great Rabbi Yisrael Meir Kagan? Is it him in fact? Where does it come from? The only true picture (that I am aware of) shows ...
7
votes
2answers
277 views

What historical figures have been identified as 'Amalek?

Adolf Hitler is often said to have been from 'Amalek. I've even heard it said not only figuratively but literally (how one could know that is a mystery to me). What other historical figures are ...
7
votes
2answers
203 views

Semicha (ordination) by Rabbi Yaakov Kamenetsky Zatzal

I have never met anyone or heard of anyone that has received Semicha (rabbinic ordination) from Rabbi Yaakov Kamenetsky Zatzal. Did Rabbi Yaakov Kamenetsky ever give anyone Semicha? If the answer is ...
7
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3answers
265 views

Non-Lubavitch views of the Maggid of Mezrich's relationship with R' Shneur Zalman of Liadi?

As far as I know, all chasiduses agree that the Maggid of Mezrich was the primary student of the Baal Shem Tov. But I was listening to an online shiur about Chabad (Lubavitch) history, which conveyed ...
7
votes
2answers
159 views

Speaking Yiddish vs. the host language at home

I understand that, before World War Ⅱ, the Jews of Hungary and Germany mostly spoke Hungarian and German, respectively, amongst themselves (at home), whereas the Jews of Poland mostly spoke Yiddish ...
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
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3answers
134 views

Copies of Aleppo Codex

From what I understand, the loss of the Torah portion of Keter Aram Soba (the Aleppo Codex) in 1948 is heavily lamented because it was the oldest preserved and probably most accurate text of Torah. ...
7
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1answer
428 views

Fighting Wars on Shabbat

As I mentioned in another question, I was reading the Book of Maccabees over Shabbat (I and II). In the book of Maccabees, it mentions that early on in the struggle, there were a group of Jews hiding ...
7
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1answer
174 views

Amon and Moav today

The Halacha is that a Jewish woman may not marry a convert of Amon and Moav. Is there any way to know who is a descendant of Amon and Moav today?
7
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2answers
76 views

Dressing similarly at a Din Torah - When did this change and why?

Gemara Shevuos 31a says that if two people come to Bais Din one dressed in rags and the other dressed in expensive clothing, we make them dress similarly. Sefer Hachinuch Mitzva 235 indicates that ...
7
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1answer
112 views

What authority is there for the text of Kaddish Derabonon regarding the words וארעא,‎ טובים, and ברחמיו?

There are variations of the text in Kaddish Derabonon. My questions are how they have arisen and whether there is any authority for each form. 1) The use or non-use of the word וארעא in the phrase ...
7
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2answers
243 views

How historically accurate is Josephus?

How accurate is the writing of Josephus? Can we rely on any of his writings to establish authentic Jewish practices or in areas of halacha?
7
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2answers
155 views

How was the Volozhin Yeshiva special?

The Volozhin Yeshiva is known as the "first yeshiva". What was the system of Torah learning in Europe before Volozhin and in what way did Volozhin change the system?
7
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2answers
372 views

לשון הקדש: the oldest language?

Rashi to B'reshis 2:23 says that the language Adam spoke was one that Rashi calls לשון הקדש, lashon hakodesh (or l'shon hakodesh), and that contains the words אִשָּׁה and אִישׁ. Keeping to Rashi's ...
7
votes
1answer
86 views

Where/when/how/why did flags become part of Simchas Torah celebrations?

Kids today all know that they have flags when dancing on Simchas Torah. How, when, where, and/or why did the flags originate? (Someone decided it was fun, and then it caught on?) What pictures were ...
7
votes
1answer
90 views

How did they establish in the USA, post-WW II, that a Rav had smicha prior to the Holocaust?

This is probably something that happened many times after World War II, when documentation was lost. Here's the scenario: A rabbi, who had led a kehila (congregation) in a small town in ...
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1answer
132 views

Who invented the Mikraot Gedolot?

Whose idea was the Mikraot Gedolot and when was it first published? Mikraot Gedolot is a Humash with a collection of commentaries very popular in Jewish circles today.
7
votes
1answer
76 views

When did the spice box get it's classical shape?

All Havdala Bsamamim boxes I have ever seen are in the shape of a tower. Why (and when) did it take on that classical shape (rather than just a silver box)?
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?
7
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2answers
135 views

Was the Reish Galuta considered the presumptive candidate for the Melech haMoshiach?

The Reish Galuta, or Exilarch, was, from the time of Zerubavel until the abolition of the office ca. 1000 C.E. (with interregna), a Jewish political leader descended from malchut beit David. In some ...
7
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1answer
137 views

Why is the Shulchan Aruch definitive?

Why do we (almost all Jews) consider the Shulchan Arukh, not written until the 16th century, to be the final word on halakha? Our halakha is derived from Torah Shebikhtav and She'be'al Peh. SA ...