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

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Counting the omer with doubt before the fixed calendar

Currently, according to a previous question on this site, we count the omer without doubt: "Today is the Xth day of the omer" because we have a fixed calendar, and because counting with doubt is ...
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2answers
119 views

What is the provenance of Maseches Sofrim

Who wrote Maseches Sofrim and when did he live. Is it accepted by everyone? The Rashba in Brachos 34a writes that is one of the minor masechtes that were authored by the early sages. He reiterates in ...
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2answers
166 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 ...
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2answers
70 views

“Terach, father of Avraham and of Nachor”—what about Haran?

As quoted in the Hagadah, Yehoshua 24:2 reminds the Jewish people that, “Your ancestors lived across the river: Terach, father of Avraham and of Nachor; and they served strange gods.” God then reminds ...
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1answer
199 views

Names of the books of Tanakh

When did the books of Tanakh get their canonical names? I understand that Five Books of the Torah were named after the first words in them, and that most of Navi was named after their authors, but ...
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2answers
414 views

Why was Chassidus controversial?

When Chassidus came about, it was very controversial. The Vilna Gaon even put Chassidim in cherem. What were the reasons for the controversy? And why is there peace and mutual respect today between ...
9
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1answer
102 views

What is the source of Yartzeit tablet?

Who invented the Yahrtzeit tablet (panel)? At first glance, this could not have been common before 150 years ago, as there is no room to place candles where the electric lights go. Who invented ...
9
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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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4answers
173 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 ...
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2answers
232 views

Rabbinic speculations on history

Sometimes in the Rabbinic literature traditions are related about what happened in history, with multiple different opinions. For example, there was a historical development in the script used by ...
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0answers
116 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 ...
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3answers
246 views

Meforshim Nick"names

It has become common practice to refer to most meforshim by acronyms of their name (eg Rashi, Rosh, etc.). When and why did this practice start, and is it proper?
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Why do Sephardic Jews dress in black and white?

Many observant sephardim in Israel, especially those in yeshivot, dress in black and white. Does anyone know how this happened? There is no tradition of Jews in North Africa or in the Middle East ...
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3answers
449 views

Did Rabbi Dovid Feinstein of Uzda wear tefilin that were Ktav Ari or Ktav Beit Yosef? What about his son?

The biographical sketch of Rabbi Moshe Feinstein that appears in the beginning of Igrot Moshe volume 8 states that his father, Rabbi Dovid Feinstein of Uzda, was born and raised Hassidic, but took on ...
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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 ...
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2answers
134 views

Why is 'Rabbenu Tam' called Rabbenu Tam?

Rabbenu Tam's name was יעקב בן מאיר. Why then is he known as Rabbenu Tam?
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4answers
145 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 ...
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2answers
123 views

How did the Sages know that Jerusalem had a wall in the times of Joshua?

The criterion for whether a city celebrates Purim on 14 Adar or Shushan Purim on 15 Adar is whether it was walled in the times of Joshua (about 3300 years ago). (Well, Shushan itself is an exception, ...
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3answers
145 views

What happened to Avraham's students?

We read how Avraham was going around convincing people to believe in one G-d and of his many students. Yet we don't hear of those students (or their descendants) ever again. What happened to them ...
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1answer
607 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 ...
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5answers
305 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?
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2answers
380 views

When did people stop wearing Tefilin all day?

At what point in history did most religous people stop wearing Tefilin all day?
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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 ...
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2answers
170 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 ...
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3answers
750 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?
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2answers
492 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. ...
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2answers
293 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?
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1answer
142 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.
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1answer
443 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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1answer
353 views

Whose semicha (ordination) was the last one signed/granted by Rabbi Joseph Dov Soloveichik? By Rabbi Moshe Feinstein?

Whose semicha (ordination) was the last one signed/granted by Rabbi Joseph Dov Soloveichik? What about by Rabbi Moshe Feinstein? (The answer may be "the yeshiva ABC class of 1981" or whatever.)
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3answers
233 views

Talmudic Censorship

Unfortunately, the Talmud and other writings have been subject to censorship since their completion. These alterations seem still to be present in many modern editions of the Talmud. Why aren't these ...
8
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1answer
124 views

Has anyone declared a time of oppression regarding the four Temple fasts?

The Sha'ar haTziyun (OC 550 sk 9) speculates if in his day (~1900 CE) there was enough oppression of the Jews to warrant declaring the fasts of 10 Tevet, 17 Tammuz and 3 Tishrei into full fledged ...
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2answers
492 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 ...
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1answer
108 views

Do we have any proof (Biblical or other Judaic) that current-day Arabs have lineage from Yishma'el?

I am relating my question to Hashem and Arabs. Offhand, I thought that Islam claims ties to Yisma'el. If true, I don't know how or why it makes that claim. If it's all Arabs, even non-Muslims, how do ...
8
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1answer
196 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
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1answer
170 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 ...
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2answers
249 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?
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1answer
119 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 ...
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1answer
737 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? ...
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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. ...
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5answers
778 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
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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?
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2answers
178 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?
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3answers
1k 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
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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1answer
113 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?
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2answers
194 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 ...
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2answers
107 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 ...
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2answers
233 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
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2answers
247 views

Were there restrictions on marrying members of other tribes?

In ancient Israel, when there were clear differences between members of different tribes, were there restrictions on members of one tribe marrying a members of another tribe? If yes, what would ...