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

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Temple mount: wall around court of the gentiles?

In looking of these two models of the temple mount, Alec Garrad model and Israel Museum model, they differ on one major point. In the Garrad model there is another wall on the temple mount that I ...
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1answer
186 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)
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3answers
447 views

How did the Star of David become iconic?

We all recognize the iconic symbol of the Star of David, do we know where it came from and where it got its name? I always learned that the symbol appeared on King David's shield. True? How do we ...
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3answers
313 views

Would halacha permit bombing Auschwitz?

I know there's a lot of talk about whether Allied forces during World War II could have / should have taken military action directly against the Holocaust. I'm not opening that can of worms here. ...
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3answers
257 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 ...
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145 views

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
123 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
173 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
74 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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205 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
446 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 ...
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117 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 ...
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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 ...
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1answer
391 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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5answers
203 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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1answer
774 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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2answers
238 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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123 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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1answer
91 views

Was a sefer torah ever actually written in Greek?

This answer to a different question states that the only other language a sefer torah can be written in and be kosher is Greek. (Rambam, Hilchot Sefer Torah 1:19 says that this Greek no longer exists ...
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3answers
247 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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8answers
2k views

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
291 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
135 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
877 views

Why use Babylonian calendar instead of our own?

Why did the Hebrews not create their own calendar system instead of copying the pagan Babylonians'? I find it interesting that they use a pagan calendar which often honours pagan gods. Why is this ...
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4answers
147 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
124 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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2answers
139 views

Pirates and Torah

In the 16th and 17th centuries European nations granted "letters of marque" licensing pirates to attack rival nation's ships. The major powers at the time were England, Portugal, Spain, and France ...
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1answer
647 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
310 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
400 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
180 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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4answers
174 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. ...
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3answers
812 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
179 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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2answers
504 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
606 views

The blessing for 600,000 Jews

The Gemara (Berakhot 58b) mentions that upon seeing 600,000 Jews one says the blessing "Baruch...Chacham HaRazim" (Who knows all secrets), and this is halacha (Sh.A. O.C. 224:5). Does any know of any ...
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308 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
145 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
464 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 ...
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1answer
364 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
236 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 ...
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1answer
127 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
513 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
199 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 ...
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1answer
173 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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1answer
265 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
120 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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158 views

Did any of chazal encounter Mohammed?

Mohammed, the prophet of Islam, lived in Saudia Arabia, mainly in Mecca and (later) Medina. He lived from 570-632CE. According to this wikipedia article there were Jews in Saudia Arabia at that time: ...
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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
818 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 ...