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

learn more… | top users | synonyms (1)

9
votes
2answers
215 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 it"...
9
votes
3answers
317 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 ...
9
votes
3answers
580 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 ...
9
votes
2answers
118 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 ...
9
votes
1answer
245 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 ...
9
votes
3answers
1k views

Why did God do nothing against the Romans that desecrated the Temple?

When good guy made a mistake, like Uzzah trying to fix the ark, God killed him (see II Samuel 6:6). However, Uzzah does not seem that evil. I mean, the ark stumbled and he just tried to help. Then, ...
9
votes
1answer
245 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 ...
9
votes
2answers
81 views

Was the tribe of Shimon part of the Kingdom of Israel or Judah?

It's clear from Sefer Yehoshua (Perek 19) and elsewhere in Tanach that the tribe of Shimon lived in an area scattered throughout the tribe of Yehudah. However, when the kingdom is divided between ...
9
votes
1answer
232 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 ...
9
votes
2answers
1k views

What's the earliest source/discussion on green beans being “kitniyot” (prohibited legumes) on Passover?

My understanding is that most Ashkenazic communities today don't eat green beans on Passover, treating them as kitniyot (a bunch of legumes for which the custom arose to avoid on Passover). What's the ...
9
votes
5answers
297 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
200 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 ...
9
votes
0answers
86 views

Post mortem Tahara

I'm looking for sources discussing the religious aspect of the Tahara done on deceased Jews. I recall someone mentioning that the religious aspect of it was a practice we picked up from the Muslims ...
9
votes
2answers
326 views

How is it that the Talmud can make historical mistakes?

A Rav told me that when it comes to science and nature, the Talmud can say incorrect things (i.e. about animals, cosmology) because they were going by the Greeks and Romans. (Where he gets permission ...
8
votes
3answers
268 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?
8
votes
4answers
604 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?
8
votes
5answers
4k views

Are Europeans Edomites?

I had always thought that Europeans descended from Yafet, not Shem, and certainly not Shem, Avraham and Yitzhak. I am aware that it was common in the past to equate Rome with Edom, but I always ...
8
votes
4answers
710 views

Why is the Mesillas Yesharim so popular and accepted?

To overgeneralize, I bet there is a copy of the mesillas yesharim in almost every orthodox home, shul and beis medrash. I'm wondering why this work is so popular and accepted. My wondering is ...
8
votes
2answers
1k views

What should our response be to ancient scripts that mirror the Torah?

There are quite a number of ancient documents that have been found that (supposedly) predate the Torah, and yet they share many lines practically verbatim. If the Torah is truly divine, how could this ...
8
votes
7answers
3k 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 ...
8
votes
2answers
213 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?
8
votes
3answers
385 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
votes
4answers
1k 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 ...
8
votes
2answers
172 views

Why is 'Rabbenu Tam' called Rabbenu Tam?

Rabbenu Tam's name was יעקב בן מאיר. Why then is he known as Rabbenu Tam?
8
votes
2answers
155 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, ...
8
votes
5answers
372 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?
8
votes
2answers
244 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 ...
8
votes
4answers
181 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
4answers
270 views

Why is there a dispute as to which tefillin are the correct ones?

Since the mitzvah of tefillin is observed every day except for Shabbos and festivals, there should have been continuous knowledge as to the correct order of the parshas. So how did it come about that ...
8
votes
2answers
1k 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 ...
8
votes
2answers
401 views

Chad Gadya: The price of a kid goat

Was the fair market value of a kid goat really two zuzim? This piyyut is of course allegorical, but, if the value given is highly inaccurate, is the discrepancy in value symbolic beyond the symbolism ...
8
votes
2answers
176 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 ...
8
votes
2answers
88 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 ...
8
votes
2answers
738 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 ...
8
votes
2answers
207 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 ...
8
votes
5answers
385 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
votes
4answers
200 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. ...
8
votes
3answers
1k 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
votes
2answers
826 views

Why do Jewish funeral homes tend to be the main supplier of Jewish calendars?

Perhaps, this question is too "trivial". It seems that Jewish funeral homes tend to be the primary "printer" and supplier of Jewish calendars. For decades, many yeshivot as well as shuls get the large ...
8
votes
2answers
229 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 ...
8
votes
1answer
163 views

When did people stop getting Tazra'as?

At what point in history did Tzra'as stop happening? Was it sudden or gradual? Do we have any sources that suggest that it could still occur today?
8
votes
2answers
562 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 ...
8
votes
2answers
660 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
1answer
189 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 ...
8
votes
2answers
840 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 ...
8
votes
2answers
406 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?
8
votes
1answer
165 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.
8
votes
1answer
825 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
votes
1answer
134 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 ...
8
votes
1answer
154 views

Unique signature of the Chida

The Chida has a very unique signature. What is the significance of this signature (if any)? Is it in any way related to the seven kabbalistic seals? Are there other similarly unusual signatures by ...