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

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How are the two tales of dancing in vinyards on the 15th of Av related?

The Mishna tells us (Taanis 26b) that on the 15th of Av, unmarried girls would borrow clothes, dance in the vinyard, and invite the unmarried men to choose them for marriage. The Talmud (Taanis 30b) ...
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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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Why does almost every community say Lecha Dodi?

The prayer Lecha Dodi was composed in the 16th century which is relatively recent as the general Nusach of prayer was founded between 516 BCE – 70 CE by the Anshei K'neset Hagdolah, and its rare that ...
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How do we determine the nature of the reign of the kings when the numbers don't seem to add up?

In the book of 2 Kings, the kingdoms of Judah and Israel were separate. In Amaziah's (Judah) 15th year, Jeroboam (Israel) began to reign. In Jeroboam's (Israel) 27th year, Azariah (Judah) began to ...
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How were coins that were destined for the Dead Sea managed?

A mishna on Meila 11a talks about money that a nazarite set aside for his offerings; if he died before completing the term and had set money aside specifically for the sin-offering, those coins are ...
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43 views

Is history Torah?

Does studying Jewish history count as Torah? For example, could one study it on Tish'a B'av or in an unclean place or before saying Birkas HaTorah? It seems clear that the stories included in the ...
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55 views

Historical Calendar Records

Are there any records of the Beis Din's decisions regarding the Hebrew Calendar (e.g. to add months, how long the month would be), before Hillel Hakatan established the fixed calendar?
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132 views

The Torah scrolls written by Jewish kings

The Torah commanded Jewish kings to write their own Torah scroll from a master in the possession of the Levites, and to read it every day of their life so that they should not become haughty and so ...
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122 views

Was the Chasam Sofer known for having an interesting way of learning?

I have a lot of experience learning Gemara and find myself oft dealing with the views of the Achronim to understand the Pshat in Rishonim. Unfortunately, I have inside me a slight aversion to the ...
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126 views

Original source for Maharil endorsing tunes as “MiSinai”?

Cantor Goffin describes how over 500 years ago, Maharil endorsed several cantorial tunes as "MiSinai" -- "so authoritative it's as if they go back to Sinai" -- for use in the prayers. What's the ...
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131 views

When was the bending of the knees in bowing introduced?

The Gemara in Berachos 12a says that we bow at Baruch and we straighten at Hashem. Nowadays the familiar practice is to bend the knee at Baruch, to bow at Atah, and to straighten at Hashem, as stated ...
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90 views

Identification of Censored Areas of Talmud

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. How ...
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153 views

Order of Masechtos in Seder Moed

According to the standard Shas print (Vilna Bavli), the order of Masechtas is Pesachim-Shekalim-Rosh Hashana-Yoma-Sukka-Beitza. This makes (some) sense as this is the order of holidays. However, the ...
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198 views

List of oppressors of the Jewish people

We say in the V'hi She'amda passage of the Pesach Hagaddah that in each and every generation there have been those who rose up against us to destroy us, but Hashem saves us from their designs. Is this ...
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105 views

Are there any ancient Jewish dances?

From what I've seen most (orthodox) Jewish dancing consists of people running or walking in a circle, sometimes with exciting variations such as foot stomping. Are there any records of ancient ...
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52 views

“Secular” studies in the Rhineland academies of the 11th-13th centuries

This is perhaps a fairly specific question, and I don't know if it belongs here or on the History stack exchange, but I would like to know more about the Rhineland academies that were headed by people ...
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57 views

What is the status of the “minor tractates”?

There is a collection of "minor tractates" some of which contain material not found in other works of torah sh'baal peh (the oral law). What is the origin of these tractates? Who wrote/compiled them? ...
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161 views

Source for not referring to Chanuka lights as a “menora”

Following up on this question about the use of the words "menora" or "chanukiya" to refer to Chanuka lights: I find it interesting that the use of "chanukiya," popularized in 1897 through a secular ...
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170 views

Relations among King David, the Sanhedrin, and the high priest

Do we have any historical source that discusses the relations among King David, the Sanhedrin during his reign, and the high priest during his reign? Were they on friendly terms? Was there a power ...
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94 views

Why are the kinos about Jeremiah's appeal to the avos out of order?

The kina (elegy, said on the ninth of Av) about Jeremiah's going to ask the avos to pray (kina 21 in at least some versions) is said before the one about Tziyon's telling him to do so (22). Why this ...
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30 views

The word 'Halakhah'

When and under what circumstances did the word "halakhah" (also spelled "halacha", "halachah" or, in Hebrew, הלכה) come to mean Jewish law?
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Holidays south of the equator

When Jews first started establishing communities south of the equator, they must have noticed that the holidays fell completely at the wrong times of the year. (For example, Pesach, referred to as hag ...
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Parshas Zachor before Purim?

Prior to the story of Purim was there a special yearly reading of Parshas Zachor? At which point in history was it instituted to read Parshas Zachor before Purim?
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How was the tomb of the matriarchs determined?

Apparently there is a "tomb of the Matriarchs" in Tiberias which is purported to house several nashim tzidkaniot. I'd like to know how it was determined that those women were buried in that place.
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Why is there seemingly such a disconnect between the Geonim and the Rishonim?

It seems that there was a disconnect or upheaval of some kind between the times of the Geonim and the times of the Rishonim and the hakhamim that these two eras contained. Shittoth regarding tefila, ...
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What sources did people use to support Shabbtai Tsvi's messianism after he died?

I can understand the appeal of a messiah in 1600s Eastern Europe. I can understand that we want a messiah and we're willing to accept one, whether it be Bar Kochva or Shabbtai Tsvi. But on what ...
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What scribal variations (decorations etc) have changed from the earliest sifrei torah until now?

This article reports on the identification of what is possibly the oldest complete sefer torah we have, dated c.1155-1225, at the University of Bologna. (The scroll was previously thought to date to ...
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169 views

Statistics regarding how many people convert yearly

What are the statistics for the last 50-100 years as to how many people convert and become Geirim yearly?
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62 views

How were the “seven good men of the city” appointed?

How were the “seven good men of the city” שבעה טובי העיר appointed? Was there an election and if so who could be candidates?
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156 views

Lithuanian minhag for talis katan material

Not an halachic question, but we can read many things about talis katan: wool over cotton, tzitzis out or in, etc. It seems that the Lithuanian minhag was to tuck them in, but what about the material? ...
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25 views

Tefillin Gassot

According to this video, gassot have only been around for about a century. I know for a fact that when my father became bar mitzvah, his grandfather got him tefillin dakkot (his father got new ...
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Chida's statement about shabbat violators

I heard Rabbi Yitzhack Yosef Shelita (Rishon LeTzion and son of Maran HaRav Ovadia Yosef, Z"L) who says that the Chida writes that in all the places that he was never saw a Sephardic Jew that wasn't ...
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58 views

Which of the Napoleonic wars had no casualties?

The Chasam Sofer (droshos 8th Tamuz) writes about a war in the year 1809 with no causalities on our side. Can anyone tell us which war this was, and where these details may be recorded?
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Morning seder as the “main” seder

In most Yeshivas with which I am familiar, morning seder, the regimen of learning before lunch, is the more in-depth and intense learning seder, while afternoon seder (session) is generally less ...
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How did the mesorah for techeles get lost?

It seems odd that something like the tradition for techeles could have been lost. It seems unlikely that Jews just stopped using techeles at some point and then immediately forgot. Are there no ...
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67 views

Why did they stop packing the gizard, neck and liver inside the chicken cavity?

Why did they stop packing the gizard, neck and liver inside the chicken cavity? I think this practice stopped about 25 years ago. When I was a novice cook, I didn't know that I had to first take out ...
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62 views

Why are challot traditionally braided?

What is the reason that challot are traditionally braided? When did this tradition begin?
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90 views

requirement for Chabad shluchim to be married?

I heard that Chabad instituted a requirement for shluchim to be married because Zalman Schachter-Shalomi went off the derech. Is this historically accurate, and are Chabad shluchim required to be ...
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94 views

The heel of Moshiach?

I have seen quotes from various rabbis, the oldest dating back to the Ari Z"L that state that we are in the ikve d'Moshiach (the heels of the Messiah). Ostensibly that was meant to convey that ...
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151 views

Sitting or Standing for Kaddish - historical divergence between Conservative and Orthodox minhag

At most (maybe even all?) Conservative synagogues, the congregation remains seated during every kaddish (except mourner's kaddish, and then only mourners rise). At Ashkenazic Orthodox synagogues, the ...
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117 views

Has anyone since Rashbi been considered so regularly involved in Torah study so as to be exempt from prayer?

In SA OC Siman 106 Sif 2, the Machaber says that someone that for whom "Toraso Umanaso" ("his torah is his occupation", ie a person that is constantly engaged in Torah study) like Rebbe Shimon Bar ...
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What did mikdash workers eat?

Groups of Jews not from shevet Levi would work in the bes hamikdash, a week at a time. Their primary responsibility was attendance: being present when korb'nos tzibur, public offerings, were brought. ...
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56 views

How old is the Earth?

There are few versions of the age of the Earth Wikipedia Article but they seem to be mostly (all?) from christian interpretations. Are there estimations from the Tanakh, with Jewish interpretations? ...
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62 views

Josephus' Fall of Jerusalem

Is this book commonly accepted in the Jewish world as an accurate description of the events surrounding destruction of the Beit HaMikdash? I'm particularly interested in its portrayal of the behavior ...
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51 views

Tallit pattern archive

I have noticed when looking at old photos that there seem to have been many more patterns for tallit striping in the past. As there seem to be only two major manufacturers (Talit[a]nia and Mishkan ...
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What is known about the Sage מונבז?

מונבז is mentioned in Shabbos 68b. I know there were two Kings of this name. What is known about the Sage of this name?
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What was the name of Sarah's mother?

Seder Hadoros mentions Avraham's mother, how old Nachor was when Sarah was born, and even a Peshat that Lot was her brother, though no mention of Sarah's mother's name. Any other sources that mention ...
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50 views

Communities who follow the Rambam.

At one point, many sefardic communities followed the Mishneh Torah. As time went on, it seems that the sefardim accepted the Beit Yosef. Besides Yemenities, were there any communities who until ...
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42 views

Chronological order of parshiyot in Sefer Vayikra

I am trying to figure out when several parshiyos in Vayikra were said by Moshe to bnei yisroel. For example, the parshiyos of Tazria and Metzora - when did Moshe teach them? In במדבר פרק ה Hashem ...
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41 views

Earliest use of the word “gematria” to mean the value of words

What's the earliest use of the word "gematria" followed by the use of it to mean the value of the word? I'm aware that in Pirkei Avot the word itself is used, but that is not used in conjunction with ...