2
votes
1answer
74 views

What is the history of Teimani peyos?

How is it that many Teimanim wear long peyos (simanim) similar to many Chasidim, considering that their culture has been mostly isolated from Ashkenazi Europe? Do any historical sources tell us when ...
3
votes
0answers
53 views

Why are challot traditionally braided?

What is the reason that challot are traditionally braided? When did this tradition begin?
4
votes
1answer
108 views

What is the origin of the “sukkah hop”?

I was debating with my brother whether they had sukkah hops in Europe, and failed to find a good answer via Google Books or Scholar. Is it a specifically American institution? What's the first ...
3
votes
2answers
203 views

Why do almost all Chabad shuls always use the same tunes for certain parts of davening?

I have noticed that at pretty much every Chabad shul I have ever attended, the same tunes were always used for certain parts of davening on Shabbos. For example, they all use the same tune for ...
0
votes
1answer
93 views

Listing acts of patriotism towards a host nation

In the UK, united synagogues recite a prayer for the royal family including a blessing for "all her advisors and councillers" that they may grant us peace, etc. Many synagogues also display British ...
15
votes
1answer
803 views

Killing somebody with the keys to the synagogue

In Yoreh Deah 339:1, the mechaber brings a variety of things that one is not permitted to do to a goses (a person on the brink of death), since each of these things causes the goses to die sooner. ...
3
votes
1answer
79 views

What were the original kitniyos?

I know many people (chiefly S'faradim) don't have the custom altogether of refraining from eating kitniyos on Pesach. Among those who do have such a custom, moreover, there are varying customs as to ...
5
votes
0answers
92 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 ...
2
votes
0answers
132 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 ...
3
votes
2answers
168 views

When did upsherins become part of standard American Orthodox practice?

According to Rav Wikipedia, the upsherin is a custom that was brought from Muslims to Palestinian Jews to Tzfat Sephardim to Chasidim. Recently, I've noticed mainstream (non-charedi) Orthodox Jews ...
2
votes
1answer
136 views

Is it true that proselytes immersed in their birthday suits in ancient times?

I was told that Jewish proselytes immersed in their birthday suits in ancient times. Is this true? If so, could you please provide sources stating this fact?
6
votes
0answers
98 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 ...
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 ...
8
votes
8answers
1k 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 ...
4
votes
0answers
142 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? ...
6
votes
2answers
425 views

The value of the daily study of Chitas (Chumash, Tehilim, Tanya)?

What's the value of learning "Chitas" compared to any other daily Torah study? Side question: If it's so important, why was it introduced only recently?
6
votes
1answer
204 views

When did “Zal” give way to “Zatzal”?

Inspired by this answer and it's comments. Early on, it was standard to refer to great Rabbis who had passed away with the appellation "Zal" - "zichrono/ah livracha "May his/her/their memory be a ...
12
votes
3answers
831 views

What is the red string all about?

Where did the concept of wearing a red string come from? I have heard different opinions ranging from "you should definitely wear it" to "its forbidden like idol worship" - who is right?
12
votes
3answers
303 views

When/where did the practice of “recycling” names begin?

Perhaps this had never bothered anyone in the past, but for someone like myself who delves into genealogy, the fact that there are family naming patterns is a great boon. Of course, we can go only so ...
7
votes
1answer
113 views

Up part of the night on Shavuos

As described by Stephanie Hegarty for the BBC, Roger Ekirch, an historian, has evidence — and is convinced — that people used to have a first sleep which began about two hours after dusk, followed ...
13
votes
2answers
207 views

How old is the custom to eat dairy on Shavuos?

I don't think I've ever seen a rationalization for this custom in works earlier than those of the Acharonim. I've never seen any Rishonim even mention it; certainly not earlier authors. What's the ...
7
votes
2answers
244 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?
4
votes
1answer
91 views

Were Maftir Honors in 19th Century different from today?

I received a travel-diary for a man who was born in Huncovce (also known as Hunsdorf, once a famous yeshiva town, second only to Pressburg), Slovakia. He was born in 1851, presumably had some Torah ...
2
votes
0answers
48 views

When did the Ashkenazi custom to NOT bake matza on Pesach start?

Historically, when did the Ashkenazi custom to not bake matza on Pesach start? I am specifically interested in when this custom arose, rather than the reasons/opions pro/against.
3
votes
2answers
84 views

When did the Ashkenazi custom to bake matza on erev Pesach afternoon start?

Historically, when did the Ashkenazi custom to bake matza on erev Pesach afternoon start? I am specifically interested in when this custom arose, rather than the reasons/opions pro/against.
13
votes
2answers
226 views

Why don't we use a translator during Torah reading?

Outside of the Teimanim I am not aware of any other segments of Judaism that still employ a meturgamen (translator) during kriat ha'torah. Why has this practice fallen into disuse?
4
votes
1answer
232 views

Who wrote Shoshanat Yaakov?

Who was the Author of the Piyut "asher hanee" that ends with Shoshanat Yaakov? Why is it said by Ashkenazim after they read the Meggilah at night?
2
votes
0answers
89 views

Why does a hamentash have three sides and filling? [closed]

All Hamentashen that I've seen have three sides and all Hamentashen have filling. Why is that?
19
votes
2answers
240 views

Why the custom to switch around negative-sounding numbers, such as שד?

Often in sefarim we find that if the number of the siman spells out something negative, such as siman 304 which has a letter value of שד, we switch it around so it no longer reads as a "bad" word. ...
5
votes
2answers
271 views

When did the use of Rashei Tevot, Heh Kuf, הק׳ in writings, books, letters, etc., begin?

Perhaps I'm among the last to have found this out, but it took me quite a while to understand why, in a signature, the name was preceeded by a הק׳. THe Ozar Rashei Tevot book has 31 different ...
6
votes
2answers
236 views

Start of the Upsherin ceremony

When did it become popular to have a ceremony for a boys Upsherin, his first haircut when he reaches the age of three?
6
votes
1answer
104 views

Stops in the Sidrah Leyning - Rishon, Sheni etc

Who instituted Rishon, Sheni, Shelishi etc in the leyning of the Sidrah? When was this done? What are the principles which were applied to determine where the stop should be? One would have thought ...
7
votes
1answer
96 views

Sefer Torah enclosures

The Torah scrolls of Ashkenazim have a very different look than those of Sepharadim. Ashkenazim just roll the parchment onto two poles, and read it in a horizontal position; the Sepharadim install the ...
21
votes
3answers
2k views

Questions about Polygamy in Jewish Law and Culture

I've recently been looking into polygamy (having more than 1 wife), and had a few cultural questions. Was polygamy accepted at the time of David and Solomon? Were there any laws about it? Was ...
12
votes
1answer
243 views

Kubutz and shuruk in Polish/Hungarian pronunciation

What is the origin or basis of the Polish and Hungarian prevalence for pronouncing "oo" vowels as "ee"? The variants of other vowels are easier to understand in the context of phonological shifting, ...
13
votes
4answers
461 views

What is the source of the Magen Dovid (Star of David)?

What is the source of the Magen Dovid (Star of David) in Rabbinic Judaism? When was it first used, and for what?
9
votes
1answer
182 views

Chamisha Asar B'Av - when did the Minhag stop?

The Gemara Taanis 31. says אמר רבן שמעון בן גמליאל לא היו ימים טובים לישראל כחמשה עשר באב וכיוה"כ שבהן בנות ירושלים יוצאות ... וחולות בכרמים ומה היו אומרות בחור שא נא עיניך וראה מה אתה בורר לך אל תתן ...
4
votes
1answer
176 views

Aleinu L'Shabeach - Nusach HaTefila

The words "Sheheim Mishtachavim Li-Hevel Voryk Umispallelim El Eil Lo-Yoshiya" - Was this originally part of Aleinu and then removed, or was it added later to Aleinu? Why was this done?
5
votes
1answer
92 views

Using The Washington Haggadah

Yesterday, Harvard University Press released a haggadah which is a reproduction of a manuscript written in 1478 and held by the Library of Congress. It can be purchased on Amazon. If I bought this, ...
4
votes
1answer
615 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 ...
8
votes
3answers
240 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?
3
votes
2answers
129 views

Source for reciting all of T'hilim (Psalms)

There is a contemporary practice of splitting up Sefer T'hilim for on-the-spot recitation of the entire book by a room (real or virtual) full of people. What is the earliest documented source for this ...
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?
3
votes
3answers
232 views

Modern nations and Umos Haolam

Where can I find a discussion about the roots of modern nations, in the Umos Haolam mentioned in the Torah and Chazal?