Questions about Jewish customs and traditions.

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15
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4answers
1k views

May a Jew be a Freemason?

According to what I've been told by several people who have inquired of "practicing" (is that the right word?) Freemasons, and supported by Wikipedia, "Freemasonry explicitly and openly states that it ...
21
votes
4answers
1k views

Why do people frequently change tunes toward the end of Lecha Dodi?

Frequently, perhaps even most of the time, I've noticed that the chazan (prayer leader) for Kabalat Shabbat switches tunes for the last four verses of Lecha Dodi. Is there any reason for this, or are ...
18
votes
4answers
709 views

How does an outsider know how to dress for a particular Orthodox community?

Standards of dress (at least for women) aren't nearly as consistent within Orthodoxy as we might wish. Wearing exactly the same halachically-correct clothing I have been under-dressed in some places ...
12
votes
1answer
7k views

Does ב"ה actually stand for Boruch Hashem?

We asked here about writing either ב"ה or בס"ד on the top of a letter. In the question it was assumed that ב"ה stands for Boruch Hashem. Do we have a source that ב"ה actually stands for Boruch Hashem?...
9
votes
2answers
406 views

Shliach Mitzva money

Many people give their friends money to give to Tzedakah when they are traveling. The reason they do this is that it says "Shluchei Mitzva Ainom Nizakim". If someone is travelling to Eretz Yisroel ...
8
votes
1answer
299 views

Why has Judaism traditionally discussed intimacy only privately?

To quote msh210's formulation of this site's rule on intimate topics: Please respect that in the Jewish tradition certain questions, especially certain questions relating to sexuality, are ...
7
votes
1answer
120 views

Moving Sefer Torah with Tallis (source?)

Often times, when someone will move a Sefer Torah from one place to another, on top of what the Sefer Torah is already normally covered with, he will put an additional covering of a Tallis-Gadol. ...
6
votes
1answer
375 views

What is the origin of the dispute on which way to wrap tefilin shel yad?

Non-Chasidic Ashkenazim wrap their tefilin shel yad inward toward the body when coming over the top of the arm, while Sefardim and Chasidim wrap outward away from the body when coming over the top of ...
14
votes
3answers
1k views

Why don't brides (always) cover their hair for their weddings?

Why don't brides (always) cover their hair for their weddings? I understand that in some ultra-religious groups they do, but there seem to be many groups within Orthodoxy where they do not cover their ...
12
votes
2answers
1k views

Source for the practice of not blowing out candles/flames?

It seems that a custom exists not to blow out candles/flames, but rather extinguish them another way, such as waving in the air. (Snuffer anyone?) What is the source for this custom? I am including ...
11
votes
7answers
1k views

Should I wear tefillin during Chol HaMoed?

If I don't have a known family minhag regarding this, how should I decide whether to wear tefillin during Chol HaMoed? Which communities generally follow each option, and what are the reasons behind ...
11
votes
2answers
366 views

Why a formulaic greeting on ליל ראש השנה?

On Rosh Hashana night, it is customary to greet one another with "לשנה טובה תכתב (ותחתם)‏" (Rama 582:9, MB). People (in my experience) and machzorim (Rosh Hashana prayer books) treat this as ...
10
votes
8answers
608 views

Is there any source that says that women should / should not get drunk on Purim?

The prevalent מנהג is that women do not get drunk on Purim. I assume this due to tznius (modesty) concerns. Is there any ancient or recent source that explicitly discusses women not/yes drinking on ...
10
votes
2answers
185 views

Source for kissing an aron

I've seen people kiss an aron kodesh (cabinet holding Torah scrolls) when they approach it and, if they were standing near it, before they leave it. Does this have any written source; or, are there ...
10
votes
1answer
324 views

Does Drinking Seltzer == Drinking Water?

Inspired by this revision of this answer: There are various minhag implications with regards to drinking water. Seltzer is essentially carbonated water. So how do those minhagim apply to seltzer? ...
10
votes
2answers
585 views

How does Hagbah work on a Sephardic Torah case?

How does one do Hagbah on a Torah in a Sephardic Torah case, such as one of these silver cases (picture courtesy of Hadad Brothers) : See also the Ashkenazi version of this question.
9
votes
1answer
504 views

Hand movements when lighting shabbat candles

When women light shabbat candles I often see them making hand gestures. These look like two or perhaps three circles around in the air. What is the source for this practice? Is it a law or custom? Is ...
9
votes
3answers
2k views

Why do some people have a custom to boil only odd numbers of eggs?

I heard that some still have a custom to boil only odd numbers of eggs at a time. I heard that the reason is if there is a blood-spot in an egg, the egg will be Battel Berov. This only explains why ...
9
votes
1answer
232 views

Wearing no head-covering?

Under what circumstances is it permissible for a man to wear no head-covering? If one is in a place that is experiencing anti-semitism, for example, does one need to wear a hat if one feels ...
8
votes
2answers
677 views

Why do some women light additional shabbat candles for the past weeks they didn't light?

Some women have the custom to light an additional shabbat candle for every week which, for whatever reason, they did not have a chance to light shabbat candles in the past. For example, if a woman ...
8
votes
1answer
331 views

Speaking while wearing Tefillin

Is there a real halachic source for the widespread practice not to speak while wearing tefillin? Of course, one is required to keep his mind on the tefillin, and may not get drawn into conversations ...
8
votes
1answer
139 views

Birchas Kohanim in the Diaspora

Why do we (ashkenazim) not do birchas kohanim in chutz la'aretz (except on yom tov), but in Israel, we do?
7
votes
2answers
692 views

What's the source for naming children after Alexander the Great?

I know many Jews whose actual bris-given name is Alexander, and this has been a popular name even among great tzaddikim of the past (such as R. Alexander Ziskind). I've heard a legend (mentioned on ...
6
votes
2answers
716 views

Can one follow Rabbeinu Tam time for beginning Shabbos?

Does anyone today follow Rabbineu Tam time for the beginning of Shabbos? Reading some tshuvas (e.g. Eretz haTzvi) it is clear this was widespread in Europe. If one has previously been accustomed to ...
6
votes
2answers
292 views

Which takes precedence - dina d'malchuta or halacha? What about minhag yisrael?

A more practical ramification of Is a ban on government workers wearing religious symbols a gezeirat hamalchut for which one would be obligated to give up his life? If the law of the land (dina d'...
6
votes
4answers
263 views

How/why does kaparot work?

The ritual of kaparot [lit. atonement], which is usually done just prior to Yom Kippur (usually the day before), where one waves a chicken or an [unspecified] amount of money over one's head in a ...
6
votes
1answer
562 views

When is a Minhag no longer a Minhag?

It can be all too easy for people to underestimate the halachic significance of minhagim (traditions/customs). While there are, as I understand it, a variety of halachic issues/differences of opinions,...
5
votes
7answers
716 views

Stepping Back Before Amidah

Why do people step back three steps before the Amidah (as mentioned here in Mishnah Berurah, S'if Katan Gimmel) if the Gemarah only mentions stepping three steps forward? Is there a kabbalistic source ...
5
votes
1answer
432 views

Which Names of Hashem can/can't we say [in regular conversation]?

Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (6:3) writes that one shouldn't say Hashem's name except by way of praise or blessing whenever required, or when learning (Torah) [see this answer and this question ] Indeed, ...
5
votes
2answers
213 views

Source for not having picture taken

Is there any source, halachic or otherwise, for an aversion to having one's picture taken?
5
votes
3answers
391 views

Saying selichos before midnight

What is the position with saying selichos (end of Elul and Aseres Ymei Teshuva) with a minyan that starts straight after maariv at say 10:30 or 11pm?
4
votes
2answers
435 views

What are the requirements of a men's mikva?

There are many requirements given for a women's mikvah (See Yoreh De'ah siman 201), yet I have not seen much information regarding a men's mikva (to tovel every day before prayers or for Erev Yom ...
4
votes
3answers
292 views

Giving Blessings at a Wedding

I have noticed a custom among wedding-goers to receive blessings from the bride and the groom at weddings, usually when they come over to the new couple's table for well-wishing during the meal. Why ...
4
votes
1answer
229 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?
3
votes
2answers
1k views

Is there a female equivalent of Z"l?

When a righteous woman passes away what is the appropriate term to use to indicate "in her blessed memory"?, i.e., is there a lady's alternative to z"l ?
2
votes
1answer
135 views

What is the point of Hataras Nedarim every year?

The second paragraph of Hataras Nedarim has the person being mattired saying that "I am making a modaah that any oaths being made in the future are considered to be as if 'bli neder'". Is this ...
20
votes
3answers
559 views

Why do we say Mazel Tov? Shouldn't we thank Hashem?

Why do we say "Mazel Tov" when something good happens to a person? Doesn't that mean "good luck?" Are we saying that what happened, happened because of luck?
13
votes
1answer
311 views

Is there a Beta Israel Siddur?

Ashkenazi siddurs are different from Sephardic siddurs, do Beta Israel Siddurs even exist?
11
votes
4answers
520 views

Why fill the glass all the way to the top?

Why is it that when people make kiddush/havdallah they insist on filling up the cup all the way to the top, sometimes till it overflows just a little? Is this a documented minhag/custom etc...?
10
votes
3answers
207 views

When there are four aveilim (mourners), Is it better to have one minyan of 40 people or 4 minyonim of ten each?

Today I was in a shul where there were four parallel mincha services because four mourners wanted to lead the services. I thought there was a principle of ברב עם הדרת מלך? What sources are there that ...
10
votes
3answers
373 views

Wear your tzitzis out or in? [duplicate]

There seems to be some misunderstanding/machlokes (disagreement) on how you should wear your tzitzis - with the strings sticking out or tucked in. What's the proper way?
10
votes
2answers
289 views

Should we say Al Naharos Bavel?

Tehillim 137 is printed in several bentchers before birkas hamazon, but from what I have seen most people do not say it. What is the correct thing to do: say or omit? Are there different minhagim?
9
votes
2answers
311 views

Not to give a divorce (Get) in the month of Iyar

I heard today in Shul that there is a Minhag not to give a divorce in the month of Iyar. What is the source and reason for this Minhag?
9
votes
4answers
680 views

“Jumping” at the end of Shemoneh Esrei

Some people are accustomed to performing a few little "jumps" at the end of Shemoneh Esrei (after taking the requisite three steps backward and forward) by lifting their heels a number of times. Is ...
9
votes
2answers
466 views

Source for not eating Matzah prior to פסח?

Thanks to this question I am compelled to ask: What is the source for not eating Matzah prior to פסח? Is there a source for not eating it for 30 days prior?
9
votes
3answers
792 views

Baby boy's MOTHER as the sandek(et)

I have recently come upon historical evidence of the mothers of baby boys serving as the sandek(et) during the brit milah. From page 18 of The Orthodox Jewish Woman and Ritual: Options and ...
8
votes
2answers
738 views

Why doesn't Chabad read Ruth on Shavuot?

I was at Chabad this Shavuot and they did not read Ruth. Everywhere else I've been (all Nusach Ashkenaz) has read it claiming that it's appropriate since this is the time of the wheat harvest. Are ...
8
votes
3answers
195 views

Staying up all night on Shavu'ot

Every year, when I stay up learning Torah through the first night of Shavu'ot, I invariably fall asleep during the subsequent morning prayers. Last year, I tried something new: Learn all night, but ...
8
votes
2answers
251 views

Does one need dry hands before washing?

I've always noticed people that make sure their hands are perfectly dry before washing (i.e. washing for eating bread). Why do people do so? Where does this apparent stringency come from?
8
votes
2answers
407 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?