Questions about Jewish customs and traditions.

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23
votes
7answers
2k views

Reason behind pinky during hagba

Why do people lift their pinkies during Hagba?
21
votes
3answers
3k 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 ...
21
votes
2answers
260 views

Matza on 14 Iyar

I have seen a custom (it seems to me primarily among Chassidim) to eat matza on 14 Iyar (known as Pesach Sheni). What is the earliest source for this custom? What are the reasons given for following ...
20
votes
1answer
299 views

Is there any source for not sharing a baby's name before the bris?

For some reason, I have it ingrained in me that a baby boy's name before the bris is a secret and should not be shared. Are there any sources for this, or is it something made up?
19
votes
2answers
340 views

Naming after the living. Why is it considered bad?

This is a fairly straight forward question. I am under the impression that this is bad. This is why you don't see many Moishe Abromowitz, III. Why is this bad, and why isn't that practice carried ...
19
votes
4answers
283 views

Glasses and Shema

The Shulhan Aruch records the custom of placing one's hand over his eyes in Shema in order to increase concentration. What about someone who wears glasses? Must he move them or remove them?
19
votes
2answers
247 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. ...
18
votes
3answers
232 views

Must EMTs and others rend Kriyah each time they see a patient die?

I was looking at Yoreh De'ah 40:5 (יו"ד סימן ש"מ ס"ק ה) and Moed Katan 25b (כה עמוד ב), which require Kriyah (garment-rending) for all who are there at the time of death. It would seem to me that an ...
17
votes
4answers
684 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 ...
17
votes
4answers
511 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 ...
17
votes
2answers
159 views

The custom of adding a candle for each child

Many people, including myself, added or will add a candle on Friday night for each child that is born. Where and when did this custom originate?
17
votes
3answers
262 views

תהלת ה' ידבר פי - what's the origin?

In between the 'Shir HaMaalot' that precedes birchat hamazon and the the blessings themselves, there are a few psukim beginning תהלת ה' ידבר פי . Some people add these, and some don't. What's the ...
16
votes
6answers
898 views

Why do some people wear their tzitzis out for people to see, and others don't?

Why do some people wear their tzitzis strings out for people to see, and others don't?
16
votes
1answer
866 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. ...
16
votes
4answers
395 views

Stripes on a Talis

Is there any reason for the stripes on a talis? Does the color of the stripes have any significance?
16
votes
2answers
447 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?
16
votes
1answer
307 views

Why don't people bentch on a kos nowadays?

Bentching with a kos (recite Grace after Meals with a cup of wine) was clearly a popular thing to do in the times of the gemara. Additionally many Ashkenazi rishonim (Rosh, Ri, and many other ...
16
votes
2answers
205 views

Making the Kohen's Gesture

Is it forbidden for a non-Kohen to form the hand formation that Kohanim use during their priestly blessings?
16
votes
1answer
172 views

Why do we open the ark for important prayers?

What is the origin of the custom of opening the ark for important prayers (not connected with the need to take out the Torah scroll)?
16
votes
1answer
475 views

Blessing the Children on Friday Night

I have noticed that many families (including my own) have the custom for the father to bless all the children on Friday night before kiddush. When and where did this custom originate, and by whom, ...
15
votes
8answers
894 views

Why wear Black hats

Why do people wear black hats if their kippa has 2 layers?
15
votes
1answer
152 views

Placing notes in the Kotel/Western Wall

Is there any source for the custom to place notes in to the Western Wall? A very prevalent practice in Israel. And even if there is no source, is it a good idea?
15
votes
4answers
493 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?
15
votes
4answers
200 views

Why is Lag Baomer celebrated the way it is (or at all)?

Why do we celebrate lag baomer with bon-fires and bow-and-arrow. Why do we celebrate lag baomer at all?
14
votes
2answers
360 views

Stacking Seforim

Are we allowed to place less holy seforim on top of more holy seforim? I believe that the consensus is that you are only allowed to stack seforim in chronological order from top to bottom (e.g., ...
14
votes
3answers
462 views

Shape of the Luchot

According to the Talmud in Bava Batra 14a, the Luchot HabBerit were square. Where did the common "tablet" shape come from, with rectangles and a rounded top? Besides in pictures, I see it in ...
14
votes
2answers
225 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 ...
14
votes
2answers
236 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?
14
votes
1answer
383 views

Why don't we bow “correctly” during tefillah anymore?

According to the Gemara (Megillah 22b), and according to the RaMBa"M (Hil. Tefillah 5:13) (and apparently R' Avraham ben HaRaMBa"M was adamant), when we pray we are supposed to bow down ON our knees ...
14
votes
1answer
334 views

Time-frame for naming a newborn girl

I have heard many differing Minhagim as to the time-frame for naming a newborn girl. There are those that name at the first possible opportunity and some that wait till the second Shabbos. Many others ...
13
votes
5answers
746 views

Nittle Nacht Meaning

What is Nittle Nacht? What does the name mean? What is its significance? Which Halachic authorities speak about it, and what do they say? What is the actual date for it? How is it effected this ...
13
votes
4answers
421 views

Why do we eat Milchigs (dairy) on Shavuos?

Why do we have a Minhag to eat Milchigs (dairy) on Shavuos?
13
votes
4answers
261 views

Boruch Shem Kevod Malchuso L'Olam Voed - why do we whisper it?

Why do we say Boruch Shem Kevod Malchuso L'Olam Voed in Kriyas Shema in a whisper?
13
votes
4answers
1k views

Which passages comprise the classic Tikkun Leil Shavuot?

As we count down to Shavuot, I find myself wondering: [First, some background for those who don't know what a Tikkun Leil Shavuot is] According to tradition, we overslept the morning of Matan Torah ...
13
votes
4answers
514 views

What does “to confuse the Satan” mean and why does it work?

There are several things we don't do in order "to confuse the Satan", like not blowing Shofar on Erev Rosh Hashana. How does it help? Does Satan not realize that Rosh Hashana didn't pass yet? He ...
13
votes
4answers
286 views

Women and Mayim Acharonim

I very often eat at meals where after the meal, all of the men wash mayim acharonim, but none of the women do so. I am aware of a number of halachic sources that say both men and women should wash ...
13
votes
2answers
2k views

B'siyata D'shmaya or Baruch Hashem

Often, at the top of written work, Jews write either ב"ה, which stands for Baruch Hashem =blessed is the Name i.e., God, or בס"ד, which stands for b'siyata d'shmaya =with Heavenly help. What is the ...
13
votes
2answers
184 views

People half-standing for אלקינו in zimun

When conducting a zimun with ten or more men, the nusach is to say "...ברוך אלקינו שאכלנו משלו". I have noticed that many people, when saying the word "אלקינו", get up from their seats at least a ...
13
votes
1answer
296 views

“Yaamod p'loni ben p'loni… chazak”?

The last ole (person called to the Torah) (besides the maftir) of Vaychi, P'kude, B'chukosay, and Mas'e is, in my experience, called using the formula "yaamod p'loni ben p'loni sh'vii chazak", with ...
12
votes
7answers
979 views

Do Chasidim avoid wearing ties?

Do Chasidim not wear ties as a rule? If so, is this by design or an accident of history? If by design, where can I find said intended reason in print?
12
votes
5answers
640 views

Why does the Tefilin Shel Yad have a protective cover?

When you purchase Tefilin, the Tefilin Shel Yad has a protective cover. Why? Is it Halachically necessary?
12
votes
3answers
311 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 ...
12
votes
6answers
1k views

Why is Soy milk considered Parve and not Milchig/Halavi?

Considering that milk is forbidden with chicken (as stated in this answer), because chicken could be confused with meat, why isn't soy milk considered milchig as well? In Israel, chicken is ...
12
votes
3answers
271 views

I heard not to say “Good Shabbos” after mincha. Is it true, and what defines mincha?

I heard from somewhere that, on Shabbos, one does not say "Good Shabbos" after mincha. I am not sure whether it's in a halacha sefer somewhere (I tried looking) or just a minhag. First of all, is ...
12
votes
1answer
257 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, ...
12
votes
3answers
491 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 ...
12
votes
3answers
904 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
1answer
498 views

Why is the Lubavitch custom to have short Peoth?

If R' Schneur Zalman of Liadi had long Peoth, as in this famous sketch, why is it not the custom in Lubavitch circles these days for adult men to maintain long, emphasized Peoth as it is in many other ...
12
votes
2answers
252 views

Why do we say Layehudim Hayta Orah aloud?

In Havdalah, I noticed a virtually universal custom: when the one who is saying Havdalah reaches the Passuk of Layehudim Haytah Orah (ליהודים היתה אורה ושמחה...), those who are being Yotzei Havdalah ...
12
votes
1answer
266 views

Avinu Malkeinu - middle verses said out loud by Chazan

Why do we repeat out loud the verses of Avinu Malkeinu - from Hachzireinu B'Teshuva until Kosveinu B'Sefer Slicha U'Mechila? Why only these verses? Why not others?