Questions about the origins of all things Jewish. Questions on the origins of Jewish customs, ideas, sayings, songs, foods, games, etc., are all fair game for this tag.

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Earliest Sources for Custom of Not Shaving from 17th of Tammuz

What are the earliest sources for the custom of not shaving from the 17th of Tammuz? The Shulchan Aruch only mentions this only in the week of the 9th of Av. שָׁבוּעַ שֶׁחָל בּוֹ תִּשְׁעָה ...
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Source For Keeping Holy Books Out of Bathroom

What is the earliest source for keeping holy books out of the bathroom? כי הוה בעי למיעל לבית הכסא כי הוה נקיט ספרא דאגדתא הוה יהיב לן כי הוה נקיט תפילין לא הוה יהיב לן אמר הואיל ושרונהו רבנן ...
1
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1answer
65 views

The origin of verses in the English translations of the Bible [closed]

I know that the assignment of chapters and verses to the translated text of the bible is a Medieval innovation. My understanding is that it was invented by non-Jewish scholars. However, in several ...
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1answer
73 views

Beer at a Shalom Zachor

There is a common custom I have observed to serve beer at a Shalom Zachor. This is also mentioned here with some speculation about the source. What is the source for this practice?
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1answer
259 views

What is the origin of the claim that they played games to hide Torah learning prior to Chanuka

This question makes a very commonly heard claim: "Before the miracle of Hanukkah, when those who controlled the land severely restricted Torah study, Jewish children would gather to study Torah in ...
3
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1answer
103 views

Why do most Ashkenazim read the Torah flatly on a table while many Sefardim read it standing vertically?

(In case you didn't know,) I am Ashkenazic. Most Ashkenazic congregations perform Torah reading by laying the Torah flatly on a table and reading the Torah as it is on the table. Many Sefardic ...
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1answer
106 views

Who broke the parshiyot into aliyot and how?

The Torah readings on Shabbat are broken into 7 aliyot. I know that there are rules for the minimum number of pesukim for each aliyah but I am wondering who set up the exact placement of the aliyah ...
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1answer
66 views

Textual difference between Psukei DeZimra and Psalms 96

What is the origin of the custom to recite in pesukai dezimra יעלוץ השדה וכל אשר בו instead of יעלוז שדי וכל אשר בו which we are familiar with from Kabbalas Shabbos (psalm 96)?
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2answers
100 views

Where does the funeral tradition of burial within 24 hours originate?

Where does the funeral tradition of burial within 24 hours originate? A Google search result pointed me towards this passage from the Torah as being the reason: Deuteronomy 21:22-23 And if a man ...
2
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1answer
45 views

Who & When composed the prayer said prior to calling the Kohain to the Torah?

In this question and answer Why are there different intro. prayers for calling the Kohen aliyah on Shabbat vs. weekday? there seems to be a question remaining as to when the prayers of ותגלה ותראה ...
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62 views

How did the Ashkenazi Yom Tov “prayer mode” become so popular?

Since i'm not sure what to call it, a "prayer mode" here is the style of the tunes used. I'm not exactly sure how to describe the tunes. Either you know it or you don't. The traditional mode for Yom ...
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1answer
87 views

How did the “custom” of not duchaning on Yom Tov that falls on Shabbos arise

Some synagogues do not have birkas kohanim (duchaning) on Yom Tov that falls on Shabbos. How did this idea arise?
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40 views

Tu Bishvat Seder Permissibility

Given that this answer notes that the particular ritual of the Tu Bishvat Seder is likely Sabbatean in origin (although the practice of eating fruit in general on Tu Bishvat dates from the 16th ...
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0answers
60 views

Custom of singing Aishes Chayil before kiddush

It seems that not everyone [always] sang/sings Aishes Chayil with Sholom Aleichem at the Friday night Shabbos table. When and how did the custom of singing Aishes Chayil at the table begin? Who ...
5
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1answer
54 views

3 kugels for 3 sifrei Torah?

When I was younger (yes, that did happen to me - ONCE :-) the Rav from the shul I attended would include a suggestion whenever there was a Shabbat where we use 3 Sifrei Torah, such as will occur this ...
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0answers
52 views

What is the source for the custom of kissing one's hand after shaking another's?

There is a common custom in Israel (mostly in Sfardic communities) that after you shake someone's hand, you kiss your hand. Generally people kiss their thumb or first two fingers, in my experience. ...
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0answers
50 views

When did the custom of silver candlesticks for Shabbat start?

I heard that it is a custom to give a bride candlesticks. Is this true? when did this start? Who has the obligation to do this? and more info on the subject with sources please. Is this true that it ...
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0answers
34 views

Origin of custom to switch Shli'ach Tzibur in Shacharit

In a number of shuls, it has become a minhag to switch Shat"z during the weekday Shacharit at these locations. I am assuming Nusach Ashkenaz in my examples: One person says only Birkot Hashachar -> ...
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1answer
25 views

Standing during pesukei d'zimrah

What is/are the earliest origins of the customs to stand during various passages of the daily service before the Amidah (e.g. Baruch She'amar, Shirat Yam, Yishtabach)?
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3answers
311 views

Standing for whole of Lecha Dodi

Certain families in my shul have the minhag to stand for the entire Lecha Dodi. I asked them why, but they do not know the source of the minhag. Does anyone know what the source of this minhag is?
2
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1answer
88 views

Individual Life Mission

What are the earliest sources that support or contradict the view of Sfas Emes and Chiddushei HaRim that each person (or Jew) has a unique mission in the world? Specifically looking for sources ...
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1answer
65 views

What's the earliest reference to a Purim shpiel?

There's a fairly common custom to put on a play on Purim. Wikipedia has a short article about it here, which mentions that some are based on the story of the megillah, while others traditionally ...
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0answers
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Shortened אמת ויציב

In Nusach Ashkenaz, particularly in western siddurim (Heidenheim, Bloch, et c.) There is a shortened version of the paragraphs of אמת ויציב and על הראשונים which is recited when a zulat (yotzer before ...
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1answer
41 views

Who first said “You're being machmir on pikuach nefesh”?

I've been hearing the phrase "This is not being meikil1 on Shabbos, this is being machmir2 on pikuach nefesh3" for a long time. I've heard it quoted from R' Chaim, from the Gra, and from various and ...
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0answers
28 views

Origin of Reciting Psalms

What is the origin of reciting Tehillim as a form of prayer? More specifically, of reciting even passages of Tehillim which do not contain requests for the issue one is facing but rather of praise of ...
3
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1answer
68 views

Were Sephardic/Ashkenazic positions on women influenced by Muslim/Christian surroundings?

The majority of Ashkenazic communities hail from (majority-Christian) Eastern Europe, while most Sephardic communities come from the (majority-Muslim) Middle East and North Africa. Islam seems to ...
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2answers
217 views

Animal sacrifice in Judaism — was it copied from other religions?

Why is there animal sacrifice in Judaism? Animal sacrifice was found in other religions before Judaism, so could it be that the Jews copied the practice of animal sacrifice from other religions?
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0answers
50 views

What are the origins of the תושלב"ע prayer at the end of holy books?

When I finished the Book of Bereishit this Shabbos, the Tanakh I was reading concluded with this prayer: תם ונשלם תהילה לאל בורא עולם (Finished and completed. Praise to G!d, Creator of the Universe.) ...
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1answer
113 views

What is the oldest work to incorporate an acrostic of shem Havaya in the opening?

I have seen many books where the first letters of the first 4 works in the first sentence of the work spell out the shem Havaya (the Tetragrammaton, yud-kay and vav kay). What was the first Jewish ...
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23 views

Giving children presents on chanukkah [duplicate]

My parents give me and my siblings presents on chanukkah. Where did this custom come from?
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0answers
28 views

Who wrote “the traditional Conservative melody” to Adon Olam?

Who wrote "the traditional Conservative melody" to Adon Olam? It's the third recording on this page: http://zemirotdatabase.org/view_song.php?id=23#rec (you have to click "Load recordings" to see the ...
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1answer
142 views

Origin of Chabad tefillin

I have wondered for some time about certain elements of Chabad minhagim re. tefillin, so here goes: What is the origin of their kesher shel yad? When was it decided that they should be huge (4x4cm ...
2
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1answer
166 views

Where does Kugelach come from?

Is there a Jewish origin to the game called kugelach which I played as a child in shul? Does it have any connection to the 5 stones Dovid used to kill Goliat?
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2answers
97 views

First use of the term “Taharat HaMischpacha ”

When and by whom (and why) was the phrase "טהרת המשפחה" ("family purity") first used to describe the halachot relating to niddah?
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45 views

Origin of the common M'chalkel niggun

There is a niggun, which I personally find rather inane, for the main paragraph of the second brachah of the Amidah. I have never been in a schul where it is not sung (. I have heard other niggunim ...
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0answers
76 views

Source for Jewish Chapter breaks in Tanach

I know that the chapter divisions are a Christian invention, and therefore don't exist in very old Jewish sources (Aleppo Codex, Leningrad Codex, dead sea scrolls, etc.). However our divisions don't ...
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34 views

Origin of Unveiling

Often, the family of the deceased will have an unveiling service for the presentation of the matzevah.* What is the origin of this custom? *Source: Goldin, Hyman. Hamadrikh. Hebrew Publishing ...
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0answers
35 views

Seeking sources for the history of the parshiot

The Gemarah does not seem to make much mention of the 54 Torah parshiot in the annual Torah reading. I don't know, offhand, what Ramba"m mentions about them either. I am organizing a small lecture ...
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1answer
65 views

Selichot origins

In what year (CE) did saying selichot in Elul begin? In what year were they made a standard addition to prayer books? Looking for an academic answer, not the yeshivahish one. And did Sephardim start ...
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46 views

Selichos during Beis HaMikdash? [duplicate]

a) When were the tefillos of Selichos instituted or composed? b) Who composed them? When were they first said? Did they say selichos in the times of the Beis HaMikdash ?
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2answers
84 views

Kiddush, Learning and Mitzvos for dead/niftar neshamos

I seek an early source that giving Kiddush (so others will make a bracha for the zchus of the neshama) or other such actions that can positively affect the neshamos of those who have departed.
3
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1answer
184 views

Halachik source for wearing stockings

What is the Halachik source for women covering their lower legs (past the knee)? And why would sheer stockings be acceptable if the point is to cover the lower leg?
3
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1answer
48 views

Ashkenazi STa"M name

Why is Ashkenazi sta"m sofer referred to as Beit Yosef? Typically, the term refers to the seminal masterpiece written by the Mechaber, a Sephardi authority: so what gives?
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1answer
73 views

When did Yom Kippur Kattan originate?

The day before Rosh Hodesh is considered like a "mini" Yom Kippur. (I understand that there are some months, I think before Tishrei and Nissan that do not have YKK? Correct me if I'm mistaken.) Some ...
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43 views

Questions related to shul structure

I am seeking sources related to the origin of the physical structure of a shul. Specifically: Placement of the ark in the front of the shul. Torah reader's bimah - I've seen 3 arrangements: Most ...
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Akeidah and Ketoret

The earliest siddur I own (London, 5569 [18808-09]) does not include Ketoret or Akeidah, despite purporting to follow the customs of the "German and Polish" communities [emphasis mine]. Since most of ...
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2answers
72 views

Source for “Bein Ish L'Ishto” in Nusach Ari

After the morning bracha on the torah, we say "אלו דברים שאין להם שיעור". The source for this text is a combination of the first mishna of Peah, and some additions from the bottom of Shabbat 127a. I ...
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0answers
53 views

Who instituted the idea of moving parshat V'Zot Habracha to the middle of the week?

I understand that Ezra began the concept of an annual Torah cycle where each parsha is to be read on a Shabbat (except if coinciding with Yom Tov.) However, V'Zot Habracha was scheduled to be ...
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1answer
229 views

How does gematria deal with zero?

I have some questions regarding gematria and zero: which characters of alphabet means zero according to gematric rules? since which time did Jews consider zero as a character equivalent to other ...
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1answer
123 views

Silver Atarah for Tallit

Inspired by this question: What is the origin of the silver atarot worn by some [typically married] men on their Shabbat tallitot?