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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4
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2answers
145 views

What is the origin of the song Echad Mi Yodeya?

Who is the author or what is the origin of the song commonly found in the haggadah called Echad Mi Yodeya?
2
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1answer
178 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 ...
2
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0answers
41 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 ...
3
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6answers
617 views

Niddah and Counting 7 Clean Days - What are its Origins?

The following comment is made in the wikipedia entry on Niddah: In the days of the Amoraim, because of possible confusion in determining when menstruation began and ended and hence whether blood ...
5
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1answer
104 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?
7
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1answer
309 views

Origin of Reform/Conservative “scarf” talleisim

I've noticed that Reform and Conservative often use small "scarf" talleisim (here's an image). Where did this practice originate? (Is there any connection to the scarves that some Christian priests ...
4
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2answers
77 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.
4
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0answers
25 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 ...
3
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0answers
24 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 ...
6
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1answer
56 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 ...
5
votes
2answers
94 views

Call and response in Sephardic communal prayers

Why does there tend to be more call and response in Sephardi communal prayer in comparison with Ashkenazi minyanim e.g. saying pesukei d'zimra in unison. Also, during the repetition of the shemoneh ...
5
votes
1answer
240 views

Where does the tune for birkat hamazon come from?

It's hard to describe who's tune this is and I can only refer to it as the 'commonly used' or 'popular' tune for birkat hamazon. I seems like it is compiled of many unrelated tunes. At times there are ...
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0answers
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 ?
3
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1answer
137 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
votes
1answer
43 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?
5
votes
1answer
52 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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0answers
40 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 ...
0
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0answers
30 views

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 ...
5
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2answers
64 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 ...
5
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0answers
48 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 ...
10
votes
1answer
111 views

What is the first use of the word “Seder” (סדר) for the Pesach night proceedings?

The Pesach night proceedings are commonly called the "Seder" (סדר). This word more generally means "order." What is the first recorded use of the word סדר for this event?
2
votes
1answer
49 views

Source and reason of the Minhag to end Cohen aliyah of parshat Devarim 1 pasuk early

In some shuls that I have attended, they end the Cohen aliyah of Shabbat parshat Devarim one pasuk before the one where "Sheni" is marked (i.e. - they end it before pasuk 11 instead of 12). I'm not ...
10
votes
1answer
590 views

Is this the Chofetz Chaim?

What is the story behind this picture being known as the image of the great Rabbi Yisrael Meir Kagan(Chafetz Chaim)? Is it him in fact? Where does it come from? The only true picture (that I am ...
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0answers
38 views

Looking for more information on the Malida Ceremony

What are the origins of the Indian-Jewish Malida ceremony? How is it performed? Have this or any other Indian-Jewish customs been discussed by contemporary poskim?
9
votes
4answers
197 views

What's “chelek Eloka mimaal”?

I have frequently heard the human (or only the Jewish?) soul referred to as "חלק אלוק ממעל", literally "portion/section/piece/allotment of God (from) above". What does this mean? Who's the first to ...
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0answers
40 views

Seeking info on a Simchas Tora song

While dancing on Simchas Tora, people sing a song with the following lyrics (except that I may very well have some of them wrong): אַשְׁרֵינוּ מַה טּוֹב חֶלְקֵנוּ וּמַה נָּעִים גוֹרָלֵנוּ ...
6
votes
2answers
215 views

What is the Pilpul method of learning?

What is the Pilpul methodology? (Examples demonstrating application of this methodology would be appreciated.) Who utilizes this methodology? (Which yeshivot learn this way?) Where did this ...
11
votes
4answers
237 views

How do we know what the Chazzan should say aloud?

In many siddurim, the text indicates a position, toward the end of each normal paragraph of prayer, where the Chazzan is supposed to start reading aloud, so that everyone knows when it's time to go on ...
3
votes
0answers
48 views

Where and when did the numerical time units (hours) originate? [duplicate]

The Torah states no numerical divisions for the day. The closest numeric we find is that there are 7 days in the week, and that the start of the "day" begins with "erev" (and there are debates on when ...
6
votes
1answer
93 views

First Use of the Phrase “Cheit HaMeraglim”

The negative report given by the people who are sent to scout the land of Cana'an before Bnei Yisrael go in, resulting in the punishment that they have to wander for another 38 years in the desert, is ...
4
votes
1answer
83 views

Tune for Aishes Chayil

In all of my experience at Friday night meals, Aishes Chayil is always sung to the same tune. In the US and Israel, in Yeshivos and hotels, I've only heard one tune used. What's the origin of this ...
3
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3answers
63 views

Where is the first time that the splitting of the Red Sea is referred to as קריעת ים סוף?

The text of the Torah refers to the sea "splitting" (וַיִּבָּקְעוּ הַמָּיִם - Ex.14:21). Where is the first source where the Sages refer to this event as "tearing" (קריעה)?
2
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1answer
37 views

How did the custom to recite Shir Hashirim after the Seder arise?

It seems from here for example, question 148 that it is a custom to recite Shir Hashirim after the Seder. It says, According to the Midrash, Shir Hashirim is an allegorical song describing ...
2
votes
1answer
88 views

Songs Under the Chuppah

The is a widespread wedding custom to sing a short benediction, מי אדיר‎, when the groom arrives under the canopy, and to sing מי בן שיח‎, for the bride as she arrives and walks around the ...
2
votes
1answer
50 views

What is סדר מעמדות?

At the back of one of my siddurim, I found something called סדר מעמדות and it seems to have a part of the Torah and Mishnah, etc, that is divided from Yom Rishon (=Sunday) to Shabbos. What is the ...
7
votes
4answers
209 views

Who was the first person to repent?

Who was first person in history to do complete teshuva (repentance)?
2
votes
1answer
110 views

Why do Jewish books use shiny text on the spine?

I have noticed that sefarim (Jewish books) tend to use golden-colored shiny text on the spine and cover. Of course, there are some notable exceptions (e.g. books by Mossad HaRav Kook), but this seems ...
0
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0answers
42 views

Process of making a chalitza

Although I've never actually witnessed a chalitza taking place, I understand there is a whole process involved. What is the earliest source for the process/procedure/ceremony that takes place today ...
3
votes
2answers
253 views

Is it a popular notion that a Jew should “have at least three children…”?

I have heard it said, "Every Jew must have at least three children (though more is preferable). Two to replace the parents when they die, and at least one more to make up for those lost in the ...
7
votes
3answers
216 views

Sitting for “Ashre”?

I have seen people seemingly careful to sit down when beginning the paragraph of prayers that starts "Ashre yosh've vesecha" (Ps. 84:5). One such person told me that he was, in fact, careful to do so, ...
9
votes
1answer
102 views

What is the source of Yartzeit tablet?

Who invented the Yahrtzeit tablet (panel)? At first glance, this could not have been common before 150 years ago, as there is no room to place candles where the electric lights go. Who invented ...
9
votes
3answers
167 views

Earliest source for “Baruch Hu U'Baruch Sh'mo”

What is the earliest source for saying "Baruch Hu U'Baruch Shmo" when hearing someone say the Name of HaShem in a blessing?
6
votes
1answer
130 views

Does anyone know where this prayer comes from?

I've always been struck by the beauty of the following Hebrew prayer for the dead (translated into early modern English): O Lord and King, who art full of compassion, God of the spirits of all ...
5
votes
0answers
253 views

Where did the “a cat will always be a cat” story about the Rambam come from?

I've seen and heard a story about the Rambam told multiple times along the lines of this particularly concise retelling: There is a beautiful story of a disagreement that Maimonides had with a ...
3
votes
2answers
1k views

Is this really in the Talmud?

I've seen this before on anti-semetic sites - is it really in the Talmud? Extracts from the Jewish text the Talmud "Just the Jews are humans, the non-Jews are no humans, but cattle" ...
10
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2answers
162 views

“שליט״א” only for certain people

Living people sometimes have "שליט״א" added after their respective names. This means, roughly, "may he live a good, long life". That seems like a nice blessing for anyone; yet, in my experience, only ...
6
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0answers
71 views

Chazzan finishing last phrase of paragraph [duplicate]

Who decided where to put that indicator in printed siddurim that you see in every paragraph of davening that indicates to the chazzan where to start to read out loud to finish the paragraph, and why ...
4
votes
3answers
239 views

G'dalya Gumber provenance

There's a popular song about G'dalya Gumber (spelling?), who is "seventeen feet tall" and who "ain't gonna work on Saturday", not even for "double, double, triple pay". Who wrote and who published ...
0
votes
1answer
47 views

where did a“t b”sh come from?

one of the "systems" of remez (hints) is a"t b"sh where the first letter of the aleph bet can be switched to the last letter. The pattern continues moving inward toward the center with bet pairing ...
10
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0answers
182 views

What is the source of the expression המבין יבין?

The Forward writer Philologos in his most recent column claimed that the earliest uses of the expression והמבין יבין are found in the Ra'avad and in the Radak. Based on the fact that both these ...