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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5
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2answers
141 views

Source of a common tune to “Adon olam”

The liturgical poem beginning "Adon olam" is often sung (including as part of prayer services) to the same tune as "The Poet and the Prophet". Was that tune originally to (i.e. written for) Adon Olam? ...
11
votes
3answers
126 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 ...
10
votes
0answers
526 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 ...
10
votes
1answer
88 views

What is the origin of using a different trope mode for the High Holidays in Nusach Ashkenaz?

I noticed that during the High Holidays there isa special trope mode that is used in Nusach Ashkenaz shuls. I assume they do the same in many Nusach Sefard shuls as well. When and where (or who ...
3
votes
0answers
60 views

Hand gesture origin for “David Melech Yisrael” song

What is the origin of the gestures for the song whose text is "David melech yisrael, chai chai v'kayam"? (An example would be https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cWItJ0TF2fw.)
11
votes
1answer
238 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 ...
16
votes
2answers
599 views

Where did the sing-song chant that Jews often use while contrasting points come from?

I am having a very hard time coming up with a good way to describe the phenomenon that I am thinking of, but many people will recognize it. I am talking about the kind of singing rhythm that people ...
10
votes
4answers
287 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, ...
8
votes
2answers
411 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 ...
1
vote
1answer
76 views

Origin Of Hasidic Pronounciation [closed]

Does anyone know when and by whom the Hasidic Pronunciation started? I mean "burich" as opposed to "boruch". The same goes for Yiddish.. "vus" as opposed to "vos". I've heard that it was in opposition ...
1
vote
1answer
47 views

When was the term “Next World” (עולם הבא) first used in Jewish literature

In modern Jewish literature and folklore the "next world" (עולם הבא) is mentioned multiple times. In contrast, it is not mentioned (AFAIK) at all in the Torah. So where/when did this start?
2
votes
0answers
63 views

Origins of the Yerushalmi Kaftan

Among Yerushalmi Chareidim, a special dress code seems to have developed which has some features which are unique from standard Eastern Ashkenazi dress. While most Chareidim I have seen wear black ...
3
votes
1answer
194 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 ...
6
votes
1answer
61 views

Who added on the words לאלתר לחיים טובים ולשלום to the greeting לשנה טובה תכתב ותחתם?

Orach Chaim 582:9 - The Rama brings in the name of the Tur that on Rosh Hashana one should bless his friend & family לשנה טובה תכתב. Be'er Hataiv says that one should say לשנה טובה תכתב ותחתם. ...
3
votes
1answer
70 views

Source in Hazal for holding sisith during qiryath shema`?

Is there a source in Hazal specifically for grasping the (front) two ssissith during the recitation of the shema`? If not, where does it stem from and what is the purpose? Thanks. Kol tuv.
3
votes
1answer
60 views

What is the idea of “seudas predeh” (Goodbye Party) and where does it come from?

I live in Eretz Yisrael and tonight I was invited to what many chassidim refer to as a "seudas predeh" (or as I somewhat loosely -- or perhaps wrongly "translated" in the title as a "Goodbye Party".) ...
8
votes
1answer
122 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?
4
votes
1answer
93 views

Source for Striking Self during Viduy

What is the earliest source for striking one's chest while reciting Vidduy?
6
votes
0answers
143 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 ...
8
votes
1answer
113 views

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 (OC 551:3) only mentions this only in the week of the 9th of Av. שָׁבוּעַ שֶׁחָל בּוֹ ...
16
votes
2answers
1k views

Is this the Chofetz Chaim? [closed]

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 ...
0
votes
0answers
52 views

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
vote
1answer
78 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 ...
7
votes
3answers
509 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
votes
1answer
119 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 ...
11
votes
1answer
282 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 ...
5
votes
3answers
343 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?
1
vote
1answer
70 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)?
11
votes
4answers
346 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 ...
3
votes
2answers
120 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
votes
1answer
51 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 ...
2
votes
1answer
97 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 ...
2
votes
1answer
110 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?
26
votes
6answers
907 views

Where does the concept of Gilgulim (reincarnations) in Judaism come from?

What is the source of Gilgulim (reincarnations) in Judaism? Are there people who disagree with its existence? Who was the first to mention it? What I am asking essentially is what is the historical ...
3
votes
0answers
70 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 ...
4
votes
0answers
51 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 ...
4
votes
0answers
82 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
votes
1answer
62 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 ...
2
votes
0answers
42 views

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 ...
2
votes
0answers
117 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. ...
1
vote
0answers
54 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 ...
3
votes
0answers
41 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 -> ...
6
votes
2answers
3k 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" ...
0
votes
1answer
36 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)?
10
votes
1answer
125 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 ...
3
votes
1answer
66 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 ...
4
votes
1answer
62 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 ...
4
votes
2answers
232 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?
3
votes
0answers
43 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 ...
2
votes
1answer
219 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?