Questions about the lives and personalities of Jewish religious authorities.

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27
votes
9answers
2k views

Why is it necessary to ask a Rabbi?

In various places on this site, including the FAQ, we have the following disclaimer: Like Wikipedia, this site makes no guarantee of validity, and does not offer professional (particularly ...
13
votes
13answers
845 views

Reliable Ask-a-Rabbi Websites

There are some times on this site where questioners will be directed to "ask their Rabbi." While it's always optimal to have such people discuss the question with their own Rabbi (and such action ...
2
votes
1answer
293 views

Accurate list of Gedolim [closed]

Wikepedia's list is missing certain Gedolim. Where can I access a list of Gedolim that would be virtually unarguable?
12
votes
4answers
665 views

The Ability to Pasken

What gives someone the ability to Pasken? At what point do we say that he is knowledgeable enough to decide questions on a topic? Does this have to do with "Semicha"? Does it have to do with being a ...
13
votes
4answers
212 views

Who is the voice of Tosafoth?

Tosafoth were the sons-in-law, grandchildren, and students of Rashi (and their students), and "they" wrote a commentary on the Talmud that is often at odds with Rashi's earlier commentary. Sometimes ...
3
votes
2answers
181 views

Gedole HaDor: who and how

1)Who do we know to refer to as a "Gadol?" 2)How do we determine who is a "Gadol?" For example, how did we determine that Rav Elyashiv is a Gadol? A Gadol HaDor is known as one of the most ...
37
votes
7answers
698 views

Did any Achronim comment on the American Revolutionary or Civil Wars?

I've heard that for instance, in the 1800s, the American rabbis in the South were pro-slavery, and the American rabbis in the North opposed to it. But what were the views towards America of the ...
16
votes
6answers
408 views

G'dolim or Rabbis Owning Pets

Are there any g'dolim (or rabbis of major influence) - past or present - who are known to have owned pets/kept animals for non-agricultural purposes?
8
votes
3answers
245 views

Meforshim Nick"names

It has become common practice to refer to most meforshim by acronyms of their name (eg Rashi, Rosh, etc.). When and why did this practice start, and is it proper?
9
votes
2answers
338 views

מרדכי = Mord'chi?

When learning with Jews of the Syrian community, I noticed that they pronounced מרדכי (the name of the halachic commentary on the g'mara) as "mord'chi", as if the final vowel were a chirik. Why is ...
13
votes
5answers
401 views

Can we argue with gedolim when we are sure that we are right?

I recently saw a teshuva by Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, Ohrach Chaim Volume 1 Teshuva 109, that quotes a letter from Rabbi Menashe Klein asking a question on Rabbi Moshe's psak but saying that he does not ...
6
votes
1answer
165 views

Was the Tzemach Tzedek related to the Metzudos Tziyon/Dovid? [closed]

The Tzemach Tzedek (of Lubavitch)'s father's name was Shalom Shachna Altshuler. Is he related to the Metzodos Tziyon?
5
votes
2answers
401 views

How can I know a rav has daas Torah

I have been privileged to know rabbis of great wisdom and knowledge who could address my issues with unique and helpful insights through the prism of Torah. I always understood them to have "daas ...
5
votes
3answers
180 views

What sages were known to have revived the dead?

The Talmud speaks of several rabbis who successfully appealed to G-d to revive a deceased colleague or some other individual. As I recall, one revived rabbi asked to be return to the world of the ...
4
votes
1answer
126 views

Why refer to Isaac Luria as the Arizal, and not Arizatzal?

One of the common ways to refer to the R' Isaac Luria is "the Arizal". I understand this to mean, The Ari, zecher L'bracha (may he be mentioned/remembered for blessing). However, one usually refers ...
-5
votes
4answers
141 views

Why does Halacha not follow the simple reading of the Biblical text?

There are many Halachot which appear to contradict explicit Biblical statements. For example, that an "Eye for an Eye" means monetary compensation. Why does Halacha not follow the simple reading of ...
17
votes
7answers
320 views

Am I allowed to answer my friend's Halacha question?

Preface: Assume I am not an ordained Rabbi. Suppose I'm having lunch with my friend and he asks me "do I have to say a bracha on this dessert?" or "when's the last time I could daven mincha today?" ...
7
votes
2answers
237 views

Where can I find responses to biblical criticism?

Where can I find well documented source material by strictly orthodox Rabbis or scholars which directly address most (or all) of the major themes of academic biblical criticism such as, but not ...
6
votes
3answers
278 views

What is the status of the psak of a Maharat?

If an orthodox male Rabbi bestows semicha on a woman (dubbed Maharat), what is the status of her halachic decisions? This question is irrespective of whether or not the male Rabbi should confer ...
6
votes
2answers
211 views

Examples of Rabbis who had strong disagreements and were amicable

I'm looking for examples of Rabbis who had a serious disagreement and were nevertheless very kind and thoughtful towards each other. The main reason I'm asking for examples is to illustrate what a ...
12
votes
2answers
254 views

What is “emunas chachomim”?

My daughter came home from school with a textbook response for what "emunas chachomim" is. I disagreed strongly with what was written in the book, so I'm not even going to say what they said. ...
9
votes
1answer
166 views

Upon whom would one make this blessing?

Upon whom today would you make the bracha - Baruch Attah Hashem Elokeinu Melech HaOlam She’chalak Mei’chochmaso Li’rei’av, that He bestowed of His wisdom to those who fear Him (Gemara Brachos 58a)? ...
8
votes
2answers
191 views

Why did God give the Rabbis so much power?

The Torah demands that we adhere to the laws implemented by the Rabbis (I think the source is "don't veer from what they tell you to the right or to the left"). This has given the Rabbis far-reaching ...
7
votes
3answers
171 views

Semicha and Gneivas Daas

If today's semicha is only an "echo" of the true semicha which ceased with the loss of the sanhedrin then Why do we still give it? Why isn't it gneivas daas (the assumption is that people who have ...
5
votes
3answers
483 views

Do Rabbis have to be Jewish by ethnicity?

I am under the impression that a person can be received into Judaism from a gentile nation. My question is whether or not that person could conceivably then become a Rabbi? Please indicate whether ...
5
votes
1answer
349 views

What forms of evidence do batei din accept to establish that someone is Jewish?

I am interested in the question, what forms of evidence do contemporary Orthodox batei din accept to establish that someone is Jewish? In particular, if you, your parents and grand-parents are ...
5
votes
3answers
667 views

Reb Moshe Feinstein in the New York Times

Reb Moshe Feinstein was once interviewed by the New York Times where he answered questions like how does Klal Yisroel know who is a Gadol? Does anyone know when it was, and does anyone know where I ...
1
vote
0answers
97 views

Pictures of rabbis in the living room

Are there any poskim prohibiting hanging Pictures of Rabbis in ones house? Lots of people do it but I never understood why this is not prohibited due to too much kavod for human being, which is close ...
1
vote
0answers
92 views

Where can I find family history of Shalom Shachna Altshuler? [closed]

I'm looking for history about Shalom Shachna Altshuler, the father of the tzemach tzedek (Menachem Mendel Schneerson), and his family afterwards till now. Your help would be greatly appreciated in ...
22
votes
6answers
637 views

Looking for more information about a story of positive atheism/heresy

In a 2006 article (original link no longer available), Rabbi Jonathan Sacks tells the following story: “DO YOU believe,” the disciple asked the rabbi, “that God created everything for a purpose?” ...
11
votes
2answers
577 views

Origins of איל משולש and Vilna Ga'on's bathroom math

There is a well-known fact that the Vilna Ga'on studied math while in the bathroom since Torah was out of the question in an unclean place. It is also somewhat well-known that he produced the material ...
19
votes
16answers
878 views

About what were rabbis ahead of the times?

I have heard claims that experts in the world of Torah were significantly ahead of their counterparts in the world of natural science (or mathematics, or psychology, or…) in that they knew X ...
13
votes
8answers
682 views

What to call the 7th Lubavitcher Rebbe

Often times a few different rebbes are mentioned (either previous Chabad rebbes or rebbes of other Chasudusim) in the same talk and then the word "The Rebbe" comes in and it's ambiguous. I have heard ...
11
votes
5answers
3k views

Why did nobody succeed the Lubavitcher Rebbe?

The late Lubavitcher Rebbe Menachem Mendel Schneerson zt"l had no successor as the rebbe of Chabad-Lubavitch. Why is this? Was it simply because he had no children? If so, why was nobody else ...
8
votes
1answer
131 views

Who wrote the anonymous explanations of Rashi printed within the text of Rashi?

Who wrote the anonymous explanations of Rashi printed within the text of Rashi? Sometimes when reading Rashi's commentary on the Torah one finds comments in parentheses that say things such as: ס"א, ...
7
votes
2answers
212 views

Which Amora is mentioned most often in the Gemara?

Which Amora is mentioned most often throughout Talmud Bavli?
7
votes
2answers
271 views

Do “most leading Orthodox rabbis” really hold that brain-stem death is death?

According to a recent NYTimes piece on the new organ donation law in Israel, Most leading Orthodox rabbis -- as well as Israeli law -- agree that a person dies when his brain-stem stops ...
6
votes
3answers
111 views

How to choose 'your' rebbi?

When a person is choosing who they will learn from as their rebbi, are there any guidelines or rules that govern the decision making process? First a definition of what a rebbi is (for the purposes ...
6
votes
1answer
118 views

Is it Halachically wrong to avoid the rabbi's sermon?

At some point in our history, the rabbi's Derashah, or sermon, went from being taboo to so integral to the service that some Shuls have ushers to keep the doors closed at that time, so that no one may ...
5
votes
1answer
376 views

Why did Rabbis stay away from Amei Haaretz?

The Gemara tells Torah scholars that they should not mix with Amei Haaretz, and shouldn't be around them, eat with them, etc. The reason is that the Torah Scholars would learn from their bad ways. ...
-1
votes
2answers
824 views

Why does someone wanting to get married need to show an Orthodox ketubah from a maternal ancestor?

My friend is due to get married soon and has been asked by her Orthodox Rabbi to provide proof that she is jewish by showing that she is descended from jews. She doesn't have her parents Ketubah so ...
-1
votes
1answer
385 views

I suspect I must do something, but don't want to. Must I check into the halacha?

I'm sometimes in a situation where, if I do nothing, I'll benefit. But I suspect Jewish law may actually require me to take action that will prevent the benefit. I'm not sure if I should ask my ...
14
votes
2answers
251 views

Insults in the gemarah

Why do tanaim and amoraim use disparaging terms (bavlai tipshai, for instance) or insults when talking with one another. If there is something positive to be learned from this behavior why is it no ...
8
votes
1answer
188 views

Speaking to a Rabbi in the Third Person

Is there a source for requiring one to refer to his Rabbi in the third person and not referring to a rabbi in the second person (i.e. "you")? I can not recall any reference to this requirement in ...
8
votes
1answer
148 views

Baal haTanya's donning shel yad seated

I have heard that the baal haTanya put on his t'fila shel yad while seated (as S'faradim do). Does anyone have a source for this (or for the opposite: that he put on his shel yad standing)? If he ...
7
votes
2answers
176 views

What are the 3 things Rabeinu Gershom banned?

I've heard that Rabeinu Gershom (a 10th-11th century scholar) banned 3 things, and I know one of them is polygamy. Does anyone know what the other two are?
7
votes
2answers
118 views

What financial arrangement did Rambam have with his jeweler brother?

I was taught in yeshiva that as a young man, Rambam just studied Torah and was supported by his brother, who was a jewel merchant. Then his brother died at sea, so Rambam became a physician. Recently ...
7
votes
3answers
1k views

Which Hasidic rabbi has no beard, and what is the story?

There is a famous Hasidic rabbi who has no facial hair, and I seem to recall that there is a famous story as to why. But I can remember neither which rabbi (or of which sect), nor the story. I do not ...
7
votes
1answer
281 views

Was Rabbi Moshe Feinstein ever formally ordained? (Given semicha?)

Did Rabbi Moshe Feinstein ever formally receive semicha? From whom? I recall reading that he studied a great deal with his father, and that his first responsum was written "at his father's orders."
6
votes
4answers
143 views

Asara Haruge Malchut (Ten Martyrs), why were 10 Rabbis killed?

In Vayigash, Rabenu Bahya (also the Zohar) comments and says that the reason we had Asara Haruge Malchut because the brothers sold Yosef. However, Reuven didn't sell Yosef, so why should the ...