Questions seeking sources for a given practice or idea, or seeking the location of a specific source.

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24
votes
20answers
1k 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 ...
20
votes
2answers
274 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
2answers
214 views

Source of non-verse in Selichot

In Ashkenazi Selichot, the following set of verses from Tanach (patterned around the opening verb ז.כ.ר.‏ to remember) appears towards the end of the Selichot service (there may be some slight ...
19
votes
3answers
753 views

Premature birth contradicting science

I am a teacher at a private all-girls Jewish high school. There are two science teachers in the school, and both of us are Christian. I was talking with my fellow science teacher recently, and she ...
17
votes
3answers
229 views

What is the source that Parshas Parah is from the Torah?

I have read in many places that Parah could be a bliblical requirement to read. Why is that? Zachor makes sense (as it says so in the Torah here). Why Parah?
16
votes
4answers
678 views

Gezeira of Rabbeinu Gershom text

Does anyone know where I can find the actual text of the Gezeira of Rabbeinu Gershom? It keeps popping up in my learning, but only as being referenced, I would like to read that actual text.
16
votes
1answer
183 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
517 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
4answers
2k views

If masturbation is so bad, why is it not in list of 613 Mitzvos?

If masturbation is, as stated in the Shulchan Oruch (Even HaEzer 23:1), "the worst sin in the Torah", then why is it not listed in any of the various lists of 613 Mitzvos and why is there no verse in ...
15
votes
3answers
368 views

Is there a source for not requiring Tevilah for the first use?

I have heard (as I'm sure many others have) that one can use a utensil one time before Tevilah. At the same time, I've heard that this is a common misconception. Is there anyone who holds that this ...
15
votes
1answer
259 views

Non-Jews Tending to Abandoned Cemeteries

Those of you who may have read my profile know that I have been reading and transcribing information on tombstones in towns in the Spis Region of Slovakia, in which no Jews remain. My colleague is ...
14
votes
5answers
891 views

High School Math in the Talmud

I'm currently tutoring someone in math that has an atitude of "what's the point of all this... why would I ever need this..." (which is typical of many high-schoolers). To try to pique his interest, I ...
14
votes
5answers
442 views

Saying “Laberiut” “God bless you” or “Gesundheit”

Is there are source for saying "Laberiut" "God bless you" "Gesundheit" or any other response to a sneeze? In other words, are there posekim who mention it in Halacha?
14
votes
3answers
311 views

Halachic Source for Women-Only Mikvaoth?

Some (actually many) Mikvaoth are designated for women's use only, generally for reasons of cleanliness. Is there Halachic literature supporting (or urging) this? (This question is not asking for ...
14
votes
1answer
551 views

What happened to Zeresh (Haman's wife)?

Virtually all of the major charachters (and some of the minor ones) in Megillas Esther have a clear ending for them. Mordechai and Esther live happily ever after (sort of). Haman and his ten songs are ...
14
votes
1answer
232 views

What sources, prior to the 19th century, support or refute the existence of the Council of Jamnia/Yavneh?

Multiple questions on Christianity.SE1 refer to the Council of Jamnia/Yavneh in reference to the canonization of the Bible (Tanakh). Wikipedia states: In 1871 Heinrich Graetz, drawing on Mishnaic ...
13
votes
5answers
548 views

“Silk-Screened” Sifrei Torah

What are the halachic issues with Silk-screened sifrei torah? I am interested in a summary of concise halakhic rulings of multiple authorities on the prohibition or permissibility of HaRav Yitzchak ...
13
votes
1answer
252 views

Lechem Mishlesh?

(Based on Tosfot Pesachim 116a and Aruch haShulchan 274:5 I assume that the man did not fall on Yom Tov and double fell on Erev Yom Tov, and that this is why we have lechem mishne on Yom Tov.) When ...
12
votes
1answer
1k views

Is there anything wrong with inviting friends to a bris?

I have a friend - let's call him 'A' - who's married; His wife gave birth to a boy. I asked another friend of mine, if 'A' invited him to the bris. He told me that one is not supposed to invite ...
12
votes
2answers
341 views

How do we know that we have free will?

Where in the torah does it state that humans have, and are entitled to in perpetuity, free will?
12
votes
1answer
213 views

Jewish source for giving Chanuka gifts

Is there a Jewish source for Chanuka gifts?
12
votes
3answers
226 views

What is the hetter for yeshivas to daven a Hoiche Kedusha?

I have seen many Yeshivas (and some not-so-yeshivas [day schools, etc.]) doing a Hoiche Kedusha for Mincha. They had the Chazzan start the first three Brachos of Shemoneh Esrei aloud and say ...
11
votes
3answers
460 views

Killing Civilians in a defensive war

In the recent Operation Pillar of Defense against Gaza, many Palestinian civillians were killed by Israeli air-strikes (the Palestines claim the number is as high as 158, while according to the IDF ...
11
votes
2answers
446 views

Forbidden to eat while standing up?

I heard that it was preferred, or perhaps even required, to avoid eating food while standing. For example, as people often do at a cocktail party or a shul kiddush. With the reason being that ...
11
votes
1answer
187 views

Where Rashi uses a Russian word in Nach?

I heard that Rashi uses a Russian word where he deals with the building of the Beis Hamikdash by King Shlomo. I also heard that he uses a Polish word. Does anyone know where it is?
11
votes
4answers
889 views

Sources For Listening To/Not Listening to Non-Jewish Music

What are sources for it being allowed to listen to non-Jewish music and sources for it being prohibited?
11
votes
1answer
170 views

Story of love sick tree

I once heard a shiur which quoted a gemarah (I think) about two trees. One of the trees was uprooted and taken elsewhere and the other tree started to get sick. The explanation was that the trees were ...
11
votes
1answer
524 views

Kissing and Hugging one's wife

What does it say about chibuk and nishuk (kissing and hugging) shelo b'shas tashmish (not during relations) with one's wife in Sifrei Halacha or Hashkafa? Among madrichei chassanim (those that teach ...
11
votes
2answers
482 views

May one walk under the Arch of Titus?

I have heard that it is prohibited (or at least that the custom is not) to walk under the Arch of Titus in Rome. Is this accurate? If so, what is the source? Would it make a difference if a large ...
11
votes
2answers
357 views

Who didn't recite Kabbalas Shabbos?

In this article, R. Michael Broyde writes that: Indeed, there have been prominent halachic authorities of the last generation who did not recite Kabbalat Shabbat. Can anyone provide examples of ...
11
votes
2answers
221 views

Are these two urban legends about perceptions of God's help for Jews true?

The following story is told as an urban legend: I don't know if the following story is true, but I'll let you decide. Kenya's star soccer player used to offer a prayer for victory before every ...
11
votes
0answers
194 views

Source for the minhag of 'gebrokts' [duplicate]

There is a not-uncommon minhag, primarily in chassidic circles called 'gebrokts' where matza is not allowed to come into contact with water during Pesach. What is the earliest source for this custom ...
11
votes
1answer
136 views

Can one have a favorite pasuk/parsha/masechta?

This closed question asks for a 'favorite pasuk', presupposing that such a thing is allowed. When it comes to sugyos or sections/topics of Torah, Chazal say on the one hand, (Eiruvin 64a) that a ...
10
votes
2answers
1k views

Origin of myth about the hole in the sheet?

There is a widespread myth (as far as I know it is a myth) that orthodox Jews must have marital relations through a hole in a sheet. What is the origin of this myth and does it have any actual basis ...
10
votes
2answers
358 views

Where are the magic cucumbers discussed in the Talmud?

Where are the magic cucumbers discussed in the Gemara by a Rabbi proud of his knowledge? Are magic cucumbers discussed elsewhere? Thanks.
10
votes
2answers
183 views

“m'nora” on Chanuka

My kid came home from school one day insisting that the thing we light on Chanuka is not a m'nora but a chanukiya. I replied that that's the word most Israelis use now but that m'nora is a perfectly ...
10
votes
2answers
125 views

Tehilim divided into five sections?

According to Wikipedia, Jewish tradition divides the book of Tehilim into five sections (1-41, 42-72, 73-89, 90-106, 107-150). This is unsourced there; the references at the bottom of the page ...
10
votes
2answers
157 views

What's up with Rabbi Shimon ben Nesanel in Avos 2:10?

In chapter 2 of Pirkei Avos (Ethics of Our Fathers) it says that: "Rabban Yochanan the son of Zakkai had five disciples" It goes on to list their names and qualities, and then it says that R' ...
10
votes
2answers
288 views

Would Adam and Chava have been permitted the tree of knowledge if they'd waited?

I've long been somewhat troubled by the episode with the tree in the garden, because it seems like it was necessary for man to acquire knowledge (how else could we enter a covenant and accept the yoke ...
10
votes
2answers
429 views

What is the halacha regarding the expulsion of a student deemed a “nuisance student”?

Are there Halachic sources regarding the expulsion of a "nuisance student"? Or Halachic sources of not expelling a "nuisance student"? (Is this issue ever addressed as a real halachic issue?) Below ...
10
votes
3answers
2k views

Basic laws, why is milk with meat not kosher?

I've recently read (again) the verse "לא תבשל גדי בחלב אמו", meaning, "Do not cook a young goat in its mother’s milk". How did anyone get from that, to "Don't eat meat with milk at all"? I've always ...
10
votes
1answer
308 views

Dipping fingers in Havdalah Wine

What is the source or origin of the custom to dip one's fingers in the wine poured over the candle to extinguish it at the conclusion of Havdalah? As a side note, and a reason I'm tagging it this ...
10
votes
1answer
143 views

We're not supposed to point at stars?

I'm an Israeli Jew living in Israel. I often give "sky tours" where I show children and adults different stars and a view through a powerful binocular at objects of interest. Recently a young boy ...
10
votes
2answers
155 views

Source for kissing an aron

I've seen people kiss an aron kodesh (cabinet holding Torah scrolls) when they approach it and, if they were standing near it, before they leave it. Does this have any written source; or, are there ...
10
votes
3answers
290 views

“Baruch shekivanti…”

There is a phrase of self-compliment people use when they find that they have independently arrived at the same conclusion as someone great. It begins with the words "ברוך שכיוונתי", translated ...
10
votes
1answer
73 views

Trying to understand Kol Hanearim

Where does the custom of Kol Hanearim, were all children stand near the person getting an aliah and are covered with a tallis-canopy, come from? What, if anything, is it a segulah for? Why is it done ...
10
votes
2answers
135 views

Do we have any proof (Biblical or other Judaic) that current-day Arabs have lineage from Yishma'el?

I am relating my question to Hashem and Arabs. Offhand, I thought that Islam claims ties to Yisma'el. If true, I don't know how or why it makes that claim. If it's all Arabs, even non-Muslims, how do ...
10
votes
0answers
221 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 ...
9
votes
3answers
3k views

Shaving on Friday when Lag Ba'omer falls out on a Sunday

This year (2011) Lag Ba'omer falls out on a Sunday. I've heard from a few people that the halacha is that you can shave (and take a haircut) on the Friday beforehand l'kavod Shabbos. Are there any ...
9
votes
3answers
171 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?