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Questions tagged [history]

Questions related to how something was in the past, and how it's developed since then.

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Moshe's divorcing Tzipora

Moshe refrained from marital relations with Tzipora for almost forty years, so as to be able to receive prophecy at any moment (Shabas 87:1). 1. Did he divorce her? 2. If not, why not?
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6answers
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Why are there so few Jews if God promised Abraham his children would number like the stars?

God promises Abraham a number of times that he would father a great nation whose numbers would be like the stars in the sky or the sand on the beach. However today there are less than 14 million Jews,...
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4answers
972 views

Why is the Mesillas Yesharim so popular and accepted?

To overgeneralize, I bet there is a copy of the mesillas yesharim in almost every orthodox home, shul and beis medrash. I'm wondering why this work is so popular and accepted. My wondering is ...
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4answers
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Where does “probeh” come from?

Every time recently that I've heard of an Orthodox congregation conducting a search for a rabbi, the stage at which the rabbi visits the community for a Shabbat and auditions for the position is ...
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4answers
381 views

What happened to Avraham's students?

We read how Avraham was going around convincing people to believe in one G-d and of his many students. Yet we don't hear of those students (or their descendants) ever again. What happened to them ...
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703 views

Why the split between Sefardim and Ashkenzim?

Why is there a much bigger split between Sefardim and Ashkenzim and not, say, between Sefardim and people who lived in Bavel? The distance between Spain, and say, Israel should have been big enough to ...
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4answers
406 views

Why is there a dispute as to which tefillin are the correct ones?

Since the mitzvah of tefillin is observed every day except for Shabbos and festivals, there should have been continuous knowledge as to the correct order of the parshas. So how did it come about that ...
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2answers
181 views

What was the dietary source of calcium in Talmudic times?

The Mishna in Ketubot Chapter 5 describes the basic diet of a working-class woman at the time (around the year 200): ה,ז [ח] המשרה את אשתו על ידי שליש--לא יפחות לה מקביים חיטים, או מארבעת קבים ...
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171 views

Noach Burial Place

Where was Noach buried? (or, do we know?)
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3answers
515 views

Did all animals come into the Teiva?

Were there any type of animals that were destroyed completely by the Mabul? (For example - Is there any source that there were dinosaurs or any other type of wildlife and they were destroyed by the ...
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1answer
596 views

First use of modern names for books of Torah

Today, it is common practice to use Bereshis, Shemos, Vayikra, Bamidbar, Devarim as the names of the five books of the Torah, but this was not always the case. As an example, the Talmud refers to ...
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Were there restrictions on marrying members of other tribes?

In ancient Israel, when there were clear differences between members of different tribes, were there restrictions on members of one tribe marrying a members of another tribe? If yes, what would ...
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717 views

Praying at Amukah = Finding a mate. Since when?

Many people, I'm sure, have heard of the famous segulah for finding one's soulmate: praying at the grave of Yonasan ben Uziel in Amukah, Israel. I'm not asking if this works, or why it would work, or ...
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580 views

Pre-1948, what flags were found in American synagogues?

Certainly throughout the 1970s and 1980s, it was not at all uncommon to see an American synagogue where the Aron Kodesh was flanked by American and Israeli flags. Pre-1948, was there just an American ...
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398 views

Teffilin and women

Rashi's daughters are popularly described as having worn Teffilin, but apparently there is no such source, just a popular urban legend in Jewish circles. Are there any women described in Rabbinic ...
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539 views

Chad Gadya: The price of a kid goat

Was the fair market value of a kid goat really two zuzim? This piyyut is of course allegorical, but, if the value given is highly inaccurate, is the discrepancy in value symbolic beyond the symbolism ...
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325 views

Who instituted the Musaf prayer?

According to the Gemara in Brachot, there are two views about Shacharit, Mincha, and Maariv: one is that the Avot instituted them, and one is that they correspond to the daily tmidin and the burning ...
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260 views

Pirates and Torah

In the 16th and 17th centuries European nations granted "letters of marque" licensing pirates to attack rival nation's ships. The major powers at the time were England, Portugal, Spain, and France ...
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2answers
635 views

What were the Nephilim?

Inspired by this question on Biblical Hermeneutics. What were the Nephilim mentioned in Bereishis and in Bamidbar? Bereishis 6:1-4 The Nephilim were in the earth in those days, and also after ...
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1answer
326 views

What are these three types of Amos?

I'm not one to usually go to Google itself to learn about Judaism, but I feel that the circumstances around how I discovered this is really intriguing... Google Maps has a nice little feature that ...
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2answers
317 views

Did the Rosh (Rabbeinu Asher) describe the culture clash moving from medieval Germany to Spain? [closed]

Rabbi Asher (the "Rosh") moved from medieval Germany to Spain. I know he describes some different halachic practices that were done in Spain (e.g. linen tzitzis); but does he describe the difference ...
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654 views

Whatever happened to plumbas?

Not so many years ago, a plumba (apparently created by Rabbi Jacob Joseph) -- a metal tag attached to the wing of a kosher chicken indicating that it was, indeed, kosher -- on a kosher chicken was the ...
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3answers
761 views

לשון הקדש: the oldest language?

Rashi to B'reshis 2:23 says that the language Adam spoke was one that Rashi calls לשון הקדש, lashon hakodesh (or l'shon hakodesh), and that contains the words אִשָּׁה and אִישׁ. Keeping to Rashi's ...
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1answer
354 views

Temple mount: wall around court of the gentiles?

In looking of these two models of the temple mount, Alec Garrad model and Israel Museum model, they differ on one major point. In the Garrad model there is another wall on the temple mount that I ...
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1answer
285 views

Origin of Haggadah Section Titles (Kadesh Urchatz, etc.)

What is the historical origin of the section titles of the Haggadah? (Inspired by discussion in comments on this answer to the question: Translation of haggadah section titles)
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Why did God do nothing against the Romans that desecrated the Temple?

When good guy made a mistake, like Uzzah trying to fix the ark, God killed him (see II Samuel 6:6). However, Uzzah does not seem that evil. I mean, the ark stumbled and he just tried to help. Then, ...
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1answer
132 views

Writing on the stones of the Western Wall

In a number of old videos of Jerusalem in the 1920's and 1930's, one who is paying attention can discern Hebrew words written on the very stones of the Western Wall. What is the origin of this ...
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2answers
328 views

Paul being sent as a double agent by the Sanhedrin

I think there's a pretty popular conspiracy theory supposedly based on a censored Midrash that Paul was sent by the Sanhedrin to revolutionize Christianity in order to fully differentiate it from ...
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1answer
177 views

How did they establish in the USA, post-WW II, that a Rav had smicha prior to the Holocaust?

This is probably something that happened many times after World War II, when documentation was lost. Here's the scenario: A rabbi, who had led a kehila (congregation) in a small town in ...
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1answer
158 views

Babylonian Jewry and Chanukah

For many years I have been bothered by the following. There was a large Jewish population living in Babylonia during the time that the events of Chanukah played out. Yet, I have never seen any ...
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1answer
569 views

How was kosher cheese made before artificial rennet?

I understood that cheese is made by throwing in Stomach hide into milk and letting it congeal. How was kosher cheese made (where one's not allowed to mix milk and meat)? Now we use chemicals or ...
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1answer
373 views

Names of the books of Tanakh

When did the books of Tanakh get their canonical names? I understand that Five Books of the Torah were named after the first words in them, and that most of Navi was named after their authors, but ...
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2answers
2k views

Did the Egyptians use whips on the Hebrew slaves? Why do we assume so?

It seems like every image I've ever seen drawn (or acted) of the Jews' slavery in Egypt involves them being whipped by Egyptians. The Torah says that the Jewish foremen were stricken as their ...
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3answers
692 views

How did the Star of David become iconic?

We all recognize the iconic symbol of the Star of David, do we know where it came from and where it got its name? I always learned that the symbol appeared on King David's shield. True? How do we ...
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2answers
265 views

When did Jews adopt the custom of saying “Baruch Hashem”?

When did Jews adopt the custom of saying "Baruch Hashem"? The only people who said B"H in the Chumash were non-Jews: Noah, Malkitzedek, Avimelech, Eliezer, Lavan, and Yitro!
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199 views

“Terach, father of Avraham and of Nachor”—what about Haran?

As quoted in the Hagadah, Yehoshua 24:2 reminds the Jewish people that, “Your ancestors lived across the river: Terach, father of Avraham and of Nachor; and they served strange gods.” God then reminds ...
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4answers
2k views

Winged sun symbol on Hezekiah coins/seals

The winged sun is an ancient symbol that originated in Egypt and Assyria. Why is it then that coins (or seals?) from Hezekiah have this symbol from gentile nations? Also Malachi 3:20 shows the ...
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5answers
875 views

Rabi Yochanan Ben Zakai, or Josephus?

Josephus in Wars 3. 8. 9. records a story of how he meets Vespasian, tells him that he will become ruler, and Titus will take over his position. Vespasian, although sceptical at first eventually ...
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2answers
354 views

What's the source for a Cheirem al pi Kabbalah?

The Previous Lubavitcher Rebbe describes: "'a real cheirem as prescribed by Kabbalah' requires the following: a court of seventy-two rabbis fast for forty consecutive days (excluding Shabbos ...
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2answers
408 views

What did Sephardic Jews do when yibum required taking a second wife?

As I understand it, in the Sephardic world not long ago, the marriage contract would have a steep penalty clause if he took a wife beyond the first one without her permission. And as I understand it, ...
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5answers
801 views

Is beauty that is described in the Torah objective beauty?

Perceptions of beauty have changed throughout time. For example, in the times of the Talmud, R' Yochanan, who was described as being fat (Berachos 13b), is also described in the Talmud as being ...
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671 views

How long after the Torah was given did the Jewish people start wearing tefillin?

From one of the explanations of eating milky foods on Shavuos, we understand that it was not possible to do all the mitzvos connecting with preparing meat for food immediately after accepting the ...
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3answers
285 views

Why are the kinos about Jeremiah's appeal to the avos out of order?

The kina (elegy, said on the ninth of Av) about Jeremiah's going to ask the avos to pray (kina 21 in at least some versions, 26 in the Artscroll edition) is said before the one about his being told to ...
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1answer
285 views

Why is V'Zot Habracha read on Simchat Torah instead of on Shabbat?

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
617 views

What happened to the Jewish practice of using burial caves?

A three-part question about funerary practices. In ancient times, Jews used to bury people for a year or two, then, after the body decomposed, collect their bones and put them in a family cave. In ...
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1answer
155 views

Post mortem Tahara

I'm looking for sources discussing the religious aspect of the Tahara done on deceased Jews. I recall someone mentioning that the religious aspect of it was a practice we picked up from the Muslims ...
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1answer
253 views

Does a Rabbi have to sink with his ship?

There is a famous story (mentioned in his wikipedia article) that R' Elchonon Wasserman visited the United States before the war. He had the option to stay, but he refused since (as I heard) "A leader ...
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1answer
236 views

What did mikdash workers eat?

Groups of Jews not from shevet Levi would work in the bes hamikdash, a week at a time. Their primary responsibility was attendance: being present when korb'nos tzibur, public offerings, were brought. (...
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1answer
203 views

How were coins that were destined for the Dead Sea managed?

A mishna on Meila 11a talks about money that a nazarite set aside for his offerings; if he died before completing the term and had set money aside specifically for the sin-offering, those coins are ...
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295 views

When did the Chain of Semicha Break?

When was the chain of Semicha from Mt. Sinai broken? Originally, Semicha was a direct line from Moshe, but when did it break?